Backbeat: Sony, iTunes Execs Hit the Scene, the Stranglers Rock the Spoke Club, DJs Spin Atop a Crane at Toronto's NXNE, MuchMusic Events

Toronto has been crazy busy the past two weeks with North By Northeast, Luminato (still going), the MuchMusic Video Awards and piggybacking parties and events. Billboard.biz squeezed in a few, starting with the NXNE kick-off at Toronto’s Drake Hotel, at which we caught festival founder Michael Hollett and his good friend, musician (and former Doughboy) John Kastner, who programmed bands for NXNE — about 1,000 of them in 55 venues. “This is the first night of how we’re going to kill it in the city. A lot of good bands in town,” Kastner told Billboard.biz. “No relaxing yet,” added Hollett. “This is where it’s all starting. This is the kicking off of a great week.”

Members of No Warning, Indian Handcrafts, and George Pettitt, formerly of Alexisonfire, DJ atop a crane at the Jagermeister and Exclaim! party. (Photo credit: Karen Bliss)

At the Jägermeister & Exclaim! Present: Boneyard BBQ, held in a parking lot just around the corner from the famed El Mocambo, servers and other hirees were dressed in construction outfits to go with the theme and the DJs — members of bands No Warning, Indian Handicrafts and George Pettit, ex of Alexisonfire — were hoisted up on a construction crane to pound out the tunes, loudly. The Jägermeister was flowing, as well as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Wild Turkey and Monster Energy, plus there was a food truck serving Hogtown Smoke & West Coast Poutine and another truck with junk food galore. Hanging out were Cool Planet’s Cam Carpenter, True North Records/Linus Entertainment’s Geoff Kulawick, Sony’s Adam Fujiki, publicist Diane Foy, journalist/author Liisa Ladouceur, Underground Operations’ Katie Clark, songwriter Mike Fox and hundreds more.

(L to R) Sumo Cyco's Skye Sweetnam and Matt Drake; engineer Ian Bodazi; solo artist Angela Saini; and singer-songwriter Frazer Mac (in wacky glasses). (Photo: Sari Colt)

On the east side of town, Joao Carvalho Mastering and Revolution Recordings NXNE BBQ had two small outdoor stages, and a line up of acoustic and full bands:  Ian Blurton’s new band Public Animal, Hot Panda, Wild Domestic, Grand Analog, Shanks, Garage Baby and acoustic sets by Northcote, Bryce Jardine, Stephanie Cameron, Erika Werry, Beth Moore and B.Funk.  “I think this is our 8th year of doing the party,” Carvalho tells Billboard.biz.

Two years ago, he opened the state-of-the-art recording studio Revolution right across the street— with partners Kim Cooke, John MacDonald and Joe Dunphy — where Rush and Three Days Grace have since recorded albums; two weeks ago Charlie Watts and Ron Wood visited for a private charity appearance.  The NXNE party, however, was for the up-and-coming acts the mastering engineer loves. “There’s 12 great bands and I think we had 1500 RSVPs. I’m sure not everybody comes but about a thousand. We set up two stages so that we can have continuous music.”

Enjoying the live music and free burritos from Chino Locos were iTunes' George Maniatis and his dog, Frankie; NXNE’s Yvonne Matsell; NewCanadianMusic.ca’s David Farrell; artist manager David “Click” Cox and wife/singer Saidah Baba Talibah; producer Brian Moncarz; songwriter-producer Vince Degiorgio; Instinct Entertainment’s Michael Perlmutter; singer Skye Sweetnam of the band Sumo Cyco; Lacquer Channel Mastering’s Noah Mintz; producer McKinney Doc; music historian/Professor Rob Bowman; and CCS Rights Management’s Jodie Ferneyhough, and plenty of other musicians and industry types.

Carvalho says he puts on the annual party to give back to a community that has been so good to him, but he isn’t sure if he gets additional work from it. “I think ultimately I do. I never really know what it is. Chino Locos is around the corner and I think bands will master with me if they can go have burritos; they don’t really want to attend for the session,” he laughs.

(L-R) NXNE Festival founder Michael Hollett and friend, musician, and former Doughboy member John Kastner, who programs the bands. (Photo credit: Sari Colt)

Kevin Goodman, CEO (chief entertainment officer), Front Row Centre Music & Entertainment, stages Rock Star Hotel party every year the weekend of the MMVAs. There is lots of competition throughout the city, but his marketing company goes all out.

Held at the Spoke Club, this time it was British-themed — from the Minis parked outside, to the food and candies served inside and Union Jack décor.  Mark Holmes of Platinum Blonde, also a noted deejay (DJ MRK), spun the tunes and the surprise band was The Stranglers.

“The first time I did Rock Star Hotel was the 40th anniversary of the Juno Awards to celebrate 40 years of great Canadian music and everybody was obviously in town for that celebration,” Goodman tells Billboard.biz.

“Music is a huge part of my life.  Obviously today it’s my job but even growing up, as my friends were listening to top 40 crap I was hooked on [radio station] CFNY when CFNY was good and listening to the Smiths and Elvis Costello and Bauhaus and Japan and all of those types of acts and just realized that there was another type of music.”

(L-R) Joao Carvalho of Joao Carvalho Mastery Recordings and Ian Blurton of Public Animal hang at Carvalho's BBQ(Photo: Sari Colt)

Front Row Centre Music & Entertainment has been connecting brands and bands since 2007. The main sponsors for the 2013 Rock Star Hotel were Mini, BBC Canada and HMV, along with secondary sponsors such as Rimmel London, Fred Perry, Doc Martens and Harper Collins, all part of the gifting lounge and prevalent brands in Canada.

“It’s a celebration of 50 years of great music from across the pond; it’s like a dream come true for me when I can pay homage to all of my favourite British acts from the 60s to today.”

But Front Row Centre has worked with acts of all genres and not just across the pond.

It teamed Coca-Cola’s Full Throttle with Green Day for its 21st Century Breakdown tour in 2010; Rush with Ubisoft’s Rocksmith game; and Katy Perry with the Just Dance video game, a program that originated out of San Francisco. Other clients include Megadeth and LMFAO.

iTunes' George Maniatis with his dog, Frankie. (Photo: Sari Colt)
 
“We are a music and entertainment marketing company that really focuses, at its core on integrating brands and bands,” Goodman explains. “We work with brands and get them involved with a music space, whether that’s a tour, a concert, a big music festival, an event like Rock Star Hotel or, on the other side, we work with music festivals or properties that come to us and ‘we need sponsorship; we need to get a better understanding of this business; can you try and help us either raise some funds, build some awareness or develop our sponsorship strategies. That’s really what our agency is about."