Music Managers Forum Canada Honors Blue Rodeo Manager Susan de Cartier, Live Nation's Riley O'Connor

Phil Brennen

L to R: MMF Canadas Meghan Symsyk with 2018 MMF Honour Roll recipients Riley O’Connor, Daniel Caesar, Matthew Burnett and Sisan de Cartier.

A tight-knit group of Canadian industry veterans gathered Tuesday night (May 8) at Toronto's the high-end Bymark restaurant in the financial district for Music Managers Forum Canada's 12th annual Honour Roll, awarding Blue Rodeo's manager Susan de Cartier; rising star Daniel Caesar and his managers Matthew Burnett and Jordan Evans; and Live Nation Canada chairman Riley O'Connor.

The dressy sit-down dinner, at which manager Chris Smith apparently launched a hilarious roast of people in the room during last year's event, isn't usually open to the media, as speeches are often off-the-cuff war stories paired with good-natured jabs. That said, everyone was pretty kind on this night with just gentle ribbing and funny stories.


Just some of the 100 or so names: MMF Canada president Meghan Symsyk, who is also vp of Entertainment One; manager Jake Gold; CARAS head Allan Reid; ole's Paul Eastwood; Cerberus founder Brian Hetherman; SRO's Ray Danniels, Pegi Cecconi and Cynthia Barry; manager Sandy Pandya; APA's Jack Ross, Ralph James and Stefani Purificati; Trick or Treat's Kay White; Coalition's Eric Lawrence; Culture Cap/Across The Board's Keely Kemp; Warner Music Canada's Steve Kane;  The Feldman Agency's Jeff Craib, Hollywood Suite's David Kines; FACTOR's Duncan McKie, and many more.


Manager Susan de Cartier was the first female to ever receive the Honour Roll Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements and excellence in Canadian and international artist management.

Daniel Caesar, Matthew Burnett and Jordan Evans got The Banner Year Award created to recognize the success of an artist and their manager(s) for an exceptional year.

Live Nation Canada chairman Riley O'Connor, the Brian Chater pioneer award, bestowed upon individuals who have been instrumental in creating the framework for music management in the Canadian entertainment industry.


The Feldman Agency's Tom Kemp called Daniel Caesar's success since selling out Toronto's Mod Club in 2016 to building an artist known around the world "a story about exceptional friends and exceptional talent and exceptional results."

Noting that Jordan Evan was not in attendance, he addressed the room, calling them a "small but mighty team," who in in less than three years helped Caesar reach a streaming audience that now approaches 1 billion worldwide, gold and platinum singles in the US, Canada and abroad, No 1 hits on Billboard and Apple, Canada and the U.S., two Grammy nominations, countless ‘best of' acknowledgments, including from Barack Obama, and sold out tours, including five nights Toronto's Danforth Music Hall.

With Evans in Montreal with family, Burnett reminisced about meeting Caesar four or five years ago. (Burnett and Evans are noted producers who often work together.) He talked a lot about being independent and that DIY ethic that keeps you up working al hours of the night because that's just the way it's done.  

"Independent, to me, is exactly what we represent because — nobody really knows this — but we have a lot of moving parts to this business, but at the core of it, it's five people in a room in an iMessage group chat," he said to laughter.

Caesar didn't say much, but did manage to thank Burnett. "This guy right here, not going to get into it, but he's seen me in my darkest days, my worth days, and Jordan as well, and they've stuck with me through it. I can be a lot to deal with," he laughed. "I know for a fact that this whole thing wouldn't be what it is if it wasn't for you guys. I love you guys."


Norm Perry, of Perryscope Productions, told lots of tidbits and stories about O'Connor, who is now chairman of Live Nation Canada, from the pair getting evicted to saving money on stage hands by rigging the Police's sound system himself.  He also pointed out his use of  "salty language is fairly well known" and his ability to stick to a budget like no other.

"Those of you that have had the benefit of his guidance and wisdom know that it was all self-taught," Perry said. He capped it by reminding everyone that O'Connor put on SARSStock at Downsview Park, "the largest ticketed event in the history of our business," organized in matter of weeks and selling 500,000 tickets to help resurrect the city's faltering economy.

Then he invited up O'Connor "whose ponytail I kinda miss."

O'Connor thanked everyone and gave a shout out to Caesar and his crew.  "I'm really pleased to see Pegi here because I really wasn't sure who says fuck off more often," he joked.  He told Burnett to "keep telling your story, it's fantastic" and called de Cartier,  whose client Blue Rodeo has headlined Live Nation venue Budweiser Stage, for the past 18 years, "a manager who is caring, effective and inspirational. It's been a honour to work with you."

He thanked Perry "who has offered me opportunities since our teenage years in high school," adding and it wasn't to get closer to my sister."

He said when MMF president Meghan Symsyk told him about the honor, he was "flummoxed" and asked what he should say. "Don't worry," she said. "It's casual. Just tell a few stories. Then she adds, Chris Smith cracked up the room last year. No pressure there."

O'Connor then told a couple of stories, including being tricked into apologizing to Rush, and the time he sent a cake to Bruce Allen to try and get Loverboy. It didn't work but Allen offered him the next act that came along — which turned out to be Bryan Adams.

"There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the success of our own artists," he said.


Jim Cuddy, the frontman for Blue Rodeo, whose band has sold 4 million albums over 30-plus years and been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, started by giving some advice to the MMF. "I don't think you should as managers hold it at Bymark because then we know you're taking too much of our money," he joked. "This should be a rubber chicken event."

He then addressed the other two inductees. To Caesar, "It's so great what you've done and it's so sweet that you started in 2016 and we're not even half way through 2018 —it's incredible." And to O'Connor, "just for fun," said "you did a little Don Cherry," meaning he messed up Burnett and de Cartier's names. The rest of the speech was awesome" he said to claps and laugher.

He then recounted how de Cartier came to manage Blue Rodeo 28 years ago. "Susan and I sat on a porch outside of 25 Draper where our management team had just gone tits up. They were bankrupt and had made such a mess of it. What are we going to do? And we both said, if they can do it — and they're practically idiots — I think we could learn this business. I think we can figure out how to be managers and she was two full years — almost as long as Daniel Caesar — into this business."

De Cartier, whose office is all women, became a mentor to other managers, he said, calling her "extremely classy and yet she's very firm…every time I used to hear she wasn't getting along with someone at Warner, it just gave me a warm feeling."

"As I look around the room I see so many of the faces that I've worked over the past 30 years of my career," De Cartier said. "It seems crazy to think that so many of us that came up in the ranks together are now the establishment. It feels a bit like the lunatics are running the asylum.  But I think the lunatics always ran this particular asylum. All of us -- all of you -- possess qualities I so admire, independence, ingenuity,  passion and irreverence."

She also told the same story Cuddy did about sitting on the porch and them saying, "if they can do it, we can figure it out" and him asked her to start up an office "I said ‘Yes, but I'll need to get a fax machine. It's true and we were off," she said.

"In the 30 years since I first started working with Blue Rodeo, I've always been grateful for that moment. Thank you Jim for trusting me, for trusting us, to figure this out. I was incredibly lucky to begin my career with a band like Blue Rodeo and I know that They are honorable, loyal, smart, and unbelievably talented. In an industry that can be fickle and selfish, I found myself a home and a family."