The popularity of Canadian Music Week (CMW), the Toronto-based music industry conference now in its 30th year, could easily have waned as the major labels consolidated during the past decade-plus.

Instead, what's now tagged as "Canada's international music convention and entertainment festival" adapted and expanded its scope. It will take place March 21-25.


"We were dependent on the major labels for a long time, but the business actually changed as they were going on down and the indie sector was coming up," CMW president Neill Dixon says.

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"There are only three majors, really-four until they merge-so it was a natural progression and the technology has been a natural progression, too," Dixon says. "It's impacted a lot of business models that didn't want to change, or they couldn't change or they refused to change. And it impacted us in the fact that we had to change our conference to reflect what was going on in the real world."

As a result, CMW, which signed a deal with Internet radio service Slacker as the title sponsor for 2012, is now bigger and better.

CMW includes four conferences: the Digital Media Summit (March 21-22), Radio InterActive/Canadian Radio Conference (March 22-24), International Music Summit (March 22-24) and Songwriters' Summit (March 24). Together they encompass some 80 panels, including the "International Marketplace" session, which this year (March 22-23) will spotlight Latin America, with a secondary focus on Spain and Portugal.

There's also a trade show and various awards shows: the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards Gala Dinner, Canadian Radio Music Awards Luncheon, the Crystal Awards for radio creative and the Indies.

Additionally, the ever-expanding Canadian Music Fest (March 21-25) will showcase close to 1,000 acts from more than 40 countries in 60 venues, about 75% of which are home-grown.

One of this year's CMW honorees is Riley O'Connor, chairman of Live Nation Canada, who'll be inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame during the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards gala on March 22.

Among this year's keynote speakers will be guitarist Slash; songwriter and former Guess Who frontman Burton Cummings; manager Troy Carter, in conversation with blogger Bob Lefsetz; and veteran U.K. concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith. "We're anticipating about 3,000 delegates," Dixon says.

"Our business now is catering more to the independents and the cultural entrepreneurs, bands that will do it themselves. And there's many more of those, too. There are also startup businesses in the tech sector where the music is a major component of what their business model is all about. To me, Slacker is a prime example, being a title sponsor now. They weren't around a few years ago and now all of a sudden they're significant-30 million listeners."

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Slacker Canadian Music Week 2012, as it's now officially called, will have a significant focus on "social music," Dixon says. The Digital Media Summit focuses on social media, interactive advertising and sales.

"We skipped a digital [conference] last year. We put 'digital' in the Music Summit, but this year there's an explosion of social media. It was too obvious to pass," Dixon says.

"We're hoping to get as many media people in as we can-radio, television, print-and we're also hoping to attract marketing directors. Just about every company has got a social media department now and we're looking to attract VPs of social media. To take that one step further, we've got a stream of what we call 'social music,' or music in the social Web. All these sites and apps are tied in with Facebook and Twitter.

"They've coined this thing called 'social music' now, which would've been called 'digital music' a few years ago, but now it's gravitated. Most of the sales now are through these social websites and bands now have the tools to pretty much do everything themselves. So it's an entirely different world now. Bands are totally empowered to do it themselves. So a social music stream is running all the way through our conference."