There were just four award categories, lots of reminiscing, some priceless retro television footage and some stellar performances at the 2015 Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) Gala Awards and 40th Anniversary Celebration at Toronto’s Great Hall last night, primarily to honor the founders of the “first independent music organization of its kind in the world.”
The 11 men — Bernie Finkelstein, Stan Klees, Terry Brown, Frank Davies, Tommy Graham, Greg Hambleton, Jack Richardson, Allan Macmillan, Ben McPeek, Art Snider and Paul Clinch — got together in December 1970 at the Inn on the Park hotel to discuss the idea of creating a trade association to represent the independent music community in Canada — labels, distributors, studios, managers, producers, and others.
A month later, on Jan. 20, 1971, The Canadian Independent Record Producers Association (CIRPA) — renamed CIMA in 2009 — was established. Now helmed by president Stuart Johnston, the organization’s lobbying and advocacy efforts have focused on issues such as copyright, funding, broadcasting and Canadian content (CanCon) regulations.
Six of these 11 men — Finkelstein, Brown, Davies, Graham, Hambleton and Macmillian — were there last night to collect their Founders Award, which recognizes “outstanding individuals or organizations who made a significant, influential and longstanding contribution to the Canadian independent music industry.” They then took a seat on the stage in a panel configuration to answer questions from broadcasting veteran Denise Donlon about CIMA’s beginnings and the future of the industry.
Three other inaugural awards were also handed out during the evening. The Unsung Hero Award went to Jack Long, co-founder and CEO of the national musical instrument retailer Long & McQuade (son Jon accepted on his behalf because Jack is recuperating from surgery). The Entrepreneur Award was presented to Jeffrey Remedios, president and co-founder of artist-friendly label Arts & Crafts Productions, which was built with the musical output from the Broken Social Scene crew; and The Brian Chater Leadership Award to Pegi Cecconi, vice-president and self-proclaimed/undisputed “Queen of f***ing everything” at SRO-Anthem, whose flagship act is Rush.
Named after the industry game changer who passed away of cancer in 2013, “Brian Chater was a key part of CIMA/CIRPA’s history as president from 1987-2006, and a major figure in the Canadian music industry,” Lisa Fiorilli, CIMA’s research and communications coordinator told Billboard. “We knew we wanted to honour his memory with an award, and the Leadership Award seemed a perfect fit given his status and legacy.”
The award is presented to “individual(s) in the music field who demonstrate success through a culture of innovation, market knowledge and artist development, while demonstrating exceptional vision and true industry leadership.”
The Entrepreneur Award goes to “risk takers, trendsetters who drive successful businesses with an ethical approach and who best demonstrate the indie spirit.”
The Unsung Hero Award is not restricted to someone in the music biz,” says Fiorilli, “but that’s open to anyone whose shown tremendous support and commitment to Canada’s music industry over the years — and someone whose unlikely to receive any industry awards, but whose highly deserving of one.”
The award recipients were chosen by an independent group of industry experts and tastemakers, whose names CIMA will not reveal to “protect the integrity of the process,” Fiorilli told Billboard, but adds they are “an arms-length set of industry tastemakers.”
In between awards, which was hosted by scandal-less CBC radio guy Grant Lawrence, there were one song performances by Tomi Swick, Hawksley Workman, Jason Collett, Big Wreck‘s Ian Thornley, and the Trews‘ Colin MacDonald.
CIMA plans to make the awards gala an annual event. “This year is history-heavy due to our 40th, so the following years will be a balanced history-present-future look at the indie sector,” says Fiorilli.