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Allan Reid, Newly Appointed Head of Canada’s Recording Academy, Talks Junos

Allan Reid has been a towering, affable presence in the Canadian music industry for over 25 years.

Allan Reid has been a towering, affable presence in the Canadian music industry for over 25 years. The newly named president and CEO of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), based in Toronto, Reid was behind contracts with artists such as Jann Arden, Sam Roberts and Hedley while he was working as a senior vice president of A&R, at Universal Music Canada. In 2007, he accepted the role of general manager at indie label MapleMusic, working with acts like Kathleen Edwards and Joel Plaskett before leaving three years later to become director of MusiCounts, CARAS’s music education charity. At the same time, he started managing Royal Wood and producers Gus Van Go and Bill Bell, but has since stopped, to avoid any conflicts of interest if those artists should garner a Juno nod.

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Billboard spoke with Reid this week about his new role and the 44th annual Juno Awards, March 14 and 15.

You’ve been at CARAS for four years. What did Melanie Berry leave you when you took over as president and CEO? She told us after 12 years it was a well-oiled machine, moving it from city to city. Did you find it did, indeed, run smoothly?

It does actually, because the team here is fantastic — and I’m saying that in the broader sense of it too. We’ve got a fantastic broadcaster in CTV. You’ve got Insight Productions, who are amazing at putting the show on every year; and you’ve got the CARAS team who execute all the public events and oversee it all. The show’s been on the road for 12 years and it is a very well-oiled machine. I was very fortunate to step into this, and I can’t imagine having to learn every single detail in my first year — I haven’t had to because I’ve got such a great team who can take a lot of that stuff on.

You’ve been on the label side, the management side and worked at CARAS with MusiCounts — what are the things you were told or observed that are working, or should change, or you’d like to see change?

I’m still learning. It’s a lot more than just a show, too. Obviously the Juno broadcast is the big moment and the gala dinner the night before, but it’s also Juno Week, and all those events [that go with it]. One of the things we talked about internally when I got here is that if our mandate is to promote and sell great Canadian talent or music and artists, we need to be doing that throughout the year. That’s very much where things like Juno TV came into the picture about a year-and-a-half, two years ago now. Looking at what else can we do to support Canadian talent beyond just a television show? How can we work with the labels more? How can we keep doing things to keep bringing more focus to Canadian artists throughout the year? Now MusiCounts is doing that all the time on the charitable side, but this is something that we’re certainly looking at on CARAS’ side. How can we keep taking that Juno brand and expanding it and leveraging it, for the good of the industry?

As far as changes right now, there hasn’t been a lot as far as the big picture. We’re in Hamilton this year. It’s CTV. It’s Insight; all our key players are still there. And the way we’re tackling the show, if anything it’s just a different perspective on things. I come to it from my years at a label and as a manager and obviously working for MusicCounts. Just some smaller fresh ideas. Melanie certainly did an amazing job of building what is now the Juno Awards. I’m coming in doing tweaks. As you said earlier, it’s a pretty well-oiled machine. But things always have to evolve and always have to change. No question.

There have been some new categories in recent years — adult alternative album and metal/hard music album — so you do adjust when necessary. With the rock album category, because there’s a sales component, some managers/labels prefer to submit their act into a different category because they don’t feel that stand a chance against the Nickelbacks and Billy Talents. Has getting rid of the sales component been discussed?

Yeah. Kim Cooke and Warren Stewart chair the nominating and voting committee, along with Laura Bryan and the team here, and every single year they look at every category — how do we need to adapt and how do we need to change? As well as the sales component, streaming is a big conversation right now. How do we start bringing streaming data into our calculations? How do we get that data first and foremost? How is it provided for not just the major labels but for indie artists? We didn’t have a year’s worth of data to bring into it this year [Nielsen only started tracking Canadian streaming providers last July]. So we had to go, you know what, streaming, we’ll look at some of it but we can’t make it the key component yet.

Ultimately, could you get rid of the album category because artists are releasing singles and EPs, and maybe go with track equivalents?

I don’t know that we would get rid of it entirely. Album sales are still fairly significant. In many categories, we do use album sales and track sales as part of that voting process. And we also use Next Big Sound, which brings us a lot of data from the social side for some of the categories as well. I was talking to Kim about it the other day; every year you think you’ve got it all buttoned down and then something new pops up, and it makes you go, ‘We gotta go back and take a look at this and tweak our eligibility, what our criteria is.’ We represent the industry and if the industry changes, we need to be kept in tune with what those changes are, and how things are happening. Obviously as physical sales decline, and streaming comes in, that is something we need to take into account, and we try to figure out how.

Would you look at the winners or nominees of the Polaris Music Prize to add an edge to the show or will the Junos always stay fairly mainstream?

Well the funny thing is if you look at the history, the amount of Polaris nominees that are actually Juno nominees, it’s uncanny. Sometimes they’re ahead of us; sometimes they are actually behind us. Sometimes we have Juno nominees in for alternative album of the year that ultimately become Polaris nominees but it depends when the album is released. If it comes out after September, it doesn’t make it eligible for their category, but it does make it for ours. They can be a Juno nominee before they become a Polaris nominee and vice-versa.

There has been word in the industry that CARAS is really behind in Hall of Fame inductions. Many people – Bobby Curtola, Andy Kim, Roch Voisine, Corey Hart, Alanis Morissette, Sebastian Bach, and many from ’50s, ’60s, ’70s — are not included. Would you consider inducting multiple people at a time or doing a separate awards show? It is a concern to honour some people while we still have them.

There is no question, there is an abundance of amazing Canadian talent that needs to be honoured and every year that goes by there are more that keep getting added to that list. So there’s no question we’ve got figure out how we honour some of those early pioneers, if you want to call them, that have yet to be honoured. I’s a challenge for us for sure. And it also makes that honour what it is, it’s an honour to get into that Canadian Music Hall of Fame. I think it was in the mid-’90s [1996 and 1997], where there was a group of inductions that happened — it was five at a time. And so we’re looking at a couple of different things right now.

As tedious as award giving and acceptance speeches can be, giving 7 out of 41 categories during the televised show seems fairly small, when it is a cool thing to win and get to go on national TV.

We obviously can’t honour all 41 awards on the show.

But it’s more of a concert in an arena setting. Seven isn’t a lot to give out.

There’s also the Hall of Fame honour that needs to be represented within that — sometimes we also look to our mentions for the humanitarian award as well as the Walk Grealis award. So there’s other awards that get pulled into that. It’s a tough balance to find. You’ve got so many artists you want to put on that show and there’s only nine slots for artists performance.

Can’t you see an artist perform anytime live or even watch clips on YouTube?

One of our goals is, as I said, to support and celebrate Canadian talent. The Junos is one of the few platforms to give artists that opportunity to be seen on a national level on television, to see them perform. We don’t have late night televison. We don’t have Jimmy Fallon, where you can put an artist on there to perform at night. We’re one of the only places you can see that. The public does want to see that. They want to see Kiesza perform and Hedley perform and Magic! and Shawn Mendes, the ones we’ve announced so far [yesterday, the Arkells were added to the lineup]. There’s great interest in seeing those artists perform. So it’s a balance, obviously keep the ratings high and obviously show as many awards as you possibly can and balance between host and Hall of Fame recognitions and those kind of moments. You want to give the viewer the things they want to see the most.

Every artist, trust me, they all want to perform on that show. There is a huge lineup of who gets that coveted spot because it does make a difference in an artist’s career to be shown to 1.5 to 2 million viewers in this country. There’s moments that happen on that show that have been for years breakout moments where all of a sudden Canada gets introduced to an artist. for the very first time or they’ve been around for a whole but they haven’t had that national exposure. And it can be career-defining.

That happened with Feist when she experienced issues with the PA, but handled it like a pro.

Again, amazing moment on the show.

Can you talk about the ‘Juno Effect’?

Obviously, there’s lots of pieces to it. The Junos travel from city to city every year and on average it spins off about $10 million in economic impact for the host city. When all these artists and the industry travel to that city, and bring with them the fans, to see the show and buy tickets and stay in hotels and go to restaurants and go to bars and Junofest and Juno Cup is happening, all of those things have a direct impact on that community. You’ve certainly seen with [recording industry association] Music Canada; their whole platform of how music can change and be a huge economic driver for a city and that’s part of what the Junos does. Music can keep doing that throughout the year and Graham [Henderson, president] and the rest of the folk at Music Canada did a great job of educating the city of Toronto, and [the government’s] OMDC [Ontario Media Development Corporation] where we now have a Music Office here. That’s the same thing happening in other cities across the country too. People recognize the power that this has.

But on top of that, there’s also a legacy that comes, via MusiCounts, on the charitable side. MusiCounts will have now given away close to $8 million in instruments and grants and scholarships to support music education. And that’s a big part of when we come into a community as well. It’s interesting — this is going back a couple of years now, we reached out to Saskatchewan Music Educators Association about MusiCounts and they were aware of us but not really; we used to get a couple of grant applications from Saskatchewan every year. Well the year that we went in there [with the Juno Awards] we had 30-plus applications out of Saskatchewan schools for instruments. I think we ended up awarding nine grants, for a total of $60,000 in that province. That’s part of that impact that the Junos brings. And every year we’re doing that, whether that’s through our Band Aid program or now with our TD Community Music Grants program that goes to programs outside of the school system. That’s all part of what CARAS brings. And that leaves a legacy that goes on for generations, when you put instruments into communities.