Friday, March 20, 2009

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs - Part 5 of 5

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs

Cape Breton in 2010 - Hip-Hop Suggestions

Part 5 of 5

By Brockway Biggs

It's easy to point fingers, but it's more difficult to uncover solutions. It's clear the ECMAs have areas for improvement.

The key is more mutual involvement and initiative from both the ECMA and the hip-hop community. It's a two way street.


An official ECMA "Hip-Hop" showcase is a wonderful suggestion provided by Halifax rapper Joe Buck. Unfortunately ECMA Artist Relations & Member Services Manager, Chanda Bissett, quickly points out that it's not financially possible.

"The ECMA produces a core group of "Official Showcases" and works with partner organizations (such as ANSMA) to create additional "partner" showcases for various genres. With the funding and resources we have, it is not possible for us to take on additional showcases for every genre without partner support."

Prior to 2009, a partner has typically stepped forward to organize a hip-hop showcase. Unfortunately, ECMA involvement has always been limited and they've failed to supply organizers with a list of artist who applied to perform on the hip-hop stage.

In 2007 and 2008, the organizers of the partnered hip-hop showcase were not aware ECMA applications had been submitted by artists to perform on their stage. As a result, the event often fails to showcase talents outside of the organizer's regional circle of connections.

The African Nova Scotia Music Association (ANSMA) does a great job of partnering with ECMA to produce its annual 'Black Vibes' stage. This stage does provide exposure for hip-hop artists, but unfortunately it is limited to Nova Scotia acts of African descent.


The 2007 ECMA festival in Halifax engaged the UMAC in preparing an urban seminar. The result was a packed room, and an encouraging step forward for ECMA involvement in hip-hop. But, Halifax is the biggest hip-hop town in Atlantic Canada, so it wasn't clear how such an initiative might be received in other cities.

Things went downhill in 2008 when UMAC was not involved. A lack of promotion surrounding the urban seminar in Fredericton resulted in poor attendance. In 2009, there was no such component. Ms Bissett agrees that "perhaps it is time to revive our UMAC Partnership for the conference and/or showcases."

Award Category - "Single" vs "Album"

In 2006, the ECMA award committee agreed to debut Rap/Hip-Hop as a 'Single Track' category to ensure the category could be filled with nominees. As a result, rap/hip-hop is one of only three awards categories (out of 32) that celebrate 'single track' instead of 'full album.' In each of the past four years the category has been filled to capacity, and 2010 might be a good time to convert the category from 'Single Track' to 'Full Album.'

Change to an ECMA category is always possible, but requires support from the genre's community. Chanda Bissett, ECMA Artist Relations & Member Services Manager, is keen on bringing forward suggestions to the awards and stages committees, but requires proper documentation. She provided the 'Loud' category, which debuted in 2009, as a great example.

"We heard from individuals in the ECMA community that we should recognize a 'Loud' category. They were required to provide a title and description for the category, and to compile a list of at least five artists willing to submit an eligible album for ECMA 2009" (released between June 1, 2008 and October 1, 2009).

"The ECMA office received this required documentation and it was forwarded to the awards committee. The awards committee approved the recommendation, and then forwarded it to the ECMA Board of Directors who provided the final approval."

In its first year, the 'Loud' category was a success. There were five albums nominated, and legendary Moncton band, Iron Giant, took home the inaugural award. So, while other categories like 'R&B/Soul,' 'World' and 'Instrumental' struggled in 2009, 'Rap/Hip-Hop' and 'Loud' were stronger than ever.

The good news is that ECMA Executive Director Steve Horne is receptive to new ideas and building on the hip-hop momentum. The review committees will be meeting in the coming months, so now is the best time to voice your opinion to ECMA Artist Relations & Member Services Manager, Chanda Bissett ( ecma at ).

"The best way to voice your thoughts is to put them on paper. This works well because we have to run these ideas by several individuals. In the coming weeks our committees will be getting together again to review what worked, what didn't and what we'd like to change, add or remove for next year."

Part 1 - An Introduction - Hip-Hop Side-Stepped in Corner Brook
Part 2 - Popularity of Hip-Hop in Atlantic Canada & Showcases for Hip-Hop artists at the 2009 ECMAs
Part 3 - The Corner Brook Hip-Hop Struggle
Part 4 - Why was Hip-Hop side-stepped in Corner Brook & Hip-Hop Approach of other Music Award Festivals


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