At the end of last year I looked ahead to 2015 and made a bold prediction that it would be bigger with more interviews with bigger artists, more festivals, more events and more contests. I could never have predicted exactly how much bigger the year would actually be.
2015 was filled with plenty of huge events and more wins than I can count on my two hands but it also had moments that bring us back down to earth from cloud 9. When you get to the level that we have reached it’s easy to get a little complacent. When AC/DC first announced their world tour we were among the first to start the coverage and among the first to start promoting their Canadian dates, the story quickly grew to be one of our top stories so you can imagine my disappointment when, especially considering AC/DC has been on my concert bucket list for decades, we were denied accreditation on the day of the Ottawa show. mere hours after the last block of tickets sold out. I chalk that up as a learning experience and in the future will still purchase tickets to shows I really want to see.
But even with the major disappointment of missing out on AC/DC 2015 can still be summed up as the year of more on all fronts. As we move into 2016 Sound Check has grown from a publication that had extensive coverage in Ontario to a publication with writers and photographers across Ontario and on each coast of Canada. If you would’ve told me that this little hobby of mine that I started for fun to cover a single event back in 2011 would grow to a well known, respected publication and promotional platform for the Canadian Country Music Industry in a mere 5 years I would’ve laughed at you.
Success comes easy when you have the right people on board. The biggest staff acquisition of the past year came in the summer when Sean Sisk joined the team as our full time Ottawa photographer…when it comes to photography Sean’s reputation precedes him. He has photo credits from every major event in Ottawa, through his charity project Pets with Personalities he has photographed everyone from tv news anchors and radio announcers, athletes, musicians, and business owners since the first edition was published in 2012. The calendar, to date, has raised over $12,000 for the Ottawa Humane Society. Sean doesn’t just take pictures he takes a moment that is happening on stage and stops time to create an incredible digital recreation that often looks better than what was actually happening on stage.
Late in the summer we were joined by two incredibly talented photographers in the Toronto area, Scott Burns, and Ray Williams. When we started looking to expand the Toronto operation I asked Corey to find photographers that would be flexible to shoot and possibly write about all genres and Scott and Ray bring that to the table. With Trish also open to all genres we now have the manpower in Toronto to cover pretty much everything that comes in, now it’s just a matter of getting better access to the big shows when they come in, something that has come easier for Sean and I in Ottawa where we currently have about an 85% success rate at getting accredited.
This past fall we welcomed James Bennett (Eastern Canada) and Justin Ruscheinski (Western Canada) to the team. James is the staff photographer for Cavendish Music Festival and has extensively covered it and other major music events on the east coast, James helped us out during Canadian Country Music Week and the CCMA Awards in Halifax by providing us with some amazing shots. You may be familiar with James’ work if you follow The Daily Musician on social media.
Justin heads up our west coast division where he shoots Concerts, Sports and everything inbetween. He shoots for 604 Now, a leading website for about Metro Vancouver. Watch for plenty of coverage from both coasts as we roll into 2016, a big welcome to both.
Corey continued to perfect his interviewing skills, something I personally plan on working on for myself throughout 2016 (why should Corey have all the fun lol), and midway through the year introduced a new feature that very quickly gained traction and has artists from across Canada begging for their chance, the Mason Jar Sessions. Our friends Mike Robins and Tareya Green, aka Autumn Hill, honoured us with an incredible acoustic version of “Blame” recorded on the waterfront in Toronto to kick off this new feature. Since then we’ve recorded Mason Jar Sessions with artists like Tim Hicks, Tebey, Michael Ray, The River Town Saints and more with plenty more planned for 2016.
When it comes to contests it’s safe to say that Sound Check had more contests and giveaways across Canada than anyone else. We had tickets for almost every major Canadian country tour in almost every major city across Canada…that’s pretty huge. To date my favourite moment of 2015 was the Dallas Smith Tippin’ Point Tour giveaway in Sudbury. The entire Sound Check team has been immensely blessed by the success we have achieved and the shows that we are able to see and I’m not one to take that for granted. I have always said that if I ever get to a point in my life where I can use my success to change someone’s life or even just brighten their day I would do that. When Dallas Smith announced his Tippin’ Point Tour in late 2014 we knew that we would have one pair of tickets to giveaway for one show at any of his Canadian dates, just the thought of how we were going to pick a winner was mindboggling. That is until I read the comment that decided it all. The comment was from a woman in the Sudbury area who simply said that if she won she wanted to take her daughter. Turns out she had been unwell for the past few years and her daughter not only took care of her she also managed to keep up her studies full time at the same time. The day of the Dallas Smith concert also happened to fall on her daughter’s birthday. That was all I needed but I wanted to take this to the next level, I figured ok with a story like that just going to see Dallas Smith isn’t near enough so I reached out to the radio station in Sudbury, KICX 91.7 and told them about our contest and the story about the winner. KICX helped us take this moment and put a cherry on top by providing not just dinner for the mother and daughter but also a limo ride to and from the show…oh and the fine folks at KICX helped us deliver the news of the win with a 7am wake-up call that still gives me goosebumps everytime I listen to it. This is what it’s all about, for me. The success Sound Check has achieved in such a short time is nothing short of a dream come true and now that I have the ability I enjoy nothing more than to make other people’s dreams come true as well…simply because it feels so good!
Although on the interview front my 2015 was nowhere near as big as Corey’s I did have the opportunity to chat with artists like Jason Wade of Lifehouse, the wonderful Drew and Danielle McTaggart of Dear Rouge, Cory Marquardt and two interviews that I hope to have posted before the end of the year or early next year: the super talented and lovely Danielle Marie and the surprisingly soft spoken but super cool Wes Mack who visited with me before a fall appearance in Ottawa. Watch for the return of the interview series that started it all in 2016…with a twist. I’ll be bringing back 20 Questions with but this time it will be 20 Questions Live! Artists will have to think on their feet for this one, I guarantee it will be a lot of fun and I have no doubt we’ll learn some very cool stuff about some of our favourite artists.
Another key highlight for me this past year was being a part of Jason Blaine’s Celebrity Charity Classic. The second annual event, which took place in June in Pembroke, ON, saw Jason Blaine, Tim Hicks, Chad Brownlee, Ben Rutz and the Western Swing Authority all join together to, first, put on one heck of a show and, second, face off on the golf course all in the name of charity. It was an incredible event for me, firstly because of what it brought to the community (a community I called home until about 10 years ago) and secondly because it really solidified, for me, what Sound Check has become. Again, if you would’ve told me a few years ago that in 2015 I’d be sitting at a table at the Best Western in Pembroke with Tim Hicks across from me, Chad Brownlee beside me and Jason Blaine beside him I would’ve likely told you you were full of something. Jason raised $75,000 for his charity over that two day event, we look forward to being an even bigger part of it in 2016.
2015 was the year that also saw Sound Check take on the role of promoter. Even though I personally had been involved with the Spencerville Stampede for a few years as part of their marketing team in 2015 Sound Check took on a much larger role as booking agent and promoter for the 5th annual event. At first it started out with us just looking at Tim Hicks but as it grew to a full fledged 3 day music festival I brought Corey into the fold, mainly because he had more time and was in Toronto closer to the key contacts we would need to pull this off, and he made it a labour of love and delivered an incredible show with an incredible lineup of Canadian talent. We may not have had the biggest crowds and mother nature wasn’t the friendliest on Saturday evening but the fans and artists that came to play left happy and the reputation of Sound Check in Eastern Ontario grew a notch or two.
A big part of our success to date is due, in part, to our friends at local radio across Canada who have embraced Sound Check and continue to help us get into their closed door events. There are so many it’s impossible to mention them all but the key players are New Country 94 in Ottawa, Country 104 in London of course KICX 91.7 in Sudbury and the KX stations in Hamilton and Oshawa KX94.7 and KX96 in Oshawa. Of course we can’t forget about our friends at the Canadian Record Labels, Universal Music Canada, Warner Music Canada and Sony Music Canada. And, of course, the artists that have become our friends and biggest supporters it would be wrong to mention any names because someone will certainly be left out so I’ll just leave it at: you know who you are.
A huge shout out to our key feature event partners, without these folks we would be nowhere. Of course they are Republic Live for Boots and Hearts and Way Home Music and Arts Festival every year they open their doors wider and wider to accommodate our growing team allowing us to bring you the most extensive coverage of their events. I have to give mention to the folks at RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest here in Ottawa as well, early in 2015 we stumbled across their lineup and ran with the story knowing full well we risked any chance of accreditation for this year’s event. But they came through anyway and gave us accreditation for not just myself but for Sean Sisk as well allowing us to bring you our most extensive coverage of Bluesfest to date. As we move into 2016 I hope to strengthen our relationship with this incredible organization to see how Sound Check can work better with them to help their charity Blues in the Schools throughout the year.
Of course the biggest thanks is reserved for you, the reader, the social media follower. 200 thousand of you came through our door in the last 12 months and we can’t thank you enough. I’d be happy if we could match that number again in 2016 but something tells me it’s going to be even higher. We love what we do but without readers and followers we’d be talking to ourselves…and god knows we do that enough as it is :-).
So what can you expect from Sound Check in 2016? Even more…
- More genres
- More interviews
- More giveaways
- More events
- More exclusives
- More firsts
On behalf of the entire Sound Check team I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years, once again many thanks for an incredible, mind blowing, expectation surpassing 2015.