Sometimes I just need to sit back and recall that just 6 summers ago I started Sound Check Entertainment, almost by accident. The traction it received from festivals and events across Ottawa and Ontario almost immediately was mind blowing but nothing compares to the feeling this week as we stage a massive benefit for Fort McMurray in Toronto on Thursday called “Bright Lights, Big Country”.It’s funny how a simple idea to do some good can turn into such a massive event that features some of the top country music artists Canada has to offer.  Tim Hicks, Jason Blaine, Dani Strong, Andrew Hyatt, James Barker Band, Wes Mack, Madeline Merlo, Cory Marquardt, Autumn Hill, Meghan Patrick, Cold Creek County to name just a few of the stars that will hit the stage.

The supporters of this event have been incredible with the amazing folks at KX Country stepping up to co-sponsor, Live Nation is on-board and naturally the incredible Phoenix in downtown Toronto for hosting; one thing is certain this event is going to be incredible and will do some amazing good for the people of Fort Mac. I’m so proud of what this incredible organization, Sound Check Entertainment, has become. I have some of the best people involved with this project and it continues to evolve, again and again we prove that the sky really is the limit to what we can do.

The title says a proud moment and a disappointment. Sound Check Entertainment was founded and is based in Ottawa…not that you would know it. Although we get accredited to cover most major events here in Canada’s Capital, compared to Toronto, our presence in Ottawa is almost lacklustre. Granted, Ottawa only gets a fraction of the events that Toronto does but in the Toronto area we’ve been much more embraced by local media partners and venues. We’ve been lucky with Ottawa’s New Country 94, they’ve been great friends to us in the year and change that they’ve been in town but even that relationship could be stronger. Our radio relationships in Toronto feel much more like partnerships, we work together on projects and we’re a partner for them to help them promote their events.

Just prior to the announcement a few weeks ago by Mayor Jim Watson that the city would be hosting their own Fort Mac benefit I had been meeting with a few local partners to start the ball rolling on the Ottawa version of “Bright Lights, Big Country”.  We were in the very early stages of discussion when Ottawa announced their event so I decided that the entire weight of Sound Check Entertainment would be thrown behind #Ottawa4FortMac and we would provide every resource we had to ensuring this event would be a huge success. When I first reached out to Mayor Watson I was met with excitement and he seemed eager to have us on board but as time went on we simply got pushed aside like that annoying cousin that no one wants around. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying anything against the Ottawa event, they have some amazing talent hitting the stage on Wednesday night as well. Could we have made it better? Impossible to say seeing as we never looked into artist availability for the Ottawa event. Yes the $80 price tag is a bit steep and will turn many away but I think even with our involvement we wouldn’t have had much say in that. What we could’ve done was promoted the hell out of it on our national platform to an audience of almost half a million (that number can grow big time if the story goes viral), that’s gotta count for something!

I’ve worked hard and pushed hard to build the foundation of Sound Check Entertainment to get it to a point where it is today and although it’s absolutely incredible and I’m over the top proud and excited about what Corey has managed to do with our brand in Toronto it’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing that I struggle to gain any type of traction in the city where it all began, the city that I work in and call home.

I want it to be known that Sound Check Entertainment delivers! Last year Capital Country Fest @ Spencerville Stampede reached out and asked us to build their lineup, we delivered, just last month when the Ottawa Food Bank reached out asking desperately for help because they were unable to secure entertainment for their 2016 Food Aid event SCE rose to the occasion and, even with less than a week’s notice, delivered. We wanted to put on a huge benefit for Fort McMurray and yet again we delivered.

Credit needs to be given to local events like Ottawa Bluesfest, Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, City Folk, Ottawa Jazz and others who continuously welcome us back every year. We’ve already been approved for our fifth straight year at Ottawa Bluesfest and will be a major presence at Ottawa Dragon Boat once again this year as well. So kudos to all of them!

One week ago Corey, SCE photographer Mike Highfield and myself covered the CMAO Awards in Markham, our combined coverage had #CMAO2016 trending on Twitter by the end of the night, what event wouldn’t want that? We don’t get paid for what we do, not a red cent. We do what we do simply because we love live.

So Ottawa I must ask…what is your problem? Is your ego so big that you don’t want the help of a volunteer run organization? Why does a city like Toronto and it’s media and venues make itself readily available to Sound Check Entertainment while on home ice we struggle?

Sadly at the time of writing this I have had to make a difficult decision that I will not be able to attend the event in Toronto on Thursday, as much as I had wanted to be there to support my team on such an important night it’s just too difficult to rearrange my schedule with festival season in Ottawa now just weeks away. Especially this close after spending 4 days in Toronto for the CMAO Awards. I have no doubt the event will be a huge success and will be purchasing 2 tickets to the event today to show my support!

So Toronto I must ask…do you have your tickets for “Bright Lights, Big Country” yet? Less than $30 and you’ll be treated to some of the best country music we have to offer (hint click on the poster for a direct link to Ticketmaster)!

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who worked so hard to put this together and to Corey and the guys on my team in Toronto who never sleep I just want to say that you guys continue to make me have to pinch myself to remind me that this is real. You guys have done, and continue to do wonders for the brand that is my life and has been my life for 6 summers! Keep it up!

And to the people of Fort Mac (I have members of my family living there, half lost everything and the other half were lucky enough to return home earlier this week) we’re with you and stand beside you!


Follow me on Twitter @hendrikpape