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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Making Music

Geraldine Malone
Published Thursday March 17, 06:18 pm
A DIY label’s mogul makes the changes he wants to see

Industry bigwigs and online ranters always talk about the Internet being a great equalizer when it comes to music. Technological advances have given people the power to produce beats through the latest app, release singles on the latest streaming service, and promote themselves through social media.

But it’s still an uphill struggle to survive as a musician.

In Saskatoon, the Sound and Silence Collective is making great music and building a strong, diverse music and arts scene. The ’90s-esque record label focuses on helping emerging and unique artists. But it also seeks to foster a vibrant and sustainable music scene through live entertainment and a compelling zine.

Executive director and founder Duncan Pickard was born and raised in the Bridge City. When he graduated from the Recording Arts Institute of Saskatoon he knew this was where he wanted to put his newly minted skills to use. Since January 2013, he’s seen the record label grow to more than 14 bands, including some of the city’s most exciting — such as the Wizards, the Faps, and the sisters-trio the Garrys, who have an upcoming EP.

I sat down with Pickard to talk music, sustainability, inclusion and why he’s all about DIY.

Where did the name of your label come from?

We were trying so hard for names. I Googled “music” [laughs] and the Wikipedia result said “music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence.”

When you started the label what was the initial direction?

Our original idea was just to make music a more sustainable choice for people in Saskatoon. We originally had the idea that it would be great if we could make a record label that could handle the business side so that the artists could concentrate on playing the music and writing music. The other side of things isn’t something the artsy people enjoy as much. Once we got more than a couple of bands, things got way too busy so we decided to change our approach and instead of doing everything for the artist, we teach the artist how to do everything for themselves. We take an artist who may be playing open stages, playing in a garage, maybe they have an awesome album or maybe just a couple of songs, and we find out where they want to go and help them figure out the steps to get there.

You have your hands in everything — a zine, putting on shows, records, compilations. What made you decide to expand beyond just recording?

I was going to shows and there’d be weeks where there were maybe only one or two shows I was interested in. I just started thinking why aren’t there more? I went from “why?” to “how can there be more?” I figured out the easiest way was to make it happen yourself. I started putting on shows and talking to the bands I like and getting shows set up together. It kind of just snowballed from there.

Right now there isn’t a lot of money to go around in the smaller side of the music industry so you kind of have to get involved with everything. In any business it’s good to understand how everything works. You don’t have to do everything, but to know how it all works is definitely beneficial.

Music scenes can be pretty homogenous. Why do you think it’s important to tap into different voices?

We definitely take that into consideration with what we do. A lot of the best art and inspiration comes from the most marginalized people — people who don’t necessarily have a chance to project their voice to the public. The best thing you can do to foster this creativity and art is to give voice to the people on the fringes who may not necessarily hear their own voices [in the scene].

What makes Saskatoon a good place to make music?

As much as people might dislike the winter, I have a theory that the winter is what creates so much creativity in Saskatchewan and in Saskatoon. It’s cold, people don’t want to go outside so they get more introverted and examine themselves. What do you do when you’re trapped in your room with a whole bunch of instruments? You play music.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming musicians?

The best thing you could do is go out and support other people’s music. If you go to other people’s shows, talk to them after the show, maybe they’ll ask you about what you do. Maybe they will give you a spot on their next show. Maybe they will support your music. That’s kind of how the community works and it’s the best thing you can do. Oh, and play lots of shows, and practice a lot before you play.

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