Cowpuncher will be among this year's SoundOff! lineup.

Cowpuncher will be among this year’s SoundOff! lineup.


As Calgary’s scene grows and matures, so, too, do the surrounding institutions keep pace. Calgary is not yet known as a true centre for music industry structures — there is a considerable dearth of industry presence, like agents, publicists, managers and labels — but groups like AB Music, which recently opened its office doors in Calgary, and Music Calgary are trying to change that.

This month, Music Calgary presents, for the second year running, SoundOff!, a weekend in which they fly in approximately 15 industry figures to witness two nights of curated bands, showcasing some of the best Calgary has to offer, on and off the stage. Last year, the inaugural event was a success, garnering the scene some valuable exposure and cementing the signing of Reuben & the Dark to the venerable Toronto indie label, Arts & Crafts. This year, with funding provided by FACTOR, SoundOff! is expanding its reach, bringing in international industry heads to our proud scene.

“Our primary goal is advancing artists’ careers,” says Kerry Clarke, who chairs the board for Music Calgary. “We’re here to help artists get out of dodge and help them get out of Calgary. Economically, it makes sense for us to fly 12-15 people into Calgary, rather than trying to get people out to Toronto, where there’s more industry, record labels, agents, managers, publicists, festival people… This way, you can give a lot more advantage to a greater number of artists by flying in 12-15 people to see 15 bands. This is a service [Music Calgary] can provide that no one else can.”

The idea behind SoundOff! is to lay down the foundational work on which bands can grow their careers. Though Calgary’s reputation in independent music is unmatched in Western Canada, Calgary bands are not always the most effective at promoting themselves beyond the region, partly due to relative geographic isolation, partly due to a lack of infrastructure and partly due to a lack of funding. With SoundOff!, Music Calgary hopes to bring some much needed institutional attention to the scene, either resulting in bands getting signed to labels, picked up by managers, or included on touring bills, or, at the very least, in consideration for future projects.

“Hopefully, one or two of the artists will be picked up by a couple of agents. If they’re not picked up, hopefully one of those agents will think of the artists when they’re building a tour, for example, so hopefully they can get an opening gig,” she says. “In the best case scenario, a label is interested in picking up an artist or a publicist talks about them. We hope that there’s some serious business done. If there isn’t something serious and tangible, we hope that are building the blocks for the artists.”

SoundOff! will take place on May 23 at the Gateway, with Mark Mills, Port Juvee, Napalmpom, Transit, Cowpuncher and The Suppliers, and on May 24 at Wine-Ohs, with T. Buckley, SAvK, Raleigh, Astral Swans, Boreal Sons, Clinton St. John and Joe Nolan. 

Words and photo by Sebastian Buzzalino
Poster illustration: Jarett Sitter

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