Being at the helm of running any kind of business or organization is tough enough in 2020 but serving as the President of a large music organization has had to be the most utmost challenging during the past year. Our Featured 'INDUSTRY PERSON' for the month of September has had every obstacle put in her way during covid trying to support and promote an industry of musicians when music has been one of the biggest things affected during these difficult times. We're sure Tracy Martin had no idea how challenging her position would become when she was officially elected by the Canadian Country Music Association Board of Directors as the President of the association in June 2017 but if anyone was up to the job it was her.
Under the direction of Tracy, the CCMA was already seeing pivotal changes at organizational and conceptual levels as Tracy already had the respect of her peers, the industry and the Board. Her extensive background in country music, content and development, marketing and creative was exceptional and her ability to push boundaries and challenge the status quo was exactly what the CCMA needs right now.
Tracy was previously a media executive with 16 years of experience in marketing, production, TV programming, as well as digital, artist and event management. In her last position at Corus Entertainment, she ran the scheduling and production teams for the W Network, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Lifetime Canada, Cosmo and Country Music Television, in addition to overseeing the launch of CMT Music Festivals. She has been a Director on the CCMA Board for two years prior to being elected President and managed the broadcast relationship between CMT Canada and the CCMA Awards Show for the previous three years. Prior to her work at Corus, Martin was head of marketing for MuchMusic and MTV as well as the Vice President of Strategy at Pyramid Productions. After serving as interim head of the CCMA and leading the association’s staff and Board through Country Music Week in Saskatoon in 2017 and executive producing the 2018 CCMA Awards broadcast, Tracy Martin definitely earned her role as the President of the Canadian Country Music Association.
Dealing with the fall out of not being able to conduct the 2020 Canadian Country Music Award week in Hamilton as aspected this year, Tracy and her board of directors at the CCMAs were determined to still showcase the best in Canadian country music and are doing their best to work around the restrictions that Covid has unfortunately inflicted on the music industry regarding gatherings. They are still moving forward with the SiriusXM's Top Of the Country contest partnering with Sirius XM to bring you Canada's very best in promoting new emerging country artists. The actual CCMA award show held on Sunday September 27th this year will be done in a much more different format than we've ever seen or experienced before with scaled down performances from Burl's Creek Ontario and Nashville Tennessee. We don't know in these uncertain times how music will be affected getting out to the masses but we do know that with Tracy Martin at the helm of the Canadian Country Music Association along with her team they are going to do their best to make sure that happens!!! Thank you for everything you've done for Canadian country music this year Tracy and we look forward to watching you evolve the organization for many years to come!
Who can turn the world on with her smile? Well our 'Featured Industry Person' for the month of August sure can!!! Hailing from Sudbury, Ontario, Linda Heldman's love of music began at an early age. Her mom would play Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite during her afternoon naps as a baby. In school, she was part of several choirs starting in elementary years and continued well on into High School. She started writing music around 12 years old and playing various instruments including clarinet, french horn, drums, and guitar.
Around ago 10, while on a trip to Algonquin Park, her dad let her take some pictures on their old Brownie camera. They turned out very well and would become another passion for her as the years went on. In her teens is when the music bug really hit. Her first big heartthrob was Donny Osmond and she was able to attend a concert that included all the Osmonds at the CNE Grandstand (Toronto) in 1975. To this day, she will see him at any opportunity and finally got to meet him several times during his run in Toronto as Joseph, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Other music crushes came along primarily in the Pop and Rock genres included The Bay City Rollers and Cheap Trick and Loverboy. There are some great stories to tell, but not enough space to share them here.
At 18, she met her friend, Dave Bailey, backstage at the Masonic Hall during an XTC concert. The two of them hit it off and there are so many places they went and bands they connected with. Dave would roadie for many bands that came to town and helped with local acts like Goddo, TEENAGE HEAD, Hellfield and the Diodes. Wanting to help too, she purchased her first 35mm SLR camera, a Canon AE-1, and began shooting as a Rock photographer. The bands were loving her shots! This was the beginning of combining her two passions of photography and music.
While Linda attended Community College, she obtained a part-time position with a music magazine called Music Express. She got to see all aspects of putting a monthly publication together and would assist where she was needed on the production end of things. On a few occasions, they even used some of her photos.
In 1990, Linda landed a position at Sony Music Canada as Marketing Coordinator for a special charity project called The Blue Jays Album. She worked with a gentleman named Dave Platel who, at the time, was Director of International Marketing. Working with Platel was a dream come true and he helped unleash her entrepreneurial spirit. Throughout the course of four years, Linda did everything from cold calls to record stores, working with distributors to get product in stores, working with radio stations, obtaining rights to use music, doing voice-over work for commercials, arranging promo tours and so much more.
“The Blue Jays Album was a collection of songs about the Blue Jays with many of them being sung by radio personalities in the Golden Horseshoe area (Toronto to Niagara Falls)”, says Linda. “There were some original tunes and a number of parodies that highlighted players and events going on with the team at that time. 1992 and 1993 were World Series Years and the whole country was buzzing for the Blue Jays! The album was distributed through SONY Music Canada. We worked with The Toronto Blue Jays organization on Marketing and net proceeds went to the Variety Club of Ontario at their annual telethon. Every year we presented a bigger and bigger cheque. It was some of the most rewarding work I have ever done.”
Shortly after this position wrapped up, Linda found herself on a move north to Lindsay, Ontario and living life at a slower pace and raising her family. Here, she kept herself involved in photography and would contribute some articles, interviews and photos to the Lindsay Daily Post and Kawartha Lakes This Week.
Her next move was an even bigger leap north to Sudbury in 2008. About the time she moved up, CMT had a contest to VOTE CASEY TO YOUR TOWN. Casey Clark, host of the Chevy Cross-Canada Countdown would be heading to one of three towns in Canada. Each town had to campaign to CMT why they should win. Linda says, “I was part of the small and mighty Sudbury team. We worked our butts off bringing up interesting points about Sudbury and created fun challenges to get people on board. Well, the hard work paid off and we were chosen as destination #3! That whole experience helped me to get to know the city, the people, the history and what they had to offer. It opened some doors to contacts that I still reach out to today.”
Since living in Sudbury, Linda has been part of Theatre Cambrian, where she performed in several shows. She also used the theatre space to give several traveling artists a place to perform and be seen by local music lovers. Some of those included Shane Chisholm, Blake Berglund and Josh Macumber.Finding she had a knack for doing this type of work, Linda has helped coordinate other shows in venues of various sizes for Canadian country artists Drew Gregory, Brad James, Gil Grand and Joey Niceforo.
In 2015, Linda approached Sound Check Entertainment to see if they would be interested in using her for some writing and photography. She did some work with them for about a year. In 2016, she moved over to Canadian Beats and had a good 3-year run with them. As things developed with Canadian Beats, Linda got into doing more video interviews and fewer photography assignments.
“I remember the first time Jenna and I talked about me doing a video interview. It was going to be with Runaway Angel. I know those ladies and I’m super comfortable around them. I just never saw myself as being in front of the camera. I was much more comfortable behind it. It took me out of my comfort zone and opening me up to something I now really enjoy.”
Needing a break from the hectic pace of working with Canadian Beats, Linda took what was supposed to be a few months off to concentrate on some personal things. Over that time, an opportunity came up to host her own radio show on Laurentian University’s 96.7 FM CKLU. This is something she had wanted to do for years! So, on July 2nd, 2019, she aired her first episode of Aunt Linda's Country Tale-Gate, a 2-hour weekly show that she also produces. In the past year, she has interviewed countless guests, had several in-studio co-hosts and guests, played hundreds of great new releases from Canada’s Emerging Talent and has been asked to stage host events across the city and, most recently, in Cavan, Ontario at the Love Revolution - Drive-In Country Music Festival.
We met Linda about 3 years ago at the Niagara Music Awards by a mutual friend Brad Battle. That chance meeting lead to us running into each other several times at events and concerts over the next couple of years and forming a fun friendship. At the 2018 Canadian Country Music Association Awards weekend in Hamilton we decided to talk to Linda about how to go about finding our own place in helping promote Canadian Country music and she was our first supporter and gave us the encouragement to start something up of our own. So on behalf of the 'Two Christines', thank you so much Linda..you are one of the main reasons we decided to start 'C To C Canadian Country Music Insider'!
What’s next for Linda? You never know! An entrepreneurial spirit knows no bounds and every idea has potential. And being someone that everyone in the music industry respects and lighting up any room she walks into will help her go far in this business for years to come with whatever she decides to do! Thanks for being such an inspiration to us Linda!
If a picture is worth a thousand words then this gentleman must have a best selling book series on his hands by now. Corey Kelly, professional photographer and owner of Tour Bus Productions is our featured 'INDUSTRY PERSON' for the month of July! It’s been said that we’re all good at the things we love and love the things we’re good at. For him this love has always been photography and videography.
In 2013 Corey was living the dream on paper. After graduating in the Top 3 from Durham College in the marketing program and working his way up the proverbial ladder he finally had the corporate 9 to 5 job with regular travel (complete with a fancy Nexus card), as well as a new wife and the recent birth of two kids, a daughter and son who could one day proudly say their dad worked in the facetiously lucrative world of selling office furniture. As it turned out, the perfect on-paper profession was a vacuous and unfulfilling one. Now nearly a decade ago he traded his long-standing corporate job in marketing for this passion. Since that time his photographic experience has exploded from strictly concert photography to any job that puts him behind a lens to tell the best stories possible about the people, animals and scenery in front of it.
As a small town boy from the Ottawa valley Corey grew up visiting every live concert he could get his hands on tickets for (even some he couldn’t). His first concert was at the age of 9 when he snuck in to see Corey Hart at the Ottawa Exhibition with his big sister.
In 2014, to serve as an outlet for the monotony of his day job, he sought out the opportunity to volunteer for an e-zine called Sound Check Entertainment. This enabled him to attend a plethora of live concerts, take photographs, interview artists and immerse himself in the intoxicating world of country music. He had no idea at the time that taking this job would afford him the opportunity to live out his dream and set him on a path for his own destiny!
Within a year he became partner with Sound Check and by 2016 he was branching out on his own to establish Tour Bus Productions & Entertainment. This venture started as an online music publication and morphed into a production company. This natural evolution came as the demand for customized social media content became prevalent and within a short amount of time Corey was working with and for a variety of well respected organizations and the cream of the crop of canadian country music festivals.
As the founder of Tour Bus Productions he is also the current lead photographer for the Canadian Country Music Awards as well as recurring Director of Photography and Videography for the Boots & Hearts Music Festival in Oro, Ontario, Rockin' River Music Fest in B.C., Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Cavendish Beach Music Festival in P.E.I.,and a bevy of other festivals.
He has also been assigned to do work with Complete Country, Pure Country, Bell Media and Warner Music Canada. He's also worked with some incredible artists including High Valley, Gord Bamford, Headstones, Tim Hicks, Cheech and Chong, and a notable artist who forgave him for sneaking into his concert in Ottawa way back in 1985 without a ticket, Corey Hart. In a full circle moment Corey Kelly was contacted by Warner Music in 2018 and asked if he could work with Corey Hart to put something together for his new album, proving what a difference five years can make.
Music and photography have always been two of his biggest passions, and through years of hard work and dedication he has been fortunate to merge the two into a successful career. He relishes the feeling of visually capturing something which is experienced through sound, because as all lovers of music know, few things can compare to the feeling of actually being at a live show. His goal has always been to capture the atmosphere and emotion of the moment, and reflect that in the images he produces.
There are few photographic venues as challenging as an energenic musician racing around on stage to thousands of people with alcohol in their system thrashing their bodies around in a pit. Getting the kind of shot that gets featured on an album cover like the one he did for Our Lady Peace is a testament to the kind of epic images and moments he hopes to capture for you.
One of the keys to his success has been surrounding himself with the best in the business, a group of learned peers who have all benefitted from what they have taught each other. If you’ve been surfing the web you will have stumbled across some of their incredible work. He makes it clear that these are his fellow teachers, not his competition.
We personally met Corey a few years ago although we had been noticing him at many shows for years. He's always so personable and enjoys getting to know not only the artists he photographs and interviews but the fans of Canadian country music also. He inspires us as a small country music business to try and capture the spirit of each musician we see live in the photos we take. Thanks Corey for all you do for Canadian country music and we look forward to seeing many more years of concert experiences through your eyes once the music world is up and running at full force again!
Our 'INDUSTRY PERSON' for the month of June isn't always be visible but that's because she's working extremely hard behind the scenes managing her artists. Carmen Choney has had an amazing career so far in Canadian Country Music, working with some of the industry’s biggest stars. Her events career has spanned more than two decades as Tour Manager, Publicist and Management professional. She holds an impressive diploma in Management Studies from Grant MacEwan College and has also earned a Bachelor of Management from the University of Lethbridge.
She started her music career over 20 years ago but her career took a huge turn when she was hired by Mike Denny the president of MDM Recordings. She was hired to do Tour & Road Management and Artist Representation. She also does live show logistics, Publicity and Promotions. Her duties also include Merchandise management and purchasing for the recording company.
Carmen's work ethic, knowledge of the music industry and industry contacts have proved invaluable in pushing the MDM Recordings brand out to the masses. As previous Tour Manager for Chad Brownlee Music and Co-Manager of Jess Moskaluke, she has had the great fortune of traveling this country working not only with directly the artists and their bands but also promoters, buyers and media. Her point of view of the business takes into account the overall well being of the artist, both on stage and off and she provides a fair assessment through experience of what the audience is hoping for in the show. She not only works on the business side of the music but is still a fan of great music, both recorded and live.
Not only that but she is also so invested in the fans of Canadian country music. We met her personally at CCMA Fan Village in Hamilton in 2018 and observed how wonderful and fun she was with the fans who seemed to flock to talk to her. We watched as she went around and handed out personal invitations to the fans for a private MDM party during that weekend. She personally made a lot of fans of her own just doing that kind jesture!
As if she weren't busy enough with her responsibilites at MDM Recordings, Carmen has worked on, and volunteered for some of North America’s largest events and music festivals including the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver for NBC which was a huge undertaking and has rounded out her resume with a yearly position as stage manager for the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, AB.
If you want something done in the Canadian country music business, Carm gets it done! She has earned herself huge staying power in a tough industry with her genuine kindheartedness and incredible organizational skills. As one of the most likeable people in the industry she's going to be around for a very long time!
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If you're a fan of Canadian country music you'd had to be in hiding not to know who our featured May 'INDUSTRY PERSON' of the month is. This beautiful lady and country music seem to just go together! Shannon Ella is not only the midday host on London's Pure Country 93 out of London Ontario and Fredericton's Pure Country 103.5's host out of Fredericton Nova Scotia but the National midday host for all 13 Pure Country stations across Canada! She is also a regular country music host and contributor on iHeartRadio Canada. And if that wasn't enough she is also a host & content Editor/Producer for Warner Music Canada’s Complete Country.
At the young age of 5 years old Shannon was given a Shania Twain album and Sony CD Walkman for Christmas and the rest was history. ‘From that moment on’ she was absolutely hooked on country music because even at a young age she felt she could relate to it. Since discovering Shania, country music has been a huge part of her life.Along with loving country music, Shannon grew up training and competing in horse shows across North America. She vividly remembers spending a lot time in the barn being surrounded by horses, which naturally became her safe haven. Her love for horses brought her to Kentucky, a place she had visited with her Dad. It was at that point she knew the rolling pastures and horse farms of the bluegrass state would eventually become her new home. When she told her parents that one day she was going to live in Kentucky her parents laughed it off. It was no joke because when she turned 18 she decided to pursue her dream and move there much to her parents disapproval at first.
After moving to Lexington Kentucky for four years and studying communications at the Bluegrass Community & Technical College Foundation for 2 years she returned to Canada to pursue a career in broadcast and country music. But not before she held the position of Canadian Sales and Marketing Coordinator for The International Racehorse Magazine from 2013-2016. She then left there to pursue a job at Durham Radio with KX947 as their Community Event's Coordinator & On-Air Personality. What an opportunity as Shannon has recently joined PURE COUNTRY as host of a nationally syndicated midday show, airing across all 13 PURE COUNTRY stations so you can now hear her voice right across Canada! There she plays all the biggest country hits, keeping listeners up-to-date on the latest music news and gets to chat with some of country music’s biggest artists!
Shannon has lived every country girl’s dream, travelling to some of the biggest country music festivals, concerts, and award shows, and interviewing some of the hottest country artists including her idol Shania. At the 2018 CCMA Awards in Hamilton she remembered thinking when they said she was coming to her next "Am I really about to talk to Shania Twain?" “I panicked because I thought all my words had escaped my brain, but when she came up she was so kind, calm, and humble. It was like I’d talked to her a million times.”
As if her life wasn't sweet enough, she and her boyfriend Canadian country music artist and Grammy award songwriter Steven Lee Olsen announced their recent engagement in March of 2020. He refers to her as "the light of my life. My ride or die." As if he hasn't had big enough success in Canada, he has an incredible songwriter resume as he co-wrote Keith Urban’s double-platinum hit “Blue Ain’t Your Color” which in 2017 was named the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) Song of the Year and crowned “Single of the Year” at the CMA Awards, in addition to being nominated for “Best Country Song” and “Best Country Solo Performance” at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, and “Song of the Year” at the ACM Awards. Olsen also penned Kip Moore’s #1 hit “More Girls Like You” and co-wrote Dallas Smith’s #1 Platinum hit “Drop” as well as numerous cuts for other stars including Garth Brooks, Billy Currington, Rascal Flatts, Emerson Drive and more.Together this power couple will be unstoppable in the Canadian country music industry!
Her favourite thing to do outside of work other than spending time with Steven is to cuddle with her dog Phoebe and binge watch ‘Friends’. And if it involves cold beer, a boat, country music and sunshine, she's IN! With a motto of "aways living, always learning and always looking to improve" there is no doubt you're going to be hearing the name Shannon Ella for many more years to come in country music!