Open For A Big Name Artist (Well, Not Really)

“The (music) business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

-Hunter S. Thompson

So there I was, scrolling through Facebook, zipping past tons of useless memes and post-election stories about Liberals whining over the US election results (that seems to be what the majority of Liberals do these days), when I came upon an ad for a contest. Open for (insert major label Canadian act here) on his upcoming tour. The contest seemed simple enough. Record a video of yourself playing one of the artist’s songs, or an original.

Of course, going in I knew that no matter how good my song, or performance was, I would not be selected to open one of the ten slots on the tour. Why? Because contests like these are never what they appear. The Canadian music industry is so incestuous, one needs to be linked somehow to someone who knows someone to get a leg up. The results are always the same. This contest was not about giving an undiscovered talent a break, it was about publicity for the tour.

Who won the opening slots? Glad you asked. Not the kid in his bedroom, the young guy who works his nuts off writing songs and singing, trying to get a break – maybe open the door just a crack. It wasn’t the young woman who juggles three jobs to pay for her piano and vocal lessons (and live); the single mother who refuses to give up on her dream. The winners were all connected in the industry somehow. A couple of the acts selected were even directly connected to the artist who put the contest on.

There were some great entries from unknown performers; guys and gals as good as any one of the acts selected, some even better. But none of these folks ever had a shot. The fix was in from the beginning. And that gets my blood boiling. Selling false hope to young artists desperate for a break, to promote yourself and tour is lame and a bit slimy. I’m sure all involved would explain how the winners being connected is just some sort of coincidence.

I recall a friend, who at the time was the head of a record company in Nashville, telling me the story of one of the label’s superstar artists offering an unknown singer (and fan of said artist) the opportunity to open one of his tours. The superstar artist let the unknown singer pick as many dates on the tour as he thought he could handle. Big time artist asked and received nothing in return – no publicity, nothing. Now that, my friends, is class, not to mention really offering someone a break.