OUR FOUNDER STORY
The idea for what is now the Ontario Musicians Cooperative Inc., began to take form in 2014 when I was offered a record deal at age 14 from a new Canadian record label. I read the deal memo through countless times, engaged an entertainment lawyer to review and explain it to me, and I researched other record deals for comparison. I worked hard to make sure I understood everything correctly.
As contracts go, it was an excellent deal in the music industry, especially for someone young and at the beginning of their career, but it still placed the control and ownership of my songs and master recordings into the hands of the label. Even after I would recoup (payback) my advances and costs to make the recordings, I would still not own them or control them, and that was really important to me as an artist and writer. I ended up making a deal for one single song release to radio, for which I am very grateful.
People kept asking me how I would continue to grow my career as an independent artist without label support because “artists don’t understand the music business well enough”. So, I started studying Music Business at the Berklee College of Music through their online program, because I wanted to learn more and stand on my own two feet. I jumped right into the deep end, taking a course in international concert touring. As my music business knowledge grew, I recognized the need for an organization that other artists could access to grow and learn about the music business throughout their careers and gain access to tools and insights that were otherwise difficult to obtain without the experienced leadership and the financial/administrative support of a record label.
My vision for the organization took a number of forms before I learned of the not-for-profit co-operative business model.
Ultimately, I wanted something
Flexible and responsive to the changing industry landscape
Accessible to all artists
For everyone, no matter where they are at in their careers when they join
Respected by industry and artists alike
Life-long (unlike a school from which you graduate at a moment in time)
Building on the concept of working together and sharing as a group to use our talents and skills to help each other grow
As the core group of early participants was trying to define our “membership”, it became quite clear that we had different types of members that might want to be involved. At that point, the main question became “how can we provide programming for artists who were just starting out, as well as artists who were already achieving quantitative success? What about the parents of minor artists?” We talked to lots of potential members, asked lots of questions, did some surveys and enlisted the help of various business advisors in the industry, and the local community.
It then became clear that the model we needed was a rarely used “multi-stakeholder” not-for-profit co-operative.
We incorporated as the “Ontario Musicians Co-operative Inc.” or OMCI, in March 2018. After initially planning to open membership gradually for September 2018 and accessing help applying for various grant programs to get us started on the process of sharing who we were and what we were doing with the other artists in the area, we were offered an opportunity we couldn’t refuse.
While printing out the forms for the Canada Summer Jobs program in early 2018, we wanted 2-4 jobs and were completely shocked (and unprepared) when funding approvals were announced awarding us 24 jobs. This was an incredible opportunity for such a new organization.
That’s the crazy, wonderful story of how OMCI became what is underway today. Without so much local support, funding and volunteer support it wouldn’t have been possible to turn this idea into something tangible, actively helping new generation artists build their careers and knowledge of the music industry from day one.
It took an incredible leap of faith for the 2018 Summer Emerging Artists to join in when everything was so new – a half-finished website, incomplete handouts, policies that were being created on an “as-needed basis”, with the go-to response becoming “We'll have to get back to you on that. Let me go figure that out..”
OMCI is a truly diverse organization that is in the process of becoming fully-realized through the hard work and efforts of our consumers, creators and industry members, all working together to achieve a common goal. The leadership team is constantly growing into the full framework that was envisioned for successful sustainability. I hope you will consider getting involved in some capacity, because everyone who loves music is welcome here, and there’s lots more to be done in the future. Plus, I’m off to University in September 2019, so it’s time to have some other folks get as passionately involved as me in making sure OMCI continues to grow in the right directions. We look forward to you joining the team, and the OMCI family!