An era ended when Celine Dion said c’est fini to her Las Vegas residency recently, after 16 years of kitsch, glitz and heroic My Heart Will Go On balladry. And now a new age of Quebec musical exporting begins. On Friday, Universal Music Canada announced the launch of a new imprint label, Maison Barclay Canada, dedicated to signing emerging French Canadian artists.
Quebec’s musical ecosystem (mostly developed and maintained by independent labels in the province) is flourishing, self-sustained and exists quite independently from the rest of the country’s.
“We tend to look at their star system with wonder, awe and an uninformed curiosity,” says Jeffrey Remedios, Universal Music Canada’s president and chief executive. “Our play here is to not to disrupt anything that’s already happening in the Quebec market, but to help support artists, not only in Quebec and across Canada, but in France and French-speaking markets the world over.”
The title Maison Barclay Canada is inspired by the storied French label Barclay and its flamboyant namesake founder, the late record producer Eddie Barclay. The Barclay label and Universal Music France are involved in Universal Canada’s new Montreal-based venture.
The conditions are ripe for Universal’s move into Quebec, where it already distributes independent labels such as Coyote Records and Joyride Records. When Remedios left the Canadian indie label Arts & Crafts to head up Universal Canada in the fall of 2015, revenues were driven by digital downloads of music. Today, streaming services dominates music consumption. The shift has contributed to a globalization trend in the music industry that should well suit the arrival of a label that traffics in progressive Francophone acts.
For now, Maison Barclay and its director Guillaume Moffet (formerly of Spotify Canada) will concentrate on French-language acts. But in the future? “We don’t know,” Remedios says. “We’ll see how it unfolds, but, to some degree, the future will be told to us.”
Quebec talents to add to your queue
Thanks to Quebec’s deeply-rooted star system for championing its artists, for every Arcade Fire, Celine Dion and Corey Hart, there are music acts that rule inside the province but are relatively unknown outside. Here are four Québécois artists who thrive regionally, and a couple of emerging newcomers coming soon to Spotify playlists near you.
Éric Lapointe: A platinum-selling rock god within Quebec, audiences outside the province may only know Lapointe and his eponymous band by their presence on the soundtracks of Bon Cop, Bad Cop and the Les Boys trilogy.
Loud: The rapper whose given name is Simon Cliche Trudeau is more popular in France than he is in English Canada. His album Une année record won the 2019 Juno Award for top Francophone album.
Hubert Lenoir: Androgynous, genre-bending and profoundly charismatic, the glam rocker is the prototype for post-Quebec success and is poised for a breakout that’s already well under way, particularly in the United States.
Ariane Moffatt: A mainstay on the provincial scene since her 2002 debut album Aquanaute went platinum, though her sophisticated pop defies easy categorization.
Eli Rose: One of the first two signings to Maison Barclay. A left-leaning electro-pop artist who polishes her Swift-ian song craft with urban production styles. Her chill single Tôt ou tard whets appetites for an album due out later this year.
Karim Ouellet: Maison Barclay’s other initial artist, Ouellet’s distinctly modern global sound infuses guitar-based tunes with hip-hop rhythms. The Dakar-born darling of Quebec radio is currently working on his fourth full-length album, expected in 2020.
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