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Arts Wyrd Distro gets the music out for do-it-yourself artists

Marie LeBlanc Flanagan is one half of the Wyrd Distro duo.

Will Huang

The New Radicals is a five-part series on innovators in arts and culture

The vinyl record resurgence is great, so long as you like well-known bands such as Arcade Fire. But for the little guy, getting a physical product into stores is as tough as it ever was.

So when the team behind popular music blog Weird Canada decided to help out, an appeal to music funding agency FACTOR produced a $50,000 grant.

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The funding led to the launch of Wyrd Distro, a not-for-profit service for do-it-yourself musicians that organizes the process of supplying record stores with physical media such as CDs, vinyl records or even cassettes (no, seriously).

"Most people who are operating these DIY labels are doing it out of their homes, after their day jobs, and with no profit," says Weird Canada's Marie LeBlanc Flanagan.

She and her partner, Aaron Levin, run the blog and distro out of their home in Waterloo, Ont. With an army of 450 volunteers, they receive boxes of products from artists and labels, and fill orders from independent stores countrywide.

The blog and the distro complement each other nicely. When a store is interested in a release they've written about, the Weird Canada team can look at the blog's stats and tell the owner how popular the post was.

It's not as easy as it sounds. Headaches include "mystery boxes" of product (lacking key info such as prices) that can require hours to sort out. But helping these musicians present their art the way they want is rewarding, LeBlanc Flanagan says. "I'm really glad we did this."

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