The business of Fun: Music fest lures execs to city for ‘mini-conference’


Advertise with us

Big Fun Festival is back for its sixth edition, hosting more than 40 artists and bands of various genres at eight venues over five days.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Pay $19.00 every four weeks. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled anytime.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/01/2017 (2198 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Big Fun Festival is back for its sixth edition, hosting more than 40 artists and bands of various genres at eight venues over five days.

The fest is also attracting music executives from across the country for a “mini-conference” that should give Winnipeg bands a chance to showcase their songs and stage skills in front of industry power brokers.

The fest kicks off tonight at the Ballroom with New York-based violinist/electronic-pop artist Hannah Epperson and Winnipeg lo-fi/shoegaze artist Tansy, an apt introduction to a festival that puts as much weight, if not more, on promoting the city’s music scene as it does bringing in outside artists to complement it.

One of the most anticipated shows is a double-headliner featuring two local bands, Mise En Scene and the Living Hour, who take the stage (along with Urban Vacation) at the West End Cultural Centre Friday, Jan. 27.

“It’s kind of cool to have two local bands be in our top billing spots and they’re so, so great,” says Lauren Swan, one of the founders of Big Fun and the festival’s marketing director.

Living Hour

Swan says she is also excited about the hip-hop show at the Sherbrook Hotel with the OB, Pip Skid and 3PEAT, which also happens Friday night.

Due to the success of last year’s collaboration, Big Fun will once again take over the RAW:almond space at The Forks, though this time for one night only, on Saturday, Jan. 28. Last year, the unseasonable warmth prevented the Red River from freezing solidly enough to hold the restaurant, forcing organizers to go to a land-based Plan B instead, so this will be the first time the musicians get to perform on the ice.

“People loved it, it was just a really cool experience,” says Swan of last year’s event, even with the change of location. “I feel like a lot of people don’t get to experience that space when it’s in the restaurant form because the tickets sell out so quickly, so it’s just another way of transforming that space and embracing the winter aspect of the festival. It was sold out every night; it was really fun.”


January Music Meeting:

For the fourth time, Manitoba Music hosts its annual January Music Meeting — a “mini-conference” focused on the business of music — in tandem with Big Fun Festival.

During the four-day conference, the not-for-profit association welcomes a crew of industry professionals who come to town to offer advice on a variety of topics, such as project-pitching, release strategie, touring tips, royalties and copyrights and beyond. The format includes panel discussions, group discussions, one-on-ones and mixers to encourage networking with a cross-section of national experts and local peers.

“We bring in a bunch of folks from outside, including a bunch from Toronto and others, and really try to set up an environment where there’s a little bit of controlled chaos,” says Sean McManus, executive director of Manitoba Music. “We pack as many people as we can into our small space and sort of enjoy the benefits that come from that. From having more people around and having more dynamic conversations, we try to set up an environment where some folks get to have one-on-one meetings with our panellists, but also really be involved in discussion groups.”

And because the meeting runs at the same time as Big Fun, it gives Manitoba musicians the opportunity to show off a bit of the city’s music scene, as well as giving out-of-town industry folks who are visiting for the meeting the chance to see many up-and-coming bands in a small amount of time.


“To program that and do it during Big Fun really meant that we could also benefit from that spirit of new music discovery and celebrating new music that Big Fun does and share some of that really adventurous programming that they’re doing, make sure some of the folks coming in get out and see some of what’s happening culturally, musically in the city,” says McManus. “And all the participants that we have locally have something as a backdrop, something to really be proud of in terms of showcasing the music culture of Winnipeg.”

The majority of the information sessions and panel discussions start Thursday and run through Saturday, and all events take place at the Manitoba Music offices (1-376 Donald St.) unless otherwise noted. The registration fee is $55 for members of Manitoba Music and $80 for non-members. Registration information and the full conference schedule can be found at


Safer spaces panel:

One of the new additions to the January Music Meeting is the Safer Spaces panel, which will tackle the topic of how to create safer spaces in the music community.

The event will be moderated by Free Press columnist Jen Zoratti, and features Alexa Potashnik, creator of Black Space and also known as performer MC Woke; Ashley Au, a local musician, composer and teacher; Jodie Layne, founder of Safer Spaces Winnipeg; award-winning MC and songwriter Leonard Sumner; Uzoma Asagware, entrepreneur and founder of QPOC (Queer People of Colour); and Tyler Sneesby, co-owner of the Good Will Social Club, a venue that has implemented a set of “house rules” intended to make the space welcome and safe for everyone.

“I was at Sled Island (music and arts festival) and SASS — Society for the Advocacy of Safer Spaces — a group in Calgary, they put on a safer spaces panel at the festival… it was great and informative,” says Swan. “When we came back and met with Manitoba Music to talk about their plans for the January Music Meeting and how to integrate it more with the festival, I suggested we host this panel because it is a really important topic that’s pretty vital to the community.”

The panellists will be discussing many aspects of the concept of safer spaces, including what it takes to create and maintain them, “with a focus on gender, sexual orientation, and the experiences of black people, indigenous people, people of colour, and the people who exist at those intersections,” says the Manitoba Music website.

“My goal for the panel is to bring that conversation more into the public and talk about the kind of work that’s going on with safer spaces right now and how far we’ve come and where we have to go.”

The panel takes place at Fools & Horses, 375 Broadway, Thursday, Jan. 26 at 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to all ages.


Disco Needs a Squeeze:

A new partnership was developed this year between Big Fun and Disco Needs a Squeeze; the new punk/hardcore festival that had its first run in August 2016, and will curate a showcase at Handsome Daughter on Friday night.

The event was a big success, says co-founder Mischa Decter, noting every show was “completely packed.”

“It’s something that people have been talking about doing here for a while and it’s never really happened, and we decided to just go for it and it went really well, and everyone’s really excited for us to do it again,” says Decter. “We’re just trying to do more stuff throughout the year to build more hype for it and get attention from bands around Canada to know it’s worth it to come out to play.”

The partnership with Big Fun was a natural one — Decter has worked with the Big Fun founders in various capacities (he’s the general manager at the Handsome Daughter, one of Big Fun’s venues), and he says the festival is a good opportunity to introduce punk and hardcore music to a crowd that may not necessarily be inclined to attend one of their shows otherwise.

“And it’s a nice look for Big Fun to help out a smaller festival that’s doing sort of what they were doing when they started six years ago,” he adds. “Just a small, little DIY festival, and they’ve grown a lot.”

The Disco Needs a Squeeze showcase will include Triage, a female-fronted hardcore punk band from Toronto, and Winnipeg bands Genex, Whip and Craterface.

More information on Big Fun, including the full festival schedule, is available at

Twitter: @NireRabel

If you value coverage of Manitoba’s arts scene, help us do more.
Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow the Free Press to deepen our reporting on theatre, dance, music and galleries while also ensuring the broadest possible audience can access our arts journalism.
BECOME AN ARTS JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.

Mise En Scene
Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Manager of audience engagement for news

Erin Lebar spends her time thinking of, and implementing, ways to improve the interaction and connection between the Free Press newsroom and its readership.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us

Arts & Life