Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/11/2016 (1466 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A recent expansion has one of the city’s leading music labels and artist-management firms looking forward to a banner 2017.
Pipe & Hat, now Pipe & Hat Music Group, decided to add two new divisions and to clarify the roles of their two existing ones. The group, which supports up-and-coming local artists such as Attica Riots and the Noble Thiefs, is composed of Pipe & Hat Artist Management, Sugar Gator Records, Flint/Fire Development and Jellyfish Jam Creative Services.
"Pipe & Hat was growing in the four areas you now see as divisions. The expansion was a way to make this growth more concrete and ensure our fans, our artists, our team and potential collaborators had a clear picture of who we are, why we’re here and the services we provide," says Pipe & Hat president Tim Jones. "This was the catalyst behind the launch of Pipe & Hat Music Group."
The addition of Flint/Fire was one of necessity, as Pipe & Hat was finding they didn’t have a place for acts who were in their infancy as artists. Jones said many musicians would approach him for advice and help, but didn’t meet the criteria to be managed by Pipe & Hat. The acts falling under that umbrella will now be placed in the Flint/Fire division, which will also tackle community development, including producing Pride Winnipeg’s 30th anniversary event in June 2017.
The expansion gives Pipe & Hat the distinction of being the only company in the city to offer all those services under one roof, so to speak (the company ditched its literal roof in the Exchange District; the three full-time staff members — plus one part-timer and one intern — work remotely). Jones admits that doing so much at the same time may not always work out for the best, but he’s optimistic that the future of the group is a bright one, for both his staff and the artists they work with.
"For better or for worse, commercial viability is pretty top of the list for us now, which might seem odd when you see some of our acts, but keeping in mind we’ve been working with them for years and we’re not just going to drop them or anything. When you look at Bright Righteous or Attica Riots or Faouzia, we don’t hope that they’ll be playing in arenas; that is the expectation. It’s kinda that or nothing, that or bust to a certain extent," says Jones, 31.
"We want the plateau for the acts on Pipe & Hat management to be at that level. From a vision standpoint, a lot of people tell you it’s about the art and it’s about all that kind of stuff, and don’t get me wrong, I like the music of all the artists I work with, I wouldn’t work with them if I didn’t like their music, but we have to see some level of commercial viability."
Pipe & Hat began officially in 2009 as a management firm that was more or less artist-instigated. Jones explains that he unintentionally wound up managing local hip-hop group the Lytics in the early stages of their career, which snowballed into other artists approaching him to do the same for them.
He and his former partner, Kenny Huynh, then decided to launch the company under the name Pipe & Hat. In 2011, they added the record label after it became apparent that a distribution deal with Fontana North, a Toronto company, was a distinct possibility. In that first year, the Pipe & Hat label released an EP and full-length record for indie-roots darling Ingrid Gatin, the first record for rock and soul outfit the Noble Thiefs and rock duo Mise en Scene’s first record.
"That’s how things started, and that was all within sort of a year, so the label took off very quickly, we had a lot of releases right away," says Jones, who is now the sole owner, having bought out his partners this past summer. "At the time, it was a way to benefit our management artists, but now in the last couple years, it’s mostly been non-management artists that we’ve put out, so the label is starting to live on its own, hence why we rebranded and did everything else."
Currently, Sugar Gator Record is home to a handful of artists who are actively creating and releasing new music, which includes Mise en Scene and the Noble Thiefs, as well as the Moulettes out of the U.K., who performed on the mainstage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in July, and local group SC Mira.
"Pipe & Hat is a locally based and internationally focused brand," says Jane Puchniak, marketing director for Pipe & Hat. "It’s taking these exceptionally talented creatives from Winnipeg and connecting them to their fans and audience locally, which is always that very intimate and special experience, but also connecting them with fans in the American market, the biggest music market in the world and connecting them with fans overseas so that we can establish a career for them that is sustainable for them and longterm, so that they can continue to create music and create art that they love and that can inspire others."
Puchniak recently represented Pipe & Hat, and Canada, at a trade mission in New York hosted by the Canadian Independent Music Association. She was one of only 10 delegates chosen from Canada, the majority of whom were from larger music hubs, such as Toronto and Montreal.
At one point, Jones considered moving the operation’s head office to Toronto from Winnipeg after many people in the industry told him of the move’s benefits, but, in addition to the cheaper cost of living in Winnipeg, one big thing stopped him.
"The whole reason why our model worked was with Winnipeg being often forgotten by the industry, artists that we probably wouldn’t have had a shot working with if they lived in Toronto in New York or L.A., we ended up getting to work with them because nobody found out about them... That’s how we made our name," he says. "So if I moved, I wouldn’t be here to find the next Bright Righteous or SC Mira or whoever.
"Now, at this point, I feel very proud of the fact that we’re here," he continues. "I think it’s arrogant to say we want to put Winnipeg on the map, because Winnipeg is already on the map, but I want to contribute to the story."
Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.