Halifax latest to benefit from Junos
The streets are lined with banners. Fans have been dishing out upwards of $500 US on Ebay for a pair of tickets to the main event. Downtown retailers have turned window fronts into shrines. And hotels are booked solid. “Everybody’s scurrying around like laboratory mice,” said Victor Syperek, who owns several restaurants in Halifax, the site of this weekend’s Juno Awards.
“It’s quite interesting to see.”
Added concert organizer and former MuchMusic personality Mike Campbell: “You can’t really have a conversation with anybody (in Halifax) about anything without it eventually getting back to the Junos.”
It’s a scene that’s been played out in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Ottawa and St. John’s, N.L.
Once a stodgy, industry-only affair, the Juno Awards have transformed themselves into a hip, must-attend public bash by taking the show on the road.
The festivities in Halifax, which include A-list celebrities Pamela Anderson and Coldplay, mark the fifth anniversary of the roving gala.
Previously, it had been held outside Toronto only twice – Vancouver in 1991 and 1998 – since its inception 35 years ago.
“It really seemed like a crazy concept in the beginning. We thought it might just be a one-off like it had been to Vancouver a couple of times,” said Melanie Berry, president of The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
“Then we realized the impact.”
The 2002 Juno festivities held in Newfoundland and Labrador generated some $29 million in revenue.
But perhaps the greater impact of the travelling show is the effect on fans, who have a chance to celeb spot on home turf and check out bands that seldom visit their neck of the woods.
In Edmonton, for instance, more than 12,000 people turned out to an autograph signing session at the West Edmonton Mall featuring stars such as Nelly Furtado, Nickelback and Sam Roberts. In Ottawa, fans camped out in front of hotels hoping to catch a glimpse of country vixen Shania Twain, who hosted the awards that year.
“Having this kind of concentration of musical talent in the city over one weekend is completely unheard of,” said Campbell, who organized this weekend’s JunoFest concert series, which will have 116 music acts performing over two nights in 15 venues.
It’s a real coup since superstar acts rarely include Halifax on tour routes, he added.
“It just doesn’t compute with most of the (concert booking) agents so this is really a serious feast for music fans,” he said.
One local newspaper is hoping to take advantage of the Junos by launching an online petition – called More Peas Please – to get the Black Eyed Peas to do a full-on concert in the city.
The travelling show has also translated into a TV ratings windfall with more people than ever before tuning into the show.
Comedian Brent Butt, who hosted last year’s show out of Winnipeg, has suggested TV viewers get caught up in the local frenzy.
“There’s inherent excitement because it’s a new thing that’s coming to town that isn’t going to be there next year. They get jacked up and, as a viewer, as a fan, as a guy watching TV, you can’t not pick up on that excitement,” he said at the time.
“It just wasn’t there before when it was in the same location.”
But bringing the show to a new city each year isn’t exactly easy.
Local crews aren’t always accustomed to the requirements of a large-scale awards show that has multiple stages and airs live.
Older hockey arenas, like Halifax’s, don’t have much loading space for the oodles of band and TV equipment required. Worse yet, for the St. John’s show, the equipment – including more than 600 kilometres of cable and a broadcast truck – had to come over on the ferry, say producers.
Still, the headaches are well worth it.
“No slight to Toronto but it’s been great for all the other cities to have that momentum,” said singer Joel Plaskett, recalling the energy at the Edmonton awards.
“It’s important to celebrate a national music scene in the smaller (cities) . . . the places that aren’t just central.”
Next year’s Junos are to be held in Saskatoon.
Halifax latest to benefit from Junos