Very pleased to have been asked by Maisonneuve to write about my experiences on a company visit to Pop Montreal. I am no Chaucer but I intend to be frank, and can shed a little white light on what it is like for an antediluvian prowler like myself to trawl your town for talent.
My name is David Fetch, (nee Fitch). I hail from London, historically known as that finicky nexus of popular culture, where fuzzy logic wears stovepipe pants and music magazine editors are among the most stressed in the world. I am a music industry professional of the most thankless sort, which is to say an Artist and Repertoire (A&R) agent for a major-independent record label...not to be confused with an indie major, an indie, nor a major, and for the purposes of this column, which shall remain nameless.
A bit of background, though it's a long way down to remembering what it was to run my own label. The cost of producing vinyl in the seventies was such that you practically had to sell an uncle to get a band out. Payola, which was commonly practiced despite Alan Freed, was a murderous fortune, and after a slew of quaaludified LSD tea parties, I fired my best friend Nathan and the next morning decided I was going to fill all producer/engineer, graphic artist, sales and business admin slots myself. After some very colourful, and might I say innovative attempts at producing records, I shut the business, dropped the rest of my inventory from the Vauxhall Bridge and three months later took a position in the marketing department of what was then one of two major labels selling the majority of the records on Earth.
I was hyping product for a major, with a budget that could have eradicated world hunger. The company's foundations were settled in the underworlds of gambling, pornography and organized crime, that lucrative triumvirate which founded the lion's share of today's top-selling labels, which we reference as The Big Four. I moved into A&R shortly thereafter where I struck lucky on two consecutive artists within the year. Not only did this land me a reasonably handsome expense account but a name, and hence I became known as Fetch.
That year I spent nearly three hundred nights watching rock bands, from the front and back, especially on the road. The tour bus was my master, being the place where the terrific vision of entropy usually manifested in a most disgraceful unraveling of the participant human beings and taught me how to mark the weak. I observed the primal appetite musicians had or didn't have for their music. I watched closely the attitude in the fingers that whipped the guitar pick; the way the band did or did not move, look and sound as a tribe. I measured, by the sense in the back of my neck, the geist in the room and by whether the audience moved like the North Sea churning with undercurrents, or instead like a herded and enclosed lot of dutiful animals (I need not tell you that both buy oodles of records). As long as they believed.
That year, 1986, I recognized my god-given indicator for great entertainment. It is no secret in my circles that I am subject to a brief but rather agonizing chill that grips my perineum when I witness a viable act. And I mean viable in the sense that it can affect change in the world (and still sell records). I cannot explain it, but believe me when I tell you that it hurts like hell, has yet to fail me, and I have the bank account to prove it.
Thus, Dear Reader, that chill is what I have come to Montreal in hopes of experiencing. I will also be participating in this most interesting discussion about the future of music, which endeavours to explain to people like me the inevitable demise of our vocation, while figuring out ways in which to pay the artist. Not likely, you punks and runty little technologists. But now, to dinner...