In a passion-driven business, Eric Alper is a Canadian music correspondent, blogger (thatericalper.com), radio host (SiriusXM) and media-relations expert who has passion in spades.
“The love that I have for music is in my blood, literally,” states Eric. “My grandfather, Al, opened the doors of the iconic Grossman’s Tavern, Toronto’s first licensed blues bar, in 1943. It is hailed as the city’s longest-running live music venue. As a young boy, I understood that the love of live music and the essential socializing that goes with it, is universal.”
After graduating from York University with a degree in English and mass communications, Eric started a record label, booking agency and PR company. He was also working a job with a small record label that had three artists – Patricia Conroy, The Nylons and Nickelback. From there he went on to handle PR for names like Ringo Starr, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Barry Manilow, Bob Geldof, Pete Seeger, Jerry Garcia, Monty Python, Randy Bachman, Sinead O’Connor, Steve Miller, and The Smashing Pumpkins – to name a few.
Ottawa At Home caught up with Eric while he was in town for the 2017 Juno Awards to get insights on the Canadian music scene and how this plays out in Ottawa.
DESCRIBE THE EVOLUTION OF MUSIC IN CANADA, AS SEEN THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER. I started at one of the strangest times. It was only a year or so before the start of the digital era, so I got to see the tail end of physical formats and witness the emergence of the current presence of music streaming that is completely changing the music industry. Online music streaming is the latest industry-shifting phenomenon—not unlike Payola in the 1960s, MTV in the 1980s, and Napster at the turn of the 21st century. Streaming music increased 93 percent in 2015, with 317 billion total streams, according to Variety.
WHAT INFLUENCE DOES THE USA HAVE ON THE CANADIAN MUSIC SCENE? Living beside the biggest cultural country in the world isn’t easy. We’re bombarded by their stories every moment of every day. Obviously, America has ten times the population of Canada, but in the music industry, when we talk about artists like Justin Bieber, Drake, The Weeknd, Alessia Cara, Shawn Mendes – these just aren’t the biggest artists in Canada, but the biggest artists in the world. Canadian artists are everywhere, and we have the Canadian content rules to thank for this. We must continue to tell our stories about our neighbourhoods, our people, our families.
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE PROMOTION OF MUSICIANS? I still work alongside the traditional media outlets like daily newspapers, weekly magazines, radio stations, television outlets, and blogs to promote music. I also work with artists directly to come up with strategies to promote their music and brand online. These include: hosting live performances on Twitter and Facebook; creating apps, using fan-funded websites like IndieGogo, running advertising campaigns, shooting and uploading music videos designed for YouTube and mobile; creating electronic press kits for media and music festivals, applying to upcoming music festivals and conferences; working with the artist on their store and creating merchandise; helping come up with potential blog-post ideas for them to put on their own site and also working with other paces to place that blog post; writing sponsorship proposals; finding promotional partners; and anything else artists need.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS FOR MUSIC PROMOTION? It doesn’t matter – we all know the big ones like Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, Instagram, Snap. The main difference is the artist, and how they use it. I continue to immerse myself in an online community of music lovers, songwriters and musicians sharing, caring, and building with each other, not by blasting commands to “check out my new hottest thing.” After the first few listens of your song, your fan wants to know more about the artist – and that’s no different from when The Beatles were around.
WHAT EXPERIENCES HAVE YOU HAD WITH MUSIC IN OTTAWA? Ottawa is my favourite city outside of where I live, Toronto. The artists I work with have around 40-50 concerts a year here, and having the JUNOs return to Ottawa is a great thing. From Zaphod Beeblebrox to BuzzOn, Centretown Pub, Barrymore’s, Babylon, The Rainbow, House of TARG, Irene’s Pub, Bronson Centre, Mavericks, Mercury Lounge, National Arts Centre to Parliament Hill and every single music festival in between, Ottawa is one of the great music cities, period.