Island music event hopes to attract more sponsors, Canadian talent

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It’s not easy to run a music awards show. Especially when a lot of the general public doesn’t even know it exists.

“The most challenging thing right from the beginning has been getting the general public involved in music in their own backyard,” explains Victoria musician James Kasper, producer of the Vancouver Island Music Awards (VIMAs). “It’s very easy for everybody to be bombarded with commercial media and think that there isn’t much else.”

Historically, the VIMAs have received plenty of support from Vancouver Island musicians and media. However, getting that same level of awareness from the general public is crucial to the show’s success. This awareness needs to translate to dollar signs, says Kasper.

“A lot of these music festivals and music events struggle to survive because you get lots of media sponsors, but actual monetary sponsors are few and far between,” explains Kasper. “I think people don’t realize how much it costs to keep these things running. There’s a lot of administrative costs, production costs and promotional costs. Ideally, you want to actually give honorariums to people who are doing a lot of work, and we can’t survive on volunteers alone. There has to be a core crew that is responsible for the event and dedicates themselves to the event.”

This year presents a considerable challenge for the VIMAs. Even though Kasper campaigned for donations of $100 each from 50 island businesses, only about $1 400 was donated, rather than the $5 000 goal for covering operating costs. The majority of this funding came from one sponsor.

“[$5 000 is] at the level where we’re just putting on the best direction we can with what we have,” says Kasper. “To really put on a bigger and better production in a bigger, more grand venue, it would be upwards of 10 grand. We’ve never really got there. We’ve never even come close to that.”

Kasper hopes making the VIMAs more inclusive will help them grow; rather than sticking to Island talent, this year’s awards show will also include musicians from across the rest of B.C. and Canada. But if that happens, how can the show still be called the Vancouver Island Music Awards?

“Some might think that’s too inclusive, because it is the Vancouver Island Music Awards, but most of these music awards shows do have international categories, extra-regional categories, so we decided that we’re going to try that out,” explains Kasper. “Hopefully, that will raise the awareness of the event nationally and provincially, as well as get some other sponsors interested, and a lot of other musicians interested.”

Kasper hopes more music fans will take the time to look beyond mainstream media and discover the range of good, local talent.

“The general public, we’re trying to get them more interested in independent music and local music,” says Kasper. “Rather than have that word ‘local’ be a curse word — a lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s a local musician; they must not be very good.’ It’s sort of a misconception, this mentality that unfortunately keeps people from learning about a lot of music that’s great that’s right here in your backyard that’s not signed to a major label.”

Kasper calls on musicians of all genres and ages to send in submissions and let their music be discovered.

“We need as many musicians as possible to submit their music to our jury. Otherwise we don’t even know that it exists,” he says.

For information and submission guidelines, go to islandmusicawards.com.

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