East Coast Music Association
The East Coast Music Association is a non-profit association that hosts an annual awards ceremony based in Atlantic Canada for music appreciation on the East Coast of Canada. Since its beginning in 1989 when it was launched as the Maritime Music Awards by Halifax music industry promoter Rob Cohn, it has grown from the original five categories (Album of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, and Video of the Year) to over 25 categories in music and over 10 in music industry as a whole.
From humble beginnings many years ago in a Halifax bar, the East Coast Music Awards and Conference has grown to become the premier music event in Atlantic Canada, and one of the top events of its kind on the continent.
1991—Founder of the Maritime Music Awards, Rob Cohn, joins forces with Sheri Jones, Karen Byers, Lee Stanley, Mike Barkhouse, Peter Hendrickson and Tony Kelly to form the East Coast Music Association. The event becomes known as the East Coast Music Awards and now combined the Atlantic provinces. It moves from a Halifax bar to the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium and new awards are added. A showcase by The Rankins helps the band get a manager and, later, an EMI record deal. With the formation of provincial music industry associations it was decided that the event would move from year to year from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I and Nfld and Labrador.
In recent years, the East Coast Music Awards and Conference has showcased the music of Atlantic Canada, bringing it to millions of record buyers in a two-hour national broadcast on CBC Television. The first televised broadcast of the event took place in St. John's NFLD, thanks to efforts by the Assiciation and Glen Tilley, A producer at CBC St. John's and head of the nomination committee for NFLD & Labrador during the critical first years transition of the association to a non-profit status. And the ECMA's have marketed Atlantic Canadian music to the world, by inviting members of the international music industry to the annual conference.
Sydney, Nova Scotia, hosted a grassroots event that pushed its organizational and infrastructure capacities to the limit. An economically successful event paved the way for the ECMA to regain a sound financial footing, and it commemorates the influence of Cape Breton's Celtic Music family, including the late John Morris Rankin. Showcases abound, and events like Radio FreECMA and the Continuous Jam ignite industry attention. The awards show receives a Gemini Award for Best Music, Variety Program or Series.
Charlottetown attracted more than 1,700 delegates and highlighted the diversity of the East Coast Canadian music scene. Emerging and established artists came together in a barrage of new showcases, including the debut of the Jazz/Classical Concert Series. The event fostered renewed interest in the formation of the P.E.I. Music Awards and creates Soundwaves, a program that sees musicians visiting schools throughout the province, and hospitals, businesses and churches in Charlottetown. The Ennis Sisters sign with Warner Music and the ECMA Award Show receives another Gemini Award for Best Music, Variety Program or Series.
Saint John, New Brunswick, hosted ECMA 2002. The competitive bid process in New Brunswick sparked community involvement and led to over 2200 delegates to attend. Saint John brings new initiatives: the wildly popular Roots Room for acoustic performances, the UniSon bilingual concert, and the bluegrass stage that attracts an estimated 5,000 fans. In addition to the national CBC Television broadcast of the awards show, the MuchMusic ECMA Rock stage got a prime-time special on Much, and CBC Radio's Definitely Not the Opera broadcast live from the main showcase stage.
ECMA 2003 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, brought the conference back to where it all began 15 years before, and to celebrate this anniversary, the entire city came alive with music and was transformed into a City of Stages, celebrating all genres of music. It was a resounding success, having played host to over 2000 delegates. The Soundwaves Program brought music to over 30,000 young school students throughout the region, and corporate sponsorship and support for ECMA reached new heights. Halifax celebrated Urban Music with an Urban Music Series featuring hip-hop, R&B and the Black Vibes concert. ECMA 2003 brought international bookings to several East Coast artists as European music industry professionals were in attendance.
ECMA 2004 in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador saw international delegates. A strategic partnership was developed with the Atlantic Film Festival, and film and TV elements were introduced to the conference. A number of East Coast recording artists negotiated contracts for national licensing and distribution deals. The ECMA Songwriter's Circle was broadcast live across the country on CBC Radio and across Atlantic Canada on CBC Television.
ECMA 2005 in Sydney, Nova Scotia, was a great success and helped to kick off the opening of two new, multi-million dollar facilities in Sydney. For both the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre and the Sydney Marine Terminal, ECMA was the first major event to use their facilities, and offered a great opportunity to introduce them to the community and the international industry delegates attending the conference. The conference was taken to a new level with very popular sessions, a vibrant international program (50+ delegates) and successful partnering with Cape Breton University. Overall, ECMA is moving towards a master class format, presenting classes this year in songwriting, export readiness and musical scoring for gaming and television. The success of the Soundwaves was built upon with the creation of a brand new program, Sound-off, which involved schools across Cape Breton to select the best band in their school and advance them to regionals and a final competition.
ECMA returned to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in 2006. Charlottetown has been a laboratory from which such experiments as RadioECMA, Soundwaves and the 72 Hour Jam have sprung. For the first time ever, 2006 organizers decided to have a gala dinner industry awards ceremony on Saturday night. The controversial Trailer Park Boys hosted a great award show at the Civic Centre, proving many skeptics wrong and the organization right on the mark. A major highlight of 2006 was that a festival was created within the Delta Prince Edward host hotel. The music, business and networking went virtually around the clock.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, once again hosted ECMA, a year early, as a result of a request to flip from the Fredericton, New Brunswick, location. The Halifax event, introduced as the East Coast Music Awards, Festival and Conference, measures as a major industry and financial success. An amazing and insightful four-day conference, with record attendance, wonderful venues and things on the technical end (sound and lights), and an ever growing international program with over 50 international music industry delegates. With 500 hotel rooms in two adjoining Delta hotels, there was a festival atmosphere in the hotels and adjoining malls. The 2007 award show was regarded by many as one of the best ever. The show marks the recent passing of East Coast legends John Allan Cameron, Dutch Mason and Denny Doherty. ECMAfest brought the downtown Halifax to life with many official and partnered stages.
ECMA 2008 was held in Fredericton, New Brunswick from February 7 through 10. Throughout the event, various venues played host to the East Coast's finest artists. The music awards gala was held at the Aitken Centre, and Steven Page from the Barenaked Ladies hosted the entire event (coining the term "Barenaked East Coast Music"). Unlike previous years the event was not televised, and instead, a TV special was broadcast with scenes (venues, award show, various hotel antics). The year's big winner was Joel Plaskett Emergency who walked away with seven awards, most centering around the acclaimed concept release Ashtray Rock.
The 2012 event took place in Moncton, New Brunswick, in April. It was the second time the New Brunswick city hosted the annual East Coast music gala.
The 2013 East Coast Music Awards were held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on March 10.
Awards and nominations
The awards have been dominated by several groups/artists over the years. The top ten by wins and then nominations are as follows:
- Great Big Sea – 20 wins, 32 nominations
- Lennie Gallant – 15 wins, 37 nominations
- Natalie MacMaster – 15 wins, 35 nominations
- Gordie Sampson – 12 wins, 23 nominations
- The Rankin Family – 10 wins, 29 nominations
- Rita MacNeil – 10 wins, 26 nominations
- Bruce Guthro – 9 wins, 19 nominations
- J. P. Cormier – 9 wins, 19 nominations
- George Canyon – 8 wins, 15 nominations
- Crush – 7 wins, 12 nominations