Among the most passionate people about music are those who work in the music industry: at labels, as press relation people, as concert promoters, as booking agents, as managers, as music critics, and so on. RREVERB proposes to its readers a series of interviews with passionate music artisans.

Today, we meet…

JONATHAN ELDER

What’s your name, what’s your role in the company you are presently working at, and since when are you working there? Where are you from and where do you live now?

jonathan elderMy name is Jonathan Elder and I’m based in Toronto, but come from a small town called Kitchener about an hour away.  I do International Sales & Marketing at Redeye Distribution for both Canada and the Latin American markets.  I’ve been in this role for 16 months.

When have you started to work in the music business?

Sony Music Canada took me in as an intern in the Media Relations department at the tail-end of my university studies in 1997.  It was the peak of the industry back then.  It was fun, even though I did Celine Dion press clippings for eight hours.

How different is it to work for a major label, like Sony, vs smaller ones? Are there advantages and inconveniences in both? Which?

Working for major labels was really different in many ways.  Budgets is the biggest element obviously, but also stature of artists in relation to sales, politics, infrastructure and the list goes on.  Both have their benefits and inconveniences.  Ultimately, there are people at both the majors and in the indies that love what their doing.

At what age have you started to love music?

My earliest memory is using my allowance at around age 5 to go splits on a cassette with my brother, although I can’t remember what it was…that was the beginning a whole lot of purchasing of music.

When you were 20, what was your dream (in the music world)?

Pretty sure I was living it at the time!  Although clipping Celine Dion press may not be the dream of many, it was something that needed to be done while getting your foot in the door and being surrounded by music all day…being one of the first people in Canada to hear a new Oasis record was a fantastic thing when you were 20 (back then).

celine clippings

Have you ever been a musician? Tell us about your career.

Professionally?  Not a chance.  

ABOUT THE MUSIC BUSINESS

Do you live from it (is it your main revenue provider)?

Indeed I do…it has been my only source of income for the majority of my career.

Is it still possible to make a living with music today? What do you need to do to make ends meet?

Of course it is, but the problem lies in actually getting into the business in the first place.  Musicians have a very difficult time reaching a level of income sustainability and newbies trying to enter the music business have minimal prospects in such a limited industry…on top of that is competition from the major label casualties of downsizing.  Ultimately –as I’m sure everyone has said – you have to work as hard as you can, put the hours in, try to develop ideas, and suck it up.

Who did you meet in your musical path that was key to your development / success?

I think it was the ladies in the Media Relations department at Sony Music when I was interning and then on contract.  They allowed me to develop my own style of PR while giving me projects such as the Lo Fidelity Allstars and the first System of a Down record.  This was essentially the start of my career.

 

What do you like about your current position?

The broad range of my responsibilities and the various elements and people make my job gratifying.  I utilize my background in PR to work with the media; I do marketing and distribution on the retail side, and last but not least…working with all the digital providers in Canada and all over Latin America.  From the people at Redeye, to all the people I deal with on a weekly basis, they make it easy too.

What would you change about the music business today?

The consumer’s perception of the value of music.  If I could go back and alter history – change how the industry lacked foresight with regards to research & development and the goal of short-term profit or Government’s lack of copyright protection – I would, but we can’t.  In general terms, music is an extremely valuable commodity and an industry that produces so much for local economies, yet is so devalued by the public.  

Which great personal goal have you not achieved yet?

Early retirement, although that will never happen.

retirement

Vinyl, cassette, CD or digital?

I’ve gone 99% digital for a number of years, mainly due to space issues.  I still have a couple crates of vinyl and special cd packages in storage.

ON ARTISTS AND MUSIC

What are your preferred music genres? Was it always the case through your life?

This is actually a difficult question!  I love Sharon Van Etten, work out to early Slayer, listen to a lot of simple lo-fi rock’n’roll, but constantly put my Stax Volume 1 singles collection.  My favourite record over the last couple years was Nothing “Guilty of Everything” and the Ride reunion show was amazing.  My preferred genre, generally in Apple Music or Spotify then would be Alternative/Indie, I guess.

On a desert island you bring those 5 albums (no more!)

Even tougher question, without thinking this through more than for a minute as I’m sure there would be 1000 records that I’d put in here instead:
–    The Complete Stax/Volt Singles: 1959-1968
–    Mojave 3 “Out of Tune”
–    Nothing “Guilty of Everything”
–    Ride “Nowhere”
–    Gallows “Grey Britain”

Playlist!

 

 

Who is the friendliest artist/music celebrity you’ve met?

Again, top of my head:  Jay-Z, Simple Plan, Death Cab, White Stripes.

jonathan elder White Stripes

With the White Stripes, around 2007, Jonathan is in the middle of the picture.

Some artists weren’t friendly nor easy to work with. Without naming them, can you pinpoint why or the circumstances of a negative experience? Is ego always the problem?

It is really hard to pinpoint the origin of the negativity because in most cases there are many steps throughout the process of dealing with an artist.  It could be a difficult foreign label, agent, manager, or tour manager that sours things before ever reaching the artist.  Sometimes people’s priorities just aren’t the same as yours or the territory that you are working in.

Which brilliant artist should have made it big, but didn’t (yet)?

Tons!!  Currently I would say Shilpa Ray.

 

Who would you like to meet? What would you tell/ask them?

There is no one specific I’d like to meet.  Early in my time at Warner, I worked with and met one of my favourite groups of all time.  We hung out and watched another legendary band perform from side-stage, but the problem was…they were boring, like me.  Everyone is just human.

Thank you Jonathan!

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier
Fondateur et rédacteur en chef
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Mélomane invétéré et rédacteur agréé, Nicolas pratique la critique en mode olympique: il parle de tout, tout le temps, depuis 1991. Il a publié 4 500 critiques de disques et concerts dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Nicolas a publié "Les perles rares et les grands crus de la musique" en janvier 2013, un ouvrage de 1250 pages en deux tomes.