Industry Feature Friday: Jessica L'Heureux (Program Manager, Alberta Music)
Welcome to Industry Feature Friday, putting the spotlight on the people behind the music! From producers, radio DJ's and radio trackers, to photographers, managers and everything in between. These are the music business professionals who work hard to help put your favourite artists (emerging, independent and hit makers) on the charts, DSP's, radio and on the map through their work behind the scenes!
I'm so excited and I just can't hide it, come on, come on come on... or something like that! I'm SO excited to spotlight Alberta Music's Program Manager, Jessica L'Heureux this week! She's seriously the coolest person and a name you NEED to know - if you don't!
Thank you SO MUCH for joining me this week, Jessica!!!
It's an absolute pleasure to showcase Jessica for several reasons! She is the epitome of passion when it comes to live music and supporting artists of all genres, and at all levels. Her heart, mind, body, and soul LOVE music (and her adorable dog Reno!).
Here is more about her:
Jessica’s focus has always been the live music industry through work, volunteer opportunities, and most frequently - as a patron. She joins Alberta Music after five years as the Assistant Manager of Events and Programming at the Gateway. Her time at the Gateway included working alongside various artists with an annual average of 114 artists with more than 50% Albertan entertainers.
At the outset of her career, Jessica engaged with volunteer opportunities at both the Calgary Folk Music Festival and the New Black Centre. She quickly transitioned to more dynamic roles with the CBC and the Calgary Stampede. When she’s not catching a concert, you can find Jessica exploring Alberta and B.C. with her dog Reno. The devoted duo are always on the hunt for that perfect Instagram photo. - Alberta Music Website
(Also a shout to Alberta Music, because they are AMAZING! You will learn more about them in the interview!)
Jessica is a champion for artists, and she’s learned from her roles in the industry how to navigate the field with dedication and compassion. She's also someone who is truly working towards helping create an industry where all voices are welcome, and to make the music industry a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community for all. THAT'S PRETTY DAMN GREAT!
Jessica's knowledge, charisma, and devotedness will lead (and continue to lead in some cases already! Read on dear friend!) positive change and influence, and that makes her a much-beloved Canadian music industry badass!
Get to know more about this music industry maven, Jessica L'Heureux here:
Sarah Scott (SS): Jessica, thank you so much for being a part of IFF! I'm so happy you're my feature this week! Your focus has always been the live music industry through work, volunteer opportunities and most frequently as a patron. You're an incredible Program Manager with Alberta Music and a very well respected name across the province! So that definitely leads up to the question, how did you find your love of music? Tell us how you made that into a career and about your musical journey!
Jessica L'Heureux (JH): Sarah, thanks for including me this week! The work you’re doing to feature industry innovators is incredible.
I knew that music was what I wanted to pursue in high school, which felt really isolating. There were not many after high school programs for it and I seemed to be constantly explaining it to everyone around me. Try having to explain to your parents that you want to be an A&R rep when you grow up. Ha! At an early age, I found community when it came to listening to music and attending concerts. Even now attending concerts and seeing everyone jump up and down at once, is one of the most magical things! Those moments where everyone is together in a shared lived experience is what keeps me passionate about the music industry.
From being the kid in high school that planned our battle of the bands and interviewed local artists for a Calgary-wide youth blog, I went on to earn my Communications degree at Simon Fraser University. And kept going. I worked on the CBC Vancouver street team, which sometimes meant working with Strombo and sometimes it meant face painting Canuck hockey logos onto people. I volunteered at the Calgary Folk Festival every summer and started working at the Kahanoff Conference Centre. I was able to gain hands on event planning and audiovisual skills and it has been VERY useful to know how to set up a basic PA system. I built on those skills by taking a summer position with the Calgary Stampede as an Entertainment Assistant, and then spent six years with the SAIT Student Association, promoting and running events at the Gateway. Over those six years I worked so many different types of events from planning Dirty Bingo’s to working with artists like Mother Mother, Jeremy Dutcher, and Hilltop Hoods. At every step it was important to take in the highs, and be present for all the lessons too. Not sure what lesson I learned in face painting… but it was always a fun time!
I have now been lucky enough to bring all of my hands on experience to Alberta Music, continuing a working relationship with the Calgary Stampede and providing tour management support to a few hardworking Alberta based artists including TAYLR and Julia Vos.
SS: The Alberta Music Industry Association is a non-profit, service-based association dedicated to helping professionals in the music industry to succeed in their careers. As their Program Manager, for anyone who's unfamiliar with your role, tell us more about your position and how you are fostering the excellence of Alberta artists and the Alberta music industry through education and support.
JH: As Alberta Music’s Program Manager, I oversee “Backstage Pass” our professional development program and “Livestock” our export program. Through all of our programming we aim to provide education, connection and career growth for artists and industry.
“Backstage Pass” is a series of events that includes networking events, panels, artist/mentor one on ones, workshops, a new wellness series, a new mentor partnership with UK delegates, and Better Together Thursday’s. Better Together Thursday’s is a series of open office hours for our members to connect with Alberta Music staff and leaders in the industry. Our next Better Together Thursday is on Jan. 19th, with VISSIA is joining us at our Edmonton office and Kyle McKearney in our Calgary office to provide peer mentorship. Our Backstage Pass Wellness Series starts on January 24th, and we’ll be announcing a few February networking events soon.
“Livestock” is our export program that includes international showcase opportunities for export ready artists. This past year we’ve worked with artists on showcase at C/O Pop, The Great Escape, AmericanaFest, Reeperbahn, Alberta Focus, Breakout West, Come Together, M for Montreal, Folk Alliance and New Colossus. These showcases allow for Alberta artists to play for key industry figures internationally and we’re there to support them every step of the way.
You can email our team at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would love to set up a one-on-one meeting with you, and you can follow us on Instagram at @alberta_music for the latest on upcoming events, programs and showcase deadlines.
SS: Are there any industry professionals you look up to? What qualities do they have that you admire?
JH: Kerry Clarke, Calgary Folk Festival’s Artistic Director, has been a huge inspiration of mine. To see how she has grown the festival, its team, and to eventually run shows beside her at The Gateway was an incredible moment for me. Kerry and the festivals commitment to sustainability and inclusion has always been something I admire.
Live music has always had my heart, and because of that I truly respect everyone in that industry who has ever taken the time to provide moments of mentorship. It’s a sector that is always moving and does not really stop for anyone. Christine Rogerson, Jeff Ojeda, Craig Walsh, Marc Thususka, and Eric Minden, all really gave me the grace and time to learn from them and experiment with my own ideas.
You will come across people in this industry that hold resources close to their chest, and I was lucky enough to connect with people who wanted to pass on everything they knew. I still show up at Eric’s studio with a few beers and ask him to explain in detail what a split snake is and why I keep asking venues if they have one.
There are a lot of gatekeepers in the industry and to have mentors that welcomed me into those spaces is something I will never take for granted.
SS: You're a huge advocate for the music and arts community across Alberta and Canada! You have continued to stay engaged with volunteer opportunities within the industry for events, on boards and festivals. There are other wonderful people out there who feel the exact same way about this community as we do. If someone wants to become a music industry professional in a position like yours or maybe radio, booking, tracking...etc., - overall they want to be involved in the music industry in some capacity professionally - how can they get their foot in the door and what are some opportunities they should take advantage of now?
JH: Meet people. Meet as many people as you can. In high school, I sent out a cold email, asking if I could volunteer at the New Black Centre, an all-ages venue in Calgary. Some nights I sold canned pop reading my biology textbook and some nights I was learning how to mic a drum kit and mix a show. Every person I met; I learned something from. The majority of the positions I have had in the industry did not come from who I know, but from what I know. Every volunteer or work opportunity was always a chance to add another skill to the list.
There are so many incredible organizations that folks can be a part of to start meeting people. Maybe that’s volunteering for a festival like Calgary Folk Festival, or Sled Island. Or signing up for a membership with Alberta Music, Country Music Alberta or Music Managers Forum. The Canadian Music Live Association has been hosting some of my favourite webinars right now, oh! Erin Benjamin, another person I admire greatly! If there’s an area of the industry that you love, there’s most likely an organized group of people that also love that area of the industry too. I really feel that there’s a huge shift in the industry from gatekeeping to mentorship, and it’s been incredible to see it happening.
If you’ve made it this far and are still reading, and are trying to get your foot in the door, send me a message, I’d love to grab coffee and chat.
SS: What has been a highlight of your musical journey so far and what do you feel is the most significant impact you’ve made?
JH: I think the whole thing is the highlight. Is that too cheesy? Working with Alberta Music we interact with so many artists and industry professionals every day that it feels like a constant ripple effect.
I think the most significant impact I’ve made has been my connection with Alberta based artists. Artists and (even industry) want to be listened to and have people show up for them. Walking into a concert and sharing a wave with an artist before they go on stage is so powerful. There are a lot of highs and a lot of lows in this industry, and I hope that by showing up at a show that everyone involved from the artist, to the musicians, to the techs, and the promoter know that I’m cheering them on. I like to think that brings them a little light. I hope that encouraging people to show up for each other and building community is the impact I continue to make.
Oh! And when artists send me unreleased material! Seeing that little icon appear that someone has sent me an mp3 file... It stops me in my tracks! Sharing those little moments is a huge highlight!
SS: Bonus question! We both know the benefits of joining music associations - networking, financial support, performance opportunities, award considerations...etc. with that said, who can join Alberta Music?
JH: EVERYONE. Seriously. Alberta Music offers memberships levels for everyone, from bands to companies to individuals to fans. Everyone involved in the music industry is integral to the community’s success and it is our goal to advocate and provide services to everyone at all levels. If you’re new to music and are starting to write songs, you can book a session with us to learn about split sheets, and then we’ll continue down the rabbit hole of royalties, publishing and synch. OR if you have released an album and are interested in touring Europe, you can book a session with us and we can chat all about export markets and showcases and help connect you with the global music industry. We’re honestly here for folks at all levels to listen and to learn together.