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Cape Breton’s music community reeling from radio personality’s comments over cover charges

This is the photo that was placed on Facebook about paying an $8 cover charge to see live music in Cheticamp.
This is the photo that was placed on Facebook about paying an $8 cover charge to see live music in Cheticamp.

SYDNEY, N.S. — “It disgusts me. It absolutely disgusts me.”

Award-winning musician and songwriter J.P. Cormier didn’t mince words when he weighed in on a Halifax radio personality refusing to pay a cover charge to see the band Drafted at Cheticamp’s Doryman Pub and Grill on Saturday, Sept. 23.

The announcer, BJ Wilson of BJ and The Morning Crew at Newcap’s Q104, posted a photo to his station’s Facebook page showing two men laughing about having to pay $8 to see a band in Cheticamp.

“A group of us unionized and refused an $8 cover charge at a pub in Cheticamp on the weekend. We offered $50 for the group of 11. Doorman said, "no deal"... We walked,” says Wilson’s initial posting.

“Have you ever walked away from a pub/bar beacuse (sic) the cover charge seemed ridiculous?”

Wilson has since apologized but not before upsetting many Nova Scotia musicians such as Cormier, who used to live in Cheticamp.

 “I made my concerns known to the station,” said Cormier, who was incensed over the matter and has performed at the Doryman himself. Now based in Pictou, he was driving through Minnesota on his way to performances in Western Canada when he talked to the Cape Breton Post.

“I sent them (Q104) a private message and told them whoever posted that bullshit should be fired. Post haste.”

Q104 program director Trevor Wallworth said confidentiality prevented him from saying if there would be any repercussions from the incident but the station will match the cover charge paid at the Doryman this weekend with a donation to the Unison Benevolent Fund that supports music industry professionals during times of crisis. In addition, the station has disavowed itself from Wilson’s initial comments.

“Q104 Radio Halifax has been a strong supporter of the local music scene for more than 33 years and unfortunate comments made on-air and through social media feeds this week do not represent the beliefs of our station,” said Wallworth in an email message. “Q104 places great value on the work done by everyone in the music industry and we understand their disappointment in us and the comments made.”

Cormier says the apology doesn’t make up for the fact that radio stations across this country don’t play enough Canadian music in the first place.

“It should have never happened and it just demonstrates their complete lack of respect — it goes way beyond Cheticamp and the Doryman — it’s about all of us — they just don’t recognize Canadian talent and they’re just one of the stations in this country that feel the same way,” said Cormier.

Cormier wasn’t the only one angered by Wilson’s Q104 Facebook posting.

“Swing and a miss, folks responsible at Q104FM,” said fiddler Colin Grant in his Facebook posting. “I play at the Doryman and feel they did the right thing to ask cover from everyone — that's what venues do who know how to treat the musicians right — and you folks should at the very least be conscious of that. Hopefully you'll keep this in mind down the road as you attend more shows at similar venues, wherever they may be. We Cape Bretoners will be happy to play you some tunes if it's not too much to ask for the same support on the ground as you've given us on the airwaves.”

Matt Minglewood also made it known that he wasn’t impressed in his Facebook reaction.

“BJ are you for real? What a sleazy comment an insult to all musicians.”

Claude Bourgeois, owner of the Doryman, said he felt the comments slammed local musicians and the community.

“We just happened to be the bar where it happened at,” said Bourgeois. “It sounded like he was saying there’s nothing in Cheticamp worth $8 bucks.”

Bourgeois says the cover charge is used to pay the musicians and that the band had played there before.

“They’re very good people and they go to every benefit possible,” he said. “The door goes totally towards paying the band at the end of night. I always offer a guaranteed minimum — I don’t expect the band to come not knowing what they’re going to make.”

Bourgeois said he was pleased the person at the door refused to negotiate with Wilson’s group to come in for a cheaper price — instead of $8 per person, they offered to pay $50 to admit 11 people.

“You got to pay for it somehow — it’s either that you’re going to pay for it at the door or you’re paying for it with food prices or beer — are people really that stunned that they don’t really understand that the guys playing the music have to have money in their pockets too?”

Singer/songwriter Keith Mullins, a board member of Cape Breton Professional Musicians Association Local 355, has also played at the Doryman numerous times and, like Cormier, believes radio could be doing more to help musicians.

“Obviously they should have paid cover — they’re supposed to be a huge supporter of music and I think it goes to show that maybe Q104 should have some sort of mandate that a percentage of their music is local,” said Mullins, who plays 250 gigs a year, many in places like the Doryman. “I think they should have more of an appreciation of local music.”

For Cormier, the fact that Q104 has been nominated for a Music Nova Scotia Award for best Nova Scotia radio station just adds further salt to the wound.

 “That’s another slap in the face — they’re getting accolades for playing Americans — it’s pretty sad,” said Cormier. “It’s very frustrating and that’s just one facet of what we’re all up against — radio is just one part.”

Meanwhile, the announcer in question has asked for forgiveness.

“I never meant to disrespect or devalue the band, the bar, the town or the music community at large, but I clearly did,” Wilson said in an email interview with the Cape Breton Post.  “I appreciated the measured and level-headed commentary that I have since received from that community. 

“They called me on my post and I absolutely understand why. I have since apologized and hope the people who were offended can forgive me. 

“Musicians are an incredibly important part of my business and I truly regret jeopardizing that relationship in any way.”

 

news@cbpost.com

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