Published Jun 01, 2003Members of Vancouver's hip-hop community banded together to boycott this year's edition of New Music West, BC's largest annual showcase for emerging artists. Billed by its organiser "as the largest showing of solidarity the Vancouver hip-hop scene has ever seen," the boycott sought "to bring to light NMW's pattern [of] unfair treatment of hip-hop" over the past few years.
Protest organiser Sean Lalla is a long-time promoter of urban events on the West Coast and has worked extensively with NMW in the past. The proprietor of Spectrum Entertainment likened the NMW boycott to the Rascalz' refusal to accept their 1998 Juno, a symbol of protest against the award show's lack of respect for urban genres. "The festival doesn't understand [urban] music and culture," Lalla says. "What we want is an improved presence for urban artists at next year's New Music West. That's all we've ever wanted."
Claiming that rap has consistently been under-represented at NMW, Lalla noted the fact that established locals (like Josh Martinez) were booked to play in the NMW's smallest venues, while lesser known rock acts were given slots at bigger clubs. The promoter also pointed to the absence of an international urban headliner from this year's festival a common practice for rock acts as a lost opportunity for the development of local artists, many of whom would have played to a large crowd as part of the headliner's undercard.
While Lalla claimed the support of several dozen artists, indie label reps and event promoters in Van City's scene, NMW's Media Relations Manager Jennifer Fritz downplays the significance of the protest, noting that NMW provided showcase slots for 30 percent of the urban artists who applied, the highest acceptance rate of any genre at the festival. "New Music West supports all artists of all genres," Fritz says. "[The boycott] really has nothing to do with the focus of the festival at all. We feel that urban artists are very well represented here."