(The Canadian Press)

Q&A: Juno Awards head Allan Reid on celebrating Canadian music in a pandemic

Winners in a dizzying 42 categories will be announced over 90 minutes

A stripped-back presentation of the 2020 Juno Awards on Monday will toast the Canadian music scene, and the show’s head organizer hopes it’ll mark a bright moment for an industry hit hard by COVID-19.

With concert venues closed and most performers staying at home without gigs, Allan Reid said he’s focused on giving this year’s Juno nominees the recognition they missed after the pandemic sidelined a weekend of accolades in Saskatoon several months ago.

But he said this year’s show, which is skipping broadcast TV and going directly to CBC Gem, will look undeniably different than ones in the past.

“This is not the Juno broadcast that you would see on television — it’s not 12 performances and six awards,” explained Reid, who serves as president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS).

Instead, the show is cramming two nights of trophies into a brisk ceremony recorded in isolation.

Winners in a dizzying 42 categories will be announced over 90 minutes, putting the marquee nominees for single and album of the year in the same spotlight as more obscure ones, such as world music and children’s album.

Presenters include Toronto Raptors’ Chris Boucher and two-time Juno winner Jessie Reyez, while songs will be performed by Iskwe, Neon Dreams, the Dead South, and Alessia Cara, who was originally supposed to host the cancelled television event.

The Junos will stream on CBC Gem, and CBC’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitter pages on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

Reid spoke with The Canadian Press about making a different sort of Junos show, how the virus is slamming the music industry, and what it all means for the 50th anniversary of the awards set for next March.

CP: There are a number of significant changes to this year’s Junos, including that Alessia Cara stepped away from hosting duties. But she’s also this year’s top nominee with six nods. How will she be involved in the show?

Reid: Alessia is going to have a one-time performance of “Rooting for You” (a song that helped her pick up the songwriter of the year nomination). It’s an exclusive premiere from her new EP called “This Summer: Live Off The Floor,” which is coming out in July. She recorded it pre-pandemic.

CP: How about Jann Arden, who was originally supposed to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame by Anne Murray on the broadcast? Those plans have been sidelined, but is something going to materialize later?

Reid: We felt this was not the time… those are lifetime moments. So we haven’t finalized details. We are trying to figure out how to accomplish that, whether it’s around the 50th anniversary, or another way, we’re not sure. (There were) so many disappointments with the show not happening and that was definitely one of them.

CP: Speaking of the 50th anniversary, the Junos are slated for Toronto next year to mark the momentous occasion. The celebration would be the first time in a decade that the awards have taken place in the city. But considering the virus, is that still on?

Reid: Obviously, COVID is has changed everything. As a music event that is a mass gathering — from all of our events to the broadcast — we have to be taking into consideration: What if there is a second wave? Things are still relatively unknown about what the future will hold, so we need to make plans, and alternate plans, to make sure that we can still do a celebration. But what exactly that’s going to be, right now we’re still working through. I don’t think there’s anybody who can say for sure if we’re going to be able to gather 15,000 people in the Scotiabank Arena next March.

CP: After the last-minute cancellation of the 2020 Junos, do you plan to return to Saskatoon?

Reid: We’re working on a three- to five-year plan at all times with future cities. The challenge for Saskatoon is that everything was spent — it wasn’t like we cancelled a month before the event, (it was) 48 to 72 hours. And so all the food had been delivered to the convention centre for the gala dinner, the stage was fully built, we were starting rehearsals. The whole machine was rolling. So, from an investment standpoint, it requires new investment to make that happen again. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to go back.

CP: What about the Canadian music industry as a whole? Since the country effectively shut down live entertainment, we’ve seen musicians rally for financial support from the federal government, but there’s a more uncertain road ahead for live music. You’re head of CARAS, a non-profit that supports performers, so how do you see this shaping up?

Reid: The music industry — like sports, like restaurants — has been hit incredibly hard. It’s devastating to see artists lose their livelihoods who can’t tour. Yes, we’re very fortunate to have a government that’s providing (assistance) to try to make ends meet, but I’ve had so many conversations with artists who are just going, “I don’t know much how longer I can go. I’ve got to find another way to make a living.” If they’re not on the radio and not generating that kind of performance income, it comes from performing live. And I’m extremely worried of what’s going to happen to the venues across this country. If this is prolonged from three-and-a-half months into next year, how do those venues survive? And if they go away then where do the bands go to play?

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusMusic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ellis Ross (left), BC Liberal party, celebrated with his wife, Tracey after being named the preliminary winner of the 2020 snap provincial election. (Cameron Ehl photo)
Ross named preliminary winner of snap election

BC Liberals’ Ellis Ross named the re-elected MLA for Skeena riding

Voting has officially closed throughout B.C. for the 2020 snap provincial election. (Clare Rayment)
Map of Skeena polling stations

Watch the updates on the map below as polling stations are counted throughout Skeena riding

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read