Industry Profile: Mimi Northcott
by Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen
Mimi Northcott is the founder of Canadian Recording Services (CRS), which focuses on bringing artists of all levels into Canada to record, mix, write and rehearse. CRS' services are free, and they will coordinate everything from accommodations and rentals to studios, producers and engineers -- whatever it takes to bring a project to Canada.
"CRS' goal is to make the most of a budget for the artist and ensure a smooth and successful session," Mimi notes.
Mimi began her career in the late 1980's as a receptionist at a recording studio in Vancouver, B.C. She went on to manage studios and quickly identified that great producers and engineers are the key to successful projects. She has focused her energy on this facet of the recording industry ever since.
In the mid 1990's, Mimi became the Canadian representative for US-based Studio Referral Services (SRS). In 1997 and again in 1999, Mimi stopped to have a couple babies and bake muffins.
In 2001, she launched her own company, Canadian Recording Services. Mimi, along with her staff (Bree Cassidy and Jordan Birch), is based out of Vancouver and are authorities on the professional recording industry from coast to coast in Canada.
"Whether an artist wants to record or rehearse in Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, CRS will hook them up with reliable studios and talented people that fit within their budget," says Mimi. "CRS prides itself on going the extra mile for every client."
CRS works on a referral or project basis with an arsenal of producers and engineers across North America. This year, Mimi has taken on management of legendary mixer Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica, Elvis Costello, Stone Gods) and writer/producer Jeff Dawson (Daniel Powter, State of Shock, Kelly Rowland).
"CRS is paid a fee by the studios, producers and engineers we bring the business to," notes Mimi. "The exception being large scale rehearsals where CRS is hired to be on site." There is no government funding.
This past year has been very exciting for CRS. The company was hired twice for scouting rehearsal spots for The Police 2007/08 World Tour. The second time, Mimi and Cassidy were hired as on-site coordinators for the duration of the rehearsal. Other clients include REM, Elvis Costello, AC/DC, Rihanna, Korn, JD Fortune, Snoop Dogg, Xavier Rudd, The Jonas Brothers and Sam Roberts.
What were The Police requirements for rehearsals?
A large private venue with ample power close to the city. For the first rehearsals, they used a soundstage at a film studio. The second time, there were no commercial facilities available as feature films/TV companies had the city in lock down. We hunted around and found them a private oasis in the city. It's a gorgeous, newer recreation center-- on native reservation land in North Vancouver. The vibe of this unique venue, Chief Joe Mathias Centre, is very West Coast; it sits in the middle of about two acres of cedar trees and is incredibly private, yet essentially still in the city, minutes from downtown. It also boasts a separate good-sized production office and a ton of parking and space, which The Police crew used to build stages to prepare for their tour.
What did being on-site coordinators entail?
As this facility is private and had never done anything like this before, we were hired by The Police to prepare the venue, before, during and after they came in. We arranged everything - security, onsite staff, catering, communications, furnishings, some gear rentals and customs work -- everything except transport and crew. There was a possible MTV shoot, so we were also sent out to find a venue for that. Rolling Stone came to shoot their cover with The Police so we helped coordinate the photo shoot for them. Anything they needed or wanted done, we did.
Have you been asked to secure rehearsal space for other artists?
Canadian Recording Service's forte is recording so we're usually contacted by people who are thinking about coming to Canada to record or mix. But through contacts and people we know, we're often asked for rehearsal spots. Aside from The Police, recent rehearsal clients include Jonas Brothers in Toronto and Theory of a Deadman in Vancouver. We pride ourselves in finding standout, unique facilities that make the whole Vancouver experience a memorable one.
What did you do for the Jonas Brothers and Theory of a Deadman?
Jonas Brothers were doing pre-production for their record so we found them a recording studio in Toronto. We have coordinated several sessions for Theory of a Deadman - once for songwriting, once for player auditions and again for rehearsals before their tour.
Has the declining US dollar business hurt you in securing American clients?
People have been asking me this question a lot lately. For big film productions coming to Canada, yes, there's been a huge impact as they're dealing with millions of dollars. In the recording industry, if our dollar hovers at par, it's not tragic. If it dipped the other way, then yes. It's difficult to tell your American clients that it will cost them more to come to Canada. It's back around par though now, and recording here is a steal to begin with.
Vancouver has a history as a recording mecca. It's a cosmopolitan city with a great climate, laid back people and killer studios, but the biggest draw is the huge producers and engineers that live and work here. Guys like mixer Mike Fraser and producer Jeff Dawson bring a lot of clients here. So for the big acts, I don't think the exchange is an issue at all. They either want to come here or they don't.
For the smaller acts, we just have to get more aggressive to make their budgets go further. For artists to come from the UK and Europe, it's a fantastic deal, hands down. Every British pound goes exactly twice as far here, and the euro goes one and a half right now.
What is the US Studio Referral Service?
Studio Referral Service is a company run by Ellis Sorkin in Los Angeles. I became their Canadian rep about 10 years ago. Both of our companies provide the same type of service, the difference being that Canadian Recording Services spends a lot of time marketing producers and engineers as well as studios where Studio Referral Service's focus is on studios. Studio Referral Service is an authority on studios in the US; CRS is an authority on pro audio in Canada.
Referrals are all about saving time and money and finding a quality studio/producer/engineer in a market you aren't familiar with. For example, instead of a manager googling "neve recording studio los angeles" and coming up with 45 studios, they make one call to US Referral Service or Canadian Recording Services for Canada. They describe what they want to do, where, when and their budget, and we use our expertise to put them in reputable studios with great people. SRS' services are free as they are paid a fee by the studios. Same with CRS: we charge the client nothing: the studios/producers and engineers pay us a fee.
Are SRS and CRS aligned together at all?
They're completely separate businesses. CRS focuses on coordination and the producer/engineer area. SRS focuses solely on studios. The US has hundreds of studios where our market is much smaller, and we can spend the time putting projects together. I don't book US studios other than a handful of residential studios. I call Ellis as he's the expert there. He calls me for studios in Canada. We work together on some international projects however - Europe and Australia for example. At different times he and I will work with different studios over there. So we share this information to make sure we give our clients current and quality suggestions.
What makes a good artist manager?
One that answers emails and returns your calls.
First concert attended
Canadian band called Doug and The Slugs at a fair in Toronto, 1982.
First industry job
Receptionist at a recording studio, Vancouver Studio, which went on to buy Little Mountain Sound.
Working with The Police last year. Someone had to stare at Sting all day.
The Foo Fighters haven't called me yet to record in Vancouver.
My experience with websites and webmasters. Don't get me going. I've made some bad decisions. I'm on my fourth website and have found that every company/webmaster under quotes, and I end up being held hostage. It comes down to a lack of communication and companies taking on more than they can handle.
Best business decision
Managing mixer Mike Fraser. Management done properly takes a lot of time and commitment. My kids are older now, I can travel and put the hours in that are required to manage someone. Mike is much loved and universally respected as a legendary mixer so he's a joy to work with.
Best advice you received
Love what you do.
Mistakes that you have learned from
I wish I would have asked more questions about the business of music when I was younger.
Most memorable industry experience
Mostly meeting different people--Jimmy Page, Ringo Starr, Neil Young...
What friends would be surprised to learn about you
I'm legally too short to be a stewardess, even on a small airline.
Industry pet peeve
Listening to people compare the industry now to the 1980's. It's done, it's gone, and it's depressing. I want to move forward, work with the changing times and embrace the digital world.
If I weren't doing this, I would be...
...in tourism for the City of Vancouver.
I don't have a mentor per se, but I've been influenced by many people over the years. A studio owner I worked for named Al Rodger - he's a crazy bugger but smart: I learned an incredible amount about business from him that I use today.
Mimi can be reached at 604-985-0679; e-mail: email@example.com