McAllister seeks new path in rocky business

It's been a tumultuous decade for the music industry, one in which the traditional business model was turned on its head.

Ryan McAllister

Ryan McAllister

It’s been a tumultuous decade for the music industry, one in which the traditional business model was turned on its head.

The proliferation of music freely distributed on the Internet has devastated the sales of recorded music and many once-strong CD retail chains have either shuttered their doors or downsized and sought out other sources of revenues. This, in turn, has resulted in down-sizing at the major record labels, where the shrinking bottom lines have cut jobs and artist rosters.

One of these casualties was Dakona, a band led by Ryan McAllister that had signed a multi-million dollar contract with Madonna’s Maverick Records label. Dakona’s sound was compared favourably with Irish superstars U2 and shortly after recording their debut album and touring extensively to promote it, the axe suddenly fell at Maverick.

“We caught the tail-end of that meltdown ten years ago,” says McAllister in an interview at his home in Bradner.

“The whole industry is trying to find its bearings. It’s an interesting time; everybody that’s bigger can’t handle their overheads.

“And there is a giant sea of independent musicians on-line, trying to get noticed. But it’s had its good sides too; it weeded out the people who weren’t in it for the right reasons and the people who are left are really passionate about their art.”

McAllister says he’s grateful that he was able to invest a big chunk of the money he got from the Maverick deal to install a professional recording studio inside a converted barn on his family’s acreage. He’s taken the knowledge he gleaned from working with the top engineers and producers and parlayed it into building his home-based business at Five Acres Studio.

“When we were recording at Capitol Studios in L.A. we were spending $15,000 a day, and that kind of pressure is counter-productive to creativity,” says McAllister.

He is able to provide this service at considerably less cost at Five Acres and he’s engineered and produced albums for local artists such as Daniel Huscroft and Prairie Dance Club, as well as for his own music. This year he released his first solo album, Music for a Rainy Town, as well as another with his trio, Cowboys and Indians.

“I wanted a (recording studio) space with ambience to it that is a big step up from the typical home studio,” says McAllister.

The quality of the studio’s sound is readily evident on McAllister’s solo album, as is the maturity of his songwriting.

“Having kids changes your view,” says the 33-year-old father of three pre-schoolers.

“I do miss it a bit, being young and obsessed, but I’m so much happier where I’m at.

“Now the real challenge is how many songs can you write about being happily married?” he jokes. “Songs that are not too sweet and corny, but authentic and listenable. There’s a shortage of that. Youthful infatuation is so much easier to write about.”

One of the album’s songs, This Black Heart, has been getting a fair amount of play and it helped put him in the top ten for the Shore (104.3 FM) Song Search contest earlier this year.

Bell Tower and River Jordan have also proved popular among his fans, and Mystery White Boy is under consideration for use in the forthcoming documentary movie about the late singer Jeff Buckley.

“It’s the oldest song on the album. I wrote it in Toronto just after getting our record deal and first hearing Jeff Buckley. Just a couple days after getting his first CD, Grace, I found out he’d drowned in Memphis,” says McAllister.

“His mother heard the song and invited me over to dinner (in California) and said she could maybe use it in the movie that’s now in development.”

Selling songs for use in movies has been a growing niche market for many musicians and one that McAllister has been pursuing. It was the main thrust of his appearance at the South by South West music festival in Austin, Texas earlier this year, alongside another local colleague, Zaac Pick.

“We have no delusions of grandeur,” McAllister says of the close circle of musical friends he works with.

“We’re blue collar and realize there’s not a lot of money to be made. We love it and that’s enough.”

However, he is developing a website he calls the Starving Musicians Union (http://starvingmusiciansunion.com) as “a way to network with each other, booking players into gigs; just trying to provide more work for musicians and artists.”

He will also be traveling through California this month, performing in colleges and promoting his CD at radio stations.

The public can sample selections from Music for a Rainy Town at his website (http://wp.ryanmcallister.com) and the website also has a link to a video feature by Firecanvas Productions on his Five Acres Studio.

“I’m really a lighthearted guy but my songs are serious and so is my approach to the business. The sad truth is that so many people get tired of their songs or have no desire to sell it and themselves,” said McAllister.

“You have to want to love it to make it in this business. Yes, you need an ego but preferably ego without the arrogance.”

Just Posted

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 13

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Madalyn Clempson, 18, of Chilliwack sings ‘Hiney Yamin Ba-im.’ She won the Intermediate Vocal Canadian Music award at the Performing Arts BC Virtual Provincial Festival. (YouTube)
Chilliwack youth bring home awards from provincial performing arts festival

Chilliwack’s 18-year-old Madalyn Clempson ‘a bit stunned’ to have won Intermediate Vocal Canadian Music

These three kittens, seen here on Thursday, June 10, 2021, are just some of many up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Three kittens at the Chilliwack SPCA

Kittens were in ‘rough shape’ when they came into the Chilliwack SPCA, now ready for adoption

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Chilliwack family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read