We all strive to be what we want to be in life. Do what we want to do for a living. Work a job where we are truly happy. We make several sacrifices to achieve this goal. At times we are left wondering if the decision we are making is the right one. Will I be able to support myself? Will I be able to pay my bills? How will I survive? Colleen Bedford, a 30-year old originally from Etobicoke, Ontario knows these thoughts all too well.
By day Bedford is a data-analyst working for an advisory agency that falls under the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. The position is a solid full-time gig, but it’s not her true passion in life. She has played conservatory piano for twelve years, while also dabbling in alto saxophone, drums, guitar and was also a dj on the rave circuit spinning jungle under the stage name Miz Rebel for numerous years. She adores the music of Ludwig Van Beethoven, Billy Holiday and Radiohead. She has written her own music, lyrics and melody on both guitar and piano and her favourite all-time song is Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” She has written and recorded her own songs and recently played the piano accompaniment for a Cover Me Canada audition tape of a candidate. She has been involved with music for as long as she can remember; from days of listening to her parent’s vinyl collection, to singing along to the musical Grease, to making mixtapes for her Walkman to accompany her on long family road trips. She lives and breathes music and understands how hard the industry can be. The spirited “music nut” has decided to counteract the toughness of the industry with MizRebelRecords, a media outlet covering Canadian musical acts that are not necessarily touched on by mainstream media.
Bedford recently sat down with me to discuss MizRebelRecords, her passion for music, her current projects, Canadian Music Week, Hillside 2011 and much more.
It was two years ago that Bedford realized that she had to steer her life towards her true passion for the music business, and with her experience in several aspects of the industry why wouldn’t she? She had been unhappy with her career choices despite the stability and comfort of the positions she worked so she decided that it was time to change, “There’s a part of me that has always wanted to be in the music business,” said Bedford. “When high school was ending and it was time to decide on a career path, I thought that going into the sciences would set me up for a more stable career than music, so I chose Animal Biology. As far as a stable career goes, I was right; but I’ve been unhappy with my career choices for about four years now. Approximately two years ago I finally gave into steering my career towards some aspect of the music business which is ultimately what sparked the idea of MizRebelRecords.”
Bedford, similar to many people in life had her mind made up for her by the crummy “9-5” life that most people live on a regular basis, “What lit the fire to start MizRebelRecords was my job previous to the one I have now. I absolutely hated working there, they treated their employees like dirt and on a very frequent basis I would have nothing to do other than sit in my cubicle and pretend to look busy. This was unacceptable in my eyes so I started looking at options for a career change. I sat down with myself and a glass of wine to write out my dream jobs. Not surprisingly, most of them were centered on the music industry so I began carving out a plan. The website is only step one.”
Where did the graduate of Guelph University come up with the idea and name for MizRebelRecords? “The idea to start up the website actually came from a very good friend and excellent business man, J. Mills. When I was deciding on what new career path I wanted to pursue I considered many options, including going back to school full time which is less than desirable as I’m still paying down my first student loans. While we were throwing around the idea of opening up a recording studio, he suggested creating the website to be used as a tool to make great contacts and establish the brand. I’m happy to say that since May 2010 when I officially launched I’ve not only met wonderful contacts, but have begun to establish the site as a media outlet.”
As far as the name of the site, “The name comes from two places, my past and my future. I was a jungle DJ back in my university days and went by the name Miz Rebel (and yes it is supposed to sound like ‘miserable’; there is always at least one person who asks). ‘Records’ was added to the end as I have plans for a small recording studio.”
The music outlet has recently covered the musical duo Humans at NXNE, live band Library Voices at Toronto’s Mod Club and did a fantastic job of covering Canadian Music Week. Bedford is proud of what the site has accomplished so far and as the site becomes more popular she has had to branch out for some help, “On paper, I am the sole proprietor of MizRebelRecords. Prior to the launch and for the first 8 months I was the web developer, researcher, writer and photographer. After the 8 month mark I began contracting a web developer who is not only a good friend, and great designer, but was a student at the time and gave me great discounts. He actually still gives me great discounts and I’m forever grateful. This summer I decided (to) hire interns to write articles and help supplement the content that I was producing. From my interns I’ve been very fortunate to have three consistent contributors, who are also very patient with me and my hectic life. As interns they don’t get paid; they just love music, love the scene and love sharing their ideas. It’s pretty incredible.”
As well as the writing and photography of Bedford, you can read articles on the site by writers Julia G, Steve D and Veronika W. The articles from the contributors are informative, intelligent and on-point. The reviews section already has a decent following and the site is becoming an outstanding source to read about Canadian music performances for fans of the musicians being covered.
MizRebelRecords is off to a good start for the music entrepreneur so I thought I would ask Bedford about any other projects she has on her plate, “I think MizRebelRecords is one big project that (hopefully) should interest people. Traffic to the site goes primarily to two places, reviews of shows/festivals and the calendar of events. We also post YouTube videos to give the content a more dynamic aspect. I’ve been approached about a few upcoming events that others would like MizRebelRecords to be involved with, but none have been solidified.”
Two of the bigger events that Bedford has covered via MizRebelRecords include the aforementioned Canadian Music Week and Hillside 2011. I asked her about both experiences and if she had any memories from each, “One of the more recent unique experiences was at the Indie Awards during Canadian Music Week. It was a great opportunity to see indie artists get the recognition they deserve and watch some wonderful performances. The most unique part was that the media were allowed in the green room to mingle and schmooze with the artists and presenters. It was very entertaining to meet some Canadian celebrities like K-OS and Steve Anthony as well as international stars like Sammy Hagar.”
When asked about her experience at Hillside 2011, she had a delightfully positive and informative response, “For the past 6 years or so I’ve been volunteering at this festival, it’s what I most look forward to every summer. This year for the first time I applied for and received a media accreditation. Since this festival is run by volunteers, they were actually lacking some good press material, so in exchange for an all access plus a volunteer pass I wrote all their press releases. I’m proud to say that they liked them so much they were not only sent out to newspapers and other media outlets, but were included in the press package that all media received when checking in. The entire weekend is full of good times and amazing performances. Hillside is renowned for booking musicians in the festival right before they hit the big time and become famous, so the quality of music is amazing.”
Bedford had her own personal highlight from the festival, “The highlight of my weekend was seeing the Australian band Graveyard Train perform an impromptu set in the volunteer camping area. They were there to film a video, but it ended up being a mini-private concert for any volunteers who happen to (be) back at their camp site. What makes this band so unique is that they’ve created their own new genre ‘horror country’. They use unconventional instruments like a washboard, steel guitar, banjo, upright bass and hammer & chain percussion to create their sound. All members of the band can sing and create a six part baritone choir. It was truly one of the most unique performances I’ve seen anywhere. There really were no bad moments at Hillside. I’m sure year to year people encounter some unfortunate events, and the weather can always make things interesting, but not this year. It was perfect. I guess the only downfall for me was that I was there with a fractured fibula, and was hobbling around in an air cast. As unfortunate as this was, the upside is that people always gave up their seats for me and I had my amazing friends who always made sure a beer was handy.”
From her aspiring music talents to MizRebelRecords, from covering events such as Canadian Music Week to Hillside 2011, Bedford keeps busy and continues her goal of pushing Canadian music content while establishing her brand name. If only the music industry contained more individuals such as Bedford, perhaps the industry would be less cut-throat and more about the music and its artists.
What does the future hold for Bedford? “I see myself doing MizRebelRecords full time and leaving my day job behind in the dust. In order to do that, I’ll have to expand the site to offer other services such as PR, freelance writing and/or photography, management or any combination of those. In five years I would like to be on the way to starting up the recording studio, i.e. saving the money and beginning to recruit sound engineers etc. I don’t see the studio being open in this time frame as it is quite expensive, this is more of a 10 year goal. These goals may seem loose but I will definitely be playing things by ear as I’m very open to seizing and pursuing viable business ventures as they arise. I’m constantly on the lookout as to where I can make money for the business. The very short term goal (i.e. within the next year) is to generate enough revenue to not only run the site, including contract costs, but allow myself a modest salary. This is going to be achieved through, amongst other things, opening up advertising spots on the site itself and offering photography services.”
Bedford certainly has her act together, a plan in place and a good head on her shoulders. I see nothing but a bright future for her and any venture she sets her mind onto, including MizRebelRecords.
I asked Bedford if she had anyone she would like to thank, “I’d like to acknowledge the people who’ve played an integral role in getting MizRebelRecords rolling. J. Mills, A. Hendriks, V. White, S. Di Mauro, L.Philip and J. Grabowski. I owe each and every one of them a thousand thanks.”
I would like to thank Colleen for her time and the interview and wish her all the best. She has been a friend and busy associate of mine for close to seven years now and it is always a delight to talk music and the music business with her.