Who are you?
Allison Outhit, VP International Business Development for Six Shooter Records.
Where are you based?
Where do you work? What do you do?
I work at Six Shooter Records, an independent record label and artist management company based in Toronto, Canada. We also own the Interstellar Rodeo, an annual music festival in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. As VP International Business Development, my job is to help our artists break into new markets; to help develop and sustain their careers internationally. I go to conferences, festivals, and road trips to meet people and build networks and teams of agents, marketing, PR personnel and so on, putting boots on the ground, as it were, around the world. It’s pretty much the best job in music, if you ask me.
What are you listening to?
Like my job, my tastes are fairly far-ranging. I’m obsessed right now with Maarja Nuut, an Estonian violinist/vocalist who put out an album last year with an electronic artist called Ruum. I listen to a lot of neoclassical composers, and also a fair bit of hip hop, soul and R&B, especially Canadian artists like Sean Leon, Charlotte Day Wilson, Harrison, Sydanie, 88Glam, Haviah Mighty, The Sorority, Kaytranada… . I used be all about indie rock and folk/Americana, but now I only get excited about new female artists. Sorry lads, but I feel like I’ve heard most of what white guys have to say.
How do you find new music?
So many ways! New stuff comes to me via playlists like Northern Bars on Spotify, Canadian music blogs like Said the Gramophone and Ride the Tempo, Hip Hop Canada, The Lake Radio, NPR’s Tiny Desk series, label newsletters, and word of mouth every day. I use the Artist Radio feature on Spotify to go sideways to new artists. For some things I seek a more finely curated discovery path. Like, as a white grandmother, hip hop is not native to my demographic, so I have my personal hip hop guide, my friend Tia who is a 24-year-old insider who lives on Instagram. She has great ears and knows everything. When she comes across something she thinks I’ll like, she texts me! She’s never wrong. For more “outside” experimental stuff my go-to is The Quietus. Their year-end lists are a treasure trove. My husband is the editor-in-chief of Exclaim! Magazine, so he is tapped in to a lot of new stuff. I follow loads of music critics and good-taste-having people on Twitter and Instagram.
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Service and why?
I stopped listening to CDs years ago. As a child of peak vinyl, I always hated CDs and I’m delighted to have been proven right: they are an annoying waste. I stream all day long (Spotify, but I sure miss Rdio); if there’s something I really like, I buy it on vinyl. I love special-ordering vinyl! Nothing beats the excitement of coming home to a cardboard package shipped from Finland containing a 180 gram deluxe coloured vinyl double-gatefold edition of whatever. It reminds me of the early 80s, when I spent all my money on punk and new wave imports.
As for audio quality – I’m not a robot and my sense of hearing isn’t so intense that I can honestly say I notice differences in audio quality unless it’s really obvious (e.g., bad mastering). For me, vinyl is a tactile experience – the weight and size of an LP, the artwork, sliding the thing out of the sleeve – it’s still magic.
Cassettes are the waxed handlebar mustache of music formats, so no, I don’t listen to them… unless we’re talking about my greatest mixtapes from the early 80s, with homemade collage covers, which I still have. Someone’s gotta keep the memory of Sex Gang Children alive.
Where do you do most of your music listening?
I listen at work all day long. I’m happy to let the Spotify mixbot do its thing. At home, I listen to records while I’m cooking, cleaning, or just hanging out having a glass of wine. The radio in my car is tuned to 93.5 FLOW, Toronto’s hip hop station; that’s where I discovered how annoyingly sticky anything by Post Malone is. They’ve recently increased their coverage of Canadian artists, so while it’s still very Drake/Weeknd heavy, they’re starting to play more local Canadian artists too (shout out the Made in Toronto Takeover). More of that please.
How do find and listen to pre-release music?
Because I work in the music industry and have done for many years, people send me stuff, usually Soundcloud links or secret webpages. Exclaim! often has good pre-release features too. I love a good festival/showcase discovery. Sometimes those gigs are a shitshow and other times you see a band that just kills it live and then you love them forever (shout out La Dame Blanche, Dream Wife).
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
I get, and will click, email links to Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Spotify. I don’t tend to notice ads. I’m annoyed that Spotify doesn’t let you track releases by label – that was a great feature on Rdio that was a super useful discovery tool – but other than that I don’t have any frustrations with digital music. I do have a HUGE beef with Canada’s ISPs. Bandwidth is expensive in Canada, and I’m certain the ISPs throttle AV content; they are not net-neutral. We keep upgrading our ISP account, to no avail – we go over our limit a lot, and our up- and download speeds are wildly asymmetrical.
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
I don’t, really. I mean, obviously Spotify tracks what I have recently or frequently listened to. When my husband James or I buy new vinyl, it lives in a stack by the stereo for a few weeks until it gets filed (alphabetically of course)… I have definitely forgotten that I bought a thing, only to buy it again. Or to find it on the shelf and go, hey, what’s this? James has most of our library catalogued on Discogs, but when we go record shopping I never remember what I want or need!
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
I’m old, so I still post to Facebook. I share a lot of things through Twitter and Instagram too.
Anything you want to “promote”?
Six Shooter has a pretty diverse label and management roster with great established Canadian bands (e.g. Rheostatics, Whitehorse). I’m excited about our newest signings The Dead South, Zaki Ibrahim (polished, intellectual soul), Riit (electropop sung in Inuktitut) and the heartachingly great singer-songwriter William Prince. We also work with Tanya Tagaq, and there aren’t enough words to describe how awesome she is.
I love the discovery and near-universal availability of streamed music, but I want to promote buying music directly from artists, wherever and whenever possible. Ideally off the merch table. When you buy physical product that way, there’s a good chance more of it winds up in the artist’s pocket than if you buy it in a store. But second, support your local record store! Shout out to Invisible City and June Records, two great shops near my home, and the long-standing Sonic Boom which continues to eat a chunk of my paycheck every month.