2017-11-01

Spinning out the hits: Award-winning SpinCount chalks up real success

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Kimberly and Kevin Sinclair of SpinCount in their Bridgewater home, alongside their collection of East Coast Music and Music Nova Scotia awards.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>The couple behind SpinCount, Kimberly and Kevin Sinclair.</p>
  • <p>MAT DUNLAP PHOTO</p><p>SpinCount has handled radio campaigns for artist David Myles since 2015.</p>
  • <p>ROSE COUSINS PHOTO</p><p>Halifax&#8217;s Erin Costelo is among SpinCount&#8217;s long client list of East Coast musicians.</p>

The late singer-songwriter and record producer, Prince, reportedly commented that the music industry is "a matrix that is counter to what is natural and right."

However, sitting in the sunlit Bridgewater home of local music promoters Kimberly and Kevin Sinclair, as a kaleidoscope of maple leaves rustle and flutter in the wind beyond their living room window, Prince's perspective may be a moot point.

Not only do they have an inherent passion for music, hailing from the retail and legal and publishing industries in New York, they have the skills and perspective to recognize and promote the deeply-rooted, culturally unique talent among Maritime musicians.

And it would seem the music industry agrees it's natural - if not right - that the two owners of the boutique promotions and public relations company, SpinCount, should be creating opportunities and raising awareness of East Coast musical artists.

The East Coast Music Awards declared SpinCount Company of the Year for 2017, 2016, and 2011, while Music Nova Scotia bestowed the same honour on it in 2014 and 2012.

Moreover, the Bridgewater-based company's clients, which it has attracted from throughout the Maritimes and the rest of Canada, and within the U.S. and the U.K., are routinely nominated for a spectrum of awards including Grammys, Junos and East Coast Music Awards.

We're talking names such as David Myles, Joel Plaskett, Coco Love Alcorn, Kaia Kater and Erin Costelo.

But the Sinclairs are quick to keep their success in perspective, insisting it's only right to give credit where it's due.

"We've been really lucky and work with really beautiful records and really wonderful artists," says Kimberly.

And her husband adds that it is the artist's music that is the "last word" on his or her success, conceding simply, "We have seen people's careers blossom and we've been a part of that."

The Sinclairs had been seeking a more down-to-earth lifestyle when they moved from New York in 2004, leaving behind well-paying jobs in fashion retailing and legal publishing.

Living in Soho with neighbour's such as actress Sarah Jessica Parker and artist Marc Chagall's granddaughter, Kimberly worked at Federated Merchandising Group, which owns the iconic Macy's and Bloomingdales stores.

She was helping to manage a $20 million business at the retail level in the private label section that dealt in the Saville Row, Chartered Club and Arnold Palmer Golf Wear lines.

Kimberly was involved in tracking the production of the product, setting the prices, meeting with the buyers and presenting the lines.

"Everything I did in New York for retail, if you fast forward to where we are today with SpinCount, translates to radio and musical campaigns and events. They almost run parallel," she told LighthouseNOW.

Meanwhile, a lawyer by training, Kevin was editing legal reference material for the major publisher, Warren Gorham & Lamont.

They arrived in 2004, literally in the tail winds of White Juan, and settled into the summer home they had previously built in Digby County.

They haven't looked back since.

Initially, Kevin continued his work editing legal reference materials, telecommuting between Nova Scotia and New York, while Kimberly had her hands full raising their two young boys.

In time, they decided to move to a larger property in Milton, outside of Liverpool, where their growing family would have more room, and there were shorter commutes to Halifax.

Keen on a variety of styles of music they often found themselves at the regular musical events hosted by Liverpool's Michael Loveridge at his Mersey Hotel bar.

During one such event on a Mother's Day, they ended up sitting and chatting around a table with the folk and jazz singer-songwriter, Coco Love Alcorn, and her mother. Hearing the Sinclairs' background, as Kimberly tells it, the musician turned to the couple and said, "'So you know how to do things ...Well maybe you might want to do things for me.'

"So I was, like, 'Sure. How can I help,'" recalls Kimberly.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The couple took on the Ontario artist, applying what Kimberly describes as the five Rs of retail which previously she had applied to fashion.

"It is the right product, presented in the right way, to the right people, at the right time, for the right price. That's a basic retail strategy, and really you can apply it to anything."

Kimberly admits, "it's a bit of a paradigm shift," and while neither came from a musical background, it helped that both shared a long-standing passion for music. (The two met at a university concert.)

"Although we knew nothing about the music industry at the time, in a way that was an advantage, because we were able to forge our own path. And although we made many mistakes, we also were able to figure out a method that's kind of unique to our company. And that's why we've been successful."

Kimberly largely handles the marketing and retail side of things, while Kevin does the majority of content writing and oversees the contracts.

Kimberly had put her name forth to host a music program on Liverpool's then new QCCR station, interviewing musicians Loveridge would bring in for performances, including Christina Martin, Irish Mythen and Ryan Cook.

And the word got out.

"Artists tour, and they talk," says Kevin. "People started coming to us."

According to the couple, recommendations from Alcorn helped to bring them Ian Sherwood, Mythen and Cook.

They joined Music Nova Scotia and started attending the East Coast Music Awards.

"The panels offered by Music Nova Scotia were very, very helpful to our business development and our ability to understand the industry that we were embarking into," suggests Kevin. "We got the birds-eye view ...We could see how we could fit into the larger Canadian music scene, really."

While their profile among the community was picking up tempo, they say the real turning point was when the renowned artists' manager Sheri Jones of Jones & Co. turned to them for advice. Jones handles musicians such as David Myles, Joel Plaskett, Kim Stockwood and Mo Kenney.

She called SpinCount seeking an opinion for an early single by Myles.

"She wanted us to listen to it for radio, media, and just to give our opinion on what the focus tracks would be. And if we thought radio would play."

Kimberly recommended Need A Break, which went on to win first place in the International Acoustics Awards, in the folk/roots/Americana category.

"I knew as soon as I heard that song it would work. And it did."

According to Kimberly, the song "hit all the five Rs of retail. And it worked beautifully."

Jones was thrilled, and announced at Nova Scotia Music Week that she needed to thank SpinCount.

"You could have knocked us over with a feather," says Kimberley.

"It was a validation for a lot of the work that we were doing invisibly in a way," adds Kevin.

"We are invisible. We do all our work behind the scenes," Kimberly goes on to explain, noting they don't want to be front front and centre. "We're pushing our clients, right?"

It's partly for that reason that they help with the publicity for the Halifax Jazz Festival.

The Sinclairs insist, as Kimberly puts it, they "owe everything to the amazing clients we work with."

"The talent level in this part of the world - specifically east coast of Canada - is mind-boggling," says Kevin. "And we've been exposed enough to know what goes on in other places. The music scene is really unique. It's deeply rooted in the culture. It's part of the fabric of society here. You know, the kitchen parties, the ability to play multiple instruments that you learned at your grandfather's or grandmother's knee."

The Sinclairs have helped the folk/Americana artist from Toronto, Kaia Kater on her path, after they met her mother at a conference. Kater has since gone on to play both the Kennedy and Lincoln Centres in the US. Later this month, she will be on tour with Rhiannon Giddens, the American lead singer, violinist, banjo player and a founding member of the Grammy-winning country and blues band Carolina Chocolate Drops.

And their client Claire Lynch of Nashville has been a Grammy nominee.

Still, as well as the artists themselves, the couple are quick to acknowledge the supporting role played by a others.

"Erin Costelo's record was going to be amazing, with or without us. But we were just lucky to be a part of her team. Amelia Curran same thing," says Kimberley.

"There's always a team," reminds Kevin, noting that in addition to the artists, there is a group of about six to eight supporters, including booking agents, managers, investors and family members.

"I always like to think that we're like a Roman army all standing in their phalanxes, all pushing at the same time. Everybody has their job to do. We don't cross over each other's lanes. It all just kind of goes off like clockwork. We're a well-oiled machine," says Kimberly.

Sitting in their living room, looking out at the leaf-strewn Bridgewater suburbia, the couple admits it was difficult on one level to leave their lifestyle in New York.

But, as Kevin put it, they knew then, as they do now, "we were moving on to something else that was just, if not more so, fulfilling."

One may be inclined to believe Prince might have approved.

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