Music industry trailblazer Elaine Bomberry says more investment in artists needed

Elaine Bomberry is a trailblazer in the music industry.

For the past three decades, she has produced award winning shows like Rez Bluez on APTN, and managed Juno award winning artists.

Bomberry also helped co-create a Juno award category solely for Indigenous artists.

But at the start of her career, there were very few Indigenous people working behind the scenes in the music industry.

“Sometimes you’re wondering, do I really fit in this? Do we belong here? There was really no space for Indigenous music within the larger music industry,” says Bomberry. “So, it was with people like Buffy Sainte Marie, breaking down those doors and recording and Shingoose, Tom Jackson, they all really, really kicked that door wide open.

“So, it was an honour, once they opened the door to be coming behind them and helping other artists as well.”

Bomberry, who is Anishinaabe and Cayuga from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, had her career come full circle in 2018.

During her Juno award acceptance speech for Indigenous Music Album of the Year, Buffy Sainte-Marie dedicated the award to Bomberry.

“I was at a friend’s house in north Vancouver and we’re all playing music, not me but everyone’s playing music and having a good old time and my phone started buzzing off the wall,” says Bomberry who was “absolutely floored” to hear from friends what Sainte-Marie had just done.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was like is this for real? Because we started the category all those years before, 25 years before,” says Bomberry who says she started crying upon hearing the news.

Bomberry and her husband, Juno award winning Mohawk blues piano man Murray Porter, now call Vancouver home.

She has been Porter’s manager for the past 14 years, but has worked with him since 1990.

Bomberry recently started writing lyrics and had her first song featured on Porter’s latest album.

A recent national Indigenous music impact study conducted for APTN found the community is thriving, employing thousands of people.

Bomberry says a study like this is long overdue and hopes the findings help keep the momentum going.

“I would like to see more of our community, our business leaders, our successful business leaders to contribute the artists, the independent artists because there’s so many. Hardly anybody is signed to a label now, like what’s a label?” says Bomberry.

“If you’re not successful with a government grant, it kind of kicks you in the stomach.”

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