The music industry can be tough to navigate especially as an artist. Trying to make a living as a creative, trying to monetize one’s art and be an artist and a business person at once; it’s definitely not easy. One artist saw a need to create a guidance and support system for her fellow creators and so she did just that. Meet J’aime Payne, founder of the Snow Lake Initiative.
J’aime grew up in the northern Ontario haven of Huntsville, and relocated to Toronto in 2013. There the singer/songwriter gained critical behind-the-scenes work experience with several high-profile creative businesses specializing in the music industry. Her ventures have included television commercial work, successful applications for provincial grants (grossing more than $500K), business management for some of Canada’s multi-million dollar export artists and a cherished stint with CIRAA (The Canadian Independent Recording Artists’ Association) as their Director of Member Services before the association sadly dissolved in 2016.
In 2018, J’aime returned to Huntsville and officially founded her dream company: The Snow Lake Initiative. Artists can become members of the initiative at no cost, and its goal is to help support and guide them through the music industry, giving them the chance to be artists while still navigating the business side of music. They then gain access to micro-funding, mentorship opportunities (with the likes of Tao-Ming Lau of Blue Crane Agency), as well as unique programming for Canadian artists of all disciplines.
We got the chance to chat with J’aime about her journey through music and what inspired her to start the Snow Lake Initiative.
What is your official title? Do you have one?
Fellow artist and founder of The Snow Lake Initiative.
How did you get into your current line of work?
When I first left my small town of Huntsville, Ontario (although regarded by some as The Hamptons of the north, the area is really called “Muskoka”) I moved to Toronto and started an internship at a music company that tested my patience with packaging CDs. Two days into my internship, I kindly (yet firmly) requested another duty that would pass the time (and still guarantee me the life-time discount that was on the table for interns.) It was at that time I was introduced to the Executive Director of a not-for-profit called The Canadian Independent Recording Artists’ Association (CIRAA). In exchange for my free labour, I was introduced to the art of writing grants and eventually I moved into the position of Director of Member Services after we secured a grant for my employment at CIRAA. I helped run their esteemed Mentorship Program that toted many all-star mentors including Feist, Hannah Georgas, Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother, Jeremy Widerman of Monster Truck and many more. Helping run this program changed my life. I got to watch the stars align for artists just like me, and I fell in love with the feeling of having shivers for someone else’s success.
When CIRAA dissolved in 2016, I searched for that feeling. When I couldn’t find it, I created it.
Did you go to school/get training for your dream job?
I attended Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario with the intention of becoming a neuropsychologist as a side-gig alongside a full-time songwriting career. Mental health was always of great interest to me, but I was also extremely passionate about songwriting and music and when it dawned on me that I would be sitting on over 30K in debt for school, for what I still considered to be a back-up plan (after having already self-released two albums at that time), I completed my first year and moved to Toronto to immerse myself in arts and culture that I was unable to tap into in Huntsville or Peterborough.
In 2014, I released my single “Figure It Out” (#1 on the Fresh Five Countdown on The Verge/SiriusXM, October 25, 2014), which was recorded and produced in Toronto by Dane Hartsell (21 Music/Universal Music Canada) and was accompanied by a self-directed MuchFACT video produced by KnightVision Media.
After my stint at CIRAA, I took a year off after receiving FACTOR funding for a full-length record, which I managed to completely botch through poor project management and a complete dissolution of my “team.” I released the record, licked my wounds and enrolled in a private career college to attain my computerized accounting diploma, as it was now painfully clear that budgeting was going to be an extremely important aspect of moving forward in the arts. That diploma landed me a job at a reputable business management and accounting firm in Toronto working with some of Canada’s most successful export music artists. Unfortunately, I felt my creativity and confidence fading under the fluorescent lights of office life and despite being a part of a team that was technically still helping other artists, the only shivers I felt were from the cold weather. In January 2018, I temporarily moved to the tiny island of SABA in the Caribbean (best known for being a location in the original King Kong film) and took four months to decompress and ultimately design my dream company. When I returned to Canada, I packed my stuff, left Toronto and returned to Muskoka to launch The Snow Lake Initiative.
What was your most hated job?
Serving. Which I did for exactly five weeks in Toronto. As a generally happy person, when my manager told me I needed to ‘smile more’, I smiled my way right out the door.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t doing this, that means I wouldn’t have released myself from the expectations that I had placed on myself for what “success” was going to look like for me. I wonder, had I not removed myself from treading water (financially and career wise) in Toronto and “un-packed” the last ten years, reflected on how I was spending my time and where my joy was being stored, would anything have changed? It’s likely I would have stayed at the business management company and worked my way up to some sort of manager position. Had that been the case, I like to imagine that I would have bought every employee a S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) lamp and beautiful plants for their desks.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to find their dream job but hasn’t yet?
If you are looking for your dream job – I would urge ‘reflection.’ I don’t think a two-week vacation is enough time for you to really assess how you feel about the life you are building. It took me seven weeks away from the life I had built, for me to put my shoulders down and realize I had nowhere to be. No one to impress. If you haven’t found your dream job yet, I think the first step is attempting to gain a better understanding of your own patterns, as it is often these patterns that land us in our not-dream jobs. What specifically is keeping you from making a change?
Some people have dream jobs, others have dream companies. The idea, in the end, is to forge your path, however it must look for you. Keep up with J’aime through her website and socials below!