Bernie Finkelstein

Purchase Bernie's Autobiography here


February 8, 2016

Bernie Finkelstein launching new book in Trenton

QUINTE WEST - Long considered a pioneer in the Canadian music business, as well as a producer, manager, entrepreneur and author, Bernie Finkelstein will host the paperback launch of his book, ‘True North’ at the Old Church Theatre on March 12 at 7 p.m.

Founder of the record label True North, Finkelstein will speak to the audience following a rare presentation of an early CBC ‘Man Alive’ show with host Roy Bonisteel.

Thanks to Finkelstein’s influence, this 1971 broadcast featured a youthful Bruce Cockburn, arguably Finkelstein’s most famous client, as well as Canadian bands Perth County Conspiracy and Ocean.

‘Man Alive’ was touted in its day of being at the cultural cutting edge of Canadian attitudes toward spirituality and was the first to broadcast interviews which mainstream TV considered too risky. 

“We are delighted to have Bernie come here. I’ve seen him speak before. He was absolutely terrific and I’m looking forward to having him speak at the Old Church Theatre,” said Lesley Bonisteel, owner of the Old Church Theatre.

Finkelstein is often credited with helping to create the concept of Canadian content for music, and then defining it for the rest of the world. 

The trade paperback version of True North will be available at the venue. Finkelstein will sign copies as well as open the floor to a Q & A. 

Finkelstein has been one of the leading figures in both the Canadian and worldwide music industry for over 45 years.

He began his career managing two of Canada’s earliest internationally known groups, The Paupers and Kensington Market. Later he handled management for Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Dan Hill, Barney Bentall, Stephen Fearing and Blackie & The Rodeo Kings.  Currently he continues to manage Cockburn.

In 1969, Finkelstein founded True North Records, Canada’s oldest and one of it’s largest independent record companies.

Over the years the label has released recordings by Cockburn, McLauchlan, Stephen Fearing, Carole Pope & Rough Trade, Randy Bachman, The Rheostatics, Lynn Miles, Lenny Breau, 54-40, Moxy Fruvous, Lighthouse and Lorraine Segato, to name only a few. 

With more than 500 releases, 40 Juno Awards and 40 gold and platinum records to its credit, True North is a Canadian success story.  

In 2007 Finkelstein sold True North and began to wind down his management and publishing activities.

Prior to its sale, True North had licensing ventures with UK-based Cooking Vinyl, Denver based Sci-Fidelity, New York-based Plump Records, Los Angeles-based Fuel 2000, Boston-based Tone Cool, Vancouver’s Guitarchives and distributed recordings by many artists including The Guess Who, Shawn Colvin, Richard Thompson, Oysterband, Susan Tedeschi, Kelly Joe Phelps and the North Mississippi Allstars.

In addition, Finkelstein started The True North Publishing Group which had extensive interests in music publishing and overseeing a rich catalogue of works by song-writers including Cockburn, McLauchlan, Bentall and Rough Trade.

Other copyrights include various film and television soundtracks and covers by artists as diverse as Anne Murray, The Barenaked Ladies, Jerry Garcia, k.d. Lang, The Rankins, Maria Muldaur, Jimmy Buffett, Judy Collins, Elbow, Dan Fogelberg and The Barra MacNeils, to name a few.

Finkelstein’s no-holds barred approach to the music business and bare knuckle loyalty to his clients has earned him an unparalleled reputation in a business shaken to its roots on an almost daily basis by new technology.

A skilled and approachable raconteur, Bernie Finkelstein opens a window to the music business with his anecdotes about the players from before and during the launch of the age of Canadian content which he helped to create. 

There will be no cost for admission, but reservations are required for this unique presentation.

Contact Bonisteel at to book a seat.


April 22, 2013
Toronto Globe and Mail

National Business Book Award finalists named
Review by Deirdre McMurdy

The four finalists for this year’s $20,000 National Business Book Award were announced today: Double Double, by Douglas Hunter; Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, by Chrystia Freeland; The Power of Why, by Amanda Lang; and True North: A Life in the Music Business, by Bernie Finkelstein. PricewaterhouseCoopers and BMO Financial Group are co-sponsors of the award; The Globe and Mail is the media sponsor. The winner will be announced May 28.


True North: A Life in the Music Business
Bernie Finkelstein
(McClelland and Stewart)

Rollicking is a word that should be used very sparingly – if at all. But it happens to be the exact word that captures Bernie Finkelstein’s account of his life at the heart of Canada’s music industry.

This book is about the evolution of Canadian culture in the last half of the 20th century. It’s filled with personal anecdotes that bring that history to life and famous names that add plenty of glamour. But the largest character of all is the man telling the stories: Bernie Finkelstein.

True North is engaging from start to finish because the author is so passionate about music rather than just making money from his record company, True North Records. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who is driven by the sheer love of something other than cash, someone who doesn’t have an elaborate strategic plan for world domination underpinning every move.

That’s not to say Mr. Finkelstein isn’t all about hustling the next deal. As an army brat hanging around the pool hall or a music promoter and producer, he never stops hustling, whether it’s from a from a café payphone in Yorkville or, later, luxury office suites in Manhattan and L.A.

Of particular value is the vivid, first-hand recounting of the music scene and ambience of Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood in the 1960s and early 1970s. That’s where Mr. Finkelstein built a career as a promoter, manager and friend to Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, John Kay, Bruce Cockburn and Murray McLauchlan, Dan Hill and Carole Pope, among many others.

His deep involvement in the Canadian music business also made Mr. Finkelstein an early and effective advocate for the Canadian  content regulations that exist today. They stemmed from his fury at the unwillingness of Canadian broadcasters to use public airwaves to showcase homegrown talent.

Decades later, Mr. Finkelstein is still seething that broadcasters would blackball the music of any producers who publicly spoke out against their practices. He claims, “The threat of reprisals against anyone who would dare to speak out against the broadcasters was a real and present danger.”

After decades of booking night club acts, navigating the record industry, conducting contract negotiations with major U.S. labels, managing bands and musicians and organizing and promoting concerts, Mr. Finkelstein declares that “by 1981 there was truly a Canadian music business.”

By the time True North was sold in 2007, Mr. Finkelstein had put out 500 albums and countless singles, earned 40 gold and platinum albums and won 50 Juno Awards.

His legacy lives on at True North which continues to showcase and promote new Canadian talent and music. But there’s a pretty good chance it’s a lot less fun without him in the mix.


Posted: February 21st, 2013

Bernie Finkelstein – True North: A Life In The Music Business
by Melissa Caruso

Bernie Finkelstein True North A Life In The Music BusinessBernie Finkelstein was the Canadian army brat who initially opposed the move to Nottingham, England he and his family took when his father got relocated. Without soda and grilled cheese, Finkelstein saw it as the end of the rope. But he was living in Nottingham, home of Robin Hood, and it didn’t take long for Finkelstein to get caught up in the folklore and adhere to Hood’s policy of taking from the rich and giving to the poor—something he carried through his life. On his 13th birthday, he gets picked up by police officers after escaping Boy Scout camp just so he can play “Young Blood” by the Coasters on the jukebox at a neighboring park. The first record he buys includes “Diggin’ My Potatoes,” by Lonnie Donegan, because BBC radio has banned it. He returns to Toronto, never finishes high school and spends his time shooting pool and making loot. What may have appeared to his parents as wasted youth, turned out to be the very experiences he would need for a position in the music industry.

In the foreword, musician Murray McLauchlan compares Finkelstein to Ahmet Ertegun and Sam Phillips, “If this was the United States, Bernie would be revered in the same way…But this is Canada, after all, and we don’t do that.” Underappreciated may be true, but never warranted. He begins as manager of Canadian rockers the Paupers, getting them an MGM record deal in NYC, and an opening slot for Jefferson Airplane, the band’s first-ever NY appearance. At just 22, Finkelstein was launching the careers of Canadian musicians, but after several years in the rock scene, Finkelstein needed change, perhaps a result of constant moves with a military family. So off he went to retreat near a commune in Canada where he fell in love with folk music and the rest of his career would revolve around this genre.

A gifted writer, Finkelstein pulls the reader in by foreshadowing the relationships he forms with industry tycoons, and it’s exciting to see how such are formed. “I’ll never forget the first time I heard Dylan on the radio…Little did I know that within four years I would be in New York, forming a partnership with Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman.” Likewise, his wit compellingly colors the pages, evident as early as the author’s note where he anticipates the naysayers: “In the music game nothing ever happens on its own. There is always a team of people involved…I’m sure they all have stories to tell but this isn’t their book…get out there and write your own books.” Yet, what stands out most is his tone. Here’s a man completely, and utterly passionate about music and the artists behind it, an individual who seemed to always have taken the higher road, and because of his good-intentions, ended up on top. After CNE had both publically and ignorantly condemned one of his clients, Murray McLauchlan, Finkelstein had the chance to collect a hefty settlement in the lawsuit that was riding on CNE for defamation of character—yet opted for a public apology. When he was pushing Bruce Cockburn’s politically charged “Call It Democracy” to MTV, executives requested the Coke bottle in the video be removed because it was considered product endorsement. “Anyone who thinks putting Central American into a meat grinder and having it come out the other end as a Coke bottle is a product endorsement has some serious perception problems,” he scoffs. So, Finkelstein and Cockburn agreed, if it meant broadcasting a powerful message across the States. Many U.S. radio stations banned the song, yet Cockburn’s support continued to grow, perhaps because of the opposition he faced. As Cockburn’s manager, Finkelstein could not have been more diplomatic or fearless and these characteristics carried through in every job he took on.

No matter which hat he wears, be it owner of True North records, producer, manager, or chairman of MuchFACT (providing music videos for Canadian talent), Finkelstein seems as though the jobs were tailor-made for him – not the other way around, pretty incredible for someone who was making the rules up as he went along. His list of accolades are endless: 40 gold and platinum records, 40 Juno Awards, the Order of Canada, the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, the Estelle Klein Award for Lifetime Achievement, and was elected into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. With him, there lies an exemplary individual who has found success not so much in the circumstances surrounding him, but through his system of beliefs. Later in life when he needed a quadruple bypass and heart valve replacement, the surgeon warned him of his odds to which Finkelstein confidently replied, “In my world 85 percent odds were better than anything.” In the following paragraph, where he tells you that he has booked a 10-city tour for Bruce Cockburn—from his hospital bed on a morphine drip nonetheless—you’re not stunned, for this is his true character, a man driven by passion. By the time the conclusion rolls around it’s as though you’ve known him all along. He has never lost sight of the important things in life and for that, True North offers universal themes. Perhaps if more people like Bernie Finkelstein existed in the music industry, it wouldn’t be as cut-throat as it is, but we can only hope. Until then, thank you for True North, Finkelstein. Now someone get this man a beer.


Posted: February 20, 2013
CBC Music

Canadian music label legend Bernie Finkelstein on 50 years of folk

by Jesse Kinos-Goodin

When it comes to Canadian music, Bernie Finkelstein is a living legend.

As the founder of True North Records in 1969, he's been behind names such as Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and Dan Hill. But Finkelstein was also at the centre of the now famous folk music scene of Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood in the 1960s, which most notably saw the emergence of artists like Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell.

Having sold his True North label in 2007, the 68-year-old music entrepreneur has had some time to look back, resulting in the writing of his memoir, True North: A Life Inside The Music Business. Appropriately enough, Finkelstein is also the keynote speaker for the Folk Alliance International Festival, which kicks off today in Toronto with five days of seminars and concerts with leading folk artists from around the world. 

We recently spoke with Finkelstein over the phone from his home in Prince Edward County, Ont., about the recent folk wave, how the genre has (or hasn't) changed and what his favourite memory from the swinging '60s is. 

JK-G: Folk is huge right now, with bands like the Lumineers, Mumford & Sons and Ed Sheeran dominating the Grammys. What are your thoughts on this recent folk wave?

It reminds me of the period that I came up in, the 1960s. By the early ‘70s the pop music of the age was actually folk music, so people like Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. But only months before that they would come and play in Yorkville at the Riverboat just as singer-songwriters. To some degree, that’s kind of what’s happening now.

Although, folk is a very difficult word. You have to be careful when you use it. For a lot of people it’s only very traditional music. Woody Guthrie barely makes it into [the] gang, you know? But from a cultural point of view, folk and singer-songwriter has regained a larger foothold through these new acts like Civil Wars, Ed Sheeran, Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers. And I don’t see any falling off of the popularity of the old gang, either. I don’t think Neil Young is suffering for an audience.

JK-G: Musically, how has folk changed? Rock, rap and so many genres evolve, but what about folk?

With the fear of sounding like a cranky old man, and I will be the first to admit that what I am about to say may be my failing, as opposed to the absolute truth, but I don't think the songs that people are getting known for today are quite as good as the songs were back when. I'm not hearing anything that will last the same 40 or 50 years as Bob Dylan's "Just like a Woman," Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" or James Taylor's "Fire and Rain."

JK-G: What about sonically, though? I feel like it's one of those genres that has sounded consistent throughout its history.

That’s a very good point. The basic tools that Civil Wars and Mumford & Sons are using are exactly the same tools that were being used in the '60s, '50s and '40s even. There’s a trope to folk music. There’s a certain kind of basis upon which artists in the year 2013 are doing the same things that artists learned in 1963.

The two big evolutions I see happening in folk though. First was in the '60s when people started writing their own songs, which all of a sudden that was the thing to do when artists like Bob Dylan came around. Then the next evolution comes with folk rock, but I can't really think of one since folk rock that has any particular momentum. That’s not to say the music hasn’t gotten better or more interesting, but there’s been no real significant change. Rock has changed many more times, but then rock should change many more times. That’s what rock’s about.

JK-G: In your bio, I read that your favourite chapter to write was about Yorkville in the '60s. What's your favourite memory from that time?

In 1963, I has just gotten started. Mind you, there is no Canadian music business at this time, I'm living on Yorkville Ave. and my favourite record is Bringing it All Back Home by Bob Dylan. The album jacket, which I used to stare at all day long, had a picture of a woman wearing a red dress and she was really striking, and there's Dylan in the foreground. About 18 months later, I end up managing a band called the Paupers. We go to New York and become an overnight sensation, at least in Manhattan. So I get invited to Albert Grossman’s house, who is the manger of Bob Dylan, my hero. Now I will preface this next part by saying I was always really stoned on grass, as was everybody I knew. We were always high all the time, I think in the most pleasant way. And I knock on the door, and this woman answers, and it’s the women from the front cover of Bringing It All Back Home. She was Albert’s wife, Sally Grossman, which I didn't know anything about at the time. To me these are the amazing things that happened when I was younger and it kind of felt like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland. Just think, only 18 months before and I'm staring at this picture, and all of a sudden I'm talking to her in real life.

The Folk Alliance International Festival starts Feb. 20 in Toronto. For more information visit Bernie Finkelstein's memoir, True North: A Life in the Music Business, is available now.

Follow Jesse Kinos-Goodin on Twitter: @JesseKG


Posted: February 20, 2013
Press Release for Edmonton book signing and Global Visions Film Festival

Book Signing and Film Screening

One of the all-time greats in Canadian music recounts his life and times in the business from the 1960s to the present. Whether acting as a producer, record label owner, or manager of great singer/songwriters and bands, Bernie Finkelstein, recipient of the 2006 Juno Special Achievement Award, has played a pivotal role in bringing great Canadian music to the rest of the world.

Bernie Finkelstein has been a prominent figure in the Canadian music industry for nearly five decades. Now, a couple years after selling his beloved True North label and only recently stepping down from his role at MuchFACT, which has given out more than $63 million in grants to Grammy-winning acts like Sarah McLachlan, Nelly Furtado and Arcade Fire, Bernie is finally ready to talk. In this wildly entertaining and outspoken memoir, the producer, label owner, and artist manager opens up about his childhood, breaking into the Greenwich Village scene with The Paupers at the age of 20, discovering Bruce Cockburn, producing what might have been the "loudest band in the world," Kensington Market, managing and producing Murray McLauchlan, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, and Rough Trade, winning 40 Junos, and much more.

Canadian music business icon Bernie Finkelstein will be at Audreys Books to do a book signing.

Bernie’s book True North – A Life in the Music Business was named in December 2012 as one of the Top 100 Books of the Year by

The book signing will be part of the Global Visions Film Festival, Canada’s longest running documentary festival, which runs in Edmonton from Wednesday February 27 – Sunday March 3, 2013.

While in Edmonton Bernie’s film Bruce Cockburn - Pacing The Cage which he co-produced with director Joel Goldberg will be screening at the Global Visions Film Festival as a part of SOUND & VISIONS a special event honouring music and documentary. After the film screening Bernie will participate in a panel discussion hosted by CKUA Terry-David Mulligan.

Book signing is Saturday March 2 at 2:00pm, Audreys Books 10702 Jasper Avenue

Bruce Cockburn - Pacing The Cage screens Saturday March 2 at 7:00pm, Metro Cinema 8712 - 109st

Full information on Global Visions Film Festival SOUND & VISIONS at

I’m very excited to be in Edmonton participating in the Global Visions Film Festival and doing the book signing at Audreys is icing on the cake. I went to grade one in Edmonton many many years ago, so it’s always great to come back. I hope to meet many new people and see some of my old friends at both the store and the cinema.

-Bernie Finkelstein

In 1969, Bernie founded True North Records (now Canada’s oldest and longest running indie record label) and The Finkelstein Management Company. Since its inception, the label has sold more than 40 gold and platinum records and received more than 40 Junos. Throughout his career, Bernie has been known for nurturing and managing career artists including Murray McLauchlan, Barney Bentall, Dan Hill, and Blackie & the Rodeo Kings. Bernie is also still active as the manager of legendary Canadian artist Bruce Cockburn. In 1970 he helped found the Canadian Independent Record Production Association (CIRPA) now known as CIMA, and in 1984 he co-founded MuchFACT, a fund backed by MuchMusic and MuchMore that provides grants to Canadian artists like Arcade Fire, Sarah McLachlan, Nelly Furtado and k-os.

Bernie is a member of the Order of Canada, and an inductee of the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame.


One of Canada’s finest artists, Bruce Cockburn has enjoyed an illustrious career shaped by politics, spirituality, and musical diversity. His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and worldbeat styles while travelling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique, and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders. "My job," he explains, "is to try and trap the spirit of things in the scratches of pen on paper and the pulling of notes out of metal."

That scratching and pulling has earned Cockburn high praise as an exceptional songwriter and a revered guitarist. His songs of romance, protest, and spiritual discovery are among the best to have emerged from Canada over the last 40 years. His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, has placed him in the company of the world’s top instrumentalists. And he remains deeply respected for his activism on issues from native rights and land mines to the environment and Third World debt

For his many achievements, the Ottawa-born artist has been honoured with 12 Juno Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada. But he never rests on his laurels. "I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next," says Cockburn. "My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stop working till they drop, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings."

His commitment to growth has made Bruce Cockburn both an exemplary citizen and a legendary artist whose prized songbook will be celebrated for many years to come.

Media ContactTonia LaRiviere


 May 12, 2012
Inside Toronto

Bernie Finkelstein helped shape Canadian music
by Justin Skinner

From the tumultuous early days when Yorkville was a music hotbed through to the 2007 sale of the record label he founded, Bernie Finkelstein was not only a mainstay but a driving force in Canadian music.

Finkelstein, who splits time between his homes in North Toronto and Prince Edward County, was one of the early movers and shakers, getting into the industry at a time when there was really no organized Canadian music scene of which to speak.

He has chronicled his journey from young army brat and truant student at Downsview Collegiate to esteemed producer and manager in his recently released memoir, True North.

His book serves as one of few recountings of the early days of the Canadian music industry, an industry he helped to shape.

"Canadians are famous for having cultural amnesia," he said of his reasons for writing his book. "I sold my business in 2007 and that freed my time up to (write a memoir) on the one hand, but it also felt like the time to tell the story because I was no longer in the middle of it."

Finkelstein had no training and little experience in music apart from attending shows in Yorkville when he started managing groundbreaking Toronto acts such as the Paupers and Kensington Market. In those days, however, that was hardly an impediment.

"There really wasn't a Canadian music industry in those days," he said. "I didn't know much, but I knew as much as anyone else."

He managed his early acts to some minor success both in Canada and in the U.S. but - when partnered with other, more established producers - felt both the Paupers and Kensington Market were making what he believed to be artistic mistakes.

Not one to be kept down, Finkelstein switched gears and moved his focus from managing some of the louder bands of the era to working with folksier singer-songwriters. He began managing such luminaries as Bruce Cockburn and Murray McLauchlan, signing both to the True North label.

While those artists earned more acclaim than many of his other acts, Finkelstein's memoir demonstrates an almost fatherly pride over every act with which he worked.

"At the heart of the matter, right until the very last day when I sold (the record label), I loved every album we put out," he said.

For that reason, Finkelstein cites the breakthroughs of Cockburn's 'Wondering Where the Lions Are', McLauchlan's 'Farmer's Song' and Dan Hill's 'Sometimes When We Touch' as landmark moments but will not say they are his greatest achievements.

"There were obviously some outstanding moments," he said. "They're not necessarily the best ones, but those are big memories."

While he does not lament the transformation of Yorkville from a bohemian hotspot, he does feel the area lost much of its charm when rumours of a hepatitis outbreak in 1969 essentially cleared out many of the artists and musicians and helped paved the way for what it has become.

"To me, what it is now is just a haven for the richest people in Canada," he said. "I think it would have been better off if it had stayed the way it was."

Still, Finkelstein has never been one to look back. He credits growing up on military bases for giving him some of his resilience throughout the tough times. Though there were definitely lean years early on and some setbacks when he cut ties with the Paupers, Kensington Market and others along the way, he said his childhood was beneficial in helping him constantly move forward.

"I wasn't very dependent on hanging on to people or hanging on to things," he said. "Growing up on army bases, we were always moving and it was always chaotic."

At the height of his game - and even when he scaled back his involvement in the business in later years - Finkelstein was instrumental in changing the face of the Canadian music industry.

Decades ago, when Canadian artists were having a hard time getting airplay, he spoke out vocally in favour of the Canadian content regulations that now ensure Canadian radio stations must play music by Canadian artists.

He also helped found both the Canadian Independent Record Production Association (now the Canadian Independent Music Association) and VideoFACT (now MuchFACT). The latter of these has provided grants to countless up-and-coming Canadian artists.

Finkelstein is currently promoting his book and recently wrapped a documentary on Bruce Cockburn, dubbed Pacing the Cage. He will also join Cockburn, whose career he still manages, on a U.K. tour this summer.

When not relaxing in Prince Edward County, he enjoys spending time in midtown Toronto, where he has lived since the late 1970s.

"I've watched the area change; it's not as sleepy as it was and in some ways it's now the centre of the city," he said. "It's got everything I'm interested in in a city."

Finkelstein's memoir, True North, is currently available at book stores and online.


 May 12, 2012
The Hamilton Spectator

Bernie Finkelstein: On the records
by Graham Rockingham

Bernie Finkelstein had few skills when he started working at the El Patio coffee house in Toronto’s Yorkville back in the glory days of the mid-60s.

He learned to make a fairly good espresso and slap together a passable sandwich. At the local pool hall, he also had a reputation as a bit of a hustler.

But Finkelstein’s real gift was conversation. He was always ready to dish out some advice, especially to the local rock band that had taken up residency in the club, The Paupers, even though he didn’t know much about music.

His job was to clean the place each afternoon and accept deliveries for the evening show. He had the place to himself, except when the band members stopped by to rehearse.

And the owner gave Finkelstein strict instructions on how to deal with the band. “Never, ever feed the band.”

“Well, I did feed the band,” laughs Finkelstein, recounting the story about how he first got into the music business. “We were all the same age, just under 20. I’d make them sandwiches and listen to them. We’d spend a lot of time talking about things that would probably seem very mundane to people.

“They were broke. They had made a good record … that wasn’t really working out for them. So they’d talk about whether they should have long hair or short hair, should they get 12-string guitars or six-string guitars. Things kids and bands probably still talk about today.

“The price they had to pay for me making them sandwiches was to listen to my answers. It wasn’t long before they asked me to manage them.”

So started one of the most important careers in the Canadian music business.

Finkelstein would go on to establish one of the country’s oldest functioning independent record labels, True North Records, and help launch the careers of Murray McLauchlan, Bruce Cockburn, Dan Hill, Rough Trade, Barney Bentall, and Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, garnering more than 40 Juno awards and 40 gold and platinum records.

Finkelstein, a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and a member of the Order of Canada, sold his record label three years ago, settling down with his wife in a country farmhouse in Prince Edward County near Belleville.

For the first time in his life, Finkelstein had time on his hands, so he sat down and wrote his memoirs — True North: A Life In The Music Business, which was released recently by McCellelland & Stewart.

The 276-page book, written in Finkelstein’s easy-going and direct first-person style, brings the reader through his early years growing up in Downsview, through the record industry heyday of the ’70s and ’80s.

It recounts his successes and his perceived failures — it still pains him that Murray McLauchlan never achieved the kind of fame in the United States that he did in Canada.

True North, with a foreward by McLauchlan, is filled with interesting anecdotes that touch on almost all of Finkelstein’s more than 40 years in the business.

The most interesting segments are about Yorkville’s hippie scene, a story that has been woefully undertold so far in the history books. And, yes, there were illegal drugs involved. He’s quite upfront about that.

Finkelstein took the Paupers (led by Hamilton native and Lighthouse-founder Skip Prokop) to New York and negotiated a contract for them with a major U.S. label.

He then sold their management contract to Albert Grossman, who was handling Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin at the time, for $30,000 and took the money back to Toronto to invest in another band called Kensington Market.

Well, actually he was promised $30,000. He never collected on the whole amount.

“He only gave me $20,000,” Finkelstein confides. “He never did give me the rest. That taught me my first lesson — always get paid in cash up front.”

Both the Paupers and Kensington Market got big label record deals in America, but the bands never got the sort of attention Finkelstein felt they deserved. That taught him another valuable lesson — if you want to get things done, you’ve got to do it yourself.

So after spending some time on a hippie commune in Northern Ontario, Finkelstein formed True North Records in 1969. He chose  Cockburn, the only artist Finkelstein still manages, for True North’s first recording venture. The two have been together ever since, despite never signing a written contract.

“It just suits my mood to continue with him and I guess it suits his mood too. We have more work to do together,” he says about his close friendship with Cockburn.

“And sure enough, we just won another Juno. Bruce won his first 41 years ago. Somebody like (Hamilton rock band) the Arkells are going to have to win again in 2053 to match that.”

Another must-have book for Canadian roots’ music enthusiasts is Holger Petersen’s Talking Music. Peterson is the founder of Alberta-based independent label Stony Plain Records, home to artists such as Ian Tyson, Maria Muldaur and Duke Robillard, You may also know Peterson as host of CBC Radio’s Saturday Night Blues.

Talking Music, available through Insomniac Press, is a collection of Petersen’s interviews over the years. Some are with giants of the recording industry like Ry Cooder, Bonnie Rait, Mick Fleetwood, Bill Wyman and Eric Burdon.

But some of the most interesting are with the lesser known pioneers like pianist Jay McShann, one of the inventors of the Kansas City jump blues; delta blues artist David “Honeyboy” Edwards, who remembers the day Robert Johnson died,; Alan Lomax, who recorded many of the original blues field recordings; Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records, and discoverer of Elvis Presley; Ike Turner, who wrote Rocket ’88, considered by many to be the first rock ’n’ roll record; Mavis Staples, still America’s greatest gospel singer; Chris Barber, one of the founding fathers of British skiffle; and Rosco Gordon, who helped develop the Memphis blues sound.

905-526-3331 | @RockatTheSpec


May 3, 2012
The Canadian Jewish News

Legendary Canadian music figure looks back

by Sheldon Kirshner

TORONTO — Before his retirement, Bernie Finkelstein was a legendary figure in the Canadian music industry, a man whose contributions are still keenly felt in Canada.

Now 67, Finkelstein was a record-label owner, manager and promoter of Canadian talent. He established True North Records, managed the careers of Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and Dan Hill, among others, and co-founded MuchFact, a fund that was instrumental in launching the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Celine Dion, Great Big Sea and Arcade Fire.

Five years ago, after about 40 decades in this frenetic and challenging business, he decided to retire, feeling burned out.

“I’d been thinking of retiring for a couple of years,” he said. “I wasn’t enjoying it enough. The business was changing rapidly, and I didn’t want to relearn it.”

“There was no way I could hit the ball hard enough,” added Finkelstein, an ardent baseball fan. “I didn’t want to hang on. I saw my  due date. I found a good buyer for my business.”

Pausing in self-reflection, he murmured, “I never wake up in the morning and say, ‘I wish I hadn’t retired.’”

Retirement gave Finkelstein – a member of the Order of Canada since 2007 – an opportunity to write his memoirs, True North: A Life Inside the Music Business (McClelland & Stewart), which was officially launched last month in Toronto.

A high school dropout, he wrote the book himself, not having farmed it out to a ghost writer. Snapped up by one of Canada’s oldest publishing houses, it was fleshed out by an editor. “But I’m the author and take full responsibility for it,” he noted.

Finkelstein completed much of True North in the old country home in Ontario’s Prince Edward County he shares with his wife, Elizabeth Blomme, a former publicist and the mother of his two grown boys, Noah and Edan, both of whom have followed in their father’s footsteps.

Although he’s officially retired, he’s still gainfully employed. “Right now, I’ve got more on my plate than I can handle,” he said. ”There are always things going on.”

He no longer maintains an office at True North, one of Canada’s oldest independent labels, but he’s still its honorary chair.

Since bursting on to the scene in 1969, True North has released more than 500 recordings, 37 of which were gold and platinum releases and 40 of which won Juno Awards. Clearly, True North has played an important role. As he put it, “Our songs are woven into the cultural fabric of Canadian culture.”

By now, McLauchlan’s Down by the Henry Moore, Cockburn’s Wondering Where the Lions Are and Hill’s Sometimes When We Touch are beloved made-in-Canada standards.

Finkelstein continues to manage Cockburn’s career. “Bruce keeps me busy, but it’s not like it was when I was juggling a thousand balls in the air.”

One of the founders of the Canadian Independent Music Association, he was born in the old Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto on Aug. 12, 1944, the only son of Harold and Eve Finkelstein, who were respectively from Ottawa and Winnipeg.

Harold, a non-commissioned officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force until his retirement in 1969, was posted at bases across Canada and in Britain, forcing Finkelstein to attend 13 different schools. Before a heart ailment forced his father to take early retirement, he lived in northern Toronto, where he attended Downsview Collegiate.

Describing himself as “an air-force brat,” he had a happy childhood. But since the Finkelsteins were usually the only Jewish family  where they were stationed, Finkelstein was sometimes called upon to physically defend himself.

“There were times when I had to fight, but I don’t remember whether the fights were over my surname or my Jewish background. In places where names like Smith and McCleod were common, some people thought I had a funny name. I don’t recall being called a ‘dirty Jew,’ but it may have happened.”

Drawn to music at a tender age, Finkelstein could not get enough of it. “My parents had a record player, and I played music, everything from Elvis and Little Richard to Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. The big event of my day was turning on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand after getting home from school.”

Much to his parents’ disappointment, he left home at 17, drawn to the bohemian ambience of Toronto’s Yorkville district. And though he did not have a master plan, he gradually drifted into the business that would soon define him.

When he was 24, he landed on the cover of Saturday Night magazine in recognition of his association with two bands, The Paupers and Kensington Market.

As time went on, he discovered Cockburn, hooked up with partner Bernie Fiedler for almost a decade, managed groups like Rough Trade and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and created the Finkelstein Management Company.

In 1969, he founded True North, whose mandate was to promote Canadians. Its first release was by an unknown, Cockburn.

Finkelstein co-founded MuchFact, originally known as VideoFact, in 1984. Dedicated to assisting talented but struggling Canadian  recording artists, it was backed by MuchMusic.

MuchFact, having distributed more than $60 million in grants since its inception, has been a force for good. “We were extremely important in the development of the Canadian music business,” said Finkelstein, who left the organization in 2011 after a 26-year run.

By his reckoning, MuchFact was a factor in encouraging the federal government to introduce Canadian content rules in broadcasting. “We lobbied for it,” he said. “It was a very controversial topic in its day. Canadian broadcasters opposed it. I supported it and thought it was a great thing.”

As he looks back, Finkelstein recalls a number of key moments: The Paupers opening for Jefferson Airplane in the mid-1960s and setting off a chain reaction that changed his life; recruiting Hill to True North; steering McLauchlan to a gold single in 1972, and basking in the glory of Cockburn’s 1979 hit, Wandering Where the Lions Are.

Yet there is a dark side to the business he so loves.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” he observed. “You shouldn’t go into it to make a lot of money, though you can. It’s a very, very tough and difficult business, full of traps. You may as well take your money to a Las Vegas casino. It moves very fast and doesn’t always breed loyalty. There are safer things to do, but I fell into it.”

Finkelstein, however, did not fall through the cracks. “I did very, very well,” he acknowledged. “When I sold my company, I deposited a seven-figure check in my bank account. I’m satisfied with the results.”


April 20, 2012
Winnipeg Free Press

Bernie Finkelstein, who steered careers of Cockburn, McLauchlan, releases memoir

by Nick Patch

TORONTO – Bernie Finkelstein has been a behind-the-scenes music industry maestro for more than 40 years, steering the careers of Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and Rough Trade, while founding the Juno-winning indie imprint True North Records.

And the secret to his success? Knowing when to leave his artists alone.

“Most artists that would come up to me that might have ever said, ‘I’m just willing to do anything’ — that was the first reason that I didn’t sign them,” said Finkelstein, 67, during a recent interview in Toronto.

“I was interested in people that had a strong sense of what it was they wanted to accomplish, but needed a lot of help to get it accomplished. That’s where I fit in.”

Finkelstein looks back on his long career in the Canadian music industry in his new memoir, “True North: A Life in the Music Business.”

But truthfully, any notions of a Canadian music industry didn’t really exist when Finkelstein began wading into the fledgling folk scene in Toronto in the early 1960s.

A high-school dropout raised in a migratory military family, Finkelstein launched his first promotion agency as a teenager. While the venture was a failure in business terms, it gave Finkelstein an entry point into the astonishing music scene burgeoning in 1960s Toronto.

The downtown neighbourhood of Yorkville — now a web of luxury clothing stores, restaurants and hotels — back then offered an embarrassment of riches of a different sort. It was an edgy, bohemian neighbourhood where a series of smoky clubs offered in-the-know music fans the opportunity to hear a miraculous collection of still-developing artists, including Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, one-day Steppenwolf leader John Kay and even future funk pioneer Rick James.

Finkelstein initially took odd jobs at any club that would have him — as a dishwasher, a bouncer, whatever was needed — but didn’t wait long to involve himself into the burgeoning scene developing around him. Among his first clients were psychedelic rockers the Paupers and local rock outfit Kensington Market.

In his recollections, Finkelstein seems to have lost little of the wide-eyed enthusiasm that lifted him through those early years. But he was concerned about glorifying a period that is always recalled in glowing terms, with a healthy heap of nostalgia.

“I don’t think anyone wants this idea shoved down their throat about Yorkville, but it was such a big part of my life,” he said.

It’s easy to understand why the period looms so large for Finkelstein when sifting through his memories.

His book includes anecdotes about rubbing shoulders with a cast of now-legendary musical figures, including Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan and the late Linda McCartney (whose surname was Eastman back when she called on Finkelstein’s hotel room, two joints in hand).

In fact, that sort of casual drug use figures into many of Finkelstein’s stories. Sitting across from Finkelstein — exceedingly friendly, with a paternal greying beard and conservatively clad in a sweater — it’s a little hard to imagine the free-partying wildman depicted in his book, who once woke up with a woman on one side and a bag containing a possibly lethal amount of meth on the other.

And Finkelstein says he did struggle with how he represented that period in his life.

“But I couldn’t write about that era without writing about the drug situation,” he said.

“It wasn’t the musicians only, it was everybody — like the audience, everybody was stoned. I did my share of harder drugs. I never got addicted to anything, thank God.”

Finkelstein’s industry successes were numerous. Aside from the legacy-forming output issued by the likes of Cockburn and McLauchlan under Finkelstein’s watch, his True North Records and its accompanying publishing group garnered 40 Junos and 40 gold and platinum records. He was founder and chairman of MuchFACT — which funds videos by independent Canadian artists — for 26 years.

He also received the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award at the Junos, the Order of Canada and is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Still, when looking back on his career for the book, he joked there were as many misses as hits.

“This book’s more about failure than it is about success,” he said.

But Finkelstein doesn’t necessarily regret the creative or commercial misfires that occurred under his watch. His guiding principle in recruiting acts over the years was always to look for something a little different.

“I did not sign Murray or Bruce or Rough Trade with the idea that these are going to be … hitmakers,” he said.

“But the funny thing is, there was still a part of me that said: ‘Well, I’m going to make them hits.’

“I think my talent was hearing things that were a little left of centre … and figuring out how to get them into the centre without affecting the music.”

Photo:Aaron Vincent Elkaim


April 19, 2012 Article in Billboard magazine.


April 13, 2012

Bernie Finkelstein – True North – A Life in the Music Business
Story: Sandy Graham
Cover photo: Daniel Keebler

The name Bernie Finkelstein is synonymous with success in the music business. What most of us know is that Finkelstein is a Torontonian and a leading figure in the Canadian music business. We know he managed The Paupers from 1966–1967, Kensington Market from 1967-1969 and founded True North Records in 1969. Through 1972-1981, in partnership with Bernie Fiedler (1972-1981) he managed the careers of Ronnie Abramson, Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and Dan Hill.

We know until 2011, Bernie was the Chairman of MUCHFACT for 26 years, an organization he co-founded with Moses Znaimer in 1984 when it was known as VideoFACT. Bernie was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2006, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (CARAS) awarded Bernie the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, which is only given to "individuals who have contributed to the growth of the Canadian music industry". Bernie Finkelstein has also been the recipient of the prestigious Order of Canada in 2007.

What most of us do not know is Bernie Finkelstein lived in England with his parents (his Dad was in the Air Force so the family travelled and lived on bases) got to see Buddy Holly live, loved old rock ‘ roll songs like Stay - Maurice Willams, Cathy’s Clown - The Everly Brothers, Stagger Lee - Lloyd Price and Running Bear by Johnny Preston (we always thought Bernie was a folkie) was a bit of a pool shark as a kid, started off as a bouncer in the Yorkville clubs (as well as chief cook and bottle washer) worked for Honest Ed’s and part of his job to was to drive the mother of Ed Mirvish home at night.

Bernie Finkelstein and Bruce CockburnRead Finkelstein's autobiography, "True North: A Life Inside The Music Business", and you find out it has always been all about the music for Bernie. He cried when his parents took him to see the Elvis Presley movie ‘Love Me Tender’, not because the movie made him sad but because there was only one song in it. He loved living in England as he could share his knowledge of American rock ‘n’ roll with his schoolmates.

We also find out he started his strategic way of hustling and bustling early in his youth; acting as a ‘valet’ and charging people to park in what was a free parking lot. He became the crusader for his acts at an early age. When he first started to manage The Paupers, the band told him their equipment was being held in ‘hawk’ at Long & McQuade, with a debt of $ 100.00. Needing the band to play a gig, Bernie went to his Dad and asked him for a loan of $ 100.00 to start a new business. His Dad gave him $ 75.00 and said that was all he was going to do. Bernie then took it to Long & McQuade, where he paid $ 75.00 and got the band equipment back – his first wheeling and dealing in the business.

In December 2007, True North was acquired by an investment group led by Linus Entertainment (Finkelstein remains as chairman and long-term consultant) Finkelstein talks of walking into the bank with a cheque in the amount of seven figures. Thinking the teller would react to such a large deposit Bernie goes to the bank. “I thought for sure bells would go off and the teller would turn a spotlight on both me and my deposit. Surely the teller would demand more identification than I usually carried or at least ask me a few skill-testing questions before accepting my deposit. But none of that happened. The teller barely blinked, took the deposit, stamped it a few times, and told me to have a nice day. I said I would give it a try and that was that. I headed out into the snowstorm.”

This book is how Bernie Finkelstein got to the bank. When asked if life slowed down for Bernie Finkelstein since he sold his label, True North Records, “Let’s put it this way: before, I had a million balls in the air, and now I have 10 or 15.”

True North Book coverBernie Finkelstein’s latest ‘gift’ to the music business is the release of his book, ‘True North – A Life in the Music Business’. Sitting down to read it for a Cashbox review, I had no idea what to expect, but it is a great read. Finkelstein gets you involved in his life, tells some great stories, brings his vulnerability and incredible music business intuition to the pages of memoirs.

The foreword is written by singer/songwriter, True North Label artist and long-time friend Murray Mclauchlan. “This is self-penned autobiography so it is up to Bernie to tell his own story in his own way. But in spite of his fearsome reputation for planting himself in other people’s offices and hectoring them until he gets what he wants, he has always been better at blowing other people’s horns than his own. Compliments will leave him speechless.” There is so much more to say about this great literary journey of not just the True North man, who not only got this little label up and running, but built it into one of the most progressive independent labels in the world. “Bernie was a champion; a guy who stuck up for you.”

After decades in the business, Bernie Finkelstein still has ‘it’, now as an author of a great book, and a legacy to his long and colourful career. ‘True North – A Life in the Music Business’ is published by McClelland and Stewart Ltd. and is available as of Tuesday, April 17, 2012 and will be available in all major outlets.

Editor’s Note: Finklestein remains on the Board of Directors for CIMA, and continues to run Finkelstein Management Company with his son Noah, still guiding the career of long-time artist and friend, Bruce Cockburn.

Bernie & Bruce

Photo: D. Keebler

Bernie at his office

The Paupers


April 11, 2012
New Canadian Music

Finkelstein, A Life In the Music Business

by David Farrell

True North, A Life In the Music Business, the autobiographical life and times of Bernie Finkelstein and his emblematic True North Records -- home to an iconic roster of signature Canadian acts that included Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, and Carole Pope and Kevin Staples’ sin-sational Rough Trade -- is a must read for anyone with a passing interest in Canada’s music scene. This is a book that offers a wild romp through a half-century of cultural music history; recounted with clarity, brevity, affection, measured opinion, and delivered largely free of the sodden hyperbole that often undermine autobiographical ‘insider’ accounts.

“True North” is also the best written and accurate account to date about the era that spawned Yorkville’s fertile music explosion, the revolution that created Canada’s modern day music industry—and what it takes to succeed in a business that turned many high-school dropouts into millionaires, a few into billionaires--and continues to mirthlessly fleece empire-building corporate titans.

Finkelstein’s story starts in 1944 as an air force brat born in Toronto’s old Mount Sinai Hospital, on Yorkville Avenue-- the first of many serendipitous events in the story line of a character who’s name said everything in a city controlled by WASPs to the degree where even Catholics were viewed as outsiders by the then Protestant elite. The fact that Finkelstein’s physical presence bore more resemblance to Popeye’s nemesis, Bluto, likely didn't help. Finkelstein was no Johnny Depp by any stretch of imagination, but he was a maverick, had the chutzpah in spades and, more important, had an unwavering inner-compass that repeatedly turned adversity into field goals. He was, and is, an exception to every rule extant.

Chapters one through seven take us through the early years and becoming an ‘insider’ in Yorkville’s outcast society, Toronto’s equal to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury-East Village and New York’s Greenwich Village. From here, Finekelstein’s roller-coaster ride begins and it is a spellbinding read that underscores the adage that truth is stranger than fiction.

This fast-paced book takes us through the early years of the Village, the bohemian coffee houses, the zany characters populating the cafe society, and the formative years when Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, the Paupers, Adam Mitchell and a dozen and more began their beguines. These chapters capture the early ’60s: As a booking agent, his musical romance with the Paupers, later the Kensington Market, and as a 20-something year-old making bold moves and having the brass to fly to New York and negotiate contracts with men who would ultimately become legends in their own time.

Having climbed the foothills, becoming disenchanted with the business, the culture, the inevitable disappointments, and facing the  aftermath in having ingested or inhaled copious drugs, a reality check was in order.

Before this happened, Finklelstein dismissed an opportunity of partnering with Albert Grossman in a management company; Grossman then managing a young Bob Dylan, Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, and a beautiful young Janis Joplin whose star was just starting to ascend. In a few brief years he had met Dylan, hob-knobbed with the Jefferson Airplane, and rubbed shoulders with a cast of soon-to-be superstars. Rather than embrace opportunity, Finkelstein instead retreated to a rustic farm near Algonquin Park in Ontario.

Having had time to reflect back on his fast-paced introduction to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, he hitch-hiked back to Yorkville with his mind clear, feeling wiser for having signed marquee Toronto acts, the Paupers and the Kensington Market, to major record deals in the U.S. and was now determined to become the master of his own destiny. This meant creating True North Records, affiliated music publishing firms and a management company. He was a fast read of the business and had realized that owning his own masters, and having control over all aspects of an artist’s career gave him independance and leverage in any further contractual dealings with the major labels.

Negotiating who produced the artists he worked with, and all other creative decisions, was not in his DNA. Finkelstein was passionate and absolute about artistic control. It was to be the hallmark of his career: Assign the creative to the artists, and let him be the agent to deliver their wishes, whatever the cost!

Finkelstein’s story takes us through umpteen serendipitous occurrences where his hubris connects with strands that remained connected throughout his colourful career. By example, taking Murray McLauchlan on tour and connecting with burgeoning rock star Neil Young whose road manager at the time was Irving Azoff. Azoff was to become the most powerful powerbroker in the music industry bar none. An innocuous conversation with Canadian A&R director John Williams led to a career deal for True North with CBS Records, and introduced Finkelstein to Walter Yetknikoff, Jimmie and Donnie Ienner, and Ron Alexenburg-- each one of whom would prove to be powerful levers in the career paths of Cockburn and McLauchlan in America and beyond.

The pages turn as easily as Finkelstein apparently straddles successes, crises, achievements--and the relationships he forges along the way amount to a who’s who of the North American music industry. As this pathfinder builds his roster and crowns achievements, the investments constantly dog the rewards achieved, but if the measure of a man is his girth, Bernie’s girth becomes considerable—and his appreciation for life shifts from greasy spoon to gourmet. To his credit, the imbued appreciation for the artistry of his signings is gilt-edged. If anything, this book exudes a pride and respect for the acts that he managed, and the creative endeavours they produced. To back his unfailing belief is a catalogue of recordings that were edgy, innovative, and never manufactured to pander to commercial interests. True North nurtured an iconoclastic stable of artists that seemingly took a dismissive approach to commercial success, and delivered a body of work that transcends momentary fancifulness.

McLauchlan’s initial quartet of albums, and short-lived era with the Silver Tractors, produced a catalogue of songs that sound as vibrant today as when they were first released, and Cockburn’s politically charged arsenal of songs rings even more true today. As for Rough Trade, what seemed outrageous then may seem tame today, but there is no denying in the day Rough Trade cleared a path for others to follow. These were not poppycock Justin Bieber artists. Finkelstein, by choice or design, always chose the path of most resistance and, over the course of a half-century, changed attitudes, forged careers, created optimism, and made the impossible become possible for the artists he worked with and for.

Between the pages, umpteen outrageous stories are told. Many implausible if not for his cataloguing the facts. And then there is the back story about how the west was won-- in this case, how an indifferent Canadian media fought to keep Bernie and his kind at the back of the bus. The acrimonious battle forcing media to promulgate Canada’s ‘culture’ continues to leave a bitter taste on each side of the watermark. More often than not, Bernie was on the winning side.

The usual suspects end up playing John Wayne: Walt Grealis, Stan Klees, RPM magazine, Pierre Juneau and, to some degree, Pierre Trudeau. In fact, Bernie walked into the sunset having sold his company for seven figures, his artists benefitting handsomely from legislated airplay, and Canadian radio broadcasters forced into paying the piper.

The book wraps circa 2005 after Bernie was admitted to Mount Sinai, the hospital he was born in 61 years earlier and long relocated from Yorkville to University Avenue. A life in the fast lane and a bruising lifestyle kept him on his back for two months and resulted in him having a quadruple bypass and a heart valve replacement. Finkelstein emerged a much slimmer man, but even having almost faced death the mischievous sparkle that had always seemed to dance in his eyes remained. Back home, he traded in his oversized jeans and shapeless t-shirts for a new Savile Row look, and a new lifestyle.

Bernie’s legacy is having been at the forefront of an industry in Canada when media were as disengaged from the culture as the culture was disengaged from the WASPs running them. I don’t think much has changed, except musicians may have become more disengaged from the notion that Canadian radio and TV are the be all and end all in building their careers. Federal, provincial and private broadcast grants have increased immensely and yet, after decades of subsidies and government intervention, the music industry still cries poor.

The book offers optimism and hope, and yet some might question if much has changed.

Has Canada’s culture become so reliant on intervention that it can’t support itself without government subsidies?

Bernie set the bar, both with his record label and this book. He commands respect for having succeeded in both endeavours.

True North: A Life In the Music Business by Bernie Finkelstein, McClelland & Stewart, illustrated hardcover, 294 pages, $32.99.


April 10, 2012

Finkelstein’s Life Inside the Music Business highlights PEC Authors’ Festival

Bernie Finkelstein, one of the all-time greats in Canadian music, will launch a memoir of his life in the business during this week’s Prince Edward County Author’s Festival.

As a producer, record label owner and manager of great singer/songwriters and bands, Finkelstein has played a pivotal role in bringing great Canadian music to the rest of the world.

However, he opens his book ‘True North (A Life in the Music Business)’ explaining that it is not a history of the Canadian music business.
“It’s my story, the world of music through my eyes and experiences,” Finkelstein says.

He wrote his book over the past few years from his farm house in Ameliasburgh. How the Toronto resident landed here in the County was purely happenstance.

“We were visiting my wife’s family near Kingston,” Finkelstein recounts. “We had always wanted a country home and that day we happened to take the ferry back and drove through Picton. We had never been here before but ended up stopping at the Royal LePage office… and for the last four years, we have been living in the farm house.”

“I have to say I’m enamoured with all the wine here in Prince Edward County, so it’s fitting that Richard Johnston, owner of By Chadsey’s Cairns, will interview me at the Author’s Festival event Friday night (April 13).”

Enhancing his memories from more than five decades in the business are many photographs from his own archive.

“The cover picture is of me receiving Murray McLauchlan’s first gold album – Boulevard. We were having a swell old time,” he laughs. “My first choice for the cover was way more conservative, but I was thrilled they offered that photo as one to choose from. It is perfect.”

A couple years after selling his beloved True North record label, and just recently stepping down from his role at MuchFACT, (which provided more than $63 million in grants for videos by Grammy-winning acts such as Sarah McLachlan, Nelly Furtado and Arcade Fire), Finkelstein was ready to tell his stories.

He opens up about his childhood, breaking into the Greenwich Village scene with The Paupers at the age of 20, discovering Bruce Cockburn, producing what might have been the “loudest band in the world,” Kensington Market, managing and producing Murray McLauchlan, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, and Rough Trade, winning 40 Junos, and much more.

“It was for the joy of writing,” said Finkelstein. “It’s not a book where I dish on anybody, but you could read the book very carefully and add two and two together to come to your own conclusions.”

Bernie is still active as the manager of legendary Canadian artist Bruce Cockburn.

“We just have this easy going thing. We never had a contract. We haven’t been doing much lately. He just had a new baby at the age of 66 so he may be begging me to do some work in about six months or so,” Finkelstein laughs.

“We made 10 albums before he got his first hit. The tendency today is to be famous immediately then anonymous for 10 years… It’s so easy to make records now. It used to be a mystery. You used to need money, studios and hi-fidelity was really important. People would spend $50,000, $100,000 or even a million dollars and now, people can make a record in their basement for a few thousand dollars. It’s a transfer of power to the artist, not a bad thing, just different. People used to rely on people like me, now artists do it themselves or hire on a contract basis.”

He wrote of successes and failures, but doesn’t specifically identify them as such.

“The book,” he says, “is more about the journey than it is about any goal.”

One of the highlights for him, was writing about life in the 60s.
“I lived in Yorkville and was pretty stoned all of the time. I don’t know if I was enamoured with the era or enamoured with my youth,  but the 60s was like an entire flip-over of the culture, something we haven’t seen since. Everything changed in the 60s. I enjoyed writing that part of the book, it was an opportunity to re look at it.”

Finkelstein also talks fondly of the late Walt Greslis who, with Stan Lees, co-founded Canada’s national music honours, the Juno Awards. In 2006 Finkelstein received the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award at the awards ceremony in Halifax. This is the highest honour given to a non-musician by the music industry. He received the Order of Canada in 2007.

What music does a music industry man listen to while writing?

“Jazz. Jazz with no lyrics because as soon as I hear somebody singing, I want to hear what they’re saying, so I enhanced my jazz  collection.”

Meet Bernie Finkelstein Friday, April 13 at 8 p.m. at Books & Company. (no charge event) Mix & Mingle Cocktail Hour from 7-8 p.m. is $10.

True North by Bernie Finkelstein
Hardcover | 302 pages | McClelland & Stewart | 978-0-7710-4793-0| $32.99 | Biography & Autobiography.


January 18, 2011
Winnipeg Free Press

Bernie Finkelstein resigns as chair of music-funding organization MuchFACT

TORONTO - Bernie Finkelstein is resigning as chair of MuchFACT after more than 26 years in the position.

The music manager co-founded MuchFACT — which funds videos by independent artists — with former Much honcho Moses Znaimer in 1984, when it was called VideoFACT.

MuchMusic parent company CTV said in a release that Finkelstein's successor would be named soon.

MuchMusic recently campaigned the CRTC for a series of changes to its licence, including one that would allow the network to cut its funding obligations to MuchFACT in half.

That change and others were rejected, but MuchMusic has pledged to continue seeking the same alterations to its licence.

Finkelstein, a Toronto native, is a member of the Order of Canada and has been inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of  Fame.

He founded True North Records and his own management company in 1969 and he's steered the careers of Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Barney Bentall and Dan Hill.

"I do this with some sadness, as MuchFACT, which I have chaired since its inception, is an organization that I care deeply about," Finkelstein said in a release. "But I feel that the time has come for me to move on."

"I do want to convey my great appreciation for the wonderful support and confidence that CTV and its predecessors have shown both MuchFACT and me these past 26 years and for that I am extremely grateful."


January 18, 2011
Broadcaster Magazine

CTV MuchFACT's Finkelstein to Retire

CTV's MuchFACT recognizes and extends its appreciation to Bernie Finkelstein for his 26 years of service to Canadian musicians. Earlier today, the legendary Canadian music industry figure and co-founder of MuchFACT announced his retirement as Chairman of the foundation. 

In 1984, Bernie co-founded the groundbreaking VideoFACT fund (now called MuchFACT) with Moses Znamier to launch in tandem with MuchMusic, Canada's specialty channel dedicated to music. The fund gave grants to independent Canadian artists to create music videos, and later websites and electronic press kits. Because of MuchFACT, more than 63 million dollars has assisted Canadian artists with more than 5,200 projects. These artists include: Alexisonfire, Arcade Fire, Barenaked Ladies, Broken Social Scene, Dragonette, Great Big Sea, Jully Black, Kardinall Offishall, k-os, Metric, Nelly Furtado, Sam Roberts, Sarah McLachlan, Toyko Police Club, Wintersleep, and many more.

"Without a doubt, Bernie has been instrumental in the advancement of Canadian music and Canadian musicians," said Brad Schwartz, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Much MTV Group, CTV Inc. "He is a legend. He is someone that I deeply admire and have learned a great deal from over the years. I would like to thank Bernie for his dedication to the Canadian music industry and for helping MuchMusic become the cultural icon that it is today."

A proud Torontonian, Bernie has been a prominent figure in the Canadian music industry for an amazing 40 years. He is a member of the Order of Canada and has been inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. In 1969, Bernie founded True North Records and The Finkelstein Management Company. Since its inception, the music label has sold more than 40 gold and platinum records and received more than 40 Juno Awards. True North Records is Canada's oldest and longest running independent record label. Throughout his distinguished career, Bernie has been known for nurturing and managing career artists including Murray McLauchlan, Barney Bentall, Dan Hill, and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. Bernie is also still active as the manager of legendary Canadian artist Bruce Cockburn.

A new chair of MuchFACT will be named in the near future.


June 2010

The Bathouse Studio
Bath, Ontario

2010-06-26 12.36.56X

Bernie at the recording sessions for Small Source of Comfort

Posted: December 22, 2009

Gravel Road Relocation Raises Troubling Questions

Canadian Music Legend Seeks Protection of Fallsbrook & Sawguin Creek Marsh

AMELIASBURGH, ONTARIO-- Area residents are challenging the relocation of a gravel access road on Gore Road near County Road 23 in Ameliasburgh, Prince Edward County. W. D. Harris Excavating Ltd. applied to the County and the Ministry of Natural Resources for permission to relocate the road earlier this year and received approval by September 2009 without providing notice to affected residents.

The residents, led by Canadian music icon Bernie Finkelstein, the founder of True North Records and long-time manager of Bruce  Cockburn, are concerned that the relocation of the road may adversely impact on Fallsbrook Creek, a significant watercourse and flood plain that traverses the Harris property and drains into the Sawguin Creek Marsh.

"The Sawguin Creek Marsh, part of which sits on the southern edge of our property, stretches well beyond our borders and into the centre of the County. It's considered one of the most significant wetlands in the province," said Mr. Finkelstein, citing the Natural Heritage League who became interested in protecting the wetland complex in 1992.

"Although a portion of the marsh sits within our property line, I know that no one can ever truly own a wetland; it's a shared natural resource. We do, however, take our responsibility as stewards of this significant natural feature seriously and we find it hard to believe that we were cut out of this process."

The proposed relocation of this commercial road will be nearly 1,400 feet closer to Fallsbrook Creek. The environmental impacts of the road's construction and use by gravel trucks on the Creek and Marsh are unclear, but neither the County nor the Ministry required W. D. Harris to assess these potential impacts prior to granting the approvals. In fact, the County accepted a sketch by W. D. Harris on its entrance permit application which characterized Fallsbrook Creek as a "drainage ditch".

The quarry, operating in the area for decades, has a long and interesting history. In the 1980's, residents successfully opposed a significant quarry expansion. In 1996, a proposal to relocate the access road next to Fallsbrook Creek was rejected. In both cases, the residents were notified by the County well in advance of any approvals being issued.

Strangely, the County appears to have revised its policy as it did not provide notice to residents about this proposed road relocation.

Elizabeth Gerrits, owner of the adjoining land, remembers previous battles. "In the past, the local community was always allowed to present its perspective on the impacts of proposed changes to the quarry, and decision-makers chose to keep the quarry and the road where they were. It is unclear why these well-considered decisions have been summarily overturned by sneaking this through without anyone in the community having a fair opportunity to speak on the issue," said Gerrits. 

"It's bizarre. I now realize that the whole process occurred out of sight and without notice to any of us. I'm stunned," said Mr. Finkelstein. Ms. Gerrits finds it unthinkable that the landscape is about to change. "For over two hundred years, the Redner family farm has been bordered by woods, streams and wetlands, not by a commercial road for gravel trucks." 

In general, an affected party's procedural fairness rights include both a right to receive notice and the opportunity to state his/her case (see Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 817). In this case, relocation of the W. D. Harris' access road and road entrance means an increase in aggregate truck traffic near residents and the watercourses, which means increased dust, noise and vibration. These nuisances may adversely impact on the quiet enjoyment of the residents' property, but they may equally compromise the integrity, features and functions of the Fallsbrook Creek, flood plain and Sawguin Creek Marsh. Given the importance of this decision to the residents, they were entitled to be notified and to make submissions to the County and the Ministry.

In granting the entrance permit, the County did not alert area residents. In granting an amendment to the quarry's site plan, the Ministry decided to merely post an instrument on the EBR Registry for a 30-day commenting period. Since area residents did not receive notice of this application, they were unaware of the posting and therefore unable to submit comments in time. Merely posting an instrument proposal on the EBR website without notifying affected parties does not meet the standard of notice and participation rights to which the residents are entitled.

Mr. Finkelstein and others have now retained lawyer David Donnelly, NOW Magazine's "Best Green Activist" for 2008 and recipient of Earth Day Canada's "Hometown Hero" Award. "The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has commented several times that the Aggregate Resources Act is out of date – this is one of the worst examples that I have seen of excluding the public," said Donnelly.

"We expect Prince Edward County to join Mr. Finkelstein and residents in closing this loophole and stopping the road," Donnelly added.

Mr. Finkelstein and neighbours have now joined the fight to reform the Aggregate Resources Act, including stronger public notice provisions. The group would also like to grow the greenbelt in Prince Edward County and are determined to see a Green Gravel Standard for Ontario. Prince Edward County has been discovered by developers and needs protection like the Niagara Escarpment, Holland Marsh and the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve.

Residents anticipate an Ontario Municipal Board hearing on this issue in spring of 2010.

For more information, please contact
Bernie Finkelstein
David Donnelly


December 21, 2007
The Larry LeBlanc Newsletter
Issue # 12 (December 21, 2007)

Will The Last Label Standing, Please Turn Off The Light

Financial details of the transaction aren’t being disclosed but Linus Entertainment is taking over True North Records, the Canadian label that has long evoked comparisons with such heritage American imprints as Atlantic, Elektra, Rounder, and Verve.

Under the deal announced Dec. 18, True North owner/founder Bernie Finkelstein, 63, is selling the Toronto-based label and will step down as president. He will remain, however, as chairman.

Linus Entertainment president/CEO Geoff Kulawick will take over as CEO/president of True North as well as continue to operate Mississauga-based Linus Entertainment as a separate entity.

“It’s a fantastic catalog with fantastic artists,” says Kulawick. “Combining the True North and Linus operations makes great business sense. We will run both labels out of one location and share staff resources. It gives us more trading leverage.”

“It was clear to me that I needed to make a change,” says Finkelstein. “Certainly it was difficult. True North is my baby. To wake up  thinking ‘It’s not mine anymore’ was an interesting feeling. But the time had come. It has been a wonderful trip.”

For the deal Kulawick has undisclosed financial backing from Finkelstein Ottawa-based confidante Harvey Glatt, and a private investor, Mike Pilon from Courtice, Ont. Glatt has been involved in almost every aspect of the Canadian music industry, including retail, distribution, and artist management. In 1977, he was a key force in the creation of the Ottawa FM radio station, CHEZ, with Finkelstein as a minority shareholder.

Finkelstein will continue to operate Finkelstein Management which has managed Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn since 1971 and also handles Canadian singer/songwriter Stephen Fearing, and the Canadian rock bands Hunter Valentine and the Golden Dogs.

“I’m staying in the business,” declares Finkelstein. “We’re going to put together a tight, kick-ass management company.”

Finkelstein remains chair of VideoFACT, the organization that funds videos for Canadian music artists; and he will continue to administer Cockburn's songs, published by Golden Mountain Music, which the two co-own. He has also been recently named to the board of the Radio Starmaker Fund, the private funding agency developed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

With the True North transaction, there are shifts in personnel. Mark Kozar, dir. of financial administration, and Vee Popat, national promotions manager will remain with True North; Graham Stairs, and Noah Finkelstein will move to Finkelstein Management; and office manager Tiffany Ferguson will work now at VideoFact.

Meanwhile, Sue McCallum, dir. of media relations & video promotion, and Dan Broome VP operations & administration have been left without jobs. As well, Elizabeth Blomme, dir. of publishing & licensing will retire.

True North Records is a prime example of a small, independent imprint, recognized not only for a superior artist roster but also as a brand name. Over 37 years, it has been awarded 40 Juno Awards.

Since debuting with Cockburn's self-titled first album in 1970, True North has released over 450 albums. Those include 130 of its own masters by pivotal Canadian acts such as Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Rough Trade, Barney Bentall, Gregory Hoskins, Randy Bachman, plus a current roster of Fearing, Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, Joel Kroeker, Catherine MacLellan, Hunter Valentine, the Golden Dogs, and jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti.

Ironically, in the late-80s, Finkelstein practically phased True North out to concentrate instead on his management division. In 1995, with only Cockburn and Fearing on the label’s roster, Finkelstein began reshaping True North. He switched Canadian distribution from Sony Music Entertainment (Canada), which had handled the label from its origins, to MCA (now Universal) Canada where it remains. True North also handles Canadian distribution of Cooking Vinyl, Fuel 2000, SCI Fidelity and Signature Sounds.

Kulawick formed Linus after resigning as dir. of A&R at Virgin/EMI Music Canada in 2000. He signed a pressing and distribution deal with Warner Canada in 2001, and switched to Universal Music Canada in 2004.

As dir. of A&R for six years at Virgin Music Canada, Kulawick had developed its eclectic domestic roster, which ranged from Toronto rapper Choclair to the Ontario-based Celtic family group, Leahy. In his earlier post as creative director at Warner/Chappell Music, Kulawick had signed urban acts Maestro, and Rupert Gayle; alternative rock bands the Tea Party and the Rheostatics; and Celtic rockers Spirit of the West.

To date, Linus Entertainment has released albums by jazz chanteuse Sophie Milman, the Canadian Brass, Tuuli, By Divine Right, Harpoon Missile, and Not by Choice. It has also licensed recordings by Gordon Lightfoot, Downchild, Alannah Myles, Ron Sexsmith and Ashley MacIsaac.

"I see an opportunity for an A&R driven and a small-to-medium artist development enterprise being able to develop artists and then license them internationally,” said Kulawick in 2002. “We'll build the company by being both a label and a publisher. Many (Canadian) independents aren't taking ownership. They are providing a service, really. I'm building assets, and a company with a value."

Meanwhile, Finkelstein has one more project to keep him busy.

“I’m going to take a serious kick at the can of trying to write a book,” he says. “It will be a memoir of being in the music industry since the 1960s, and being a Canadian.”

Larry was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard for 16 years.


Posted: December 20, 2007
Daniel Keebler

Very early on Tuesday, December 18, 2007, I learned that True North Records had been sold to Linus Entertainment of Mississauga, Ontario. I had talked with Bernie on December 12 and he told me there might be some big news coming out of True North in the next week… to give him a call soon. Well, sure enough, there was big news. I talked with Bernie on December 20, the last day of operation of True North Records as it has been known since 1969. 

DK: Bernie, this opens up a lot of new possibilities for you. 

BF: I hope so. That’s really one of the main reasons why I’m doing it. Time to change you know, Daniel. I’ve been doing this for a long, long time… at least 38 years with the label and 44 years including the time leading up to the label. It’s been long. I’m staying in of course. I’m absolutely very clearly still Bruce’s manager and still Bruce’s music publisher along with Bruce. So we are continuing our relationship. From that point of view it’s business as usual. The actual record label and some of the other interests that the label had, have now been sold as of Monday, December 17. 

We’re going to have a very tight, kick-ass management company. We’re staying with Stephen Fearing. We have two young bands, Hunter Valentine and Golden Dogs that we’re staying with for the time being anyway. Starting January 2, to some degree, I’ll just be walking into the same offices. There’s going to be less people. True North is moving out to Mississauga. We’re staying here in this office… that won’t change. 

To those that are specifically interested in Bruce it probably won’t seem like very much has changed at all because I’m here and it will be somewhat similar. Bruce will do another new album for True North and then we’ll see what the future brings. But we don’t know when that record is. I’m not expecting to see a record hit the stores until 2009. I’m just booking a bunch of dates in May for him after Alaska. They will all be in New England. Probably six or seven right after Alaska, including probably a date in Boston at the Somerville Theatre, probably Northampton… solo shows. 

DK: Regarding Linus Entertainment...

One of the financial backers, Harvey Glatt, is one of my older friends. He used to, many, many, many years ago, even before me; manage Bruce for a short while. I was then partners with Harvey for awhile at a couple of radio stations. Geoff Kulawick has a nice label called Linus. He’s going to run both companies somewhat separately but with the same staff, at least at the beginning. I can’t really speak to exactly what he’s going to do as time goes by. He put out Gordon Lightfoot’s last album. He’s put out a couple of Ron Sexsmith albums. He’s a good buyer. The company, True North, will move to Mississauga. I’m going to be Chair of the new company at least during a longer transitional period, so there will be lots of continuity. It’s coming at a pretty good time because we don’t have any new releases right now… not unintentionally. 

It’s one of those things that has a lot more gray area than black and white. The black and white is: I won’t own True North. But all the gray areas are that, in a way, I continue to do what’s most important to me right now, which is continuing to work with Bruce and publishing the music. To some degree it’s going to look like business as usual except I’m going to have a lot more time to think, I think. [laughter, a pause] …I think. That was what I promised myself. 

DK: Bruce is doing one more album for True North? 

BF: Yes, we’ve agreed to do one more. 

As well as that, we might record the shows that we’re doing in New England. One album we’ve never put out is a live, solo album. I know how much everybody would like to have one… I know how much I’d like to have one. We’re thinking about that [Bernie states that this idea is speculative at this point]. 

Interrupted with a phone call from one of his bands with a crisis out on the road, Bernie excuses himself and goes back to work. END

Use by permission only, please.


December 19, 2007 
The Toronto Star

Founder sells iconic record label
Bernie Finkelstein, Juno-winning founder, will stay on as chair

True North Records, the independent Canadian record label that grew from a phone booth on Yorkville Ave. to a powerhouse in domestic and international markets, has a new owner.

"I've been in the music business for 43 years and in the recording business for 38, and there's only so much time left to make changes in my life that I can dictate," Bernie Finkelstein, 63, the company founder and Canadian music industry icon, said yesterday.

He confirmed that True North – with a catalogue of some 300 albums, including classics by Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Rough Trade, Stephen Fearing, Rheostatics, Colin Linden, Lynn Miles, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and David Wiffen – will be taken over by Mississauga-based independent Linus Entertainment.

There's also financial backing from Ottawa radio station owner Harvey Glatt and a private investor, Mike Pilon from Courtice, Ont.

Linus CEO Geoff Kulawick, a former artist and repertoire manager at EMI/Virgin, will operate thetwo companies as separate entities, said Finkelstein, who underwent heart bypass surgery two years ago.

Financial details of the deal are confidential, but music industry insiders put the value of True North's catalogue and assets at between $2.5 million and $4 million.

Finkelstein will stay on as True North chair and adviser, and retains the publishing administration rights to Cockburn's songs.

A recipient of the Order of Canada and inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Finkelstein will continue to manage Cockburn, Fearing, and the rock bands Hunter Valentine and The Golden Dogs. He will also remain chair of VideoFACT, the government-financed organization that funds videos for Canadian music artists.

Finkelstein's plans also include writing a memoir of the Canadian music industry.

Linus, in operation since 2001, has a catalogue of about 50 Canadian artists, including an exclusive contract with jazz chanteuse/songwriter Sophie Milman and licensed recordings by Gordon Lightfoot, Downchild, Ron Sexsmith and Ashley MacIsaac. The new company will honour all existing True North contracts, Kulawick said.

"This is the biggest deal of my life, Bernie is a creative and energetic businessman and has always been a mentor to me."


Posted: December 18, 2007
Canadian Newswire

True North Records announces strategic investment by Canadian group led by Linus Entertainment.

TORONTO, Dec. 18 /CNW/ - Bernie Finkelstein, founder and President of True North Records, a division of High Romance Music Ltd, Canada's oldest independent record label that owns many of Canada's most historic recordings including the catalog of Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, Rough Trade as well as emerging artists Golden Dogs, Hunter Valentine and Catherine MacLellan, today announced the completion of a strategic investment by Linus Entertainment, entrepreneurs Harvey Glatt, and Mike Pilon.

Linus Entertainment is home to prominent Canadian recordings by Gordon Lightfoot, Sophie Milman, Ron Sexsmith, Alannah Myles, Quartetto Gelato, Downchild, and Ashley MacIsaac. Both companies are distributed in Canada by Universal Music.

Finkelstein, a recipient of the Order of Canada and inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, will remain with True North as Chairman and as a long term consultant, while Linus Entertainment CEO Geoff Kulawick becomes CEO of both companies, and will be responsible for day-to-day management.

Finkelstein Management and the publishing interests of Bruce Cockburn are not a part of the deal and both will continue to be operated by Mr. Finkelstein.

Said Mr. Finkelstein of the deal, "It's been a long, interesting and fulfilling road starting and building True North these past 38 years but all things must change. It's been a thrill to work with all the wonderful musicians and on all of the great records we've done together over the years but it's time for True North to have new direction and energy. I think Geoff Kulawick and his partners will bring those qualities to True North and I'm looking forward to continuing my commitment to True North as Chairman."

Said Mr. Kulawick, "The True North label, and Bernie in particular have been an inspiration to me. It is my goal to see True North continue to grow, and its great roster of artists reach even more people. The most powerful form of communication is music, and through the incredible talent of artists like Bruce Cockburn, music can influence, and change people."


True North Records began in 1969. Founded by Bernie Finkelstein as ar esponse to the lack of record companies willing to sign Canadian artists in Canada as well as the lack of understanding of things Canadian in America, True North's first signing was Bruce Cockburn. Some 29 albums later Bruce Cockburn is still signed to True North and has become one of Canada's most recognizable and respected musical acts of all time.

By 1972 True North had also signed Murray McLauchlan who along with Bruce now has the Order Of Canada and is known as one of Canada's leading

As True North grew the company opened two new divisions, one for music-publishing and one for management.

In 1979 True North signed the seminal alternative band Rough Trade who in many ways revolutionized Canada's music scene with their sexually charged political songs and inventive music and arrangements. Indeed during their active career they received a double platinum CD, a platinum CD and two gold CD's. Their song "All Touch" became an international hit reaching the charts around the world including the US and Australia.

The period between 1979 and 1985 were to become a golden period for True North with major hits from Bruce Cockburn, Dan Hill, Murray McLauchlan and Rough Trade happening during a short time. Dan Hill hit the top of the world's charts with "Sometimes When We Touch," Cockburn with "Wondering Where The Lions Are," the aforementioned Rough Trade with "High School Confidential" and "All Touch" and Murray put out his best selling CD "Whispering Rain." In 1985 True North continued to put out international hits with the release of Bruce Cockburn's "If I Had A Rocket Launcher." During this same period the company signed Graham Shaw to a management contract. Graham went on to win a Juno award in 1985 which was a particularly fruitful Juno's for True North with the company and its artists winning 5 Junos.

True North and its artists have won over 40 Junos and has 39 gold and platinum CD's as well as several International awards from countries like the US, Italy and Holland.

In 1988 True North Management signed Vancouverite Barney Bentall who went on to have 1 Platinum and 3 Gold records. Barney is now back with True North after a ten year absence with the release of his new CD "Gift Horse."

In 1995 True North moved its distribution to Universal Canada after 25 years with Sony Music Canada. At the same True North went from being an independent "licensed" label to a full line independent label with its own press and promotion people. It was also the year that True North went from exclusively releasing only Canadian artists to also releasing artists in Canada from all over the world. Its first international artist was Kelly Joe Phelps who has gone on to build a very successful career around the world including Canada. True North now distributes several foreign labels in Canada including the UK's Cooking Vinyl and Americas Fuel 2000 and Signature Sounds and has released records by such luminaries as Jethro Tull, Shawn Colvin and Richard Thompson.

However Canadian music has remained True North's first and greatest love. Since 1995 the label has released such Canadian luminaries as The Cowboy Junkies, Stephen Fearing, Randy Bachman, The Rheostatics, 54-40 and Lenny Breau. The label has also recently won Juno awards for Lynn Miles, Stephen Fearing, Zubot & Dawson, Bruce Cockburn, and Blackie & the Rodeo Kings.

Recently True North has signed two new young rock acts, The Golden Dogs and Hunter Valentine. The Golden Dogs through True North's efforts have recently signed a new recording agreement in the US with the highly thought of independent label Yep Roc. Their sophomore album "Big Eye Little Eye" was released in the US in August 2007 and has been greeted with encouraging amounts of airplay and media attention and just returned from their maiden American tour in November. Hunter Valentine who are an all female rock trio have just released their debut CD "The Impatient Romantic" and are also receiving lots of positive attention from the media.

True North most recently signed Catherine MacLennan and released her debut True North recording "Church Bell Blues."Catherine is highly original young singer-songwriter from Halifax. She is currently touring across Canada and the US.

Now Canada's oldest as well as one of its largest independent record companies True North has remained at the forefront of Canadian music and the Canadian music business for some 38 years - a remarkable achievement in an industry characterized by short term, quick meteoric rises and falls.

Bernie Finkelstein was recently honoured by Juno's where he was inducted into the Hall Of Fame and further was honoured by being inducted into the Order of Canada.


Posted: December 18, 2007
Canadian Newswire

True North Records announces strategic investment by Canadian group led by Linus Entertainment.

TORONTO, Dec. 18 /CNW/ - Bernie Finkelstein, founder and President of True North Records, a division of High Romance Music Ltd, Canada's oldest independent record label that owns many of Canada's most historic recordings including the catalog of Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Blackie & The
Rodeo Kings, Rough Trade as well as emerging artists Golden Dogs, Hunter Valentine and Catherine MacLellan, today announced the completion of a strategic investment by Linus Entertainment, entrepreneurs Harvey Glatt, and Mike Pilon.

Linus Entertainment is home to prominent Canadian recordings by Gordon Lightfoot, Sophie Milman, Ron Sexsmith, Alannah Myles, Quartetto Gelato, Downchild, and Ashley MacIsaac. Both companies are distributed in Canada by Universal Music.

Finkelstein, a recipient of the Order of Canada and inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, will remain with True North as Chairman and as a long term consultant, while Linus Entertainment CEO Geoff Kulawick becomes CEO of both companies, and will be responsible for day-to-day management.

Finkelstein Management and the publishing interests of Bruce Cockburn are not a part of the deal and both will continue to be operated by Mr. Finkelstein.

Said Mr. Finkelstein of the deal, "It's been a long, interesting and fulfilling road starting and building True North these past 38 years but all things must change. It's been a thrill to work with all the wonderful musicians and on all of the great records we've done together over the years but it's time for True North to have new direction and energy. I think Geoff Kulawick and his partners will bring those qualities to True North and I'm
looking forward to continuing my commitment to True North as Chairman."

Said Mr. Kulawick, "The True North label, and Bernie in particular have been an inspiration to me. It is my goal to see True North continue to grow, and its great roster of artists reach even more people. The most powerful form of communication is music, and through the incredible talent of artists like Bruce Cockburn, music can influence, and change people."

Posted December 18, 2007
CBC News

True North Records founder Finkelstein turns over the reins 

Pioneering Canadian indie music champion Bernard Finkelstein is stepping back from the day-to-day leadership of his landmark label, True North Records. 

Finkelstein announced Tuesday that he has made a deal with Linus Entertainment, whose head, Geoff Kulawick will now be CEO of both companies. 

However, Finkelstein will remain chairman of, and a long-term consultant for True North. 

"It's been a long, interesting and fulfilling road starting and building Truth North these past 38 years, but all things must change," Finkelstein, a member of the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, said in a statement. 

"It's time for True North to have new direction and energy." 

The deal does not include Finkelstein Management — as a top talent manager, his roster has included artists such as Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLaughlan and Dan Hill — or the publishing interests of Cockburn, who was the first artist Finkelstein signed to True North and who remains one of the label's best known artists. Both will continue to be run by Finkelstein.

The Toronto-born music executive began his career in the late 1960s as a talent manager of groups such as Kensington Market. 

In 1969, he founded True North Records as a platform to promote Canadian recording artists, whom U.S. companies were not as willing to sign to record deals. 

The company, which has since released music by the likes of Randy Bachman, 54-40, Rough Trade, the Rheostatics and Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, is now Canada's oldest independent record label.

Last year, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded Finkelstein its Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, which honours "individuals who have contributed to the growth and development of the Canadian music industry." 

In February, Governor General Michaëlle Jean invested Finkelstein as a member of the Order of Canada.


Posted: December 18, 2007
The Canadian Press

Linus Entertainment takes over legendary indie label True North Records

TORONTO - Linus Entertainment has bought True North Records, Canada's oldest independent record label.

Under the deal announced Tuesday, True North founder Bernie Finkelstein is selling the company and will step down as president but remain on as chairman and serve as a long-term consultant. Linus president and CEO Geoff Kulawick will take over as CEO and president of Toronto-based True North.

Finkelstein founded True North in 1969 and is a member of the Order of Canada.

In an interview, Finkelstein said he thought it was time for him to make a change.

"I've had 38 relatively great years," he said over the phone. "I was feeling restless, I guess, so I wanted to sort of make a change and I also just felt that there were other things that I would like to free up some time to do.

"I'm 63 now. I think that it was just time for me to move along and I think Geoff is a great buyer and a great inheritor of what we have."

Finkelstein added that he did not sell Finkelstein Management Company Ltd. or Golden Mountain Music Corp., which holds the publishing interests of Bruce Cockburn.

Cockburn was the first artist signed by True North Records. The company's recording catalogue also includes Randy Bachman, Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, Murray McLauchlan, the Rheostatics and 54-40.

True North is distributed in Canada by Universal Music.

Finkelstein said he thinks Kulawick will keep the True North name.

Kulawick founded Linus Entertainment in 2001. The Mississauga, Ont.-based company has a sound recording label, two music publishing companies and provides artist management and music supervision services.

Linus is distributed by Universal Music in Canada and Koch Entertainment in the U.S.

Financial details of the True North transaction were not disclosed.

© Daniel Keebler 1993-2023