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Please hold for great Alberta music

How one reporter’s tweet changed ATB’s client hold music lineup for the better

By Angelique Rodrigues 11 August 2021 3 min read

A photo of a black man speaking on a smartphone while he smiles.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted almost every sector globally, but it hit the music industry particularly hard.

Without revenue from live music gigs or physical sales, and further impacted by reductions in advertising, Albertan artists felt the effects more than most.

What followed was a collective effort to support the industry across the province. And amid the fundraising and government grants, ATB’s Branch for Arts + Culture proudly partnered with Creatives Empowered and the National Music Centre (NMC) to host live-streamed events and support a scaled back festival season.

In April 2021, with a little help from a local reporter, we found a new way to support Albertan artists during the pandemic, and beyond.

Globe & Mail feature writer Jana Pruden was on hold with ATB, happily jamming to our president and CEO Curtis Stange’s curated playlist and live-tweeting jokes about his delightfully eclectic taste, when she had an epiphany.

“I was bored on hold and just started riffing on his playlist on Twitter,” said Pruden, who publicly thanked/blamed our CEO directly for getting Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” firmly stuck in her head. “I was just joking but I did think ‘why do we have a country song from down south? These songs should be from Alberta.’”

So, when Stange responded to her tweet—to apologize for the toe-tapping earworm—Pruden had a brilliant proposal ready for him.

“Well now that I have you here, I really have to put in a plug for an ‘Alberta music’ hold option,” she tweeted. “We could have the most amazing playlist together in about 5 minutes.”

Stange’s immediate response was unexpected, though as Pruden later explained, unsurprising.

“I love the idea. Can you DM me some suggestions and I'll get the folks in our client care team to look into it?” he tweeted.

“I would not have expected the CEO of any other bank to respond,” she said. “So I was pleasantly surprised, but it’s also in keeping with what I know about ATB—[that it] does a lot for Alberta businesses and artists.”

Pruden got to work curating an epic Alberta music playlist, digging deep for old classics and tapping friends and CKUA contacts for up and coming local artists to feature. What emerged was a diverse song list from 24 Albertan artists, which hit Stange’s inbox the following week.

“It made perfect sense on our end. We already have multiple options for client care music, and an all-Albertan playlist offered a great opportunity to support local artists during a challenging time,” said Stange, adding the playlist not only offers the artists exposure but it’s subject to SOCAN royalties.

The official All-Alberta Playlist currently rotates through 10 songs from Pruden’s list and the client care team plans to update it bi-annually.

“We’re proud to offer the playlist, but we know it’s just a sample of the exceptional talent in our province,” said Stange. “We’d love for the Alberta playlist to be a living showcase, updated regularly to include emerging artists each year.”

Pruden was thrilled to hear the playlist will eventually benefit even more local musicians. And while she celebrated, we thought it wise to probe her brilliant mind for any additional on-hold audio ideas.

Naturally, she came through.

“What about a bunch of little, short stories written by local authors?” she blurted immediately, citing a grassroots effort by Edmonton writer Jason Lee Norman to print short stories on coffee sleeves as her inspiration for the idea. “Personally, I’d choose stories every time and I just think there’s so much talent in Alberta that could benefit.”

Luckily, we know the ATB team member who might be able to make it happen.

We’re on hold with their office, but the music’s pretty good so we’ll hang on and keep you posted.

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