Blue Ant partners with Polaris Music Prize

Toronto media company to expand content around the annual event

Blue Ant Media has a new star property in its midst.

The Toronto media company has announced a new five-year partnership with the Polaris Music Prize that will see it provide the annual awards ceremony with operational support including marketing, production and sales representation for sponsorship and integration opportunities.

The deal will also see Blue Ant’s flagship music and culture brand Aux develop “enhanced content,” including custom editorial, digital video and live streaming of the September event. Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed, with Blue Ant CEO Raja Khanna saying only that it is “priceless.”

It builds on an existing relationship between Blue Ant and the Polaris Music Prize that saw Aux live-stream the 2013 event. Approximately 80,000 people live-streamed that event according to Polaris founder and executive director Steve Jordan.

Jordan said that the event had previously partnered with media brands including Bell and Rogers on a series of “one-offs” to broadcast the show, but no long-term agreements were ever finalized. Jordan said the deal appealed to him because Blue Ant pledged to have no involvement in the awards.

“There’s no imposition, or any kind of restrictions on how Polaris operates the award itself, and that was very important to us,” said Jordan. “It’s doubtful we would have been talking in the first place if [Khanna] and the team hadn’t been so adamant that they didn’t want to touch that.”

Khanna said that the deal further strengthens Aux’s burgeoning reputation as one of the country’s premiere music media brands, particularly as specialty services like Bell Media’s Much have retreated from their music origins, adopting more of a lifestyle-based approach.

“I believe there’s a gap in the Canadian marketplace for a great music-focused media company,” he said. “We wanted Aux to grow into that brand for television, online, tablet magazine and, more recently, live events.

“The minute we had the idea to do live events we realized that the Polaris is the most respected event in our category and our goal was to move them into working with us.”

Among the new content plays stemming from the deal are the “Polaris Cover Video Series,” where Polaris-nominated artists cover their counterparts’ songs. So far, the project has seen Whitehorse cover The New Pornographers, Sarah Harmer cover Caribou and Great Lake Swimmers cover Harmer. The videos will be released in the next week or so, said Jordan.

Polaris also plans to release limited seven-inch vinyl editions of the covers for Record Store Day in 2014. “As much as Polaris is a ‘competition,’ it’s about bringing a community together, and picking a winner on Sept. 22 is merely the hook to get people into all the music we recognize,” said Jordan.

Khanna says that the additional content will lead to greater engagement opportunities for music fans, while building Aux’s relationship with Canadian artists. Khanna said that the company has already inked several Polaris-related marketing partnerships, but declined to name specific partners.

Previous sponsors have included SiriusXM Canada, The Ontario Music Fund and Slaight Music, but Khanna said that other consumer brands have also expressed their interest.

Jordan said that the partnership will provide Polaris, which launched in 2006, with the resources to expand from a seasonal event to a “year-round celebration” of Canada’s most vital music.

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