Montrealer to sing at the Pyramids
CHAMANDY WANTS RECOGNITION Success of her debut album hasn’t measured up to marketing efforts
You probably don’t know Chantal Chamandy’s music but you might well recognize her face. The Egyptian-born Montrealer had splashy ads on the sides of buses here and in Toronto this year, part of a $500,000 marketing campaign to launch her debut album, Love Needs You. The marketing push also included TV and radio commercials.
The disc’s radio-friendly songs are solidly grounded in the Céline Dion-style adult-contemporary tradition, with a light world-music touch. The dominant language is English, but Chamandy, born in Alexandria, also sings in French – it’s her first language – Arabic, Italian and Spanish.
The CD was released by Nine- muse Entertainment, an independent label owned by Chamandy and her husband, Greg. Greg Chamandy is the cofounder and former CEO of Gildan Activewear, the Montreal-based company that dominates the North American T-shirt manufacturing market. He and three unnamed investors – one in Montreal and two in New York – bankrolled the marketing campaign for the album.
But the well-financed project has not translated into significant sales. According to Nielsen SoundScan Canada, the album has sold only 7,000 copies since its release in January, a small number given the amount of money poured into the operation.
“It’s true it hasn’t sold a huge amount of copies, but it’s still selling,” said Chantal Chamandy, in an interview last week at the downtown offices of Ninemuse. “If this album takes two years (to sell a large number of copies), at least I’ll get known as a real artist.”
Next up for her is another unusual – and pricey – promotional effort. She is leaving this week for Egypt to prepare for a concert Sept. 7 in front of the Pyramids on the Giza plateau.
She will be accompanied by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra and an Egyptian dance troupe. The show will be directed by acclaimed French live-music director Gérard Pullicino, who has worked with Dion, Madonna, Johnny Hallyday and Joe Cocker.
The behind-the-scenes team also will feature several top Quebec artists, including set designer Guy St-Amour, who worked on the Cirque du Soleil show Love, and choreographer Geneviève Dorion-Coupal, who also worked on Love and on Dion’s Unison show.
Chamandy said her husband is involved in helping to put all of the marketing together, noting “he knows how to take a small thing and make a big thing out of it.” He was the one who came up with the daring idea of taking a virtually unknown artist and plastering her face on buses in Canada’s two largest cities.
Chantal Chamandy said they were inspired in part by Angèle Dubeau, the Montreal crossover violinist who has used similar indie marketing moves to get the word out about her albums that don’t really fit the traditional classical or pop labels.
Chamandy had been out of the music biz for years prior to this marketing campaign. She had been in the Montreal pop band Voggue in the early 1980s but had not been heard from since.
It was Chantal Chamandy, not her husband, who came up with the even more novel concept of taking her single, Feels Like Love, and selling it for 99 cents in Dollarama stores in Montreal and Toronto. Even her close associates thought it was a little too wacky, but they went ahead and did it last November and the CD single ended up selling 10,000 copies to Dollarama shoppers.
Chamandy said she has little time for those who think she’s only garnering all this attention because she happens to have a rich husband. She knows only too well that one of the defining myths of the music biz is that all great musical artists have had to scrape their own way up out of tough, dirt-poor backgrounds.
“But that’s such a stupid thing,” she said. “Being poor does not make you a good artist. It’s all about the artist inside of you. I’m not from a rich family. We had no money (when I was growing up). But I’m very cultured. Even if I didn’t have any investors, I’d find a way to be out there. The bottom line is: let (people) hear the music and let them decide.”
Her Toronto-based entertainment lawyer Jordan Jacobs said he signed-on to work with Chamandy a few months back precisely because he thought her innovative approach was just the way to try to launch an adult-contemporary in today’s music business.
The gala show at the foot of the pyramids is designed to try to nab an international record deal for Chamandy, he said. The show will be filmed for a DVD release and Jacobs will try to sell the concert to broadcasters around the world. He is in talks with PBS to have the U.S. public network air the concert sometime next year.
“The intent is to have the TV broadcast do the marketing,” he said. “There’s a very large adult-contemporary cross-over audience. It’s the people who buy Andrea Bocelli records. Also, she sings in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Arabic, so you have builtin markets in Europe. There are elements that distinguish her from other artists and I think she’ll be a big star.”
Chantal Chamandy: she was in the band Voggue in the 1980s.
Chantal Chamandy brushes off claim her success hangs on husband’s wealth.