East Coast Music Awards | The Canadian Encyclopedia


East Coast Music Awards

East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs). Awards founded by Rob Cohn; initially named the Maritime Music Awards.

East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs). Awards founded by Rob Cohn; initially named the Maritime Music Awards. Headquartered in Charlottetown, P.E.I., the Maritime Music Awards were staged for the first time in the Flamingo Café and Lounge in Halifax, NS, on 10 Apr 1989, to focus on the diversity of music and musicians in mainland Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick and to raise the standard of recording.

The awards gala grew to a $1-million CBC show televised nationally and internationally, winning two Gemini Awards and attracting international buyers. The awards were renamed when the East Coast Music Association was formed in 1991, the year Newfoundland and Labrador was included. Membership in the association is open to musicians, artists, agents, managers, record companies, studios, the media and related industries.

Typically the four-day East Coast Music Awards festival, conference and awards show includes seminars and workshops, master classes (e.g., in songwriting and in scoring for gaming and television), outreach initiatives and a gala, as well as opportunities for emerging Atlantic artists to perform on many stages. The event has included such initiatives as the Roots Room for acoustic performances, the Family Concert Series, the Industry Awards Brunch, the Live Performance Buyers Room, and an international program. The Songwriter's Circle was the forerunner to a similar Juno Awards event. Community connections in host cities are fostered through such programs as Soundwaves and the Sound-off competition for the bands of local schools. Radio ECMA broadcasts live from the host hotel.


For the first few years, the East Coast Music Awards event was held in Halifax; since 1994, it has been hosted by other Atlantic Canadian cities such as St. John's, Sydney, and Fredericton.

Awards Categories and Selection Method

East Coast Music Awards categories expanded from nine in 1989 to 50 in 2008 (27 music categories and 23 industry awards) and are open to artists who were born in Atlantic Canada or who have lived in the region for 15 months. Local and national jurors select the top three to five recordings in each category. Nominees are announced each December. While categories have increased over the years through public demand to include, for instance, Aboriginal, francophone, children's and classical recordings, other categories such as roots/traditional vocal recording of the year have been assimilated.

Special awards include the Stompin' Tom Award (named after Stomin’ Tom Connors) to honour performers who have made a mark in the music scene of Atlantic Canada and who are perceived as unsung heroes. The Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has had a lasting and profound effect on the Atlantic Canadian music industry; it has been won by artists such as Edith Butler, John Allan Cameron, Stompin' Tom Connors, Myles Goodwyn, Buddy MacMaster, Rita MacNeil, Matt Minglewood, and (posthumously) Portia White.

Eligible ECMA members choose the winners of 29 award categories. Public and members' votes decide the entertainer of the year, and up to 16 awards are made at the Industry Awards show. Five honorary awards the Stompin' Tom Award, Directors' Special Achievement Award, Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award, Industry Builder Award and Musician's Achievement Award are made at the discretion of the ECMA board of directors. The ECMA trophy was designed by Valerie J. McFadden.


The East Coast Music Awards have become a springboard for many Atlantic Canadians, including Great Big Sea, Lennie Gallant, Natalie MacMaster, Gordie Sampson, Joel Plaskett, The Rankins, Rita MacNeil, Bruce Guthro, and J.P. Cormier. Winners also include other internationally renowned musicians, such as The Barra MacNeils, Measha Brueggergosman, Holly Cole, Denise Djokic, Damhnait Doyle, Ashley MacIsaac, Dave MacIsaac, Sarah McLachlan, and Symphony Nova Scotia.

A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.

List of ECMA Awards

General ECMA Categories

DVD of the Year
Entertainer of the Year
Female Solo Recording of the Year
Group Recording of the Year
Male Solo Recording of the Year
Recording of the Year
Rising Star Recording of the Year
Single of the Year
Songwriter of the Year
Video of the Year

Genre-Specific ECMA Categories

Aboriginal Recording of the Year
African-Canadian Recording of the Year
Alternative Recording of the Year
Blues Recording of the Year
Bluegrass Recording of the Year
Children's Recording of the Year
Classical Recording of the Year
Country Recording of the Year
Folk Recording of the Year
Francophone Recording of the Year
Gospel Recording of the Year
Instrumental Recording of the Year
Jazz Recording of the Year
Pop Recording of the Year
Rap/Hip-Hop Single Track Recording of the Year
Rock Recording of the Year
Roots/Traditional Solo Recording of the Year
Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year
Urban Single Track Recording of the Year

Industry Awards

Broadcast of the Year
Event of the Year
Graphic Designer of the Year
Independent Company of the Year
Industry Professional of the Year
Manager of the Year
Media Person of the Year
Photographer of the Year
Production Company/Facility of the Year
Radio Station of the Year - Major Market
Radio Station of the Year - Small Market
Record Company / Distributor/Indie Label of the Year
Retailer of the Year
Studio of the Year
Technician/Engineer of the Year
Venue of the Year

Further Reading