Jane Siberry crowns herself queen of Sheeba:

'Charity case' closed as singer carves her own industry niche

from the Vancouver Sun, Final Edition, page C1, July 18, 1996
written by Katherine Monk

Believe it or not, Jane Siberry has a sleazy side. And she's finding it harder and harder to contain.

"It's the Scorpio part of me," she says. "So I have to be extra careful not to panic -- not to sell out just because I'm wanting so much to win."

Why, after more than 10 years in the notoriously tarty music business, is Siberry only now facing her biggest sleaze demons?

Because after a decade in the public eye as Canada's alterna-diva, Siberry abandoned the system to start her own.

She cordially separated from her artistic home at Warner Music this year and launched her own, Internet-driven, label: Sheeba Records. Sheeba is poised to release her latest recording, Teenager, a collection of songs she used to sing in her early coffee-house days.

But it won't stop there. Siberry has big plans for Sheeba. She purchased her backcatalogue from Warner and is gearing up for a book release, packaging companion materials for her previous release, Maria. She may even sign other artists to Sheeba.

But all that's in the future. For now, Siberry is immersed in small-business courses and the process of developing systems for her six-person operation.

"There's really no pattern out there for doing this ... I'm working really hard and still I feel I'm not working hard enough. I start work at 6 a.m. and finish around 11 p.m. -- but I have to. This is an investment in myself, and a new way of being in the music industry."

There's no doubt starting Sheeba is one of the hardest things Siberry has tackled in her critically acclaimed career.

But it was something she had to do, she says. "You know, Warner spent a lot of money on me and I was starting to feel a little bad about it -- you know, my records have never been huge sellers. I felt I was a charity case and that was taking a psychological toll -- it was time to stop taking and just do this on my own," Siberry says from a stop on the road -- a gas-shack somewhere in northern Ontario.

Siberry heads west this week for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. It will be her first time on its folk fest stage and she says she's thrilled about the chance to work in a group environment. After all, it complements her new situation as a true-blue grassroots artist.

"Everyone always called me an indie -- but I was with a major label. Now I really am an indie and I'm making the same amount, if not more, than I did before."

The biggest question mark in the whole equation remains the Internet itself, says the one-time Guelph University microbiology major.

"I suppose the release of Teenager is the control group -- the first experiment to see how things go, whether or not the Internet can actually prove successful as a distribution tool."

So far, the recording has already sold in excess of 1,000 units just through the worldwide web and Siberry 's mailing list. Siberry says the record won't be sold through stores, so you'll have to dial her up at www.sheeba.ca, or use the old phone, 888-3-SHEEBA.

"It's all trial and error at this stage. The only thing I'm hoping is that I continue to find it interesting -- and don't feel so much pressure that I lose my integrity. The money isn't so important, it's a virus, but it can translate into other things -- like working with other people."

Siberry says she's most interested in working with other women and creating new systems that pull from a female perspective of the world -- for no other reason than it's never been done before in a music industry context.

"All I can tell you is I'm drawing from a lot of female powers -- as well as a fair amount of testosterone, because it's helpful to run a record label ... I don't know what it's all leading towards, but it certainly feels like an important step -- an important step forward."

Jane Siberry plays the Folk Festival Saturday Stage 4 at 3 p.m. Sunday Stage 4, 10 a.m., Stage 6, 12:30, and evening concert.