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Toronto’s Music Scene From The Outside

toronto music scene

Today’s post comes to us from Angela Mastrogiacomo, who asked me if she could share her perspective on the Toronto Music Scene as an outsider working in music who lived here briefly. I find her points interesting, especially #2 and #3 which are both big points of contention I’ve heard often from musicians as well. 

Every now and again you come across a city that just gets you. All the stars align, and if you believe in such a thing, you find your city soul mate. For me, that city is Toronto.

When I had a chance to combine my forever love, music, with my new love, Toronto, the opportunity was too promising to resist. So I launched a weekly music industry meet up called Balanced Breakfast, originally founded in San Francisco (by Stefan Aronsen and Andy Freeman), and made it my mission to not only learn more about the Toronto music scene, but to help grow it.

But the more time I spent in Toronto, the more I discovered that the way I looked at Toronto’s music scene was completely different from the way those that had been in it for years seemed to.

There were so many discrepancies that I initially thought maybe I’d been wrong about Toronto. But then I thought, what if being an outsider was actually an advantage? What if I could bring a fresh perspective to the industry, and ignite some spark and inspiration into a scene that I could see was quickly becoming frustrated?

Conflict 1: Toronto’s Music Community is Non-Existent.

One of the first things I noticed was the complaint that Toronto’s music community is non-existent. That while there are great artists, and plenty of talent, the feel of community isn’t there. Almost immediately, I disagreed. Having spent 7 months living in San Francisco (which has an amazing music community) and my entire life in Boston (which has a terrible music community) I felt that Toronto had a strong spot right in the middle. While there was room for growth, the community feel was definitely there.  And more importantly, people want to build it.

Within my first 2 weeks in Toronto I had reached out to and met with several people within the industry who were more than happy to offer me their time, let me pick their brain, and even invite me to events and meet ups within the music industry that I would have never known about otherwise. From there, I made friendships and connections that I still maintain today.

If you’re thinking this kind of generosity is normal, let me tell you—it’s not. My experience in this industry, in the States, has been that generally speaking, people will only meet with you if A) there’s a strong enough immediate benefit for themselves and B) you’re completely acquiescing to their schedule. Everyone is too busy and “important” all of the time—even when they aren’t.

My advice? Appreciate what you have. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be better, or there isn’t room for improvement, but as an outsider looking in, your music community is definitely there. It just needs a little care to grow.

Conflict 2: Inability to Break Into the States

Another major point of contention seemed to be an inability to break into the States. While it’s true this is difficult, I felt like no one was looking at the benefits of being a Canadian artist. To make a name for yourself in Toronto, or even in the entirety of Canada, is a much more attainable goal than an American band making a name for themselves in the States.

The States are not the be all end all. (Come on guys, do you really want to start using us as a model for things?). An American band can pour their heart and soul into their career, and never really make a name for themselves outside their hometown. But in Canada, the opportunity to make a name for yourself is much stronger. Not to mention all the grants you’re offered…

Conflict 3: FACTOR Politics

The third biggest complaint I heard was the complexity and ever-changing politics behind the FACTOR grants. I get it, no one wants to feel like they’re not being heard, like something that is supposed to be about art and true expression is actually about popularity and numbers and all the things that, let’s be honest, matter when running a business—which your band is. But take a moment to appreciate that you’re in a country that invests in its artists that way. That gives money to its musicians to record, tour, get proper PR, and grow your brand.

We don’t have a “direct to the artist” funding system like that in the US. Every time I mentioned FACTOR to any of my American clients, they couldn’t believe it. It never failed to grab their attention…because for all its flaws, and all the things that could make it better, it’s a truly wonderful opportunity that I think a lot of artists are taking for granted.

And look, it’s not that Toronto’s music scene doesn’t have problems. Every strong community has infrastructure problems now and again. But from this outsider’s perspective looking in, it’s a pretty solid foundation, and I have no doubt that with the proper care, in 5 years Toronto could easily be one of the big city names in music. But first, we need to appreciate what’s here, and learn to nurture it. Let’s put this city on the map, and show ‘em what you’ve got.

 

Angela Mastrogiacomo is the owner of Muddy Paw Public Relations, and the free weekly music industry meet up, Balanced Breakfast, which meets Saturdays from 12-2pm in Toronto. Muddy Paw specializes in working with up and coming artists on personalized campaigns designed to bring their careers to the next level. To date, we’ve secured placements on sites such as AbsolutePunk, Substream, Property Of Zack, PureVolume, Anti-Music, and many more. 

 Lisa

Learning To Appreciate Star Trek Through The Symphony

startrekliveinconcert

As a bonafide TV buff, I like to think I’m quite knowledgeable on most of the great shows in television history.

As a bonafide hater of sci-fi and aliens all my life – there is one series I always made a point of avoiding, despite being well aware of its important place in the entertainment canon.

Growing up I was always watching something, but as soon as Star Trek came on I would flip the channel. I thought the aliens were hideously terrifying, and it didn’t make sense to me that the humans and aliens cavorted together.

As a child I hated anything alien related, though. The thought of life on other planets seemed like the scariest thing imaginable. I remember literally crying at a friends house when she forced me to watch Independence Day. 

Then I met my boyfriend – who happens to be a true blue sci-fi nerd (he literally wore a vintage Star Trek tee on our first date). As it goes when you fall for someone, you start to open the more closed parts of your mind to things you might have previously wrote off, in order to see things through their eyes.

I’ve now watched Alien, Aliens, Prometheus, Terminator, and now even Star Trek.

I actually had the chance to catch the 2009 movie revamp of Star Trek recently at the Sony Centre, where the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony masterfully played composer Michael Giacchino’s epic score live.

I’ve wrote before about how incredible it is to watch a movie with the score being performed live in front of you, and this experience was just as beautiful.

Last time though, it was a film I had watched countless times, so I was able to pay more attention to the musicians onstage since I always knew what was about to happen onscreen.

This time, being so completely new to the Star Trek world – for most of the screening I almost forgot they were even there – which is a testament to the level of musicianship conductor Erik Ochsner and his team excel at, as well as a testament to the film storyline itself being so strong and compelling.

star trek nimoy toronto

Would I have loved it as much if I were watching the original with Shatner and Nimoy? I’m not so sure. I actually sat down to watch the original movie over Easter and fell asleep – so I can’t claim I found it quite as compelling. But the revamp was shot with the same adrenaline and humour as modern day action adventure films like The Avengers, so it impressed me in a way I wasn’t quite expecting.

With Leonard Nimoy’s recent passing before the screening, they also used the night as a tribute to the legend, and it was nice to see the Sony Centre screens lit up with his iconic moments as the night came to an end. I finally understand exactly why the fans love Spock so much.

Star Trek Live In Concert is currently touring cities across North America, find the schedule here.

 Lisa

Ed The Sock Explains What Happened To Good Canadian Television

Ed The Sock CRTC

Remember the days of Kids In The Hall? The days when MuchMusic was your favourite thing on TV because they actually played music? And for my parents generation, maybe you even remember SCTV and the original Degrassi?

There was a time when Canadian TV was all about innovation, despite the tiny budget. No – because of the tiny budget. But that tiny budget also meant we could never compete with American broadcasters in primetime.

If you’ve been following the CRTC rulings lately, you’ll know some great things have been put into action – for example, them forcing the big name providers to offer a basic TV package for $25, and then allowing you to pick and choose the extra channels you want.

As a self professed TV nerd, I am all for this. Rogers and Bell have been ripping off cable users for a damn long time, and this kind of ruling was absolutely necessary.

But the ruling Ed the Sock is talking about is different. CRTC also passed a rule to loosen the daytime CanCon requirements for TV producers, and there will no longer be genre protection for specialty channels – meaning MuchMusic doesn’t have to play any music (though that stopped happening ages ago), and History Channel doesn’t have to show any history – as Ed puts it.

For the most part, I agree with what Ed is saying – equating money with innovation is always wrong. That’s exactly why I think the best art is always the first thing the artist releases, when they are poor and struggling and full of innovation and passion and desire. The first album, the first novel, the first film or TV show, that’s the stuff that sticks in the cannon throughout an artists life for a reason.

Having no budget means you have no choice but to be your most creative self.

On the other hand, I don’t think it’s wrong for the CRTC to want Canadian productions to be able to increase production values so that our industry can at least try to compete with what the American networks produce.

There’s a reason we watch more American television than Canadian, and it’s not because we don’t have the talent and skill to make shows as great as our Southern friends – it’s because the budgets up here are nothing compared to what they are down there.

Tons of American shows are shot and produced up here (Hannibal being my absolute favourite) – the difference between that show and the Canadian made shows we ignore on CBC is the budget – which trickles into the actors they can hire, the ability to have one consistent showrunner onboard from the pilot to the finale, the directors they can afford, the writers, the production design, the shooting locations, and so on and so on.

Maybe Canadians like keeping our TV in a specialized “Canadiana” stereotype world of Trailer Park Boys and Corner Gas, but if that were true, Canadians wouldn’t spend the majority of their TV time watching American and British produced shows.

That said, more money does not equal more innovation, but it does allow the innovators to translate the vision they have in their head into the one we see on the screen – rather than shooting a version they end up ashamed of because the budget didn’t leave any room for that vision to be realistically created.

Hear his thoughts below, and let me know what you think about the new changes.

Lisa

Skechers Spring Summer 2015 Collection

skechersflexappeal

Last week, I did something I normally loathe doing – I woke up and was out the door before 8am. I have never been, and quite likely never will be, a morning person.

Normally, you’d be hard pressed to find me awake at that hour unless it’s for something specifically related to a job, but this time it was for the sake of shoes. Spa treatments and shoes.

Skechers knows how to create a morning worth waking up extra early for.

The spring summer 2015 preview of the new line of Skechers took place at Elmwood Spa – the definition of a high end, luxury spa that is worth paying a premium for.

Upon arriving, I was asked if I would like a foot massage and then treated to a delicious breakfast spread – is there any better way to start a morning than this? I think the world would be filled with happy people if everyone got to start their day with happy feet.

After my toes were exfoliated and relaxed, I entered the showroom where we all got a good look at the massive variety of shoes Skechers currently produces.

Admittedly, the last time I owned Skechers was probably grade 8, but back in those days I absolutely adored this brand.

You were the cool kid at school if you were lucky enough to have a pair.

I specifically remember my beloved baby blue chunky foam wedges, my first pair of heeled shoes – I had lusted after them for a while before my parents agreed to buy them for me. I wore them so much that summer that they were grey once fall came around and it was time to start wearing boring shoes again.

While it has been over a decade since I last owned a pair, that is because I had always associated them with running shoes once I outgrew the girls style shoes I had once adored – and sneakers aren’t a type of shoe I wear unless I’m in a gym – AKA never.

But I quickly found out just how expansive the brand has become. While comfortable sneakers for women are obviously their main appeal, they have boot styles that I would happily purchase, and shoes suitable for work – but much more comfortable than the typical dress shoe. AKA I want all of these.

I was lucky enough to take home a pair of their rainbow Skech-Knit Mesh Flex Appeal Memory Foam sneakers as seen above, and man, if I knew running shoes could look this cool and feel this comfortable I might not have had an aversion to wearing them on my walks and while running errands.

The knit idea allows them to be incredibly comfortable – you know how typical athletic shoes don’t really allow your feet to move, and then the leather ends up cracking where your foot bends when you actually do run in them? These will never give you that problem. It also allows them to come in amazing colours and patterns that you would otherwise never see on a shoe.

And can we talk about the idea of built-in memory foam insoles? YES please. I don’t know why this concept doesn’t exist with every shoe that is ever made. It’s essentially a custom insole for your foot – and if you struggle with foot pain as much as I do you’ll understand just how valuable that is.

The knit shoes (and most of their other styles) are also sleeker than most running shoes, they fit closer to your foot, weigh very little, and don’t look bulky on. They’re the perfect shoe to wear to yoga and pilates class – I’ve always struggled with what to wear with my lulus on the way to classes because regular running shoes make you look like bigfoot when you’re wearing tights, and nice shoes look odd with athletic wear.

These are the perfect solution.

It’s safe to say I am happily back on the Skechers train after a 15 year hiatus.

 Lisa

Absolutely Free – Synchromy

song of the week!

How gorgeous is this live soundtrack to Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren’s 1971 classic, Synchromy ? Absolutely Free was asked to create a new soundtrack this year at TIFF for a special multimedia event, Re-sounding The Films of Norman McLaren.

McLaren’s work and Absolutely Free’s music go incredibly well together.

Also, loving this reminder of TIFF’s Festival Square, and how much fun it was to have King Street closed down that first weekend – not to mention the live music stage.

Remember when we could still be outside and listen to music? Damn you, winter.

Lisa