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.