Something exciting is afoot in Toronto. The electronic music community is beginning to stretch it legs and is setting its sights on consolidating its networks through a project called Studiofeed. Long a bustling hub for electronic music, Toronto’s underground is no longer content with operating in the shadows and has slowly been bubbling up to the surface.
A longtime center for music in Canada, Toronto’s location -situated between the house and techno epicenters of Chicago and Detroit- established the area as the core of North America’s techno scene. While the rave scene boomed throughout the 90’s its untimely end in August of 2000 sent electronic music out of warehouses and into the clubs. More concerned with the bar sales than the type or quality of music heard, Toronto’s move to integrate electronic music as part of greater club culture forced the commercial calculations of establishments upon artists and their promoters, inevitably diluting their ability to find venues willing to host artists whose sounds were either too unconventional for the times or simply not popular enough (yet!).
A year before starting Studiofeed, John Alexiou was enjoying a promising career, working at an investment bank on Bay Street –Toronto’s equivalent to Wall Street. Living “in a killer pad (that) overlooked the city” John’s life was as secure as it was promising. Nursing a desire to become engaged in a project he was more personally connected to and far from the denigrating scope of commercialism he was surrounded by, John began to set some money aside and ponder the possibilities of a life beyond Bay Street. A longtime lover of music and “follower of the industry” John decided to quit his day job, and began strategizing how he could commit his energy (and savings) to make a difference- reaching out to respected members of the underground community who could help realize his vision.
John’s passion is a quality seldom seen by folks in the industry beyond the artists and promoters who sacrifice daily to make the space for the music they love. Needless to say, a man armed with a fire that takes one from living in a high-rise (with skyline views) to sleeping on his friend’s couch, John’s determination and drive is a power that should not be underestimated.
This was the context through which Studiofeed was born. Soured by an industry as profit-obsessed as private investment, Studiofeed was founded strictly as a social venture and envisioned as a means to strengthen the pillars of the independent music scene, focusing first on electronic music. John puts it simply :“There is an increasing void in non-corporate support for independent music. That’s a big problem. We created StudioFeed to be a source of support for the movement that is defined by an unprecedented proliferation of musical creativity and energy”. Their greater mission? To “Support Independent Music” through community engagement and technology development”.
Caption: Support Independent Music is Studiofeed’s vision for a permanent space can be seen in the visualization above. The space is intended to serve the audio and visual arts by supporting excellence, technological innovation, sustainable entrepreneurship, community radio and advocacy for the independent music community of Toronto. For more information, check out their website http://www.supportindependentmusic.org
Among Studiofeed’s offerings is an insightful blog, video and radio podcast series. Their blog features in-depth articles written by members of Studiofeed staff -with content that ranges from a guide to help musicians write their own press releases to editorials documenting the fall of Toronto’s Drum’n’Bass scene– while their video section contains a range of in-house produced content, documenting audio and visual based artists in the city. Studiofeed Radio is responsible for broadcasting the sound of Toronto internationally, offering a broad cross-section of fans as diverse as the scene itself: from minimal and deep techno (Hushlamb Free Range Podcast and Deep North Radio) to Hip-hop meets electronic (Minced Meat Radio & NCKBRK presents KRIX), Soul and Funk (Beatploitation and Production notes Radio) to even a podcast series offering the latest in music-based psychological research (Smart Lab Radio).
The summer of 2012 saw Studiofeed reach a critical milestone and what I (humbly) view as their crowning achievement of last year- Sound In Motion, Toronto’s first not for profit run festival dedicated to electronic music and arts.
Fulfilling Studiofeed’s mandate of unbridled independence and a devotion to underground music, Sound In Motion saw many of Toronto’s hometown heroes support an impressive lineup, combining the pride of Canadian techno and minimal with internationally renowned talent “offering a grassroots alternative to the more commercial and corporate funded festivals taking root in the city”.
When asked, Sarah Lamb, creative co-director director of Sound in Motion (and one half of Hushlamb), noted that the intention of the festival was to build an event focused on music and peoples’ experience of that music with well thought out programming, proper sound, interesting venues; and community vibe free from major corporate/commercial sponsorship. “For me personally, I wanted the chance to build a platform to offer Toronto a little diversity in electronic music and art. To bring people together to feel music; for an experience that moves them or wakes them up in some way.”
A seasoned veteran of the scene prior to her work with Studiofeed, Sarah Lamb was busy throwing Hushlamb events in Toronto, understanding intimately just how tough it can be to “take care of proper sound (which is expensive), (find interested) venues… to showcase acts that did not necessarily have wide pull factor in Toronto” remaining convinced that “there was plenty of room for good music in the scene”. In applying her personal experience as a promoter to her work with Sound in Motion Sarah stresses “that an expression born from a place of love will always have a positive creative ripple effect; in this case -and the case of the festival- it is music and music’s experience”.
The final piece to Studiofeed’s operational model is The SubPac– a project I think we’ll all be hearing about very soon; one that may change the way music is experienced forever. Imagine a silent subwoofer as an extension to your sound system or headphones; capable of emanating the power of massive speakers you only get to hear in select clubs, bringing what John describes as “the physical dimension in music” to your living room or car.
Catapulted forward by their successful Kickstarter campaign, the profits from SubPac will enhance Studiofeed’s ability to nurture Toronto’s music ecosystem on a not-for-profit basis. By channeling the SubPac’s success, John is looking to “fund (Studiofeed’s) infrastructure initiative (called) Support Independent Music….- our ‘cause’ why we exist.” If all goes as planned, Studiofeed may end up becoming more than the flagship station for Toronto’s legendary electronic music scene but emerge as a model for how the business of music should be run- inspiring generations of others to come together and do the same.