Despite the uphill struggle that Toronto independent musicians have always faced, finally they seem to be making a bold appearance.
The success that Indie musicians have had over the past several years has come from being showcased alongside bigger bands, according to Matt Diamond, host of 94.9 The Rock FM.
He says some Toronto bands have gone from having zero notoriety to being in the spotlight by sharing the stage with larger more prominent bands.
Essentially putting someone else’s name on your ticket means you’ve instantly gained recognition,” Diamond said. “There’s so much talent in Toronto that it’s not surprising why they get put on a bigger scale and that’s why I pump the hell out of local bands on the show.”
Diamond plays a half-hour segment from Mondays to Wednesdays featuring both local and popular Indie bands. The majority of the music he plays on the air, however, comes from independent labels.
“One thing I’ve learned from working in radio is that you can’t rely on the listener,” he said. “For a half hour every night, I play something different. Nine out of 10 (listeners) might say, ‘shut that shit off’, but when I get one guy who calls in and says ‘Whoa, what was that song you just played?’ that’s what makes my job worthwhile.”
‘The seed that planted it all’
Diamond refers to Toronto as being “the seed that planted it all” where developing musicians whether solo or in a group have been added to a lineup of bigger bands and in essence have gained more exposure.
An example he uses is Cuff The Duke, a country-pop band that emerged from the underground scene and on to centre-stage becoming the backup band for Hayden, a Canadian acoustic, folk-rock solo musician.
In a successful series of events, Cuff The Duke got signed to the Hayden-owned and operated label, Hardwood Records, which ultimately boosted Cuff The Duke’s distribution.
Another major reason that independent Toronto musicians have grown so quickly is a result welcoming audiences Diamond says.
“There’s a communal sense that when you go to a show you know everyone’s there for the music and you totally get to see a diverse crowd when you’re downtown. It’s because of a positive vibe that the city and the people itself provide.
“It’s such a community out there of like-minded people trying to let ourselves in the same circle where other bands are … it’s a sense of belonging,” Diamond said.
Lidia Vila became a gatekeeper for local musicians when she launched torontoindie.com, a website that showcases independent bands through concert reviews, profiles, features and interviews.
As president of the website, Vila has hired a full staff of writers and photographers since the site began last September to cover shows and essentially help familiarize the city with their identity.
“Torontoindie.com is a website I created because I really thought that Toronto artists weren’t spotlighted enough … yes their is Now and EYE and paper product magazines, but they’re just not doing it in the way I’d like to (have them be) visually represented,” Vila said.
Vila says this is where she saw a niche. By becoming more involved as a reporter rather than enthusiast, she interviewed bands she met at shows as a starting point for the site.
Today, she receives hoards of emails from bands all over Toronto and surrounding cities requesting to be showcased. As a media source herself, Vila points to other forms of media as being the face of the music.
‘It grows on people like fungus’
“The only place you can take estimation is media coverage,” Vila said. “The more Toronto bands are covered by Toronto media or international media, the more specific that genre has become and the more known it is to other people. It just grows on people like fungus and you can see those bands are more integrated into a media explosion.”
She says the Internet has also proven itself to be a vital enterprise with respect to publicity.
“MySpace.com is an amazing promotion tool, she said. “Here you can reach people and international markets on a level that’s never been done before and that type of direct target marketing is wonderful. It’s something that really didn’t happen in 1950.”
Maria Romios, an indie musician and music major at York University, says promotion through the Internet has been the most important advantage to her musical career.
“For me as a musician I write to get things out for myself so for me personally, it’s more rewarding once you produce it, because it’s actually turning that idea into something solid that others can listen to and MySpace has made that possible,”
Romios said. MySpace, a popular social networking website, allows bands to create music profiles aiding them in exposure and distribution.
Technology has also helped independent musicians evolve because of the easy availability of recording programs such as Pro Tools. With digital audio workstations, computers and microphones, they’ve been able to produce their own albums.
Diamond believes the raw emotion that comes from a memorable concert is what brings him downtown every week.
“It’s not alcohol or some esthetic, it’s a completely different drug when you are a part of the music whether you have it cranked on your stereo at home or whether it’s coming from your Marshall stack,” he said.
“There’s nothing that can emulate that feeling and if there was I’d be a dealer.” Any musician who wants to have their music heard on the radio can send their music to Matt Diamond at [email protected]