MTL + TO: Building a Music Ecosystem is a part of the CONVENE conversation series about the connections between music communities in Montreal and Toronto. This podcast includes 16 interviews featuring people from each city representing a range of industry roles including artists, managers, DJs, funders, and digital platforms. Each conversation offers perspectives on the current state of the relationship between the cities, the most impactful steps that can be taken to strengthen the relationship, and recommendations on the people, platforms, and places you can check out to get to know each city. This podcast is supported by Factor Canada.
Episode 1 – Monday June 28
On this episode, we spoke with Josephine Cruz aka Jayemkayem who is a multidisciplinary creative entrepreneur based in Toronto. For this conversation, she drew on her experiences as a DJ, running an independent record label, Bare Selection, alongside her partner Freeza Chin, and all she does as co-founder and director of community radio station, ISO. Jayemkayem used an analogy of her real-life cousin in London (UK) to describe the potential connections she sees between Montreal and Toronto and she spoke to the power of grassroots collaborations with people and spaces holding shared values as a way to build those linkages. One of the keys we discussed was how creative uses of spaces (including not being dependent on physical spaces) can strengthen this inter-city collaboration.
Episode 2 – Thursday July 1
In this episode, we spoke with Daniel Seligman who is Co-founder and Creative Director of Pop Montreal International Music Festival which has been showcasing international artists from all disciplines and parts of the world since 2002. Having lived and worked in both cities, Daniel offers a personal and professional perspective on the differences each city is grounded on. Daniel sheds light on Toronto being a commercial hub for the industry and Montreal being an artists’ playground with ample access to festivals, art, culture, and funding bodies that invest in art as a part of the Quebec identity.
Episode 3 – Monday July 5
In this episode, we spoke with Yasmine Seck who is the founder of Montreal PR company Sounds Good, and started by building roots in the underground scene as a DJ and founder of Obsolete Collective. Yasmine speaks on the challenges that Anglo-speaking and French-speaking Hip Hop, Rap, and Electronic artists experience within the music and media infrastructure in Quebec. She also cites a combination of streetwear brands and party promoters that have been instrumental in creating space for the current wave of music coming out of Montreal. Yasmine shared that she sees the potential for collaboration and musical synergy between the scenes, so long as perceived barriers like language and discoverability are overcome.
Episode 4 – Thursday July 8
In this episode, we spoke with Chris Wilson who is a venue booker, music promoter, and cultural programmer— aka “a gateway to discovery” and Director of Programming + Brand Partnerships for The Drake Hotel Properties. For this conversation, Chris brings a helpful POV and language to help us understand the synergies and disconnect between both cities: Montreal as an “Old World” cultural value system and Toronto being a “New World” and how the difference in values influence each city’s music ecosystem from the individual to the institution and business. Chris Wilson also offers some practical thoughts to spark collaboration among industry players at all levels. From artists to their agents, and from venues to media outlets, to join in exploration and collaboration that can strengthen the music economy, infrastructure, audience, and overall sustainability of music in Canada.
Episode 5 – Monday July 12
In this episode, we connected with Aisha Wickham, Program Consultant for the Ontario Music Office at Ontario Creates and seasoned builder, investor, and promoter of Canada’s Music Industry. Throughout her career in Toronto, Aisha has been hands-on in the launch of two Black-owned radio stations and the development of artists and infrastructure that supports artists’ ability to thrive in the Canadian landscape. We talked to Aisha about the challenges that continue to exist in Toronto’s industry despite over 20 years of growth, as well as the key solutions and actions that are needed to create more equity, exposure, and amplification of young artists and music industry professionals.
Episode 6 – Thursday July 15
In this episode, we spoke with Koudjo, one part of the Qcltur – a media platform promoting local and international Francophone artists in Quebec and beyond. From the beginning of the conversation, Kuodjo shares the importance of building trust with artists in collaborations and expresses that genuine connection and relationship building is the secret sauce that translates into the most authentic representations for their community and culture. Kuodjo shares his thoughts on how mainstream media outlets skip out on connecting with the Hip Hop & Rap Francophone and/or Anglophone culture and pridefully promotes the Qcltur team and their role in being a platform that amplifies these overlooked voices. Kuodjo also sparks a few exciting ideas for future cross-city collaborations that have the potential to bring tangible movement to building the Montreal-Toronto ecosystem.
Episode 7 – Monday July 19
In this episode, we spoke with Cadence Weapon, Edmonton-born, Toronto-based rapper, producer, writer, and poet about the importance of sustaining the history and culture of the creative community in both Montreal and Toronto. Right out the gate, Cadence Weapon expresses his passion for archiving music history and believes it is key to preserving culture as music expands to new audiences, generations, and cities. Cadence also lends his lived experiences as an artist who has lived and worked in both cities to highlight the distinct differences between the communities, cultures, mindsets, and infrastructures. He suggests that collaboration can exist between the two — that Montreal can influence Toronto to be more of an artist/cultural incubator and that Toronto can bring more of its business acumen to the table. Cadence Weapon believes that bridging the strengths of both cities together in a cross-city collaboration is a clever tool; one that he utilizes because of the way it elevates the energy, creativity and execution of the work.
Episode 8 – Thursday July 22
In this episode, we connected with Montreal-born photographer and visual storyteller Naskademini who’s eye for capturing high-profile brands and people has been featured in publications like Hypebeast and Complex. Naturally, Naskademini impresses the importance of archival documentation and visuals on music culture, artist identity, and fan connection. Especially as Canadian artists from cities like Montreal and Toronto who are often imitating their U.S counterparts, it’s important for Torontonians and Montrealers to own the sound and nuances of their cities so they can cultivate Canadian pride in their music and visual identity. Naskademini also encourages the notion of intentional collaboration between Anglo and Francophone artists as a way of purposefully acknowledging their goal of bridging the gap and amplifying the talent of both cities on a global scale.
Episode 9 – Monday July 26
In this episode, we spoke to Charlie Wall-Andrews, Executive Director of SOCAN Foundation, Educator, and Ph.D. candidate at the Ted Rogers School Of Management. The conversation begins with a discussion around how music education, programming, and fund development/investment can support the music ecosystem and empower artists in having sustainable careers. Charlie identifies what she believes to be three key barriers to the Montreal x Toronto collaboration: resources (funding, etc)., time, and equity and diversity. We also discuss the richness of culture and identity that is present in cities like Montreal and Toronto, as well as the opportunities to find alignment and solidarity around issues that affect the Canadian music landscape as a whole.
In this episode, we spoke with Obuxum, Toronto-based Somali-Canadian producer and beatmaker, about her experience expanding her music to the gaming industry and how that has inspired new avenues. Obuxum offers advice to emerging artists looking to build and connect in Toronto’s music industry, pointing to the valuable resources available in community art and music spaces. Obuxum also shares her experience performing in major Montreal festivals like Pop Montreal and Mutek, and how they have exposed her to other Canadian and International talent. In the future, Obuxum imagines that more diversity and connections could be fostered in the Canadian landscape overall if hybrid programs and experiences were designed to bridge the gap between Montreal and Toronto.
Episode 11 – Monday August 2
In this episode, we spoke with Montreal-born and raised, Anglophone Hip-Hop/Rap Artist Naya Ali about she is intentionally paving the way for herself in a market that is void of support and infrastructure for Anglo rap artists. Naya Ali has taken initiative to lead cross-city and bilingual collaborations with producers and artists from Montreal and Toronto. Naya Ali speaks on how this approach leverages the uniqueness and diversity that each city is known and loved for, making music that reflects those same characteristics and amplifies the Canadian sounds on an international level.
Episode 12 – Thursday August 5
In this episode, we speak with Toronto-based Producer Junia T about the valuable learnings gained through his debut album Studio Monk in 2020. He shares key insights on his collaboration philosophy — humanizing, grounding, and preparing a space that is free for creativity to flourish, while also prioritizing investing financially into each collaborator, recognizing their value and paying them at their rate. In respect to the Montreal/Toronto ecosystem, Junia T highlights the DJ and Party scenes of each city as major facilitators in establishing connections and promoting discoverability. Staying close to his roots in the studio, Junia T also offers suggestions on how studio spaces can become key contributors as physical spaces where talent can connect, where the community can be built and art can be made.
Episode 13 – Monday August 9th
In this episode we spoke with FLOW 93.5FM on-air personality and “Made In Toronto” host, Ricochet on his role as a culture curator shining a spotlight on the city’s talent and advocating for Black music in Canada’s radio industry. Although many would say that radio is fading as a medium, Ricochet believes that commercial radio will evolve, adapt and continue to be a valuable discovery platform for local artists in each respective city. He shares his opinions on why this is important, especially given the scarcity of Hip Hop outlets at the commercial radio level in Canada. Ricochet also talks about the misperceptions and disconnect between the music landscapes in Toronto and Montreal and how that is a barrier to collaboration. As a suggestion, Ricochet shares his thoughts on how influential Canadian artists and platforms can play a role in influencing culture and collaboration between Montreal and Toronto.
Episode 14 – Thursday August 12
In this conversation, we spoke to DJ Pøptrt, who is an Indigenous DJ and artist from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake. DJ Poptrt brings a very important and overlooked perspective to this conversation regarding collaboration and language barriers, specifically in the ways they impact the Indigenous cultures living near both Montreal and Toronto. She explains that the Francophone language barrier not only challenges the connection between the Anglophone artists and talent in Montreal but also, the Indigenous artists, leaving their history, their art, and their stories out of Canadian art, music, and culture on many levels. DJ Poptrt is passionate about the role that knowledge sharing and community development plays in building a music ecosystem and developing artists on an individual level.
Episode 15 – Monday August 16
In this episode, we connected with Kevin Amogou who is a Montreal-based artist manager, and is the founder of the music management company NOTE (Next One to Enjoy) and the label Coat on Club. Kevin has been making moves and building bridges since his early days as a club promoter. From Kevin’s perspective, several elements such as access to information and intergenerational mentorship are needed to build the music scene in each city. While Kevin acknowledges that cross-city and bilingual collaborations are slowly happening, he explains that one of the most challenging barriers from a Montreal perspective in building an ecosystem is the lack of institutional recognition that is given to R&B and Hip Hop.
Episode 16 – Thursday August 19
In this episode, we spoke to Mason Windles, Co-Founder of Summer Cool Creative Agency and the Montreal-based web radio station n10.as. Mason Windles shared his journey growing his business, amplifying artists, and advocating for infrastructure changes in Montreal. Given Mason’s experience managing distribution and product order fulfillment logistics for artists, he offered a fresh take on what improvements are needed within Canada. Mason also shared a common sentiment: the greatest way to curb burnout and build sustainable careers is to address the overall lack of infrastructure and investment in the Canadian music industry.