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Combining music production and community, a Music Den company creates affordable services for artists
“I want to get the nerves out and get the vibes right and feel the energy,” Namen Chakras says into the microphone before starting his performance at UP2SUMIN, hosted by LOUD Army. Chakras stood on a wooden platform with the word “loud” graffitied on it in several places. The third-year occupational health and safety Ryerson student then rubbed his hands together as if to stimulate the energy within him, while the crowd of about 50 people mirrored his actions.
“On the count of three, we’re going to release it.” One. Two. Three. Everyone opened their palms towards him. Then the bass dropped.
His alto brass voice, converged with old school hip hop, takes over the space, making everyone bounce. Some nod their heads. Some cheer. Some shout “aye” and “brrhaa.” An enigmatic energy traverses the crowd and connects everyone in the room to the music.
LOUD Army brings these spaces to life by creating events for artists to network, share and make music. Their rectangular compact soundproof portable studio is what attracts people to their spaces. However, it is their on-going efforts to be authentic that keeps people coming back.
Last month, LOUD Army partnered with the Music Den to host a showcase.
Ryerson’s Music Den is a Toronto-based music incubator that launched as a sister facility to the Transmedia Zone. The incubator helps students, startup companies and visionaries turn their concepts into products. They support members with mentors, free work and event space.
Since partnering with the Music Den, LOUD Army has been able to continue to support emerging artists through its audio production and artists’ development services.
“[The cloud studio] is a really unique idea that hits several markets,” says Cormac McGee, the co-ordinator at the Music Den.
McGee says LOUD Army’s portable studio is beneficial for touring and emerging artists by creating a “cool” community that also stimulates profit.
Pictured left: The microphone that’s installed on the one by six portable studio box. (Latoya Powell/Ryersonian)
“Toronto can be very cliquey when it comes to the music scene,” said Alex Gaglines, one of the sound engineers at LOUD Army. He has been in the music industry for six years.
“It can be very easy for artists to feel like they need to be part of a group or collective like OVO and it’s really hard for emerging artists to break into those. But our goal here is to make it [a place where] we all bring each other up.”
Pictured right: Alex Gaglines, a sound engineer at LOUD Army. (Latoya Powell/Ryersonian)
Toronto is one of the booming cities for Canada’s music industry. However, with creatives coming out of every corner, 80 per cent of artists feel as though they cannot make a living wage off of their art, according to the Toronto Arts Council.
While the cost of basic necessities growing, artists are struggling to keep up. On average they make an income that is less than half of the 2019 Toronto resident income of $65,829.
That makes it especially challenging for some music artists to book studio time, because costs there are continuing to go up.
“I see the artists that do struggle and I can tell that they love the art so much that they’re still going to find their way through the struggle,” Chakras said.
Chakras says that even though some artists are in debt they still try to make ends meet.
Since 2018, LOUD Army has been encouraging music artists to pursue their dreams by eliminating barriers to things such as audio equipment and additional studio fees, by creating the world’s first moveable cloud studio.
“This gives artists the opportunity to really mitigate and discern between the options they have,” said Rhandy Adolphe, the company’s business manager.
Inspired by his friends and his own personal experience as an artist in Toronto’s music industry, Kimani Peter, the owner of LOUD Army, found a need to create affordable services for emerging artists.
After researching and surveying over 870 people in the music industry, he came to the conclusion that a sustainable and accessible recording space is needed in the music scene.
By 2017 the project was up and running and it held its first appearance at the Hacking Black Futures Exhibition, which was a part of the Design TO festival. That was when Peter knew his idea had turned into a product.
“I had made the concept from the very beginning, but it’s been a long journey of organizing different elements to the business that haven’t been rolled out yet,” Peter says.
LOUD Army sells its cloud studio services for $25 a month. This includes free installation of the studio booth, a remote producer and other application accessories, such as access to pre-produced unused sounds.
Peter and the team joined the Music Den incubator at Ryerson in hopes of gaining exposure to different opportunities.
“It helps us grow, not only our brand, but helps us find the people who want to be part of [the team],” Adolphe said.
Since partnering with the Music Den, LOUD Army has been able to attend exclusive events and network with people in both the music and business industries. They have also been introduced to new team members from the Ryerson community. Currently, LOUD Army’s movable booth is located on campus Wednesdays and Sundays.
Although university student Chakras and other local artists find the accessibility of the booth convenient, it’s the spaces that LOUD Army creates that he values more.
“I see it as something the city definitely needed,” Chakras said. “It’s great to have spaces where artists feel comfortable to go to, perform at and showcase themselves.”