Music For All Ages—An Interview With Talkabout

By Adam Bernhardt

Whether you’re a first-year new to the city or a returning student looking to further explore Toronto’s music offerings, Demo wants to make you aware of what is going on. As you enjoy frosh week and the first week of classes, we’ll be telling you about exciting music opportunities on campus and off.

A major hurdle for many first-year students is their lack of ability to see live music due to their being underage. Talkabout is a monthly live music series in Toronto that seeks to encourage participation from all ages in its shows. Demo writer Adam Bernhardt sat down with founder Connor Baker to discuss the challenges of arranging and promoting age-inclusive live music.

Demo: How did Talkabout start and where did the idea came from?

Connor Baker: I saw a band called Veronica Falls play an all ages show here in Toronto and no other kids were there except for the group I brought . I thought we could probably get more kids out for bigger touring bands from abroad who have no fan base here.

I noticed a lack of underage shows here in Toronto, and the fact that most bands who play underage shows are themselves underage, which isn’t bad, but older bands tend not to play all ages shows. Our goal is to mix it up: get an underage band on first and get older bands on afterwards. Just trying to get more all ages shows going was really the main drive behind what we were about.

D: That reminds of me of a friend of mine in high school telling me about having to wait and listen outside in the parking lot to a band they liked playing in  a venue that wouldn’t let them in because they were underage.

CB: Yeah I’ve done that before. One time I was at the back of the Horseshoe with my ear to the door, sounded okay though!

D: So tell me what the first Talkabout show was like?

CB: That was actually kind of a mess, we were trying to get a show at the Drake [Underground]… and somehow the guy got back to us like a week before asking if we wanted a show the next Friday for the May long weekend due to someone bailing and leaving an open spot. So we agreed and threw random acts together which didn’t really have a coherent theme. We had one band and then half a band here, half a band there, but it was still good, a lot of fun, and people turned out. But still a bit of a sloppy learning experience. We kind of refer to it as [show number] 0.5 as a result.

After that, we had our real first show at the El Mocambo, first all ages show we did. The bill was too big because we had five or six bands and set times started getting sloppy…it’s hard to say it was a while ago.

D: How long ago was this?

CB: Only about a year ago, last June. It was good though, a lot of younger kids came out. But the El Mocambo was a bit too pricy for us, it was definitely a learning experience in that regard but we did break even, even though it was supposed to be a charity show.

D: With regards to venues how do you decide which ones you’d like to work with?

CB: Right now we are kind of changing. [We’ve been working with] Parts and Labor, which is just the easiest place to set up our kind of shows. But it’s a bar so they need more security, which coupled with the fact that they don’t think they will make as much money on the bar means they will charge you a flat fee, and it was too expensive for us, so now we are trying to do more art galleries.

D: I’ve definitely noticed that, a lot of the Facebook events take place at the White House and Creatures Creating.

CB:  Creatures Creating seems to be the cool place for all ages shows right now.

D: Do you find that the galleries are much easier to work with than venues?

CB: Well with art galleries you don’t need the security and you don’t have to pay for the security. You can also do your own bar; it’s all legal and stuff, and we make a bunch of revenue  that way and pay off the venue. We’ve found that out using galleries in Kensington Market with our own bar we do bring in a lot more revenue.

D: So you guys have just the Facebook page so far right?

CB: Well one thing we’ve encountered is that by some weird law you can’t promote outside private events on facebook/twitter.

D: On that note what sort of challenges do you encounter promoting all ages shows?

CB: Mostly money. For a liquor license it’s seventy-five bucks and then an extra 5 bucks due to taxes and stuff, Parts and Labor charges 500 bucks, and then charging ten bucks per person, I need fifty people to show up, and getting people to come out and pay ten bucks is a lot harder than say 5 bucks.  We definitely want to pay bands, but that becomes tricky when you break even, like, “hey guys want a twoonie?”

Which is mostly why I want to do bar, because I want to be able to pay bands more revenue that we make as a result. Money is also an issue when you are dealing with bands that have been around longer and are used to earning some dividends, it’s usually not so much a problem with new bands who just want to play, but older more established acts want money because they’re good and they’ve been doing it for years, which is understandable.

D: Any plans to move into the surrounding areas where there might be a larger audience for all ages shows?

CB: Like Mississauga? I’ve thought about it, doing shows there every once in a while, but I’m kind of limited right now by my transportation options, because I live east of here and I bike everywhere. Most of the audience I get comes from the East End, so I’m not sure. But definitely when I go to Kingston [for school this September] I’m going to set up shows there.

D: Kingston would definitely be a good place for that, there are some pretty nice venues around.

CB: Yeah there’s also a lot of schools, like Queens, St. Laurent college, etc. I want to try and get more touring bands playing as Kingston is a pit stop between Montreal and Toronto.

D: Do you have any future plans?

CB: Yeah, with Talkabout the reason I started doing this was to bring a lot of touring British bands because that’s what I listen to a lot, and so my goal was to help bands I like a lot and part of that is getting more shows in Canada. So I’m going to try and make more connections in Waterloo, Kingston, Montreal, and try set up series for them, but I know that’s going to be pretty difficult.

Apparently there are now some taxes or something? Like $470 per band member or something [Ed. note: read about it here], which if that actually happens it won’t help anyone. It’s stupid, they think these bands are taking Canadian jobs and are saying look at your local musicians, but like we are! That’s who the openers are! It’s so silly.

D: I don’t know a single person who approves of this in any way.

CB: Whoever put that motion forward in Parliament obviously does not know music.  They don’t know how it works.

D: Do you think that it might help in any way though?

CB: For local bands?  Maybe, but at the same time it’s not really worth it and I don’t want it at all.

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