Canadian Music Manager: “The infrastructure does not exist in Toronto for hip hop”

Somebody get this guy a TV show or a regular column…

Toronto is hot. This is the Seattle of the 90’s but for hip hop. Everyone is coming here to find the next best thing. Killer producers, killer artists all from Toronto (and surrounding areas respectively). We are breeding some incredible talent, and everyone wants in. Everyone except for the music industry in Toronto itself. With all the global attention, the talent, the hype, there is one thing missing. The infrastructure does not exist in Toronto for hip hop. How is that possible?

I was in New York meeting with Roc Nation and I saw some guy wearing a Toronto shirt. I approached him and asked if he was from Toronto, something we Canadians do while abroad. He was not in fact from Toronto. I thought to myself, then why are you wearing that shirt? Because Toronto is cool.

We can all thank Drake for that. He is the hottest hip hop artist on planet Earth, and he made the 6ix the epicenter of the genre today. And yet, we have no hip hop radio stations, live venues avoid hip hop artists like the plague, labels and agents have no interest in hip hop artists, and managers couldn’t care less…unless they are 19 years old, and live, breathe and eat hip hop. Those kids are making moves. They are a different breed from the successful management companies operating in Toronto and Canada today. These kids are hungry, and they hustle. They have their ear to the ground, which makes them vital to my management team.

Putting the younger generation aside for a moment, for a city that is defined as Hip hop, our industry is showing no interest. Why? Do they not see the monetary potential? Are they too old to get it? Are they too scared to invest? Mainstream POP radio play a handful of artists like Drake, and Big Sean because to them, they are pop. And the reality is, at least with Drake, they have no choice. But Jazz Cartier, Torey Lanez, Roy Wood$ and Derek Wise are nowhere to be heard. You’ll see them on Vevo, but that’s about it…for now. They are blowing up in Canada AND the US market, and you can’t hear them on any mainstream radio stations. Is that why Canadian Majors aren’t signing them? They need mainstream radio to break artists, and without hip hop stations what choice do they have? If you are a hip hop artist from Toronto you are going to have a hard time getting heard.

Unless you are streaming.

And thank god for Spotify, Apple and Google for championing our Canadian hip hop artists. But the truth is, DSP’s aren’t really Canadian. They are imported from Europe and the US with offices in Toronto. Still, they are doing their part, in a big way. Canadian College radio is also there for the hip hop community, but otherwise our industry is barren. For a city that is a hotbed for hip hop, we aren’t nurturing it in any way. We are pushing them out of Canada to our neighbors down south. Only then do we welcome hip hop home with open arms, under the guise of pop music.

Amir Epstein, LLB, who works with Edwin (I Mother Earth, Crash Karma), Tyler Shaw, The Standstills, Bed Of Stars, and Dylyn