From July 2018 through April 2019, The Production Lab supported 10 youth from across Toronto to develop skills in production and audio engineering for music, podcasts, and radio. The Production Lab is a joint initiative of MyStand, a registered not-for-profit organization that provides holistic and culturally-relevant mentorship supports for black male youth, and In Studio Collective members K-Notes and Eestbound, award-winning music producers, audio engineers, and musicians. Over the course of 16 sessions, youth participants were taught key skills in this art form, received mentorship and resources related to the industry, were supported in building up their portfolios, and engaged in networking opportunities to connect with key decision makers in the industry.
Recognizing the benefit their knowledge, experience, and connections could bring to others, the project was created to support racialized and marginalized youth 18-29 looking to expand their skill sets and break into Toronto’s music industry but who face barriers in accessing professional training at an industry standard due to financial, educational, or other socio-economic barriers. K-Notes and Eestbound share, “both of us have collaborated together in the studio in the past and it was during these times we talked about how the lack of quality audio engineers and producers is really hurting the Toronto music scene. It was in these conversations that we decided to create The Production Lab and create a space to incubate this heavily needed but highly inaccessible arts training”. They explain, “In a city like Toronto where artists are quickly gaining recognition through the ‘Drake Effect’, many young people are seeing music as a viable career. However, we are not developing a good ratio of quality audio engineers and producers, forcing Toronto artists to continue to seek beats, production, or simply move to the US to support their careers”.
Funded by ArtReach to run the project for the first time in 2018, The Production Lab was a great success. Feedback from workshop attendees was extremely positive, with frequent requests to run more sessions and the hope that the project would run again. MyStand’s Mustafa El Amin shares, the project “had a lot of youth wanting to be involved. Participating in the program also made them realize that they don’t have to be able to afford expensive training like the Harris Institute or Metalworks to gain these skills and learn this information. It really brought possibilities within reach”.
Apart from a small amount of in-kind support from community partners, ArtReach was the sole supporter of the project. When asked what ArtReach helped make possible, the team shares, “this funding brought the program to life and allowed it to actually be implemented. It brought people in and allowed us to make a real impact. It sounds cheesy, but it helped our idea blossom a seed that can grow into a tree”.
So what’s next for The Production Lab? Expansion! The team is keen to continue running programming in local communities, but are also hoping to extend into local schools, reach younger participants, and develop curricula in the artforms of DJing and podcasting, all while ensuring that they’re connecting with the youth who could benefit most from the opportunity to participate in this free training program. Future goals also include forming partnerships with post-secondary institutions and the Ministry of Training, and eventually expanding into correctional facilities.