Getting Gigs in Toronto

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Getting Gigs in Toronto
By Ken Murphy

Over a year ago, I left my job as a graphic designer in the film industry to try and pursue life as an artist. I am a visual artist but also a musician, and I wanted to combine these two methods of artistic expression into a single project. I began working on my visual music project entitled Spots; I recorded footage using my smartphone camera (abstract visuals, moving textures, graphic imagery, etc.) and edited it together with original music that I had composed to create a final piece. In each of the pieces, the visuals and music work together to provoke a unique sensory experience. These music videos range in style from surreal and abstract to literal and humourous.

While creating these music videos and putting them on my website, I eventually decided that I wanted to develop a live performance version of Spots. I invested in a digital projector and created a show wherein I would project the visuals on a big screen, play the composed music through speakers, and then provide live guitar accompaniment. The whole thing seemed weird and unconventional, and I wasn’t sure what kind of venue would work for my show, but nonetheless I ventured forth to try and find an event that would host this live version of Spots.

I soon realized that Toronto is a great city to live in if you are a visual artist/musician/performer. There are all kinds of events and festivals going on year round, and it’s just a matter of finding a good scene and trying to insert yourself into it. My first gig was the result of being in the right place at the right time; I had enrolled as a member of Music Ontario (a non-profit association that helps guide people in the music industry) and was at one of their meetings where I happened to meet Tom from Creators’ Lounge. Tom invited me to some CL events, and after going to a few of them and seeing what they were all about, I proposed a Spots set at Alio Bar as part of CL Adrenaline Nights last summer. Tom agreed to give me a shot, and the rest is history! I’ve played Alio a few times as part of Creators’ Lounge and hope to play more shows there in the future.

My most recent gig in February of this year was part of Long Winter at The Great Hall. Long Winter is a festival that runs during the winter months (November through March) and showcases some great musical acts and visual artists from Toronto. Last year, I went to a few LW shows and then asked if I could volunteer to help out the organizers. By being a part of the volunteer crew I learned a lot about what it takes to put on a music/arts festival each month. This year, I was included as a performer for the February edition and put on a Spots show for a very receptive audience. I’ve also made a lot of contacts through LW that may result in future gigs.

A number of other Toronto festivals that I have applied for this year are SummerWorks, NXNE, and Nuit Blanche. I’ve either attended or volunteered at these festivals in the past. I’d encourage you to check these out if you like visual art and musical performances.

If you have an idea for a show and want to get some gigs around town, it’s important to keep putting yourself out there; you never know who you may meet and what opportunities may arise. With hard work and dedication, and a bit of luck, you should be booking your first Toronto gig in no time!

Some links of the organizations and festivals mentioned above:
http://www.creatorsloungetoronto.com
http://www.music-ontario.ca
http://www.torontolongwinter.com
http://www.summerworks.ca
http://www.nxne.com
http://www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca

Ken
http://www.galleryofspots.com

Ken blog1



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