Making a scene

This story was originally published for now-defunct Calgary alternative weekly newspaper FFWD Weekly.

Studio Social helps Calgary electronic producers show off their block rockin’ beats

by David MacIntyre November 20, 2014

In an industry like electronic music production where it’s just as much about who you know as it is what you know, it’s important to strike a balance between networking like a pro and letting your tracks speak for themselves.

Enter Studio Social: a club night at Habitat Living Sound that gives local producers the chance not only to create relationships with each other, but also to learn their craft and improve their skills.

The night allows upcoming producers to submit their tracks to be heard in a live setting as well as through workshops on using different DAWs (digital audio workstations) like Ableton Live and Logic Pro.

The event has also been inviting guest speakers since its inception almost a year ago. In April, representatives of various Calgary-based electronic record labels gave advice on marketing, understanding how record labels work and getting tracks released.

According to longtime Calgary producer and Studio Social co-founder Isis Graham, the idea came from the fact that she and co-founders Cary Chang and Matt Caine wanted to start a producer night focusing on the DAW Cubase, since a school in Calgary for Ableton users already existed.

“From that, the discussion broadened out on ‘Well, maybe it could be not just for Cubase, maybe it could be for everything,’” she says. The conversations snowballed from there, and eventually Studio Social was conceived. Held on the last Wednesday of most months at Habitat Living Sound, the club night welcomes producers of all genres, production styles and skill sets. Graham says at first it was mostly beginners showing up, but “middle-range experience producers” are coming through more often now.

Local electronic producer John Arum has been an active member of the Studio Social team, as well as submitting a track every month. He says he’s always wanted to be involved in a producer night, and once Studio Social came along, he jumped on it immediately.

“I hope that it actually gets people more interested in the music side of things, like I was as just a DJ actually going to clubs for the music and not for the girls,” he says. “It’s really hard dragging out your friends that are there for the girls, even though they’re DJs just like you…. If this ever ends, I just hope the message is [that] we should go to clubs for the music.”

According to Graham, a “healthy rotation” of 150 people attend each month, whereas there are more than 200 people in Studio Social’s online community. While Calgary might not have a huge global reputation for electronic music, both she and Arum are amazed by the quality of what’s  coming out of the city.

“You hear something and you’re just like ‘There’s no way this is coming from Calgary. This sounds like it’s coming from Berlin, and how are they even getting these ideas?’” she says.

In addition to the label forum and DAW workshops, Studio Social recently hosted a remix contest.

This winter, they will have a new project called “Unlikely Connections,” where producers will be paired at random to collaborate on a track. They’re also working on presentations about SOCAN and FACTOR grants, and on January 2, CJSW will feature two hours of programming dedicated to tracks submitted to Studio Social.

“I like to sit in Studio Social in the back room and look through the little window hole and feel some sort of pride and happiness,” says Graham. “I can look out and see 50 to 100 people standing around, being together, conversing, talking, sharing their music and hearing their music and being stoked on the community. I look at that, and from the outside, I feel content. I feel like we’ve accomplished something that did not exist before.”

STUDIO SOCIAL typically takes place on the last Wednesday of every month at Habitat Living Sound. The next event is on Wednesday, November 26.

(Photo credit: Michael Benz)


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