By Luis Ramirez-Liberato
The first-ever Grounders Music Festival will be held on Nov. 4 at the OBJX Studio, featuring nine diverse, indie artists from across the Greater Toronto Area. The one-day event was founded by a group of Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students passionate about showcasing talent within the local music scene.
Not wanting to be boxed into one single genre, Grounders Music Festival will feature a wide variety of music curated for a unique and intimate festival experience, according to a statement on the event’s IndieGoGo profile.
But this festival is much more than just a concert.
Executive producers Helen Chen and Sofia Shahbazzadeh, both fourth-year media production students at TMU, spoke to The Eyeopener about their goal to create a space that will serve as a hub for artists of all mediums to connect.
“We wanted it to be sort of a cultural hub. We thought, ‘lots of concerts happen all the time, lots of independent concerts happen at local venues all the time, and we wanted to stand out,’” said Chen.
Shahbazzadeh said the idea began as a pitch for a project development media production course. “[It] turned into something bigger than us and bigger than just a school project—it became a community event,” said Shahbazzadeh. The festival’s co-executive producers and long-time friends complement one another with Chen’s background in audio and Shahbazzadeh’s in multi-camera work, making the perfect pair for a project of this scope.
Shahbazzadeh said she assembled a team that will record each artist’s performance and edit together videos that they’ll be free to use however they like after the event.
“I think one thing a lot of my artist friends struggle with is getting gigs. And when they do get gigs, they don’t have a portfolio to show. I think this will help them at least,” said Shahbazzadeh.
Sofia Aëdon, one of the artists performing during the daytime portion at the festival and fellow TMU alumna, spoke on the financial struggles artists often face.
“In terms of struggles, it’s always the money. You can play one show and you have to split the cost, then split the cost of transportation…by the time you’re done with the show, you might make 20 bucks for each of your bandmates,” said Aëdon.
With that in mind, an event like the Grounders Music Festival demonstrates that the public is willing and wants to support smaller artists out of their own pockets. Aëdon described an event like this as “breaking the monopoly” held by major music industry players.
Shahbazzadeh highlighted that a significant aspect of the festival is how “the music matches the time of day.” Sets earlier in the day will play calmer music like indie rock and folk and progressively get more intense as the day goes on.
The festival is also unique because it’s funded by people who all share a passion for the local Toronto music scene.
The student founders crowdfunded the event through an IndieGoGo campaign, amassing over $3,000 that has allowed smaller artists to share their music with a large audience.
Donors were gifted special perks such as stickers, posters and baseball caps depending on the amount of their donation.
“There’s always stress when you deal with the finance side of things…However, it’s a very heartwarming feeling to know that there are people out there who support you and believe in your mission,” said Shahbazzadeh.
Much of the event funding went towards securing the right venue, said Shahbazzadeh. Eventually, the executives landed on the OBJX Studio, which Shahbazzadeh described as “maximalist” with big open windows that work towards creating an environment with a grandiose vibe, energy and atmosphere.
Additionally, the event sports an all-female and non-binary executive team and the two executive producers of the event spoke on what it was like working in a space not dominated by men.
“I also think there aren’t a lot of women leading the charge in events and in media,” said Chen.
“As the co-executive producer, it’s very rare and especially in our industry, to be able to work in a space where it’s all women and non-binary folks,” said Shahbazzadeh. “And it’s definitely been amazing.”
Grounders Music Festival will take place from Nov. 4 from 3 p.m. to Nov. 5 at 12 a.m. The event will be split into a day and night portion. Half-day and full-day tickets are available for sale in the bio for the Grounders Music Festival Instagram ranging from $35 to $60.