The Toronto music industry is renowned amongst the city’s many accomplished artists for its ruthless process in sifting through new talent. Even at the best of times, independent artists in Toronto looking to make a name for themselves grapple with both the pressures of distinction in their art, and an incredibly low payoff for their work.
With live music being the primary source of income for the majority of independent musicians, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its consequential venue closures have targeted the very infrastructure of Toronto’s music scene.
Now that live music is beginning to breathe life back into the city’s historic music halls, shuttered for nearly two years, Toronto artists are being met with the same demons they were battling before, and then some.
Fluffio, known more formally as Ryan Preiano, is an independent Toronto musician who is delighted to be back in action performing live gigs. But in addition to his own music career; managing, booking, amongst other things, Preiano is committed to providing opportunities for other musicians who may not receive the recognition or funding they deserve.
Deriving from his proficient capability in managing the majority of his own branding, Preiano’s secondary employment is his independent music based company, Agoria Productions. Offering services from promoting to merchandising to even recording, it is here where he helps more inexperienced musicians find their footing by charging them significantly less than what they’d normally pay to print their merchandise and record new music, as well as offer shows to those struggling to find them.
“I kind of felt like I was doing a good job at running shows for my own band, so I was like, okay, why can’t I start helping other bands grow?”
“When I run and put on shows, I like to put bands on that are typically underdogs and that sort of thing. People who have never played shows before, or bands you just wouldn’t know. I very much like to offer these musicians unique opportunities”
“You’ll always find that the most successful people in the industry are the ones supporting each other.”
“It’s very common that artists are lost. Artists have great visions and songs, but what’s a great song if no one hears it?”
Long before Fluffio was belting out original punk-rock jams onstage at the likes of The Horseshoe Tavern and Lee’s Palace, he started out as just another late-night dive bar act.
Since the age of 13, Preiano has been developing his live music experience and networking with the right people along the way so that he can pass his knowledge and connections on to smaller bands awaiting their big break.
“This band I worked with a while ago, they were all round’ 16 or 17 and not many people will look at a band that young. But I booked them, and they came and they were pretty great! After the show I got a chance to talk with them and their parents and give them a bit of praise and constructive feedback, simply cause I just wish I would’ve gotten that kind at 16!”
Despite being booking well-established bands through his company, such as Cancer Bats or Teenage Head, Preiano still makes time to work works with less experienced bands because it reminds him of where he came from, and what he loves to do.
“For me, I am of the mentality that that everyone deserves an opportunity, but then whether they deserve a second opportunity is truly up to them. Act somewhat professional and you’re music will get the respect it deserves.”
Preiano stresses that the live music experience is a crucial step in establishing yourself in the music industry, but it’s the overall effect that live music has on both the artist and the audience that makes all of a band’s challenges worthwhile.
With live music halted in its tracks due to the pandemic for nearly the past two years, musicians have been deprived of the opportunity to connect with their audiences, and audiences have been starved of a good show. It is exactly that, a diverse and entertaining show, that Fluffio aims to provide his audience with when they come out to hear him play.
“Music to me has always been about bringing people together, so in essence my biggest thing has always been about cultivating events that have brought people together and I always blend elements that you wouldn’t think would work... Different genres and such, but so far its gone great”
Fluffio is well aware of how long his audience has been craving their concert fix, and overall he plays his shows with the intention of reminding every single person in the room how much they’ve missed live music.
He remarks that, prior to the pandemic, there was less of an urgency to attend concerts that most people took for granted. Nowadays, concert scheduling revolves around the uncertainty of the pandemic, and anyone with concert tickets is certain to not only save the date, but count down the days.
“Music captivates people, but also the ability to perform captivates people even more. The difference is in just getting up there in a t-shirt to perform your songs or getting up there with a purpose”
“Live music is just so important because it brings people together and there’s this sense of love. There’s so much bullsh*t in the world, but the second you’re at a concert and the music starts, everything else becomes irrelevant because you’re there, totally in the moment.”