Toronto’s musicians who help generate $850 million annually to the city’s economy are seeing vital rehearsal spaces drying up.
Steve Bronstein and his band, the Alter Kakers, are relegated to rehearsing in Bronstein’s basement in the Beach neighbourhood.
The band is trying to find traditional rehearsal space to play loud. But to no effect.
“We have feelers out to other musician friends, but we’re not really finding anything right now,” Bronstein said in an interview.
The city plugs in
The city’s economic and community development committee is recommending senior staff look at ways to stem the hemorrhaging of rehearsal spaces and create more.
A staff report to the committee in late January said rehearsal spaces have been on the decline significantly for the past two decades, especially over the past five years.
“The closure of over 50 per cent of remaining rentable rehearsal rooms is expected by early 2022,” the report said.
“Music rehearsal spaces are a vital part of this artist development trajectory,” it added. “They provide safe, affordable, and accessible places for musicians to hone their craft.”
On Feb. 2 city council is to hear recommendations to fix the matter, including a new Section 37 community benefits charge to provide “limited” funding that could include for-profit and not-for-profit rehearsal space.
Another idea is to take an inventory of city-owned properties that could be suitable for lease at below-market rates.
It’s worth noting, according to a city website, that Toronto’s music industry provides the equivalent of 10,500 full-time jobs.
Cabbagetown garage band
The Alter Kakers’ last rehearsal space was in a Cabbagetown garage. They were there for about five years.
But owner wanted to redevelop it — into something residential, Bronstein believed — and the band was out on the street.
The band has tried unsuccessfully with other drummers to find space. One of those drummers has been around for a long time, Bronstein said.
“He’s having a hard time finding a place, too,” he said. “It’s hard to find a place that’s economical for us. One of the other guys we shared with, he was a drummer as well, and he had to actually go out to Hamilton to get a spot.”
Bronstein wondered if the city could encourage owners of large storage lockers to turn those spaces into rehearsal places.
“We always wondered could you rent a storage space, a large one, and use it as a rehearsal space. I don’t know if it’s a noise thing or if storage spaces don’t want [musicians],” said Bronstein.
“We haven’t really enquired, but I imagine it would be an issue with noise.”
Bronstein and his cohorts are east-enders, bass player and vocalist Cary Corvair is from the Leslieville/Riverside neighbourhood and drummer Dan Barsi is from Leaside.
“We’re east-end guys so we’d like to find something in the east end,” said Bronstein.
“There seems to be a lot more hourly places in the west end and also up in the Downsview area,” he said. “If you’re a musician up there you’re probably okay.”
But in terms of finding a long-term place in the east end where they can leave their stuff and share it with a few of the bands, “there’s not really a lot out there,” Bronstein lamented.