These Studios and Workshops Are Making DJing More Affordable In Canada
The price of industry-standard DJ equipment is very high, but community-minded artists in Toronto and Montreal are opening spaces to help make it more accessible and more inclusive.
DJing can be an expensive profession, but a handful of new programs in Canada are making it more accessible.
In Toronto, Offshore Studio launched on Oct. 24 to provide established and up-and-coming DJs with industry-standard equipment. Located on Weston Avenue, Offshore is the project of DJ Tevis Spence (whose artist name is Parisanthonyy), DJ Miles Freedom and Joseph Clarke.
The studio aims to tackle equipment costs for DJs, a major restriction when it comes to practicing and evolving. In Toronto, most rely on renting or using venue equipment even to practice. For those who are new to DJing, spaces like Offshore take away the risk of the equipment's high cost.
“[Buying equipment] is a pretty big commitment for something you might not know if you want to do,” Freedom tells Billboard Canada. “Our space allows for people to experiment and try DJing without a huge price tag,”
Some of the equipment Offshore carries, like CDJ 2000 NEXUS and DJM 900 mixers, can often cost over $6,000. DJs can book the space for $30 per hour.
Both Freedom and Spence have had an extensive history within Toronto’s nightlife, having played at buzzy events like Boiler Room, Kuruza and Moonshine. Through their connections and experience in the industry, they eventually want to integrate workshops run by some of the city’s most active DJs. The goal is both to educate and to build community.
“We want to create a community of like-minded individuals, people who want to learn,” says Spence. “That’s comforting and helps you expand your interests and meet new people, which can be difficult to do sometimes in the city.”
Offshore isn’t the only space DJs can access equipment and workshops for enthusiasts or up-and-coming DJs across the city.
Toronto’s Intersessions, founded by local artist Chippy Nonstop, has been running pop-up workshops and partnerships at events since 2016. The workshops have included Toronto artists like Hangaelle, Nino Brown and Roshanie as well as international DJs from across the globe. Intersessions’ workshops have often taken a critical look at the industry itself, using accessibility of DJ equipment to build an equitable scene and tackle barriers for gender diverse and queer musicians.
Montreal-based DJ Syana founded a similar program in her city in 2022. DJTAL is based out of community organization Brique par Brique’s Parc Extension space. Like the others, Syana says the goal is to make equipment accessible, but there’s also a second forward-looking aim.
“It’s important to us to be able to give education to the next generation,” she says.
DJTAL provides access to equipment while offering group and individual classes taught by Syana herself. She says the mission is inspired in part by the Parc Ex area it’s in, which Syana says has been a “home to a diverse immigrant community for decades, supporting each other through socioeconomic challenges.”
“Yes, DJTAL is for DJs and people from the music world to be able to get a studio to practice, but we’re also trying to build a relationship with youth in the neighbourhood,” she says. “I grew up in a predominantly immigrant, BIPOC space, and there wasn’t anything like [DJTAL].”
But it goes beyond one space. DJTAL goes to schools, summer camps and works with LGBTQ+ organizations. For Syana, it’s important to give access to people beyond the nightlife scene.
In July, DJTAL faced a major obstacle when Brique par Brique space was broken into and much of their equipment was stolen. She held a fundraiser to replace some of it, but it’s still an effort to rebuild. Regardless, Syana is pushing forward, continuing the services and offering free classes to the youth in the area.
DJTAL plans to host another fundraiser to expand their space and build a recording studio for youth in Parc Ex.
“We have a lot of young boys who hang around [the space]. Outside of the school hours, we try to give classes to them… to [give] them a space to be creative,” says Syana. “It’s about having a connection with the people in your community.”