Clubhouse Jamz, Toronto-based Hip Hop and R&B music video show celebrated their 3rd season during 2022. Set to go on live every late Thursday night, this show gathered our attention through their fresh attitude towards event curation.
Powered by HNTRS CLUB, the new season of the series created a space for local -and global – talent to perform and get interviewed in the intimate setting of Bar Cathedral. Each “episode” was also broadcasted and included trivia games involving the guests and the crowd as well as an open-mic session for attendees to perform.
The minds behind the series, host Splash and Executive Director Henny spoke to us about their journey and vision as well as the current state of Toronto music scene.
How did everything untangle? Was it Clubhouse Jamz or HNTSRS CLUB first?
Henny: HNTRS CLUB started as an events company under a different name, we have been throwing parties and doing different events since 2014 at a bunch of different clubs and venues. Around 2016 to 17, we were approached by an artist -Prospect mundo- to kind of take on the management reins. We were kind of thrown into it [artist management] and had to do a lot of research. We definitely made a lot of mistakes, we spent a lot of money. But, you know, we learned a lot from that. Since 2016, we’ve added three new artists to our roster.
During 2021, two of our artists had an opportunity to be on NXNE and Canadian Music Week. That was unfortunately canceled due to the pandemic. And we were stuck, because we built out years of trying to work them and get them to this point, and it was fully taken away from us, so we wanted to highlight them in any way we can. We wanted to put something out on YouTube, the artists and their characteristics, while taking it back to something that we all grew up with that doesn’t exist anymore, such as the music talk shows or the music live countdown shows that highlighted different artists every single week. We wanted to find a way in which we could bring that back and take it digital, focusing completely on Toronto.
In the first season, we had our artists, but then we kind of expanded it out to people that we knew in our network. That was the start of Clubhouse Jamz. For season two, we were able to take the very short form stuff that we did with season one (five minute episodes), and added a bunch of people to the team and took it more seriously. We made it live. We wanted to give artists better sound, better audio, so we invested heavily and we were able to build it up bigger.
Splash: I think I remember the key moment. We were just saying we need to find a way to stand out. Because Toronto is a very competitive environment. Everybody is a music artist right now and it is almost scary. So we were like, forget just artist management, we also have to be on the stage with it. Right? So he’s just pondering, placing together little pieces of an idea. And he’s like, yo, let’s run a show! We can do something like MTV jams back in the day.
It was just crazy to see it come together during COVID. There was so much time to exercise creative liberty. How do we really tap into the consciousness of the people around us? And we really did that. We started off with two people in the audience ending off season two with 150 people, it grew every single week. We didn’t charge people to come. We just wanted to create a space where everybody could come and check out artists. . We ended up getting our first beer sponsor, Grenadier Brewery. It was all about really connecting the Toronto audience/music lovers with artists and that’s what it’s always going to be about with Clubhouse Jamz.
Trying to separate yourself from the rest in Toronto, and the nostalgia of these music shows was the reason behind your format?
Splash: Absolutely. And it all happened organically. That’s something that we preach day in and day out because we want people to come and not only feel comfortable but also see something different and cooI where they can be themselves. That’s the key differentiator. And with that said, come watch some music. Participate. Oh, you’re an audience, you’re gonna be on YouTube forever, so you better look good and smell good.
How was the reaction of the public as well as the industry?
Henny: From the artists’ perspective, they love the show. That’s the main reason why we keep investing heavily into this thing. They’re all smiling ear to ear just because they always say there’s no one else doing something like this or they would rather do an interview that’s this style. It’s always been kind of, you know, sitting down and going back and forth in a one on one interview style. One of the main reasons why we wanted to do this thing is also because we truly believe Toronto has the best talent in the world. We truly believe that. We can’t keep having this many superstar caliber artists coming out of the city but lesser known artists can’t get put on for some reason.
Splash: I won’t mention which artists y’all can guess who it is. He did some big stages. He has traveled all over the states and he understands the dynamic of “I’m gonna get on the stage, run side to side, make a couple sounds and the crowd is gonna go nuts”. And then when he came to Clubhouse Jamz, he was like, “this is the most nervous I’ve ever been because this is making me have to be more charismatic. I have to really be myself here. This isn’t what I expected”. That really opened my eyes to the fact that we’re making artists diversify their range. You have to show who you are. It’s important to build that relationship with your audience and it’s so difficult because when you think of promotion, you are thinking bots, pay for playlisting, pay for play, that’s the game we are in. But at the essence of that you still got to be a person and you still got to be vulnerable.
So you would say being able to showcase who people truly are is the most rewarding part?
Henny: For sure.
Splash: Yeah. My best interviews are with people who are out there giving me their heart . When we had Clairmont the Second, I was like “there is nothing apart from himself that he is trying to be, he is trying to act like Clairemont, he is not trying to be an industry cat, he is just trying to be himself. He is a real human. I can connect with that”. And this makes me want to really sit there and make the interview an hour long.
Clubhouse Jamz is a lot of things at once and a very complex production to put on every week. What is your biggest challenge or issue?
Splash: Production costs. Everything costs money. And I think the most important thing to remember is with our ever growing team, if resources aren’t there, you get to the point where you want to be able to take care of everybody around you by doing what you love. We are doing a really good job at its survival right now but production costs are definitely a major key factor and one of the biggest barriers for us.
About the Toronto music scene and it being oversaturated, do you think we are blessed or cursed?
Splash: I don’t think it is oversaturated, I think it is just unorganized. That’s just something that comes from a very competitive mentality we have around all of us. If all of these people, event coordinators, promoters, influencers…if we could just come together and say, okay, “you specialize in this, you specialize in this, you have your own niche, we’re gonna make sure we bring our people over to your party, oh, you guys got a concert or whatnot? Let’s all collaborate and bring people to that for that”. That way everybody can eat, we just organize it together. We all know each other, we got to stop the cap. We all know what’s going on in the city. We all know who’s throwing it, there’s no need to say “I don’t really mess with those people over there”. We can all grow and we can all put on the next generation and keep growing with that. But I feel like cities do have this competitive nature, we’re very unorganized, and I feel like that is a choice and we could change that narrative very easily.
Henny: Yeah, I think it is a double edged sword. I think we are blessed with a lot of talent and a lot of amazing people but I think sometimes we kind of get in our own way. It just seems to be stuck at a point where the old gatekeepers still have a lot of different ways in which they want things done, but are having a hard time letting the younger cats come in and find their own route.
The industry just needs more collaboration and more unionship and more people talking together and breaking down those barriers. Anytime I see a different talk or a different industry event I try to make sure I go and see who is who and they say all the good things, you know, “you guys can do this and we can share that” and then nothing ever happens from that. It got frustrating enough where we can all see it and either not do anything about it or we can try to put our own little stamp on it and that is what we are trying to do here.
Splash: I think another problem is these people who are having these talks preach all this stuff and then when it comes to you saying “I want to collab with this person, can you set me up?”, how are you charging me a finder’s fee? People are begging for crumbs when we can all sit together, you connect this dot, and we can make a cake. Like what are we doing? What are you doing? These are the issues that we have in the city from the same people preaching togetherness. And sorry that’s me.
People have cliques and it almost feels like high-school…With the popular kids, people at the back, and the ones no-one speaks to.
Splash: It is like high school. There is the main bench or all the cool people and nothing else was cool unless you said, like, stop that man. We are grown, there is too much money circulating, funds, grants. Let’s teach each other how to grow. I don’t get it.
In terms of showcasing artists, besides what we lack, what do you think we need more of in this city? Something good that we have and if we build on it we can come out stronger?
Henny: I think programs or shows such as JAMZ is what we need more of. We have enough concerts. Every week, there is a new performance going on. I don’t think it is a lack of concerts. I think it is a lack of things beyond just concerts, you know, taking things a bit back. I didn’t have to see DMX or 50 Cent or Kanye West or Drake or anybody kind of just perform, perform, perform; we also got a chance to see them play games, talk to a host, do different kinds of dates, do a crib tour, or do a car tour. Different things that really made that bond, where it’s like, “okay, I’m an artist”. But the whole point of being an artist is your brand and showcasing your whole self. That takes it beyond just the music. We are showcasing something beyond just the music.
Splash: In the States, they have audiences so engaged with what is happening in their communities. And they are so honest, and they are cut-throat; they are telling people; if you are trash come off stage… We do a thing called the after show. Come prepared. I think we need to have that. We have to cut the PC culture to the point where we can tell somebody “your sound is not good right now, go work on it”. That helps take the competition and the artistry level go up. I think we need to have more honesty and transparency with artists. Our artists need to perform more and make themselves accessible because a lot of artists have songs on Spotify that are spinning but nobody knows them in the city.
What is next with Clubhouse? What is your ideal scenario?
Henny: Ideally we get picked up by a network. We are not trying to keep it to a grassroots project. We want to really think big picture with this thing, and we do not see any reason why we can not be on a major network, showcasing this talent. It takes us back to the whole reason why we did this. I think the city is amazing. I think the talent is amazing and they deserve to be on television or any kind of distribution platform or streaming service, whatever it may be. We are fine tuning the show every single time. Every single season, it gets better and we are just leveling up. So I definitely think the sky is the limit on this thing to take it to that level. I think Splash was mentioning taking it to different countries and different cities with a different format, of course, but the main focus is always going to be Toronto and Canada. I think. Canada also needs a spotlight.
Splash: I feel like there’s so much room in Toronto for a media outlet like HNTRS CLUB to be the center of the voice of the city. My biggest fear is the screwface capital attitude making us go to the States because they are already showing us love; we have viewers in Detroit, and Atlanta. Saint Case came through and he got us that boost over there, which is nice. I like being seen in the States because they have more of a community surrounding music. We got to blow up in the states and then come back to Toronto. And then I got to look at the people who were included in this and be like, “I am the gatekeeper now”. I do not want to do that. I just want Toronto to show love as it is right now. We need to recognize our own value and we need to know when we have our own gems, and we have to show support. And that platform is Clubhouse Jamz.
Special thanks to Splash and Henny for giving Sidedoor their time and mind.
CLUBHOUSE JAMZ TEAM
Executive Producer – Henny
Graphic designer – Carilee Lessard
Director – Yvano Antonio
Stream Manager – Saynomore444
Social Media – Shema Niyitunga
Business Admin – Joshua Pandhoo
Camera Operator – TheLoudPack
Camera Operator – Txnic
Bts Videography – London Rich / Zain Mahar
Photography – Kyle Saliendra
CLUBHOUSE JAMZ SEASON 3 LINE-UP
Episode 1 – Shay24k – Dj BLK MAMBA
Episode 2 – Seko – Dj BLK MAMBA
Episode 3 – Patrick Kabongo – Dj Romeo
Episode 4 – Anders – Dj Kpreme/Dj Akin
Episode 5 – Charmaine – Dj Akin
Episode 6 – Big Juice – Dj Zar
Episode 7 – Tara Lord – DJ Shannyn Hill
Episode 8 – Loti – Dj BLK MAMBA
Episode 9 – Basi Azul – Dj Deeezzy
Episode 10 – Nilo Blues – Dj K Stylez
Episode 11 – Kysean – Dj 47
Episode 12 – Clairmont the Second – Dj Kappa Mezu
Episode 13 – Saint Case – Young Wolf
Episode 14 – 4Korners – Dj Shannyn Hill
Encore Episode – Kranium – Dj Romeo
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