By Celeste Daniella Ceres
It seems the music industry has consistently given female musicians the short end of the stick when it comes to fostering spaces for them to create, showcase and get recognition for their work. Only 10.4% of GRAMMY nominees between 2013 and 2019 were women. Meanwhile, the number of women on the Billboard Hot 100 chart remained at 17% from 2012 to 2018.
Globally, it’s pretty damn hard to make it as a woman in the music industry.
The music scene lacks stages for women, and one doesn’t have to look hard to see it. Thankfully, there are rising local indie efforts to target just that. L’Acapella is a new concert series birthed out of Toronto that helps female musicians in R&B, soul and pop build their brand and share their voice.
Manifesto had a chat with songwriter, producer, and guitarist Adrian X (Drake, PARTYNEXTDOOR, The Weeknd) and singer-songwriter and Apple Music’s recent Artist of the Week LIZ LOKRE— two of the Toronto-based artists who co-founded L’Acapella — about the inspo behind the movement.
What’s the inspiration behind L’Acapella?
Adrian X: L’Acapella started as an idea to put on our own concerts featuring an all-female lineup. We wanted to do this because we feel there are not enough concert spaces to go and watch amazing female artists perform. L’Acapella is not a showcase. We are building our own concert series community to help women in R&B, Soul and Pop music by providing them a place to perform, build their brand and make money.
LIZ LOKRE: Collaboration over competition; it’s important that we take every opportunity to live out that mantra as female creatives in this city. We wanted to be a part of the movement that’s providing opportunities to expose the talent that exists here and also create a sense of community to elevate one another.
Who is the team powering L’Acapella?
Adrian X: The team is a small crew of creative minds from Toronto. L’Acapella is my brainchild and it was brought to life in The Grotto with my friends; James Robertson, LIZ LOKRE, David Forteaux and Ecclectic Electrix Inc. We are always expanding the community. We also have an extended crew of talented people who have helped us make the shows happen.
What’s the difference between “making it” as a male musician in Toronto vs. as a female musician?
Adrian X: The male dominance in music is not only a problem in Toronto but globally. All of us at L’Acapella want to see more women in the top 10! Thankfully in Toronto, there are new opportunities for female artists through great corporate companies. We are happy that we already have support from companies like Roland and Gibson. It’s also great to see streaming platforms like Apple Music, Spotify and Soundcloud giving exposure to new up and coming artists.
LIZ LOKRE: For women, there’s red tape & expectations that men are simply not faced with. It’s inspiring to see other women on the rise who are breaking these stigmas and challenging the norm, artists like the “tell it like it is” Jessie Reyez and powerhouses like SATE. I agree that we need to see more women from this city topping the charts but we shouldn’t feel like we all have to chase the same opportunities. There’s room for all of us to get our shine, and if spaces don’t exist for that, we’ll create them.
What’s the difference between L’Acapella and other R&B/soul musical showcases in Toronto? (And why is it important that the sets featured in L’Acapella are stripped down/acoustic?)
Adrian X: At L’Acapella we are all fans of the music of the ’70s. When watching live footage from that decade, you see so many inspiring performances by artists performing stripped-down versions of their songs. We want to bring that vibe back. We don’t want anything to take away from the audience meeting the artist and hearing their music and that’s what makes this night different. You don’t always get to hear Acoustic guitar “Soul/ R&B” music in a live setting. By performing this way, you get to hear and feel the words, melodies, and chords that the artist is sharing.
LIZ LOKRE: There’s something really special about the environment at L’Acapella. The stripped-back vibe leaves nothing but raw emotion emanating from the stage, giving artists an opportunity to connect organically and for the audience to get to know the artists more intimately.
Please tell us about the talent you have featured so far.
Adrian X: Our first show in July featured 5 incredible artists: WILL, Charmie, Chelsea Russel, Racquel and LIZ LOKRE. It was a huge pleasure to work with these women. They are all unsigned talents on the rise in the Toronto R&B scene and are all incredible vocalists! Before and after the show we had amazing DJ’s; Killa Kels and Jamie Lee Santos playing music that had the room grooving. We really focus on building a creative space that’s dedicated to connecting women across all creative industries. It’s all-ages and of course, all are welcome… it’s a concert you want to be at!
What advice do you have for female artists in R&B, Soul and Pop who are trying to establish themselves as musicians, both locally and globally?
Adrian X: My advice would be to study and understand the whole music business. Get involved with your studio sessions, start rehearsing and then performing live, research PR companies, find a good major or indie label that is appropriate for your music repertoire and take meetings. Understand streaming and digital streaming platforms (DSP’s). Ask questions, work with a good team and don’t waste your time on projects you don’t feel great about. I also hope that more women will pick up instruments like the guitar and perform their songs that way.
LIZ LOKRE: As an artist in the midst of navigating that process, I’ll say that it’s crucial to take the time to know exactly what you want. Be clear about your goals and don’t be afraid to express your needs to your team. If you are your own team, get comfortable wearing a lot of hats. I think it’s invaluable to know the ins & outs of this process before entrusting the work to anyone else.
What are your hopes for L’Acapella in the future?
Adrian X: The future of L’Acapella is very exciting. We plan on doing 2 more events in 2019. Eventually, we want L’Acapella to be a global series with concerts in the best cities around the world.
LIZ LOKRE: I’m most excited about the movement that L’Acapella is creating. It goes beyond what you see on that stage and will hopefully spark meaningful connections within the community. With more shows, playlists and videos featuring local talent ahead, I see L’Acapella being a hub for artists, tastemakers and music lovers alike.