How a Toronto music school attracted Taylor Swift

An incredible audio idea was created recently in Toronto.

The Ontario government has cut funding for school music programs by more than half in recent years. The Regent Park School of Music is a downtown school that depends on funding to survive.

Most music lessons cost over $ 80 an hour. The Regent Park School of Music wanted to remove this barrier for children from low-income families and teach music for $ 1 or $ 2 an hour instead. But when the school could no longer count on government funding, she had to find a way to support herself.

Here’s what they did:

In collaboration with the advertising agency BBDO Toronto, they have created a library of original pieces of music performed by the children of the Regent Park School of Music.

The school approached Frank Dukes, a Grammy-winning Toronto producer who had worked with artists like The Weeknd, Drake and Rhianna. Dukes loved the idea and agreed to compose the music for the album. And the students of Regent Park played on the slopes.

But it was their marketing strategy that was so smart. They didn’t target the audience with the music. Instead, they targeted musicians.

The Regent Park School of Music provides high quality, affordable music education to young people in Regent Park and other high priority areas including Parkdale, Jane & Finch and Lawrence Heights. (Photo courtesy of Artscape)

Whenever an artist sampled music from the library, the school received royalty and residue for the life of the song.

Then this amazing thing happened: Taylor Swift sampled a track for her song It’s nice to have a friend on his album Lover.

It aired 226 million times in its first week of release. Lover would become the number one selling album of the year. The song was also licensed for the Dreamworks movie Abominable. Each new stream, license and download equates to a new royalty for the school – meaning that the children who benefit from the program play a direct role in keeping it going.

The music library, called Park landscapes, hopes to raise millions of dollars for the Regent Park School of Music. It also has another very significant advantage. When kids get along on a Taylor Swift album, it empowers them. And they convey that feeling to the community.

The message: anything is possible.

For more stories from Under the influence, click or tap the play button above to listen to the full episode. You can also find us on the CBC Listen app or subscribe to our podcast.

Under the influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio, a 1969 Airstream trailer that has been restored and turned into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O’Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

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The Terstream mobile recording studio. (Image credit: Sidney O’Reilly)

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