Outside Paupers Pub, flurries fall like rapid-fire drumbeats on a wintry day, while inside the cold beer is as welcoming as a cheering crowd.
Between sips, Keith Hamilton says it takes a helluva lot of work to put together the Pitter Patter Music Festival, but ask him and he’ll stress the need for musicians to be given the opportunity to perform their art.
Besides, it’s all about the music and treating artists fairly the musician, talent scout and venue booker says.
Hamilton focuses on his competition: Canadian Music Week. Bands pay $50 to apply, but don’t necessarily get to perform and don’t get paid, he says.
Music Week is profitable thanks to corporate sponsorship, advertising and generous venues, but the festival leaves bands without gas money and one gig — at most.
Hamilton says it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Musicians are making their art,” he says. “So why are you charging them and then robbing them … when you could ask them to play, and pay them for their art?”
Being a musician himself, he knows what performers want, so, in its second year, the Pitter Patter Music Festival offers bands more shows and payment.
“The bands need gas money, the bands need to pay for their rehearsal spaces,” Hamilton says. “So if I am taking $1,000 a week to drop ads in Eye and Now magazine, that’s a lot of money that could go into a band’s gas tank.”
The festival calls Toronto home, but is set to make stops in other cities — including Peterborough, London, Belleville, Lindsay and Oshawa — from March 27 to 30.
The festival was born from a series of promotional gigs, meant as a cure for fan apathy, Hamilton says.
Pitter Patter’s music series makes the rounds on random nights at establishments like the Drake Hotel, the Boat, Supermarket and Sneaky Dee’s, and it owes its origins to Hamilton’s tenacity for new-band development.
“I called it Pitter Patter Nights because to me pitter patter is the sound of kids feet,” he says. “Running near Christmas, going to the fire, looking for Santa.”
It’s that innocence that’s missing from the Toronto music scene, he adds.
“We have a bunch of people that stand against walls or cross their arms, or maybe nod their heads,” he says. “But the void that I was trying to fill was to get people excited about music, instead of just willing to support the musicians.”
After talent-seeking record label Suck My Disc dissolved in October 2004, Hamilton continued the band-promoting work he did there by hosting Wednesday night gigs at various pubs. Now Pitter Patter has a “blast radius” of two or three shows a week and the annual festival.
The reason for its popularity: word of mouth.
“Best kind of advertising,” Hamilton says, grinning. He adds the shows continue to have support and the growth of Pitter Patter is out of his hands.
“I never have a day where I don’t have an inbox full of bands that have heard of Pitter Patter and want to play,” Hamilton says. “So I am constantly exposing myself and therefore exposing audiences to new music all the time.”