Meet the 44 Gaukel Tenants – Amit Mehta

Meet Amit Mehta

Hi Amit! Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. Would you be able to start with an overview of yourself and Good Company Productions for those not familiar with you?

Yeah! My name is Amit Mehta. I am the founder of Good Company Productions. We are a production company based in Downtown Kitchener that does pop-up concerts and technician services but we also work with musicians. So we’re a little bit non-standard in that we are one of those few companies that handle both the technical side and artist development. We help musicians with demo recordings, photography, consulting and even their own release parties. You don’t see that very often. We’re in a unique position where we can do a little bit of both.

How long have you been at for 44 Gaukel?

We moved in the beginning of January 2020. It’s only been a couple of months now. It’s been good, I think for the first month or so, we just kind of sat here and moved all of our stuff in slowly. I feel like over the last two weeks, it’s been crunch time. Now the space is ready. It’s been cool seeing the building change in that short amount of time as well. Brand new artwork on the walls.

What motivated you, as the founder of Good Company Productions, to make 44 Gaukel your work home?

I think there’s a handful actually. One of them is at the time we were one of the first tenants on the first floor. It was kind of like a blank canvas that we could go in and start to put our own touches on it. The other is that 44 Gaukel is situated in a really good spot in downtown Kitchener, because you’ve got Gaukel Street, that’s becoming a pedestrian street, which is valuable for us because we do a lot of outdoor shows. But it also allows us to be close to that, to help advocate for things that different people in the community want to see in that space. And then this by extension, becomes part of that space. Another is just looking at future growth. We’ve got the bus terminal there, which is sitting vacant. I know that there are a lot of ideas out there for what to do with it. We’ve got Charlie West going up beside us. It’s like we’re right in the center. Getting in now means that for us, it’s a place where we can start to attract people.

But we can do it in a way where they associate this part of the core with us, with our physical presence. We use this less as an office space in terms of regular work. It’s more of a hangout/meeting space. Most of the time we’re not doing hardcore work. Most of the time we’ll be in here with some of our musicians. This is why there are instruments all around us, too. It’s because it’s meant to be a place that’s a little bit more organic for people to chat. And that’s what we want our part of 44 Gaukel to be associated with. We want this to be the creative space our clients come to. So that’s why I think 44 Gaukel was such a good fit. It was a good opportunity to be able to do something that is different from the traditional office space or co-working space.

You mentioned “making the space here at 44 Gaukel your own”, I know you have the mural outside your office now!

One of the big things for us was making sure that we could have a mural on the outside of the unit, not the inside intentionally. The mural was done by Trisha Abe. She is a good friend of mine. As soon as we moved in, we knew we needed to do something new, but something that wasn’t super tacky or super heavy on the production front. We wanted something that was kind of lighthearted.

The mural is linework of different instruments and it kind of looks like doodles on the wall. It’s really, really cool. As soon as you see the space from the outside, it sets the tone for what’s going to happen when you walk in. I want people to be a little bit more comfortable, and let people know that it’s not a formal office you’re walking into. Another reason we chose this unit is that we get the corner. So, the mural being on the outside corner means that we’re seen from both sides. So regardless of which way people come into the building, it’s kind of like we have our own little world set up here. The mural is a charcoal colour, whereas the rest of the walls are white. And then when you walk into our unit, it is its own little world. We wanted it to feel like that, so when you walk in, you can just do what you need to do.

Would you be able give more in-depth explanation of Good Company Productions and how it works?

Technically, Good Company Productions is a production company. We do event production and music production both live and post. But like I said earlier, we’re in that unique spot where we don’t just do the client facing stuff. We also do the artists facing stuff.

Typically, you would find either a production company to come and run the event for you or you find an artist management company to book the talent. But for us, it’s about taking it one step further and not just finding opportunities for that talent, but creating opportunities and then developing that talent to a point where they can actually go out and secure larger opportunities.

We work with a lot of emerging bands or emerging musicians. For those musicians, they don’t often have the resources, financially or otherwise to go and do a demo recording or get studio time. This could actually be a barrier to them getting into a larger gig opportunity.

So, if there is this barrier in place, what happens is in the region as a whole, you have a handful of different venues that just become recurring venues for recurring artists. You don’t often see a lot of opportunity for new musicians to get in there. And on the flip side, if a musician does start to grow a little bit, they just go to Toronto.

We help those emerging bands and musicians grow. And that’s our artist development side. Once they’ve grown, we use our production services to help create gig opportunities for them and try to keep it as local as possible.

Why did you start Good Company Productions? Was their a particular need you saw?

Yes, we have actually been hosting shows since 2016-2017 as volunteers under a different brand. It got to a point where we were excited with what we were doing, but felt we were part of a global organization that didn’t allow us enough opportunity to go local and we were getting a lot of demand from artists. Really great artists who had worked with us and said “We like working with you guys. We want to use your services for our own show.”

We also were getting a lot of demand from venues that we were hosting shows. We do our concerts in non-traditional venues, we don’t use music venues. We use restaurants, hair salons, really weird places shows don’t normally happen. Often what would happen is after a show the venue host would come back to us and say “We loved that experience for our clients. Could you come back and do something similar?”

So, at that point, we were like, okay. There’s not just a demand for this, but there’s also kind of a need in the sense that it creates opportunities to retain local money. If you look at Kitchener-Waterloo and where most of the money is, it’s in tech, right? Then you have a little bit of old money. The old money tends to stay in the region, but a lot of the tech money tends to go to Toronto. You get people who come here, make a lot of money and then move or go to Toronto to party or spend it. So, it was an opportunity for those business to create experiences where people could spend money locally. And that’s when we decided it’s worth doing as a business venture.

For you, what does a normal work day look like?

We all do this part time. I work I work full time at Shopify. So, it’s a balancing act. There’s 16 of us on the team. My job is to manage all of them as well as to find opportunities. I handle all of our contract work and most of our artist development as well and then I’m also at Shopify throughout the day.

I try and balance it because of the nature of my role Shopify, I’m able to work remotely whenever I need to. Although I do have to make an appearance in the office every now and then. So, I try and structure my days where I’m doing a half-in half-out type of deal. Otherwise, a regular day for me is talking to clients, figuring out what kind of events they want to do and how we can kind of put a twist on it so we don’t take on contracts unless we can have creative input. That’s been something from day one we’ve been really adamant on because at that point you might as well just go to a standard production company. You’re not really leveraging what comes along with having a smaller, “hacky-er” kind of team like we do.

The other part of my days, I am just managing the team. Everyone’s part time and it’s a really mixed team. We have people who are just starting out in university or college all the way up to people who are about to retire from their careers. A really mixed team with mixed levels of experience, which is great. It allows us to hit a lot of different demographics with what we do and it is fun to manage.

What are your most important tools when you’re working?

Oh, music and lighting are important for me. I think these are two things that people don’t often think about as tools, for your work. But music and lighting really set the tone for how productive or focused you’re going to be and what kind of mood or mindset you’re going to be in, because the environment you’re in affects how you do your work. So those are two things right off the bat.

Laptop is next, most of the work I do is online, so a laptop and phone are required. If I’m doing post-production, then I need all my gear with me as well. Otherwise, whiteboards are important. It’s big for us to be able to write things out. Sticky notes, whiteboards, things like that, because by the nature of how our team works, everyone has their own schedules. This is part time for everybody so, not often will you be in the office with more than four or five people here at a time. We try to put as much stuff up on the walls as possible so that whenever people are in here, they can see what other people are working on and add to it.

What’s something about Good Company Productions that might surprise someone?

We are technically a for-profit company, but what people often don’t know until after they’ve worked with us is how we operate. The profit that we make from our production contracts goes towards sustaining our artist development. We operate in a similar way to a lot of non-profits which are typically grant funded, but we do it all just with the revenue that we’re making in-house.

The reason we do that is because we have full discretion over where those funds go. But it’s also because we’re trying to prove out a model where we can show that music and the arts can be self-sustaining in Waterloo Region.

We’re really trying to position ourselves as a business in the full sense of the word so that people realize that yes, it’s an enhancement to your life, but it’s also a necessity. It could be treated the same as you spending money on a monthly phone bill. People can have a monthly allocation for concerts and other art activities.

What events do you have going on now, are there any you can share with us?

We have an ongoing partnership with Fuckup Nights. They do these incredible evenings where people are super vulnerable. There will be three speakers on stage and they talk about moments of their life where they messed up. We don’t just do sound for them. We actually help produce the event as a whole.

The whole event experience, from the moment that people walk in the door, what they see, hear, and feel. So, the sound, music, lighting, the layout of the space, things like that.

We’re doing our own office warming on March 15th in collaboration with Someone Studio who’s another first-floor tenant. That’s going to be really cool. We’re doing it as an underground kind of pop-up party. I don’t want to reveal too much, but the event is live now. [Note: Event Postponed due to COVID-19]

Finally, on March 21st. We have the release party of Sam Nabi. Sam Nabi is a name that a lot of people might recognize. He is the co-owner of Full Circle Foods down the street on Charles, and he’s also a local hip hop artist and I think he is the guy who started the whole conversation behind getting Gaukel Street turned into a pedestrian street. So, he’s super active in the community, but also a hip-hop artist. And he’s doing his release show with us on March 21, 2020, here at 44 Gaukel. It should be pretty fun. [Note: Event Postponed due to COVID-19]

Is there anything else you wanted to mention?

I think that’s the big part, we’re in a position where we own all of our own gear. We have pretty low overhead. We’re in a good position to pilot different events with people. So, if there’s someone out there that has a crazy idea then, I want to hear about it. We have the resources to do it. And even if we don’t make money off of it, it’s worth taking the risk.