The options for musicians to rent practice space in Winnipeg are risky. The rental laws are ill-defined, which means that tenants rarely purchase insurance or sign a lease agreement, and rent is usually paid in cash.
“As easy and convenient as that may sound, it leaves the tenant with absolutely zero liability coverage, which can lead to some very sticky situations,” Ethan Krushel, singer and guitarist of the local band Northern Lights Drive, says.
Krushel explains that this also means the landlord can act according to their own interests, and the tenants have no paperwork to back themselves up.
“Because of this trend, there are a lot of verbal confrontations that happen between renter and tenant,” Krushel says.
Anthony Sannie is a member of the local hip-hop band The Lytics. Sannie and his band currently practise using a portable studio, which isn’t an option for many bands who use instruments such as acoustic drum kits.
“The pros to having an actual studio space (is) … you have the ability to set your room up the way you want it all the time (and) you know what it’s going to sound like every single time,” Sannie says.
Finding these spaces at an affordable price can be difficult, and bands often end up compromising on security.
Grant Danyluk, bassist for local band Black Cloud, has experience renting from a poorly-managed landlord. He says this worked in his favour, because he could pay the rent late, but there were issues surrounding the management of the space, including cleanliness.
Krushel says that oftentimes the bathrooms aren’t cleaned and aren’t equipped with basic amenities like toilet paper.
The ideal practice space is one that is insured by the tenant and has 24-hour security. Northern Lights Drive currently rents a space in the Exchange District, where the property management company required them to get insurance and set up automatic deposits.
“It’s just nice knowing that you’re renting from people that care,” Krushel says.
According to Sannie, security is integral to a good space, since a break-in can occur in any neighbourhood.
Overlooking insurance can be risky as well. Danyluk says he once had an amplifier burst into flames in the middle of practice.
“Luckily, there was a fire extinguisher in the hallway that I used to put it out,” he says.
Renters often encounter issues when sharing the space with other musicians they don’t know very well, in order to save on rental prices.
“You really have to be careful about keeping gear in a place that you’re sharing, as well you need to make sure you can trust who you’re sharing with,” Krushel says.
Danyluk says he used to rent a space where they would get noise complaints from the neighbours, which is counterproductive to the notion of a practice space.
Krushel wants to see more landlords who are invested in the music scene.
“Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of the people that are renting spaces to musicians in the city seem to be only concerned about making money,” he says.