What Comes After the Tables?
By DC Rutherford
Shez Mehra is the embodiment of the contemporary Canadian dream. New to Canada as a 10-year-old, by the time he was 13 he was fully engrossed in his new home’s culture. At 13, Shez got into collecting vinyl and immersed himself in hip hop and DJ culture. He began playing Toronto’s hottest clubs before he could even legally get into them, all the while getting a business degree from the University of Guelph. His love for music took him around the globe and back, DJ’ing at the world’s best venues, and for the music industry’s biggest acts. He was Drake’s original DJ. He played at the Playboy Mansion. He had everything a DJ could want, and he was only 25.
And he gave it all up to build more.
At 25 he proposed to his high school sweetheart and began a new chapter as one of Canada’s most inspired and singular marketing voices. He launched The 194 Group, a company dedicated to entertainment and booking. But, despite his success – and as he had done with his DJ career – he transformed and adapted to engage in, and adapt to, new challenges. The 194 Group pivoted into producing not just events but building
“I was [DJing] in places where they didn’t even speak English,” recalls Mehra. “But they could sing the lyrics of an English song. And I was able to influence them and control them through sound. That’s when I started really thinking about how music truly is a universal language. And we began asking the question: Do you know what your brand sounds like?”
Then and there, the idea for Audio Branding was born. But was the market ready to invest in reaching clients and customers auditorily?
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t extract any revenue out of that vertical, and it was really tough to get marketers to understand what the hell I was talking about. But in my mind, if you can influence people and physiology and behavior [with music], clearly it can resonate with brands trying to do the same thing.”
Years later, the rest of us caught up with Mehra and The 194 Group. “All of a sudden, it was as though the industry woke up and said, ‘Maybe we should consider one of our five senses as part of our marketing.’ There’s a really unique opportunity right now for brands to lend themselves to sound. Traditionally, a brand and branding are completely aesthetic with a visual identity.” The initiative recently was awarded a Cannes Lion Award (for creative communications, advertising, and marketing fields) for their work with Telus and Cossette.
But, as with all things Shez Mehra engages in, it didn’t end there. He expanded the philosophy into the service industry. Raina is a B2B music solution unlike any other for the retail, fitness, and hospitality industries, with clients such as Public Hotel and Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City, Surfcomber in Miami, and restaurants like Reyna On King, Rad Pizza, and Mexicue.
“Three years ago we were having an expensive lunch at a hotel, and the music was completely off-brand and clashing with the atmosphere; we were all asking: How does this make any sense? We started researching the space, analyzing the solution that background music service providers offered. And we realized they’re all the same.”
Poor curation and infrequent updates were adversely affecting businesses. Raina is not a playlist service; it’s a virtual DJ, a platform of seamlessly blended mixes, crafted by humans and powered by technology. With the understanding that each space is unique, Raina works with businesses to craft their custom sound identity. It’s updated daily, so no two days are ever the same, and caters to individuality. Again, Mehra refused to rest on his laurels. He added a non-profit initiative to his audio-centric collective.
Born of the experience a close friend had with his dying father, and their ability to grieve and heal and love through the power of music, “Thank You Music is a platform for music lovers and musicians to share their experiences with music as a healing power and positive energy […] It’s a way to give people a platform to share their stories.” Though in the early stages, Thank You Music promises to be a powerful vehicle to use the connections Mehra has made in his travels and career in order to further their mission of bringing sound to the forefront of your lives and businesses.