42ish Media is a new Think Local First member and local business in Greater Victoria that has partnered with 365 Pro Wrestling and Geek News Now to take over the Carlton Club at 900 Carlton Terrace in Esquimalt in what they call the Carlton Project–a cultural initiative that will take place over the next two years before the building is torn down. In this space, they are providing a wrestling school and wrestling events with 365 Pro Wrestling, as well as an affordable venue that local musicians and artists can rent out. We sat down with Damon Roth, the lead producer and owner of 42ish Media to learn about his new business and how all the pieces fit together.
What does 42ish Media provide and what is your mission?
“42ish Media is a different kind of media production company in that over here, we obviously want to tell the stories, we obviously want to share the experiences with folks out there, but we’re doing it more for the community than for ourselves.”
Damon explains that the company came to fruition to be an overhead for his partnerships with 365 Pro Wrestling and Geek News Now.
“The whole company exists because of a collaboration effort between myself and some other folks at 365 Pro Wrestling, the professional wrestling academy, and Geek News Now that I do podcasts for on Youtube. It all kind of just culminated where I needed an official thing to do it all, and 42ish came from that.”
Whereas the goal of 42ish Media was originally to aid this collaboration with tools and equipment, it has now grown into acquiring a venue for their initiatives to take place–the Carlton Club at 900 Carlton Terrace in Esquimalt.
“Now we have a venue for folks who are underrepresented or who don’t have the financial means to actually share their talents with the world. We focus on local bands that can’t pay for the big performance venues. Our business model is basically based on breaking even. So we’re here to help other people share their stories.”
Damon explains that in British Columbia, companies can fall under three categories: for-profit, non-profit, and for-benefit. For-benefit is what 42ish Media falls under.
“We get to operate in most of the same ways that a for-profit company does, but we also get to have a lot of the benefits of a non-profit in that we’re not here to make a profit, we’re here to benefit the community. That’s our whole purpose–it’s in our mission statement, it’s in our vision and values, and it’s right in the corporation documents that say this is literally what we have to do.”
Can you tell me about your background and how 42ish Media came to be?
“Personally, I have a media background that goes back to when I was 16 and living in Shilo, Manitoba, which is a Canadian Armed Forces base for the artillery. I was 15 or 16 doing 15 or 16-year old this and the solution was, ‘hey have you ever put a TV camera in your hands?’ They did, and wow, I fell in love. Ever since then I’ve always been involved in media in one way or another.”
“I have a very interesting journey. But eventually, I was actually not in technology or media but working with folks with diverse abilities. I was helping an individual move and an accident happened and I got hit on the head by an elevator gate. I have a concussion that never goes away–so everything I do is with a permanent migraine. Fun times. But when I was recovering, I was working with my neurologist who said, ‘do something that you love if you want to start retraining your brain. Just like if you break your leg, you gotta retrain it.’ So I picked up the camera again.”
“During the pandemic my wife and I had rediscovered wrestling. I’m an old-school wrestling fan and my great-grandmother when she was in her 90s would take me to the back-door of a little wrestling promotion in Calgary…so I grew up in the WWE attitude era with all the classic stars–the Hart foundation, the Rock, and one of my personal favourites, Mick Foley. When I started dating my wife, the second or third date, I took her to a wrestling show. I knew if it was going to work, she’s got to know this. Fast forward a few years later, and she’s now training to be a professional wrestler. So last summer we’re watching AEW (All Elite Wrestling) and all of a sudden we heard that 365 Pro Wrestling was doing shows in Campbell River and we’re like ‘road trip!’ I think it was us and nine other die-hard fans.”
“A couple weeks later there was another one, and I wanted to bring my camera. So I reached out to Eddie Osbourne, the owner of 365, and he approved. I was doing some video and we started talking and saying we should make a show. We started one called 365 Combat where episodes 26 and 27 will be airing in the next few weeks. With all this we’re talking, and the school didn’t have a permanent home. I wanted to have a podcast studio, so we wound up renting a space in University Heights Mall. It was this tiny little space. It was great and served our needs, but then the wrecking ball was coming so we had to leave.”
“I was doing the search for real estate and the agent showed us the Carlton. And here we are, at the Carlton Performing Arts Hub, as we now like to call it.”
What are your goals for this space and what’s already happening at the Carlton?
“Originally my goals for this space were to have a couple shows by June and that would be wonderful. I literally am opening up the door and I have bands knowing on it going ‘hi, we’d like to have a show!’ So, here we are!”
“We have a weekly show every Thursday night that I’m calling Robbie’s dance party–we don’t have an official name for it, but that’s the guy who does it. And it’s this awesome weird mix of dance music by a DJ, live bands, live singers singing with the DJ music. It’s a really great experience that happens Thursdays 7-11pm.”
“The wrestling school is here training Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s an open school and everybody’s welcome.”
“Then Fridays and Saturdays basically anybody can rent it out. It’s a performing arts venue on an a-la-carte model. So you start at renting out the room and then if you need staff, canteen services, or more, that gets added on. If you hit a capacity number then the rate goes to full-rate. We charge it at a minimal rate just to get folks in here and it’s basically break-even for us. We put a little bit of money in the bank so we can make sure we can keep getting lights and things like that.”
“We do metal shows, alternative music, everything. Our first actual wrestling show will be June 11th. It will be broadcasted live on Twitch!”
Can you tell me a bit about what staff looks like for you here?
“I am the one and only full time employee. We are hiring a part-time employee if anyone is interested! I also have a small pool of casual event staff that we’re looking to grow. A lot of them are wrestling students.”
“I’m looking for an assistant manager for running the venue and events. It’s a Thursday, Friday, Saturday position, 20 hours to start, and possibly more depending on how things go. I have people wanting to book things in the afternoon and I can’t be here all the time.”
“We’re hiring casual event staff as well. The nice thing is that, because we’re an all-ages venue, we can hire all ages. So you don’t have to have a Serving it Right to be here. A lot of our events are non-alcoholic, including the Thursday night one. So we are able to hire anybody who’s willing to work, and it’s also great for folks who are just looking for some casual stuff on the weekends in the summer or during the school year.”
What makes 42ish Media unique?
“We also offer production services, so we record the bands or anybody who’s in here performing. One of the quirks of this space and how we make everything work is we actually record everything and then provide that video to whoever’s playing that night. It’s a way for local bands who don’t get any video exposure of themselves singing to actually walk away with a video file. So that’s one of the little perks of booking with us.”
Damon also explains that what sets them apart from other venues is that musicians who book with them aren’t going to take a big financial hit.
“I mean, it’s $75 to rent the space for an hour, so that’s seven tickets at $10. It’s the kind of place where a band can rent it, have a couple hour show and only have their friends and family here. And you get a video as well!”
Do you have any favourite memories as a business owner?
“It’s relatively new but I guess my favourite memory–and it’s a repeating one–is every time someone walks in and goes ‘this is awesome.’ Because that’s what I want it to be. I mean, this building unfortunately–although rightfully–is coming down in a couple years. It’s an old building, and it’s served its life in Esquimalt…what we want to do is give the building and the memory of the Carlton a proper send off. People have had their wedding receptions here, people have fallen in love here, people have fallen out of love here–this place is full of memories.”
“So what we want to do is, for the next couple years, allow people to make some more memories, come back and experience the good ones that they had, and bring the community together in a way that people never thought possible. We have wrestlers that are in bands that are recruiting other wrestlers and band members, and we have this weird, awesome, cross-mix of cultures that folks didn’t even know could exist.”
“This wouldn’t be happening right now if not for people just saying ‘let’s do it.’ Friends of mine, the wrestling community, the folks who are just taking a chance on the venue and making it happen. It’s really nice to see it all coming together.”
Is there any special ingredient to making this space and your business as amazing as it is so far?
Damon shares that his key ingredient is just going for it, instead of worrying about all the obstacles or the “right time” to get something done.
“It’s funny, because you always hear these stories about people who did big important things and how they ‘pulled themselves up by the bootstraps,’ ‘just do it,’ ‘if you build it, they will come,’ blah, blah, blah. But they’re all right. Who knew! Just do it. You need something hung on the wall? Just do it. You need a venue? Look at the interesting places. You have a dream? Share it.”
“This dream of this wrestling school never would’ve happened if Eddie didn’t tell me that he wished they had a space. So I think the key ingredient is to throw out that rule book sometimes. I guess the way that I’ll sum it up is, people always tell you that you can’t do something. Whether it’s too expensive, there’s no building, real estate is impossible–there’s always a reason you can’t do it. And they give you a million reasons. I came down to Futurama, with one of my favourite characters in the universe, Bender, who says ‘do it myself, my own way.” So it’s just one of those things. You build it, and poof, people show up on the door.”
“My hairdresser Kate at the Old Hat Hair Shoppe on Pandora–check them out–she said to talk to this guy at Cavity (Cavity Curiosity Shop), so I did. Thank you! Because from that connection, from one local business, going to another local business, supporting a third local business, I’m filling this place and I haven’t done any advertising. It’s been all word-of-mouth through local businesses. You don’t get that when you walk into a corporate store.”
“I want to throw a shoutout because he deserves it–one of our long-term wrestling fans on the Island is by the name Kent. He owns Pic a Flic Video down on Pandora Avenue…he wants to sponsor us because he’s a long-term wrestling fan. So his banner hands up there, he’s at every wrestling event, and we’re able to send him business. And he has our banner up at his business so he spreads the word about us. So being able to exchange the passions is what makes it work.”
If someone had never heard of 42ish Media or the Carlton Project, what is one thing you wish you could tell them?
“We’re here, and we’re doing things differently.”
“For the artists–it doesn’t matter what your art form is, we can accommodate. We’re not just for bands, we can do comedy as well. We’ve had some talks with folks that want to have an art show here. It’s the kind of venue that you can get at a price you can afford and not worry about breaking the bank. And we can work with folks in terms of art grants. We know where they exist, and we can point you in the right direction to help you get things funded. It’s not just that you show up and book, we can actually help guide you through the process.”
“We’re trying to create a space where folks can learn the business without learning the business the hard way. We’re not in competition with any of the big performing venues, and we’re not going to have any massive acts in here. But those venues can’t have the smaller acts because it’s just not profitable for them, so there needed to be another space that could fill that entry-level void. We want folks to know that if they’ve been dreaming we can accommodate it.”
“Oh–we also have rehearsal space! You can come in here at an even lesser rate and just jam. Even if you want to come in here and practice baton twirling–sure, we can make it happen.”
What’s next for 42ish Media and this collaboration after the Carlton closes?
“I mean, the hope is to take this dream and take it somewhere else in the Victoria area after the two years. Take the momentum and take the community. This is a very small community, imagine what we could do with a bigger one!”