A Sound Heart: Tribute to Ben Sutin

“Ben was a driven chap. Always curating ideas and asking for my take on them,” recalls Daley Padley, the superstar selector better known as Hot Since 82. Sutin was actually the first to bring the effervescent Yorkshireman to Canada. It marked the beginning of a unique globe-spanning friendship. “This can be a very fickle game. Ben wanted to approach it with honesty.”
Yes, in an industry that can be merciless at the worst of times—where personal profit or pleasure are too often prioritized over passion—the late Sutin’s legacy isn’t so much about what he took out. It’s about what he put back in.
“Ben had energy. Vision. He brought in great artists and pushed a sound that wasn't getting a lot of attention in Toronto,” explains Adam Gill. As the founder and president of leading Canadian venue operator and promoter Embrace Presents, Gill knows a thing or two about developing emerging talent. “Ben wanted to take things to the next level. He was focused on putting Toronto on the global map for electronic music the same way Amsterdam or Berlin were. He was very smart. He dreamed big, but still understood the steps that needed to be taken in order to achieve greatness.”
“The music industry is as cutthroat as any. Publicly, you get messages of love and unity. Behind closed doors? It's a different story,” says Simon Doty, whose own nascent career Sutin had been piloting. He’d recently helped the DJ secure heavy support from the likes of Sasha, Solomun, Maceo Plex, Laurent Garnier and the Anjunadeep imprint. “Ben had this uncanny ability to understand and share an artist’s feelings. He wanted to see the positives that someone else in our industry brought to music—or life. He respected and embraced everybody. He believed in me in an incredibly deep way.”
“The best managers inspire a faith that leads to richer, deeper creativity. Ben had that quality,” reveals Mark Quail, the esteemed entertainment lawyer and executive who helped Sutin steer Sound Mind. “I saw him build up junior DJ-producers from nothing to a point they were opening for premier headliners in the world’s most prestigious venues. And, if you thought it was a fluke, whenever things went sideways and an artist decided to go elsewhere, Ben found another and did it all over again. He worked nonstop. If you were an artist, Ben was the guy you wanted in your corner.”
Vibrant vocalist Cédric Gasaida (of Azari & III fame) credits Sutin for being early to recognize his talent. Also, for accepting the quirks that define him as an artist. “It was important for Ben to befriend whomever he represented. He made me feel like family, not just a person that could bring in revenue. It was always about bonding, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. Ben recognized the importance of inclusivity by adding me to his roster—his first black, queer artist. That speaks for itself. He was a ray of light. He made me feel welcomed and safe.”
“Integrity is missing in the music industry. Blame entitlement. Blame a lack of accountability and purpose. It’s rare to meet people that are so passionate about the ideals they represent, they end up inspiring others.” That’s according to fellow Canadian Neil DeGuzman, the well-respected founder of Europe-based Republik Management. “Ben had this air of humble confidence. He stood proudly behind his artists. He was the first to encourage and support what I was doing. This never felt opportunistic, however. He genuinely cared. He wanted to see his colleagues and the scene itself flourish.”
In tribute to Ben Sutin, donations to the Unison Benevolent Fund are encouraged, a charitable organization that supports the Canadian music community during hardship with matching gifts from Spotify.