With over 1.14 million subscribers on Youtube, Canadian-based music platform EscapeTracks has quickly become an international hub for R&B – showcasing both rising and developed talents.
Established in 2014, the platform has experienced exponential and lasting growth as a surge of new R&B artists like Daniel Ceasar, Summer Walker, H.E.R. and Ella Mae, help lead the way towards a modern R&B revival.
We caught up with EscapeTracks owner/founder Kyle Sassi to talk about his background in music, the early formation of the platform, and his newly launched Live Performance Sessions. Read our full conversation below.
Q&A: Kyle Sassi
For people who may be hearing about EscapeTracks now for the first time, how would you describe the platform?
Kyle Sassi: EscapeTracks is a Toronto-based R&B platform that has been fuelled by creating connection and an experience for our following. Providing a universal escape to music lovers of all cultures, demographics, age groups and genders. With a music selection that is utilized internationally, highlighting the best of what R&B has to offer.
How has growing up in Montreal influenced your musical taste and sound selection?
Kyle Sassi: Growing up in Montreal from a young age I was exposed to multiple different music genres and cultures, in different languages; English and French. There’s a high appreciation for different races, cultural backgrounds and diversity.
Before I started walking, my dad expanded my ear the most. He collected vinyls and cassettes, ranging from all different genres of music including Pop, R&B, Alternative, Dance, Classical & Rock music from artists internationally. Listening to a wide range of artists and music styles have been apart of my life from the beginning.
What experiences motivated you to create EscapeTracks?
Kyle Sassi: Being 15 years old, in high school, creating EscapeTracks came from a genuine and authentic place. Discovering artists through Soundcloud and going to school the next day excited to put my friends onto artists I knew they’d love, that were completely unknown, with little to no followers. There were barely any R&B platforms at the time and I wanted to change that. Making a shift for both the industry and music listeners.
I wanted to bridge the gap between artists and listeners, and cultivate a community surrounding R&B. Amplifying that feeling I got when putting my friends onto artists I knew they’d love, into something that was limitless and capable of reaching anyone around the world.
What do you think EscapeTracks has contributed to Canadian music culture, and what kind of impact have you witnessed?
Kyle Sassi: When creating EscapeTracks, I made it a priority to feature Canadian based artists and producers to give them the true recognition they deserved. With EscapeTracks being the largest R&B platform, I was able to spread awareness and bring huge amounts of attention to artists in their early stages such as Daniel Caesar, Tory Lanez, anders, K. Forest, Always Never + more.
Growing up in Montreal and now living in Toronto for over 2 years now, I’ve seen first hand how much underrated talent there is in both cities and how it can so easily go unnoticed. Balance & diversity is everything; it wouldn’t have ever felt right supporting artists from only one country or demographic.
You first entered the music industry with EscapeTracks in 2014. How has the music industry, and R&B, changed since?
Kyle Sassi: There’s been an influx of R&B artists that have been entering the space year over year, which is a great thing. Streaming services have played a huge role with how easily accessible it is for artists to get their music on any platform of their choosing. Discovering artists now, is a much easier process than it was in 2014 where everything was a lot more limited and you had to know where to look.
What’s the meaning behind the name, “EscapeTracks?”
Kyle Sassi: People use music to escape their day to day issues, work, breakups or simply to spark a feeling. Whether it’s for three minutes or a half hour, I wanted to provide an experience where you didn’t have to worry what was on your mind, even if it was only for a couple minutes. Everybody wants that in one way or another, the need to escape is universal.
“Escape” guided every decision I made, from the brand name, artist selection, creative direction and ultimately putting community first. Having the right values from the beginning, cultivated an audience of 100k by the time I turned 18.
How big is your team at EscapeTracks – do you have people helping you?
Kyle Sassi: In the beginning it was only me, going all in on building a vision. As the brand grew larger, I brought a few people along that shared the same vision, end goal and most importantly are passionate about the genre.
How do you maintain the integrity of your platform and transparency with your audience?
Kyle Sassi: By always providing value in one way or another. I’m in the position to help artists and those are my intentions at all times. Anytime I’m able to give valuable feedback, advice, strategies or ways that can help artists strive further, I’m always here.
Transparency and staying grounded have always been important factors for me. Now more than ever, ego, status, popularity, social media, can often change people in ways that aren’t the most favorable. I habitually remind myself of why I got here and the level of responsibility I have leading the largest R&B platform.
Tell us a bit about the new performance video series. What is the series about and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
Kyle Sassi: This new performance series, will be named EscapeTracks Live Sessions. Similar to EscapeTracks, the Live Sessions will have a balance between both high tier and upcoming artists. There’s no level of entry, the goal for this series is to showcase talent, rather than strictly popularity. We’ve already shot episodes with Luh Kel, Elhae, Chris Larocca + more.
What sets the Live Sessions apart from other performance series?
Kyle Sassi: From the stage setting, incorporating various roses, flowers, greenery and different color lighting scenes for each episode, to the artists. This performance series is going to be solely with R&B artists, forging a deeper experience with people’s favorite artists, including ones they haven’t heard yet. While providing an escape into a space that compliments the aesthetic of every R&B record.
Why should a music fan tune in to the Live Sessions?
Kyle Sassi: This performance series will be the first of its kind. Solely highlighting R&B artists, going against the traditional way of generating clicks and engagement by focusing on showcasing talent rather than artist popularity. We’re utilizing the same approach we’ve used from the beginning, but on a whole other level. This series will be a staple in the R&B culture.