Pirate Toronto: Bringing sound back

5 min read
Cate Barker

Vanya Drakul, Partner and Director at Pirate Toronto, is driven by a passion for sound. He and the staff of the commercial audio production house believe sound has the power to bring people together, that it paints a unique picture for everyone and unifies us through a collective emotive response. Vanya recently shared Pirate’s story with us.

The beginning of Pirate Toronto

What inspired you to start your business?

In 1990, the production of radio commercials was, for the most part, stagnant. It was often relegated to the back of the room as television took over.

As the world was glued to their TVs, we saw an opportunity to change the perception of radio advertising. We set out to create great radio through storytelling that pushes through the noise and gets heard. Today, Pirate applies that same attention to detail across all mediums that use sound.

I like to call the Pirate team "audio architects.” They will go to any length to find the perfect voice, note or sound effect.

We have taken on an endless variety of projects over the past 27 years, from radio and television commercials, movie scores, albums and theme songs to podcasts, digital content and sonic branding. Pirate’s sound just sounds different; it sticks out and gets heard.

Pirate Toronto Vanya Drakul

An early adopter of web promotion

What online tools do you use to promote your business?

Pirate Toronto has been an industry leader since the 90s, but what truly set us apart from our competitors at the outset was having a great website. Believe it or not, having a website back then was the latest trend, so we knew we had to have one in order to stand out. Having a website helped us grow from a local shop in Ontario to servicing clients globally.

A web presence all starts with a great domain name, which we registered with GoDaddy many years ago.

Pirate chose GoDaddy for its spirit, unique voice and similar values. We particularly enjoy the ease of centralized domain management and cost-effectiveness. GoDaddy’s tech support and customer service have been helpful in propelling our online presence.

We are now a successful and growing business, many thanks to our heavy online presence. Our optimized websites allow us to interact seamlessly with customers around the world every day.

Frame of reference

What's your business philosophy?

You must break the rules, chart new waters and challenge the status quo. Take nothing for granted, be respectful, be transparent and deliver only the very best.

Two of the best things about running my own business are celebrating victories with my team and learning from my mistakes.

Pirate Toronto Boat
The Pirate staff relaxes together at a company event.
Photo: Pirate Toronto

What really drives and inspires me is the Pirate team, which is really one big family. Pirate is home to eight highly-awarded directors who specialize in voice, music, and sound design. We also have award-winning music writers, script and concept writers, sound engineers, and an incredible team of producers and casting directors. Without them, nothing would be possible.

Tell us about the making of “No Problem.”

As a long-time customer, we were excited when GoDaddy approached us about a collaboration with Raptors Shooting Guard Norman Powell. I mean, you don’t get a chance very often to work with celebrities like Norm.

I grew up a musician and have spent years playing on stages with big music acts. I've met and played with hundreds of famous musicians. But, deep inside I am a HUGE sports fan. So athletes to me are the real superstars.

The biggest and best surprise for us had to be Norm’s musical talent.

Of course, he was very professional to work with, but what was so great to see was his passion for the piano. It was clear that when he came to our studios to record the song he had been practicing. Many people probably don’t realize that is actually Norm’s vocals and him playing the piano on the track. While he might spend most of his time on the court, it was so great to see his passion for music.

We are always looking for new sounds that are outside of the box and working with GoDaddy and Norm on “No Problem” was a fun one for us. Taking on projects like this definitely helps us stand out.Pirate continues to grow and innovate through different mediums, platforms and delivery devices. As we continue to evolve as a company we are excited about the opportunity to maybe work with GoDaddy again. Who knows, maybe Norm will be working on an album soon!

Looking toward the future

What do you see for Pirate five years from now?

The good news is that the world will always need sound — and for us, success is tied to tapping into emerging innovations and creating new stories to tell.

Pirate Toronto Mic
Truth be told, some people only come here for the food. We're okay with that.
Photo: Pirate Toronto

Over the next five years, we see Pirate continuing to grow and innovate — we’re committed to remaining an industry leader. The way we do things might be different, but effective communication, by way of great storytelling through the use of sound, will continue to be what sets us apart.

Thanks for chatting with us, Vanya. You can learn more about Pirate Toronto on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Vimeo.