2021-09-30 15:49:55 – Dan Stubbs
Ad Feature with Squarespace
Earlier this year, NME and Squarespace set out to find the collectives and individuals hoping to help the music industry bounce back from the pandemic in a better, fairer and possibly even funner way. The people hoping to – in the name of our contest – ReBuild Music.
The hundreds of ambitious ideas, plans and schemes were not only brilliant , ambitious ideas, plans and schemes, they were also totally inspiring and a joy to watch thanks to the overwhelming trend towards ideas that place kindness, community and joy at their core.
Without further ado – and in no particular order – it’s time to meet the winners. If you’d like to see more, click the links to watch our mini documentaries.
Vital Culture UK Championing black music from the north of England – and staging the world’s first “baseline symphony”
Who: Tanya Vital Based: Bradford,Yorkshire
The back story: Being a passionate music fan living smack dab in the heart of the northern powerhouses of Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield et al, Tanya noticed that the mainstream media was missing out on a wealth of black and brown talent from the land of dales, gravy and refusing to wear a winter jacket no matter what the weather. And most of all, she felt like Bradford’s own contribution to the music world – her beloved baseline house scene – is overlooked entirely. So she decided to do something about it.
Where they’re at: Working from her mum’s kitchen during lockdown, Tanya set up Vital Culture UK and introduced streaming events, networking and broadcasting, including weekly live shows for her rapidly growing audience. She describes it as a “digital arts platform”.
What’s next: Tanya is developing her Squarespace site and will be working on content with her NME mentor while expanding her one-woman media empire. She’s also taking her events into the wild following the re-opening of society.
What’s the big dream: Oh, it’s a doozie. Tanya wants to enlist an orchestra to put on the world’s first “Baseline Symphony”, inspired by BBC 1Xtra’s Grime Symphony. She’s looking for an orchestra, a venue and is open to collaboration.
The support network
2% Rising Alliance of female and non-binary studio talent, producers and songwriters helping women into the industry – they are the two percent
Who: Collective headed by Katie Tavini, Rookes and Susan Cooper. Based: nationwide
The back story: The two percent in this online organisation’s name refers to the startling 2018 statistic about the male skew in music and sound production that shocked a few female producers to unite and create a movement. 2% Rising is a safe network aimed at creating more routes into the industry for women and gender minorities.
Where they’re at: Born on Facebook but now demanding its own dedicated online space, 2% Rising is already a thriving community of hundreds of producers, songwriters, sound engineers and more sharing support, skills, encouragement, opportunities, knowledge in a friendly, safe space.
What’s next: Continuing to develop a site that suits their specific needs, with a content strand that promotes their message and a space that retains the privacy and security that their safe space demands. Also: meeting their many new friends in real life!
What’s the big dream: To change the stat to 50% rising! They also want to expand their programme of speakers, tutorials and support by growing their community.
Unboxed Events promoting Black and Brown artists in alternative genres
Who: Hang Linton Based: Leeds
The back story: As a guitarist in a series of punk and alternative bands, Londoner Hang Linton noticed that audiences and promoters could sometimes have a hard time getting their head round bands that didn’t quite fit the cookie cutter for an “indie” band. So he decided to make sure that didn’t happen to the next generation of Black and Brown artists creating in genres where they’re under-represented.
Where they’re at: With his new Squarespace site, Hang is building a network of the Global Majority artists, planning content and looking into venues. Hang recently relocated to Leeds with his young family. He plans to begin with events in his adopted hometown and back in London.
What’s next: Alongside his own musical projects as an artist in his own right, Unboxed will be setting up events, networking with like-minded collaborators, and discovering a new generation of diverse artists – reach out if you think that’s you.
What’s the big dream: It’s an audacious project, but Hang aims eventually to stage an Unboxed music festival.
Chalkpit Cassette Club Giving new artists their first physical release – on glorious cassette
Who: Silas Gregory Based: Isle Of Wight
The back story: There’s a lot of things to love about the Isle Of Wight – the microclimate, the, er, dinosaur museum – but away from its whopping summer festivals, you’d be hard pressed to say it’s a hub of the UK music scene. Silas Gregory intends to change that with his growing musical empire and brand new, cassette-only label club putting out extra-special releases from bands on the brink of brilliance.
Where they’re at: Already dabbling in publishing and promotions, Silas has everything in place to get cracking, from graphic design to manufacturing the cassettes, which, he says, is “surprisingly cheap”. We wouldn’t even know where to begin!
What’s next: The first release is coming very soon. It’s an exclusive, self-titles release from Silas’s favourite future-stompers The Howl & The Hum and it looks damn cool. Head to the Chalkpit Records site now to get your super-limited cassette (and digital download, wink) – it’s released on September 10 – and stay tuned to NME for more on The Howl & The Hum.
What’s the big dream: Silas intends to run the label as a subscription club that allows cross-marketing of his multiple endeavours. From the Isle Of Wight to The World!
Marie Naffah Fab musical artist celebrating the return of live music with 50 free gigs in 50 days – for friends, care homes and refugees
Who: Marie Naffah Based: London
The back story: Emerging artist Marie wrote her recent ‘Golden State’ EP about a formative road trip through California – perfect fodder for her Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell-inspired swishy, emotive pop. She crashed down to earth when the pandemic trapped her in the UK and – like every one of her peers – she was suddenly unable to perform live.
The mission: Marie decided the post-lockdown return of live music was something worth celebrating, and reached out to fans and communities offering 50 free private and public gigs in 50 days. Her diary quickly filled up.
Where they’re at: As soon as Marie was able to responsibly do so, Marie embarked on a celebratory journey performing those 50 gigs, a trip that took her the length and breadth of the country playing in gardens, houses, care homes, at a refugee group and even in a gym while people worked out. NME invited itself to Marie’s brilliant show at an engagement party in North London (thanks for the champers!).
What’s next: Marie is now writing her next EP, which is to be inspired by her incredible trip around the country.
What’s the big dream: Marie took her videographer friend along for the ride, and hopes to create a film chronicling the highs and lows of her 50 gig extravaganza.
Gigs for kids!
Happy Sundays Inclusive Sunday gig sessions promoting teenage talent for all-ages audiences – hoping to go nationwide
Who: Richy Hetherington Based: Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
The back story: University lecturer Richy Hetherington noticed just how few venues will allow teen and pre-teen bands like his son’s to perform. So he set up his own series of all-ages, all-inclusive, friendly and safe gig sessions that pair the youngest of bands with established circuit talent, giving them a chance to cut their teeth on stage, drink gallons of fizzy pop and play as loud as they damn well like. It always takes place on a Sunday, hence its sunny, fun name, Happy Sundays.
Where they’re at: Happy Sundays have already uncovered some brilliant bands – we loved teen noiseniks The Timewasters, who had a starring role in the Happy Sundays entry video, and can’t wait to see them play at another of Richy’s events.
What’s next: Richy struggles to find accommodating venues, so we’re appealing to the wonderful venue owners of the north east to open up for the best fun you can have on a Sunday afternoon.
What’s the big dream: Richy wants you, wherever you are, to pick up this idea and run with it, starting your own Happy Sundays events in your town and help the newest, freshest bands and the greenest gig goers experience the joy of live music.
Check their Squarespace site: coming soon! Watch their full story: Happy Sundays
The Close Encounter Club Inclusive, eco-friendly pop-up venue – from space
Name: Shannon Cotton Based: London
The back story: God knows we all missed live music during the pandemic. Happily, there were people out there reinventing the wheel and creating a future-proof alternative. That’s what impressed about The Close Encounter Club, a retro-futuristic pop-up fun palace putting on super-cool gigs in the tent from outer space which can be enjoyed in person or via multiple online experiences for those unable to mingle – including a two-way stream that allows the audience to interact. Ethically run and affordably priced, it’s eco-friendly too – think of all the journeys that aren’t made when the gig venue can come to you.
Where they’re at: Already a roaring success online, the club has popped up on the festival circuit this season.
What’s next: The mission for these space-mad music lovers is to promote diversity and inclusivity through live music, both in the shows they produce and the content they create for their Squarespace site. Expect some NME collaboration to come.
What’s the big dream: “We want live music to be accessible for everyone,” says Shannon.
The new model for live music
On The House Music A local, ethical, live music subscription model that works for artists, fans and venues – Netflix for gigs
Who: Marcus Osborne Based: Devon
The back story: Unless you’ve played in a local band yourself, you probably won’t be aware of the perils of gigging the toilet circuit, where it can be tough to draw a crowd, the overheads are punishing and some unscrupulous promoters still employ the notorious “pay to play” system, which is exactly what it sounds like – artists outlay the cost then sell their own tickets. When money is scarce and business is tight, there’s always a tussle to make sure the venue, promoter and artists each get their fair pay. But budding media mogul/promoter Marcus Osborne reckons he’s figured out a solution that’s almost too simple to fail – a local live music subscription service; the Netflix of neighbourhood gigs. With sales upfront, everyone is guaranteed their financial dues – and On The House takes nothing itself.
Where they’re at: Sensibly, they’re beginning with a programme in their own community, so residents of Exeter are the lucky ones who’ll be able to sign up to On The House Music’s brilliant programme of carefully curated concerts, issues of their own fanzine and more.
What’s next: We’ll be popping along to one of Marcus’s events soon, and checking in as Marcus’s scheme goes live.
What’s the big dream: As you may have guessed by the name, the On The House Music team aren’t in it for the money. So they’re hoping to expand with a network of people who share their passion for sharing. Might that be you?
The community hub
The Factory Creative Studios A fully-fitted, affordable, community practice, studio, podcast and video space for Birkenhead’s creatives
Who: Angela Moran and Karl Gill Based: The Wirral
The back story: Partners Angela Moran, Karl Gill have created a brilliant project creating a super-cool creative hub in Birkenhead on The Wirral, the seaside-y bit near Liverpool that gave us the likes of The Coral, Zutons and the Deltasonic label. Angela and Karl might not have the industry experience themselves, but they’re brimming with passion for music – so much so they’ve staked everything on this community-focused enterprise aimed at nourishing the local music scene they love.
Where they’re at: Well down the road – they bought the bricks and mortar at the end of March and have been readying it for opening.
What’s next: The grand unveiling – and NME’s first visit. Can’t wait!
What’s the big dream: Legacy. “We know the positive effect it’ll have on the aspiring musicians who will use the space and our town,” they say.
Kraken Tunes A community creative hub bringing music infrastructure back to remote Orkney – 180 miles north of Edinburgh
Who: Kevin Johnston Based: Orkney
The back story: An Orcadian rocker returning home from city life on the mainland, Kevin was saddened to see the island’s sole remaining musical instrument shop had fallen victim to the pandemic and closed its doors for good, leaving the next generation with nowhere to practice nor even buy a new guitar string or drum skin. No problem in today’s everything-to-your-door world? Try living so far enough north Santa is your nearest neighbour.
Where they’re at: Kevin has been busily gathering grants and funding and is on the hunt for the perfect venue and working to set up community music groups.
What’s next: Lots to do: secure a bank of instruments and equipment, host jam sessions, put on performances and reach out to the community – the new Squarespace site will be handy for room booking, newsletters and much more.
What’s the big dream: To facilitate the next generation of musicians in a place renowned for its lyrical language and unique folk music by providing the grassroots infrastructure needed.
Ready to make your dream a reality? Start your free trial with Squarespace today and use “NME” for 10% off your first purchase