Ex University of Leeds Students Launching A Music Venue In The Back of a Van to Support Local Musicians.
Jack Miles and his partner Gabriella Barrett, both 23, are launching a crowdfunding campaign to open a unique live music venue in the back of a vintage van. The young couple are hoping to raise £5000 to start the project, which is aimed at discovering and sharing undiscovered local musicians. Once funded, they will tour the UK inviting in local artists to perform in the back of their Renault Estafette van to three audience members at a time.
Jack Miles has been a self-confessed radio geek since he was 15 where he appeared on a friends breakfast show on community radio. From there he’s worked for the some of the country’s leading broadcasters, producing shows for Capital FM, Bauer Media and now the BBC. Since 2014 he has produced and presented The Music Bit podcast, a show dedicated to discovering new music. It will be on this show that the recordings from the van sessions will be played, allowing everyone to experience new music and discover musicians in their local area.
After graduating from Leeds Uni with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Gabby went on to work in print journalism writing for the international press before pursuing a career in television production. Since 2014 Gabby has helped with the production of The Music Bit podcast.
Jack talks to InTheMiddle about taking the podcast further…
Where did the idea for the project come from?
The core of it came from getting tired with the traditional music press. It’s very easy to complain about the likes of NME, however for discovering emerging musicians it really is pants! Within the first 3 weeks of its re-launch Taylor Swift was its front cover, and although she’s a credible artist in her own right she isn’t NME.
We first realised there was a taste for music discovery when I launched the podcast back in 2014. Each week I scour the Internet and find some records that hopefully are new to people’s ears. I also conduct interviews with artists and those from the industry. It proved popular… On launch we were listed in the iTunes New and Noteworthy and we have increasing download numbers, despite little marketing.
Gabby and I are both creative people. We make radio and TV shows for a living! We wanted something that would create brilliant memories and moments for both the audience and those that play in the van. Hosting session in the back of a camper is unusual. The audience will be really intimate and the bands can get their records heard as we feature it in the podcast and on YouTube. Plus we can travel! Thus saving costs for the artists.
What’s the reaction been like so far from the public, as well as your friends and family?
Mostly support for The Music Van has been good! Telling family and friends was actually the most nerve-racking part as they give you an honest answer. At first my mum was confused but I think she just about gets it now… At least she will once we launch! Dad nodded but I’m not sure how much went in.
When we launched the Kickstarter we asked for feedback from bands that we’ve featured on the show. It was mostly positive but we had one really negative review that hit home quite a bit. Fortunately we were in the stage where we could change things so we did and he actually replied saying how impressed he was.
The only thing that we have struggled with is converting positive feedback into pledging. Sharing the story is brilliant but we need pledges! The Music Van has some brilliant rewards ranging from T Shirts to Vinyl to events. Check it out because you’ll get something back whilst supporting our project.
How are you both feeling about the start of the project?
I’d be lying if we said we weren’t terrified when we launched The Music Van. It’s something that is completely new to us. When you do something like this you stick your neck on the line… It’s either boom or bust! If The Music Van doesn’t hit the Kickstarter target then we’ll get NO funding. That’s terrifying because we’ve told everyone we know that this is what we are doing.
Positive thinking is the name of the game. If we stop and think about what we’re doing (quitting our jobs and starting a brand new project) then we’d cry. If we think positively and keep hopes high who knows what will happen! We just need kind people to pledge towards our creative idea.
You both seem to be incredibly enthusiastic about finding and supporting new musical talent. How has your experience making podcasts for The Music Bit fed into this?
It’s always something we’ve enjoyed. I started in radio when I was 15 and am a complete radio geek! Whilst working in the industry I’ve managed to interview artists such as Frank Turner and The Cribs… I also met One D but hey, let me just pick up that name I just dropped.
For me, doing the podcast has shown that people are really interested in finding new music. As we become ever more digital there is a whole world at our fingertips. This is something that traditional media struggles with – magazines are great and play their part but you can’t listen to the music, and similarly radio struggles with people having to listen at a certain time.
With the content that The Music Van creates it will be discoverable at the touch of a button. No more gathering round the wireless to hear the latest 7” on the Light Programme but instead you can watch and listen to what is discovered.
With your backgrounds in film and television, how do you feel about the challenge of organising live performances?
It’s unchartered waters. However the ethos behind everything we do is to create something we would enjoy and go to ourselves. We have some ideas about gigs that we want to do… Not the usual sticky floors with sweat dripping from the walls… But cosier lounge style gigs. Part of me wants to do a cheese themed gig… BIG cheese board and brilliant musical talent. Quirky, yes, tad too middle class? Maybe. But enjoyable? Definitely!
Whilst I’m here… My brain is scatty. Whilst I can come up with lots of ideas, Gabby keeps me grounded and organised! It’s one of her great strengths and she gets things done that NEED to be done!
How do you think a project like this compares with the current streaming and live music services offered by companies like Spotify and Apple Music?
Who can’t be impressed with Apple Music? They sign huge talent from our radio stations and have the opportunity to launch bespoke music programmes to be downloaded whenever… What do they do? Make a radio station.
Music streaming is undoubtedly the way of the future. It’s how people enjoy music these days, however it doesn’t beat going to see a gig being performed and having that shared moment with other people. Plus it favours artists that are already established as they can afford to raise their necks above the other millions of artists on the services.
I think The Music Van offers something different. It’s a unique way to discover new music through memorable sessions and podcasts. Who knows who we will discover.
What made you decide to raise funds by crowdsourcing rather than go solely for commercial sponsorship?
This is a good question. For me it’s because those that back us are part of the project. At the end of the day we’re making it for them to enjoy and if they can wear a t-shirt showing they built it or have their photo displayed outside the van then it shows what we can do when people work together.
I think people don’t understand the work that’s involved to getting a Kickstarter up and running. I work really early so I’m up at 5 and in work for 6. When I get home in the afternoon I’m back on my emails, creating graphics or nagging my friends to stick a fiver in! Unfortunately it’s not a case of sitting back and watching the dosh roll in!
Commercial funding is obviously something we will have to seek out. The money we raise on Kickstarter for The Music Van will only stretch so far! However the key to the project will be making great content for those that have backed us.
When can we expect to see The Music Van here in Leeds?
As soon as possible! But to do so we need backing! It’s all up on Kickstarter… Search The Music Van or themusicbit.co.uk/kickstarter. We’re both Leeds graduates and love the city, and plus there’s a real creative vibe at the moment. We hope to have The Music Van up and running in the New Year and by May 2016. Once we have it bought there’s a lot of work involved. We need to make sure it’s road worthy, kit it out to be a studio and book in the music to be seen!
One of our rewards is to choose a city for us to go to. It’s only £30. Any backers, we’ll be there!