Last year, NME partnered with Squarespace, the all-in-one website builder and ecommerce platform that helps people with creative ideas stand out and succeed.
The pandemic hit the music industry hard. Gigs and festivals were out of the question, big album releases were delayed and the backlog at vinyl pressing plants grew ever longer. But at the same time, people were thinking of new ideas to adapt to this changed world – and what might come after.
As restrictions lifted in parts of the UK, we challenged our army of music-obsessed British readers to tell us about their big-dreaming ideas they were chasing following the full-stop of the lockdowns.
When the entries came flooding in, they confirmed what we already knew – you lot are the future of music, whether you’re fans, aspiring artists, content creators or would-be moguls. The ideas were inspired, ambitious, innovative – and occasionally bonkers.
We chose 10 projects that could benefit not just from exposure in NME but from the opportunities that come with creating a Squarespace site, whether to sell products, communicate with an audience or consolidate your online presence.
Take, for example, 2% Rising, a support network of female and non-binary people who work in areas of the music industry that are heavily male dominated – they were the ‘2 percent’. Operating as a resource, a support group, a forum and more, a Squarespace site expanded their community outside of social media and brought their message to a larger audience in a central hub.
Altruistic, forward-thinking and vital, 2% Rising was typical of the winning entries, all of which were focused on making music more accessible, more available and more fair, often with little concern for personal gain. These were grassroots projects that celebrated the joy of music.
Some of the projects were born in lockdown, such as Vital Culture UK, a media empire built in founder Tanya Vital’s mum’s living room in Leeds.
Many of the projects were firmly rooted in a local community, like Kraken Tunes, a valiant project to open a community music hub in Orkney, a remote island community with a strong musical tradition yet, as of lockdown, nowhere to buy instruments, practice or meet.
On a similar tip, The Factory Creative in Birkenhead was an impressive project that opened creative studios to serve the talented people of The Wirral. Both Kraken Tunes and Factory Creative leveraged their sites to build community and generate engagement with their local audiences.
You can meet each of the 10 selected projects below.
Chalkpit Records Cassette Club was a novel response to the vinyl supply chain problems. It’s a label and subscription club that issues brand new albums on the humble cassette tape, a format so emblematic of the 1980s that they play a pivotal role in the latest Stranger Things.
We visited Chalkpit’s headquarters, the Isle of Wight home of founder Silas Gregory, and learned that his love of the cassette is real – he even buys and fixes up old tape players so others can share the passion. You can buy his retro tech – and, more importantly, the raw brilliance of his Chalkpit Cassette Club albums – via the global Squarespace online shop he opened.
Silas had been busy, having quickly built his site, launched the label and issued the first two cassette albums of many to come. His Squarespace site allows him to curate his own world of content. He shares reviews and photos of gigs, editorial and videos shot on – you guessed it – an old videotape camcorder. Watch our Chalkpit Records mini-doc below.
Another project with a retro-futurist flavour was Close Encounters Club, a pop-up gig venue, live music streaming service and video production team with a cool, 1950s sci-fi aesthetic. Their aim was to make live music more accessible and sustainable, and to boldly go into the new world of streaming gigs to figure out what happened next. Their Squarespace site seamlessly tied together the out of this world look and feel that made them stand out online.
On The House Music is a project to create an online subscription club for live music in the Exeter area, uniting local live music lovers with new music and ensuring that artists and venues are fairly paid. Founder Marcus Osbourne added the project to an empire that already includes online local music journalism, a magazine, promotions and a festival. His Squarespace site allows him to communicate with subscribers, create sign-ups and document his events.
Marcus and Close Encounter Club Founder Shannon Cotton joined us for a discussion about their experiences alongside two industry experts: Lenny Watkins from female collective Sister Midnight, who is building a live music empire in South-East London, and Pierre Hall of Speedy Wunderground, the official coolest label in Britain and home to Fontaines/Wet Leg/Black Midi producer Dan Carey. Watch the panel discussion about the challenges and possibilities of working in the grassroots music industry in 2022 below.
Earlier this year, we caught up with singer-songwriter Marie Naffah, whose ReBuild Music project had inspired a new EP and online digital booklet. London-based Marie had challenged herself to play 50 gigs in 50 nights. Having performed intimate, sometimes one-to-one online shows during lockdown, it was a celebration of the relaxing of restrictions and a chance to reconnect with real people.
Marie performed in places as diverse as a refugee centre, a vaccine hub and a gym, travelling thousands of miles by train. The people she met, the stories she heard and the journeys she took went on to inspire her brand new, 2022 EP ‘Trains’.
Using her Squarespace site, Marie was able not only to share her music and communicate with fans, but also to document the story of the tour and the EP using Squarespace’s blogging tools to create rich mood boards and scrapbooks. Marie is a completely DIY artist, meaning it’s essential she’s able to easily communicate directly with her audience.See our mini doc of Marie’s headline show at London’s St Pancras Old Church below.
Do you have a project you’re dying to get started on? A Squarespace site can make it real. If you can think of it, you can create it, curate it and sell it on Squarespace. Click here to get started.