What it is like to start up and crowdfund your own concert series? Flautist Lamorna Nightingale and composer Elizabeth Jigalin have just successfully crowdfunded a new music series called BackStage Music that uses a vibey, white-washed basement gallery in Sydney’s Darlinghurst. The idea started, as we reported last year, when these two colleagues put their heads together following Music Australia’s Indie Classics forum in Vivid Sydney and dreamed up a new platform for bringing composers, performers and audiences together in a friendly atmosphere.
They linked up with the art gallery owners and ran a trial first concert last August which featured New York contemporary group yMusic. It saw queues of people lining up outside the rear lane entrance of Creative Space 99, initially getting the organisers worried. “We almost had to turn people away, but in the end we fitted everybody in. We served drinks in interval and many people stayed on afterwards. It was just like a party,” says Nightingale.
Encouraged by that start they began a crowdfunding campaign through Creative Partnerships Australia, administered by the Australian Cultural Fund, to initiate an ongoing concert series in the same venue. A matching a grant from the City of Sydney helped them reach their $3,500 target.
Recounts Nightingale: “It was quite challenging. People tend to think crowd funding is easy money, but it is hard work and need lots of material to give people to encourage them to stay connected with what you’re doing.”
“When we opened our FaceBook page, friends and family contributed and there was quickly a lot of interest. However, that came mostly from fellow artists just wanting to express support. But that was a useful starting point, and eventually the campaign took off with a larger donation. From there I was nervously watching each day to see some people donating $11 at a time. I was quite touched by those people, and it put us over the line.”
As co-curators of BackStage Music, Nightingale and Jigalin want to give contemporary art music a new approachability so that it can be nourished and sustained over the long term. This means keeping it artist-led and small-scale, Nightingale explains. “We came up with a motto, ‘living music in a living space’, to reflect the choice of music and musicians. It is all music by living composers, particularly Australian composers, and the musicians engage with the music in a fresh way in a relaxed space. Plus there’s a good blend of female and male, and established and emerging composers working alongside each other. So you get a sense of continuation.”
The first 15-20 minutes of each BackStage concert will be given over to early career artists doing their own mini show, and then after interval, established artists present their hour-length show.
The important thing is to engage well with the audience, says Nightingale. “Liz and I talk at the beginning to all the artists, so that it all fits in with our ethos and is professional, high quality and well organised.”
“Having been to a great many concerts, I start to get a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. So much is about presentation. Often musicians are aware of when things don’t go well, but the important thing is the reflection process that goes on afterwards. Performers often get quite caught up in their own private practice and aren’t always aware of this.”
The casual, open feel of Creative Space 99 is bound to help break down barriers, and Nightingale is optimistic the series will take off. “To be honest, it’s a bit of an experiment, but I really hope that this might lead to other people running similar ventures,” she says. “I’d be so happy if others were doing the same around Australia, and that we might even be able to set up a touring initiative between cities.”
BackStage Music’s first concert in its soon-to-be launched new series will be on 6 July with performances by Ensemble Offspring, in which Nightingale is a core member. Details here.