Long-time SmallBox cultural institution Musical Family Tree is entering a new phase in 2014 as an official 501c3 nonprofit organization. That’s right, after many years in the warm nest of SmallBox HQ, MFT will navigate its own flight-path while still focusing on sharing a love of Indiana music with everyone from aging rock-n-roll guitar-slinging ne’er-do-wells to twelve-year-olds just dipping their toes into the wide-open, constantly-streaming buffet of musical choices.
I sat down with MFT Executive Director Jon Rogers to chat about the transition, the next year, and yes, music.
DD: What are the biggest changes to MFT as it becomes an official nonprofit?
JR: The biggest change has been to the structure of the organization. As the executive director, I’ll now be reporting to a board of directors, made up of various musically-interested folks, which will still include Jeb, MFT’s founder.
We’ll also be more proactive about asking users of the site to donate to MFT. We hope that the larger community that has enjoyed MFT’s services for years will be willing to help support an organization they love!
Lastly, we want to step up the amount and quality of content we’re producing, seek arts grants and sponsorship opportunities, and get Jim Irsay’s record on MFT. I’m serious about that – Jim, you can tweet me anytime, day or night, at @JonWriters.
DD: What kind of new content or events are in the works for 2014?
JR: While I’m still working with the board to finalize plans for 2014, one thing I'm confident about is that we'll be broadening the type of content we're producing. This includes working with freelancers to produce multimedia pieces, a wider range of voices on the MFT blog, as well as more video and photography. We are currently collaborating with a film crew on a documentary about secret and abandoned musical projects.
We’re also going to have different donation levels with incentives tied to them, like exclusive content, or special rewards, like a t-shirt or a record.
Event-wise, we’ll be making a big fundraising push around MFT's birthday in April (the archive was originally built way back in 2004!). We hope to continue the Listen Local series that was so successful last year with Indy Parks, as well as possibly finding a physical space for a series of smaller events and fundraisers.
DD: I know the site has changed a lot in 2013. Want to give a quick run-down on all the improvements, as well as what might be in store?
JR: This Summer there was a huge design update, as well as major changes to the on-site music player. We improved the look and feel of the site, and users can now create and share their own playlists made from any songs on MFT. The blog, which was run on a separate site, was all moved over to the main site, making it a lot easier to access content and music at the same time.
Next, we really want to focus on making it easier to donate on the site, and offering more rewards to people who do donate.
I’m also interested in improving the back-end experience, which is currently kind of old-school but very functional. Even though MFT already offers awesome perks to musicians (like streaming, downloading, purchase links, and more), I still want to simplify the experience of putting music on the site – make it more enjoyable for bands to access and share their music, and get more musicians to join.
DD: How can people get involved and/or donate?
JR: Anyone who wants to get involved can email me directly about volunteering opportunities. From time to time, we're looking for people who are interested in writing, filming, taking photos, working events, and more. Or, just people who are passionate about Indiana music and have a great idea that relates to MFT’s mission. We want to continue building a friendly and diverse community of talented people who love (and love to create) Indiana music.
You can make donations to MFT here.
DD: Okay, last question. I know you get asked about Indiana music all the time, so here’s a curveball – what music are you hyped on currently that isn’t Indiana-related? Give me something old, something new, and something strange.
JR: Okay, something old – it's sort of a reissue. I’m really hyped on the Light In the Attic new age box set called “I Am The Center.” It’s in a beautiful box, sounds amazing, and has helped me make it through the winter so far.
I’m also really into the new John Wizards on Planet Mu – I’ve been jamming it constantly. He’s a South African musician that’s kind of all over the place, with African, electronic, and club influences.
As far as weird, my homeboy Mercer from Athens, Ga. has a bunch of projects: Bubbly Mommy Gun, Man’s Trash, The Dream Scene, and his label Party Party Partners. I love everything he’s involved in – he’s just a super creative dude, but he’s not from Indiana so I never get to talk about him. He is 100% music – as long as I’ve known him, he’s always just put himself entirely into his art, and that's inspiring to me.