Happy Friday, everyone!
This week I had the opportunity to chat with Akshay Chacko, Co-President of Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO). He gave me some insight into what MEMCO does on campus, how they’ve adjusted to COVID, and how students can get involved with the organization. Let’s dive right in!
The first thing to know about MEMCO is that they’re a multifaceted organization focusing on various pillars to get people involved in electronic music on campus. They have two main areas of their mission: 1) break down entry barriers and teach people how to DJ/produce music, and 2) Give students a platform to share their skills.
Electronic music can be a difficult space to break into due to the expensive equipment and limited availability of teachers when compared to learning to play the guitar or another instrument. MEMCO addresses these areas by providing equipment for their members to learn and practice on – from their full-scale, state-of-the-art setup to more portable DJ controllers that are able to be individually borrowed during COVID (and which they were able to get thanks to an Arts at Michigan grant!). They also host a series of speaker panels and educational events which cover topics like the history of electronic music, insights from talent bookers or graphic designers, and understanding the intersectionality that techno music was built upon – including its connections to Detroit. Many of their educational programs have been able to be moved online fairly seamlessly, allowing their members to grow their passion and knowledge of music even in quarantine.
MEMCO’s performance programming has been a little more challenging to move into the virtual space. Akshay explained to me what the event process in previous years has looked like:
“Our biggest event [pre-COVID] would be, like, every month we would throw these events at Club Above on main street called Impulse Events, and these events were basically hosted, organized, executed, promoted, all by the club. We curate the lineup, which it’s usually just members of our club but sometimes we would book, like, bigger artists from Detroit and stuff. We handle the booking, we handle, like, the graphic design, the promotion, and we meet up and then go, you know, poster around campus and downtown and stuff, and then we handle the production of this event from start to finish.”
Obviously, those tasks are all incredible learning opportunities for someone looking to continue in the music industry, or, really, any industry. The process of putting on the event might be as beneficial as actually being able to perform at the event. So, while they can’t perform in clubs and bars as they would normally, they’ve found creative ways to make the best of this year.
“We’ve just had to switch to a live stream format for [Impulse Events]. And that is, I’m sure you’ve seen, like most electronic events or, like, DJ, or anything, that have switched to the live stream format and we have kind of just had to do the same. [It’s a] totally different experience and definitely way harder to, like, get new members or any members at all. You know, instead of beingat the club on a Friday night, you’re, like, sitting in front of a computer… We do like a simultaneous zoom call too but, you know, you have to be realistic that it’s not the same experience… We still promote the event from start to finish. [We] handle booking and all these things and, like, for an upcoming event we have booked some DJ and stuff… I’d say we have a professional setup that is, like, up to par with, you know, any big DJ and what they’re doing, so it’s as good as we could be. I’m honestly, like, really proud of the setup that we have to do our live streaming.”
As expected, some things translate better to the Zoom format than others. Speaker series work well, for instance,, while trying to teach someone to DJ for the first time might be a little more challenging. Setting up a DJ Livestream may be straightforward, but how do you get back some of the energy that you’d have in a club or bar setting? These are questions that MEMCO has grappled with this semester, and it seems like they are doing a wonderful job to make the best experience possible for their members.
If you’re interested in getting involved with MEMCO, you can email Akshay at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will get you set up with the Slack channel and make sure you’re in the loop for future events. One of the nice things about MEMCO is that being a member is super flexible – you can be as involved as much or as little as works best for you. If you’re only interested in one side of their programming, want to be on the backend of event production, only want to attend social events and performances, or want to do all the above, you are welcome no matter what. Also, be sure to follow their Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud pages.
If you want to get your feet wet, MEMCO is hosting a music production workshop series tomorrow (March 27) from 1-6 PM. More information can be found on the Facebook event or the event graphic below.
That’s all from me this week!
Stay safe & stay well,