A new collaborative project is working to revitalize Macon's music scene. The 5/4 Music Space is a "music incubator" that has been up and running since early February.
Located at the former Tubman Museum site at 340 Walnut St., it houses 10 practice rooms that bands rent by the month and call their own for as long as they decide to keep their lease. The space is already filled with tenants and has a waiting list, and three more rooms are being created. The building also features a recording studio and an event space, which can hold about 125 people and hosted its first show April 8, said Andrew Eck, who assembled the 5/4 team and will graduate from Mercer University in May.
The name "5/4" refers to a music time signature as well as "five partners for Macon's future," said Bradley Lenz. The partners are Lenz, Eck, Marc Whitten, George Murray and Mike Miller, all of whom have music backgrounds and had expressed an interest in revamping the city's music scene. A number of organizations and supporters also helped bring the project to life.
Eck said the natural path for Macon musicians right now is to move out of the city after they achieve early success, because there is really no infrastructure to keep them here. But 5/4 hopes to change that.
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"The pragmatic background of what we were trying to do is put an institution in place that would function not only to develop young musicians, but to give a reason for successful people who have achieved any moderate success to great success to stay here," Lenz said.
The team members were looking for ways to provide economic and developmental support for local bands and to make forming bands more appealing, Eck said. In the fall, they caught wind of Mercer's plans to redevelop Macon's legendary Capricorn Records studio and knew they wanted to be a part of it. The team will run Capricorn when it opens up, and the 5/4 Music Space will serve as the interim "music incubator" until then.
Eck said about half the bands leasing at the 5/4 have high school-age members, and the average age of the rest of the musicians is 20. Young artists often don't have access to adequate rehearsal spots or equipment, but the 5/4 provides them with a place away from residential areas and supplies them with microphones, sound systems and other technical necessities, Lenz said. At $250 a month for the big rooms, $150 for medium-size rooms and $100 for a smaller one, rent at the 5/4 is significantly less than most other properties in Macon, Eck said.
"A band can literally rent space from us, rehearse, have a live venue to see how songs respond to an audience, and then we can record a record," Lenz said.
The partners can provide guidance on business aspects such as promotions, management, touring, sponsoring and branding, Whitten said. Tenants also get easy access to a recording studio and block rate discounts, Eck said. One EP already has been recorded in the studio, and the first full-length album is almost complete, said Steven Jarvis, a sound engineer involved with the 5/4. The partners are in the process of recording a song by each band for a promotional album, Eck and Lenz said.
Eck said most of the bands practice about three times a week and some even come daily, so the venue is constantly filled with musicians who are interacting and collaborating. Whitten said that hub-type environment is the whole purpose of the 5/4, and everything has been very positive so far. The tenants are happy to come to a place where they can get into their creative mindset, and they've even pitched in to help with maintenance and building projects.
"We're not landlords, (we're) music incubators. Our success is based off of the bands' success," Eck said.
Alternative rock band Failing Acts of Society, formed in 2014, is one of the 5/4's renters, and members practice there three or four times a week. Lead singer Josh Garner said they were ready to get out of his basement and find another rehearsal space. The 5/4 is a safe place where they can be themselves, develop more and be around like-minded people.
"It's really cool being a part of the start of something that Macon needs desperately. It's almost like music has died slightly in Macon," he said. "We have great musicians that play around Macon, but we need people going out in the world and saying 'we're from Macon' to show that Macon actually does have a talent pool."
Hindsight, an indie-alternative rock band that formed recently, leases two adjacent rooms and rehearses two to three times each week. Lead singer Jake Viator said the 5/4 provided a place to officially create the group, as well as an opportunity to perform and bring music to Macon.
"It offers us a chance to get to know other local musicians, opportunities to play with them and hop onto shows. Also, education in recording. The studio is there, and we get to see how that whole process works," he said. "It's a great place, and George (Murray) and Andrew (Eck) and all the guys put in a lot of work to really bring back the music scene. I think they really got off to a great start."
During the next few months, the 5/4 will focus on planning events such as open mic nights and original-content concerts, Eck said. The partners hope to eventually reach out to school children interested in music and help them form bands and learn to collaborate and write songs, Whitten said.
"That is another way that we support our mission, which is to cultivate and develop musical art in Macon and Middle Georgia," Eck said.
For more information about 5/4 Music Space, visit www.facebook.com/54Music or www.fivefour.space.