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Blasting the Speakers: Motherships and the Act of Making Contact

As with most entrepreneurial forays, I’m pretty much figuring this whole thing out on the fly. I have a good idea of where I want to go and a general course to take for getting there, but the travel itinerary often looks a lot different once you’re actually on the road.

Thankfully, there are some very experienced tour guides that have been traversing these particular trails for quite some time, and I’m proud to be following in their footsteps.

In my last post, I mentioned walking the talk as often as possible. The following organizations are filled with folks doing just that, and I’ll be looking to them for direction as I navigate my own endeavors.

“Motherships” is the moniker I use for hubs of activity with pre-established networks of people who already share in your same mission. Below, I cover the three main motherships I’m hoping to tap into for knowledge and guidance throughout my journey.

Transition Network

The concepts behind the Transition movement cover a large part of what Musicianing is all about, and I imagine Transition Network will be the mothership I interact with most.

The movement began in the small town of Totnes, England in 2006, when co-founder Rob Hopkins got together with some of his townsfolk and started asking questions like, “What does a reduced energy future look like?” and “How do we start to implement those changes in today’s society?”

As I’ve pointed out, our civilization is poised to face several significant challenges in the coming decades brought on by destabilizing climate patterns, economic inequality, and our inevitable shift to reduced energy consumption due to the accelerating depletion of finite fossil fuels.

Right now we are at a crossroads, and we have to decide what direction we’re going to take going forward. There are no sweeping policy reforms coming to save us, and some of the most powerful interests on Earth are fighting hard to maintain the status quo.

The Transition Network contends that the only truly viable course is to produce a wave of community-driven development, sparked by individual action and spread to every location, so that cities and towns can start learning to fend for themselves in the face of uncertainty.

Since the network’s founding, Transition Initiatives have popped up in thousands of locations in more than 35 countries all across the world, including at least 150 in the United States. I will be reaching out to many of these groups about the potential of harnessing their local music scenes to help spread the message of resiliency.

Transition US provides a wealth of information highlighting various causes and effects, and I encourage those unfamiliar with our woes to look them over. But the main focus here at Musicianing is on identifying solutions, and finding ways to put them into practice.

There are a vast array of activities in the Transition playbook, each designed to address different issues. To keep it simple, I like to sum up the overall strategy with an easily relatable and actionable four-part phrase: “Eat local. Shop local. Bank local. Consume less.”

The next two motherships are musical masters of these principles.


Guster guitarist Adam Gardner and his environmentalist wife Lauren founded REVERB in 2004 to make the music industry a greener operation, and have succeeded in adding sustainable touches to nearly every aspect of the touring and concert process. The nonprofit follows a “work-with” approach to participation, and the mantra that a lot of people doing a little bit can make a big difference.

REVERB works with artists to incorporate programs and practices aimed at greening up everything from the pre-show parking lot to the post-show backstage. They set up Eco-villages where fans can learn about conscious living and meet their local farmers, and arrange everything behind the scenes from biodiesel fuel refined from local stock to car pooling, composting, recycling and waste reducing.

Farm-to-Stage was REVERB’s pioneering agricultural program, pairing family farmers and area artisans up with tour chefs and local caterers to provide locally-sourced assortments for the artists and crew. Then came their Farm-to-Family program, which donates CSA shares from community-scale farms to local food-banks, investing in the farmer’s future and feeding the needy all at the same time.

The group has since branched out to other environmental concerns, such as the illegal logging industry, which they raise awareness to help combat through their No More Blood Wood campaign. And they’re also responsible for the Campus Consciousness Tour, reaching college students across the country with info and actions for getting involved and engaged.

I’m looking to take some of the things REVERB is doing and introduce them at the smaller-scale venue level, so local music scenes and venue owners can begin to implement the practices on their own.

My next mothership happens to be close accomplices with the REVERB outfit. They have a whole lot of experience under their belt when it comes to supporting community agriculture, and even more when it comes to playing music.

Farm Aid

It was back in 1985 when Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp teamed up for the first Farm Aid concert in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the plight of the family farmer. They have proceeded to do so unwaveringly ever since, adding Dave Matthews to the Board of Directors in 2001 to help grow the effort.

The Farm Aid team has worked to pull in more than $45 million in pursuit of a “resilient family farm system of agriculture.” For the past three decades, 1-800-FARM-AID has provided on-the-spot support services to farm families in a bind.

The organization’s Good Food Movement seeks to link up farmers with food eaters by assisting and expanding local farmer’s markets and getting nutrient-rich, farm-fresh fruits and veggies into urban neighborhoods, grocery stores, restaurants, schools and other spots in need of good food.

Farm Aid’s site is a bountiful harvest of resources to help folks find family farms, food shares and community gardens in their area.

Local farmers have to attract new customers so they can grow and increase production, but they don’t have the marketing budget to compete with the big chains. They need people who are interested in eating well to seek them out, support their work, and spread the word.

The Act of Making Contact

As of this posting, I’ve initiated contact with various beings aboard the three motherships above, and I have high hopes for a positive reply. But that’s all I can do for now. Any response I receive depends solely on the willingness of others.

You just have to throw your net out there and see what pops up. If you never ask, you’ll never know. Amanda Palmer talks about the power of asking. You can’t be afraid. Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Success is making scary phone calls.

Transition’s theme for the month of March just happens to be “Social Change and the Arts,” so that’s a good sign it’s the right time for reaching out.

Regardless of future developments, I’ll continue to support these groups and learn from their work. Because we’re all on the same page. And we need all the help we can get.


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