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Make Music

About Make Music Madison

When is Make Music Madison?

Every June 21. Performances can be scheduled between 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Where is Make Music Madison held?

In any space open for public participation throughout the City of Madison. Sidewalks, parks, coffee shops, restaurants, retail stores, garages, front yards, and more serve as impromptu musical stages.

What are the COVID-19 safety measures?

All venues and participants must follow the most up-to-date COVID-19 Orders from Public Health Madison & Dane County.

How do I participate?

    • Create a profile with as much info as you can (links to video, audio, social media).
    • Browse musicians or venues, and send booking requests.
    • Schedule as many shows as you like.
    • Confirm your shows before matchmaking ends.
    • Communicate with your matches to sort out any questions.
  2. ALREADY HAVE MUSICIANS IN MIND? Use the matchmaking  platform to post the details of your line-up!
  3. PLAY THE DAY OF THE EVENT! If you missed registering in advance, you can still play! Pick a sidewalk or a spot in a park and make some music.  If you’re out in front of an establishment, check-in with them. The city is a stage on Make Music Day!

Where may I perform?    

Performances will take place in a variety of spaces, and almost anything is possible.

  • Sidewalks: Many musicians perform on sidewalks. Make Music Madison will secure the necessary City permits so musicians don’t have to deal with the paperwork or fees. Be aware of your neighbors or nearby businesses.
  • Parks: Make Music Madison has reserved prime Madison park locations and shelters for June 21st. Those locations are listed as “on hold” in our matchmaking system and can be reserved as a venue on a first-come, first-served basis by e-mailing us. When you request a park as a venue, you are taking on responsibility as both artist and venue. You may register for other parks yourself, and like other public spaces, we will secure the permits for you. Check out a complete list Madison parks.
  • Community centers, gardens, and plazas: Some public spaces are privately controlled by community groups, management companies, or individuals. These can be fantastic performance locations – quiet, yet accessible. People who control these spaces will make many of them available on our website. If a perfect site isn’t listed, check with the owners to see if they’re interested!
  • Private spaces: Restaurants, businesses, community organizations, and homeowners may wish to offer their locale as a venue.

Can I host live music?

Hosting is DIY and can be as simple as providing space on your sidewalk or as complex as renting a stage with sound equipment. Each host controls the location, length of time, and what they are able to provide.

  1. Performance spaces must be within the city of Madison.
  2. The space needs to be free and accessible to the public.
  3. All venues must maintain a 6′ clearance on city sidewalks for pedestrian passage.
  4. All participants must follow the most up-to-date Covid-19 orders from Public Health Madison & Dane County.

Who can perform?

Make Music Madison is open to all ages, skill levels, and persuasions of music makers. Students, amateurs, part-time professionals, established artists, and first-timers are all welcome. There is no audition process, all you do is register, match with a venue, show up, and perform!

How long will each performance last?  

Artists and venues agree to the length of the performance during the matchmaking process. When you perform you must stick to the set length you agreed to so that the city-wide published performance schedule stays on track. 

Will I be paid to perform? Should I pay our musician guests?

Make Music Madison is part of the international Make Music Day alliance. As part of this celebration, Make Music Madison agrees all performances will be free to the public. Our contribution is setting up the framework for performances by securing the permits, hosting the matchmaking process, and publicizing the event.

Participation at any level (musician, venue, or spectator) is voluntary. While most performers volunteer their time and talents, venues are encouraged to pay musicians to perform when possible and should include this information in their profile. Other venues welcome their musicians by providing food and beverage. We ask venues to do what they can to make the musicians feel welcomed and appreciated!

Make Music Madison will also provide musicians and venues with busking buckets, and spectators are encouraged to tip the artists.

May performers schedule more than one performance?

Yes, you can choose to perform at more than one site. Please allow reasonable time for travel and set-up if you plan to perform more than once.

Can dancers participate in Make Music Madison?

Yes, with some caveats. We are committed to live musical performances, so ballet troupes will need to leave the recorded music at home and bring along the orchestra (or rock band, or solo cello). Also, please consider space constraints. With an orchestra and fifteen dancers, you’ll need a space large enough to accommodate everyone plus your audience.

What if a band signs up now, and has to back out later?

Once your event is confirmed, we will block off your spot and secure your permits. If you need to cancel, it is your responsibility to find a replacement performer. Please inform the venue – and us – about all program changes ASAP, and update the status to cancelled in the matchmaking system.

What if I want to play with others, but don’t have a band?

Join or organize a “Mass Appeal” event! The idea is that scores of musicians who have never performed together before can band together to perform massive pieces. Think, a platoon of accordions playing the “Beer Barrel Polka”, barbershop quartets singing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. You get the idea! Each performance works differently, depending on the genre, the instrument, and the location. We’ll be releasing more info on “Mass Appeal” soon.

I am part of a drum circle, and we’d like to perform at the solstice sunrise.

Noise ordinances and common sense are not suspended for Make Music Madison. Basically, 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM are acceptable times for higher decibel sound, and acceptable locations are non-residential areas where people will not be disturbed in their homes. There can be some exceptions – in past years there have been cases of neighborhoods hosting later performances, planned in cooperation with surrounding homeowners.

Where might I make loud music?

Some of Madison’s larger parks will work. To get an idea of some of the possibilities, take a look at Madison’s park system or, contact us to noodle around some ideas.

Will a lot of people sign up for parks? If twenty different groups sign up for Warner Park, how do we know who has first dibs?

Many city parks are large and can accommodate multiple simultaneous performances. Be as specific as possible in your description as to the location in the park where you intend to perform, and what park amenities you wish to use. Even after you confirm your park venue and performance, you must wait for confirmation from Make Music Madison to make sure there are no conflicting requests. Only then is your park venue truly confirmed.

I’d like to reserve one of the larger shelters with a reservation fee. Is there a special Make Music Madison reservation fee?  

We will pay the fee to rent several of the larger park shelters and performance spaces and they will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact us to find out if a shelter you’d like to request is available. Note preference for these larger sheltered spaces will be given to those who indicate that they agree to perform rain or shine (except in the case of severe weather).

Who will provide a stage / tuned grand piano / etc for my concert?

Make Music Madison is not a typical music festival. It is a DIY opportunity for people to be creative about musical events. Our organizers set up the framework for concerts — the rest is up to you! Artists and locations collaborate to produce the events and to provide any necessary equipment or electricity.

Will there be a main stage?

No. Madison itself is the stage! This event is not focused around built stages. Your stage could be a front porch, a restaurant patio, a park bench, or any other outdoor space. Do you have somewhere you’d love to play? Convince that location to register as a venue!

What if it rains?

If it rains, concerts planned for sidewalks may take place inside a building lobby or storefront. We ask that a door or window be opened so that the music is audible from the street. Park shelters are also an excellent choice for rain or shine locations. During the sign-up process, locations listed on the website will indicate what they can do in case of rain. There is no rain date. This event happens in over 1000 communities around the world on the summer solstice, June 21, and so will ours.

Can I charge admission for a Make Music Madison concert?

No. All Make Music Madison performances are free and open to the public.

Can I block off a street?

Our city permit DOES NOT cover block parties or parade routes that take place in city streets. To host a block party, you’ll need to make those arrangements on your own.

Can my concert be “invitation only”?

No. All Make Music Madison performances are free and open to the public.

Can I perform outside the city limits of Madison?

Not officially. Our permits, insurance, and logistics only cover Madison. You may perform wherever you wish, but be aware of whatever regulations and permit issues apply outside of the City of Madison.

Can I create a Make Music Madison event that does not include any live music?

No. This is a live music event. A DJ who merely plays prerecorded music would not be included, but a DJ who is using prerecorded music as a part of creating a new unique sound is welcome to join.

Can I have my event indoors?

Outdoor events are preferred as this day is all about celebrating the solstice, but as of 2022 indoor events are permitted. We ask that you open windows and doors if feasible to hep the music reach the street. And don’t forget, the show still has to be free and open to the public!

Who organizes this event?

Launched in 2013, Make Music Madison, Inc, a volunteer-led organization, joins an informal confederation of 1000+ cities worldwide in creating opportunities for all music makers to take to the streets and celebrate the summer solstice. Volunteer organizers in Madison work throughout the city to recruit musicians and venues, handle permits, and promote the concerts.

How can I get involved as a volunteer?

There are lots of ways to volunteer. Contact us and we’ll run the options by you.

Can I donate to Make Music Madison?

We’re glad you asked! Contributions can be made online and are 100% tax-deductible. If you are interested in becoming a Make Music Madison Sponsor, please email us.

On the registration page, I see that Make Music Madison runs from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Wow, that is a long event! What is the day like?

The number of events per hour increases as the day goes on, particularly falling on a weekday this year. This schedule gives you the option of playing/hosting your event whenever works best for you and your audience.

The matchmaking software asks for my Facebook and web address. I don’t have this. Does this mean I can’t register?

Social media or website links are optional. We ask for them to allow venues and performers to learn more about each other before committing to the match. After matchmaking is complete, our website will allow prospective audiences to sample your work and allow you to promote yourself. If you incorrectly enter information in these boxes, you won’t be allowed to continue. Information entered should be accurate, or the box should be left blank.

I’m a venue. Why is there a check box that says “Accepting requests?”  I wouldn’t be signing up if I weren’t accepting requests.

When your schedule is full, you can toggle this switch. You can also keep this off if you’d prefer to have control over who requests shows. Maybe you have it all planned out and don’t need any one else to request a show!

Why am I restricted to three choices for the type of music I perform or that my venue will accept?

This arbitrary limit is to make finding the right match easier. Use the “Other” choice and the description box to override this limitation. Then, you can tell us about your music styling in the description box. If you represent a venue open to all types of music, use “open to anything”.

What will Make Music Madison do to help promote my concert?

We will list all concerts on the Make Music Madison website (with descriptions and links to artist websites, when available), and we’ll pitch stories about noteworthy concerts to the press. We will also provide posters and a social media toolkit for participants to promote around the community.

I’ve signed up as a musician or a venue and I’m ready to make a match. Can you break down the approval process in the software for me?

You can use the search option to filter the available artist to venue who fits your search criteria. Use the small triangle to the left of the name of the artist or venue to see all of their details. You can see all available venues and performers by selecting the browse feature, but matchmaking actually happens on your account page.

I’ve looked at all of my options and chosen some possible venues or musicians. What happens now?

After you make a choice, that entity will receive an email. Then both sides need to confirm, modify or decline the opportunity. If you wish to modify, you should contact the other party. When you confirm on a match it will be automatically sent to Make Music Madison to review and approve. Your desired match will appear on your “Account” page under “My Performances”; note that until all three parties have approved, the match is “pending confirmation”. After approval by the artist, venue, and Make Music Madison, the match will be recorded as “confirmed”.

We completed our matchmaking last week, but our completed match still says “Pending Confirmation”. Why?  

Make Music Madison must approve each performance before it is final. In most cases Make Music Madison will confirm your performance and venue match within two weeks. If your venue and performer are certain you have a firm commitment, there is no need to worry, you are going steady and we will not force a break-up. Please be patient for our administrators to approve the match in the system.

Do I need to check in with my “Account” page to see if there are any pending matches?

When someone requests a match, you will be emailed a notification to log in and check the match.

If I signed up two weeks ago and no one has picked my venue/performance, should I start to worry?

It may take time to make a match. Keep in mind that the registration will be open until May 25th, so new musicians and venues will appear until then. If you don’t see what you want today, check another time. Or, be creative in your matchmaking. Venues may contact musicians not already registered in the matchmaking software to ask them to sign up. Likewise, performers may contact venues where they’d like to perform and ask them to sign up as venues. Also, consider that venues can be almost any public place in Madison where people can gather without impeding traffic. The playground down the street, the pet store’s parking lot, the plaza outside your office building could all be venues.

Why was my performance was denied?

Some reasons for denial might be because the venue’s time slots have been filled, or the venue cannot accommodate your type of music or the number of performers. Don’t despair; try to find another match.

A venue or performer wants to modify my request for a match. What is required of me now? 

The modification request in our matchmaking software is there to set up a performance schedule that works for both the venue and performer. If a request needs to be modified in some way other than time, you will need to contact the other party to work through the details of the modification.

It’s May 30th and there is still no match. Should I be heartbroken?

Make Music Madison wants to make sure everyone who wants to perform can perform. After May 25th, registration will close, but participants will have another week to match. The deadline to confirm everyone’s shows is midnight on June 1st. We will contact musicians and venues that haven’t been able to create a match through the software and will propose some creative options for your inclusion in the Make Music Madison merriment. We are in the happiness business and don’t want you to be disappointed or left out.

A scene of seated people surrounding an outdoor concrete plaza with three performers playing stringed instruments
Two Ukes and a Bass at Monroe Commons, 2021