Though there’s no longer a channel dedicated to broadcasting them, we’re presently living in the golden age of music videos. Not coincidentally, Milwaukee videographers are experiencing something of a renaissance. Area filmmakers are accomplishing astounding things, and there’s no shortage of music video series curated by area newspapers, radio stations, and young web-only publications.
Since last fall, “Hear Here Presents” has managed to set itself apart from the din of other Milwaukee-made music videos. Having just celebrated its first anniversary with the release of a Lex Allen installment, Hear Here has quickly established itself as a source of visuals that manage to put out sleek multi-camera renderings on a shoestring budget. This all started with Milwaukee comedian Ryan Holman, who found his aspirations to start a venue quickly mutating into developing a homey, homespun, and grassroots series.
In 12 months, Hear Here has managed 24 videos, despite being evicted from their original site along the way. A day after the Lex Allen video was posted, Milwaukee Record spoke to Holman about Hear Here’s origin, its struggles, and what’s next.
Milwaukee Record: How did the idea for Hear Here come about?
Ryan Holman: The initial idea for Hear Here was something Jenny—my girlfriend—I had been talking about doing ever since we started putting together our comedy and music shows about five years ago. We thought it would be fun to own a venue someday where we would have really nice video and sound equipment set up in case we wanted to record some of those shows. We talked about decorating the stage similar to our living room at home with a comfortable vintage psychedelic feel.
About a year and a half ago, I ended up seeing this big open loft space that some of our friends from the Cavewives and our other buddy, William Gardiner, were using as a practice space and recording studio. As soon as I saw it, I immediately thought the space would be perfect. I pitched the idea to William a few days later and he was into it. So over the summer of 2015, we started collecting decor and preparing for our first shoot.
MR: In what ways has the series developed over the course of the first year? What have you learned?
RH: This first year has had its fair share of growth and learning. It’s been great learning how to work with a team of 20-plus talented people, trying to manage, give deadlines and lofty expectations to a crew that is volunteering their time. It’s very rewarding to know that all the people we’ve worked with are doing this because they enjoy the project, and not for money.
MR: What are some unexpected challenges you’ve faced and overcome along the way?
RH: I think the biggest thing we’ve had to overcome up to this point was the move. We were about six to seven months into the project and just getting to the point where we felt we were picking up steam and falling into our groove, when we received a 30-day eviction notice on our door. We found out they were kicking out all the artists and turning our building into condos—but at least they are calling the condos “The Artist Lofts.” Luckily, we found a new spot which has turned out to be better on so many levels. But the move and set up of the new space took about three months, when I initially was hoping it would only take a few weeks.
MR: Talk about the space. Between inviting in a crowd and the area itself, you really seem to create a cozy, warm environment around the performer.
RH: Our new space is in a huge warehouse in Bay View that is home to something around 100 small businesses, from Howell Street Studios to Enlightened Brewery. Although this is still an artist building, it is definitely more professional than the last spot we were in. That feeling has definitely carried over into our new studio space as well. One of the nice things about moving was that we were able to design our own floor plan. The space we are in was a big open storage area of like 3,500 square feet and we got to cut it down and map it out how we wanted. So we got to build in an isolation booth and build out our storage wall, and that really helped to make the place feel like home. We wanted to keep the same vintage psychedelic feel that we had in the last space but we have a lot more wall space to play with in the new location.
MR: In this era where so many publications, radio stations, and YouTube channels have music video series, how do you feel Hear Here sets itself apart? What makes it special?
RH: I think at the core, we are ultimately doing what’s been done before. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re just trying to add some sweet rims to it. What we hope sets us apart is the professionalism and artistry behind the shoots. We ultimately wanted to combine our favorite things from all the shoots who came before us and add a little bit of our own artistic flare. We usually have three to five cameras for each shoot, and have recently added in professional lighting, we mic and then mix everything to get top notch studio quality sound, and we invite out a little audience to help create energy in the room so the musical acts don’t feel like they are just playing for a bunch of camera men. Our goal is to create the most artsy and immersive live studio sessions that we can.
MR: What’s planned for year two, and beyond?
RH: The goal for year two is to continue to grow at a steady pace like we have through this first year. It would be great to get some local sponsorship for each shoot and release, so we can begin to compensate the team for all their hard work. I wasn’t in a huge hurry to add money into the mix, but in order to keep this project sustainable and growing, it would be nice to get some help when the time is right. We don’t see why Hear Here can’t end up as large as KEXP, Tiny Desk, or Audiotree Live with a little hard work and dedication. Milwaukee has a great local music scene and has so many great national acts that come through, and we have created this unique platform that is available to show all that stuff off.