Big Heavy World
Overview of Organization
Big Heavy World is established to preserve the historical record of music originating in Vermont; to create economic opportunity for Vermont’s musicians and the industries vital to them; to develop community among Vermont musicians and their patrons; and to accomplish this mission in a substance-free environment that empowers and educates youth.
Big Heavy World is an independent, nonprofit volunteer-run music office serving the state of Vermont. Founded in 1996, it has leveraged a technology-heavy D.I.Y. ethic and inclusive philosophy to support musicians and advance the music sector, preserve Vermont’s music legacy, and empower young adults in an environment that focuses their passions and intellect.
The organization is a recognized community-builder and advocate. It is known for collaborative projects on local and state levels and for its ability to unite community supporters, government, and the public within projects. As a voice of conscience Big Heavy World has worked to advance equity and social justice in the state’s music community.
The organization functions as a music development office serving the music community of the state of Vermont inclusively of genre and skill level. Programs create exposure for original Vermont music while preserving its historic record, and accomplish these parts of the mission with a staff of young adult volunteers. Its work encompasses educational and performance event presentation; operation of a licensed FM radio station on which thousands of Vermont songs are automated between local radio hosts; stewardship of an archive of ~5,000 Vermont-made recordings; a small museum of Vermont music history; a community space; and special projects including coordination of a statewide music festival; documentary film; advocacy for equity in policy and resources among art forms at municipal and state levels of decision making; and efforts to strengthen material resources available to Vermont-based musical artists.
Big Heavy World was founded in 1996 as an online guide to regional musical artists during the emergence of the Internet. The organization was a first adopter of this then-new technology, and seized onto related technologies as they also emerged, to promote original music from the state of Vermont. The volunteer crew steered Vermont-made music into international exposure with portable digital music players; gaming software; digital distribution; live streaming via national partnerships; and much more as the era of the Internet evolved. As artists contacted the organization and provided music and press materials, an archive coalesced, requiring responsible stewardship. Currently, the organization is constructing a LoLa node, enabling latency-free cooperative performances by musicians located in separate cities served by gigabit fiber optic networks.
Volunteer-staffed from the start, Big Heavy World has been a compelling place for young adults to gain technical, professional, and social skills. As a workforce development initiative, Big Heavy World has been supported by the Vermont Department of Health, Vermont Department of Labor, AARP, private foundations and others. The energy of young people has resulted in a broad assortment of community infrastructure and resources, including the music archive; a museum of Vermont music history; a community radio station, and many special projects serving to document or improve the economy of Vermont-made music.
During more than two decades these programs grew into a larger scale. The organization has been recognized with awards for its archive, museum exhibits, digital acumen, and in 2020 as ‘Best Global Music Office’ through the first internationally juried Music Cities Award. Big Heavy World is a designated Local Arts Agency and a designated Special Library. It has been recognized and commemorated by city and state legislative resolutions and recognized with kind support from our congressional delegation. Activities have been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts; Institute of Museum and Library Services; USDA; Department of State; Vermont Arts Council; Vermont Community Foundation; and many others.
The organizational model engaged young adults in community service and skills building totaling more than 3,386 logged hours in 2022. The organization has always used emerging technology to promote Vermont-made music and provides a technology-heavy environment for learning digital media, broadcast, and professional skills.
The work of the volunteer crew serves musicians of all kinds and skill levels in Vermont, across the state; inclusivity is fundamental. Resources are built and shared and media exposure and assets like recordings and photographs are provided to artists. The organization tries to be sure original Vermont-made music is recognized for its value to society and the economy.
Effort is made to contribute to advancement of equity in the arts, among all forms of identity and art forms. This work encompasses anti-harassment discussion and training; public conversation about fairness in government resources for the arts; and championing the inclusion of teens in arts programming.
The people of Vermont are served by having their culture and community of music strengthened, cheer-led and preserved, and by having more channels of access to local music. Big Heavy World provides proof of the diversity, talent and creativity of Vermonters that helps contribute to our identity as a people and to our reputation as an enriching place.
We operate as a workforce development/career exploration environment for dozens of young adult volunteers annually. Our community radio station presently serves 50+ community members who host radio programs that broadcast to the populations of the Chittenden County region (Burlington, Shelburne, Williston, Essex Jct.). Our live weekly local music radio broadcast becomes a podcast to 5,900+ subscribers as of May, 2023. Almost 750 Vermont-based music groups have performed and been interviewed on the program as guests. There are ~7,000 songs by Vermont artists in automated rotation on our radio station. Our website received 36,000 unique visitors in 2022 with 70,000 page views. Our directory of Vermont’s music sector includes 680+ business and 1,100+ Vermont-based musical artists. We coordinate listening circles, workshops and networking events that attract various panelists and audiences.
Our programming is diverse and we reach multiple audiences. We operate as a workforce development/career exploration environment for dozens of young adults annually; their community service and skills building totaling more than 3,386 logged hours in 2022. Our community radio station presently serves 50+ community members who host radio programs that broadcast to the populations of the Chittenden County region (Burlington, Shelburne, Williston, Essex Jct.). Our live weekly local music radio broadcast becomes a podcast to 5,900+ subscribers as of May, 2023. Almost 750 Vermont-based music groups have performed and been interviewed on the program as guests. There are ~7,000 songs by Vermont artists in automated rotation on our radio station. Our website received 36,000 unique visitors in 2022 with 70,000 page views. Our directory of Vermont’s music sector includes 680+ business and 1,100+ Vermont-based musical artists. We coordinate listening circles, workshops and networking events that attract various panelists and audiences.
Mission Area: Arts/Culture/Humanities
Size of Organization: Less than $250K
Link to Website
Big Heavy World has been serving Burlington as a volunteer-staffed music office, providing services equivalent to the music offices in other states and cities like Austin, TX and Seattle, WA. It administrates resources that foster the success of local musicians while capturing the historic record of music and musicians in the city. As a grass roots, citizen-driven community and economic development enterprise, it uniquely engages young adults in an educational environment.
Big Heavy World is seeking to expand its governing board with persons who consider themselves experienced in aspirational, visionary and strategic leadership. Key criteria include your commitment to truly inclusive public service; a willingness to contribute social capital to this mission; and applying your hard-earned individual skills and wisdom to the success and advancement of our community and economic development mission.