Since the COVID-19 pandemic I’ve been interested in how independent creative initiatives and artists are managing to adapt and continue to function in light of lockdowns, social distancing and restrictions in place. One of the most interesting Australian platforms to emerge throughout the pandemic is the broadcasting and streaming service GUMMI (www.g-u-m-m-i.net), started by three friends and web developers/ designers – Ben McCready, Jeremy Heritage and Chris Petro.
GUMMI hosts events that are broadcast online, and archived on their website, showcasing the musical and performative talents of a whole range of performers; established and emerging. I spoke to them about Gummi – How it started, how it’s going, and what the future holds.
How did you guys meet one another?
We met separately over the years just through being around music. Chris and Jeremy started organising monthly gigs in Enmore and I started organising gigs at Fredas. Chris and I are also in a band Towel.
So yeah it was just a fun thing to do once a month and then Covid happened…
What gave you the idea to start GUMMI?
We expressed some kind of interest in broadcasting in general, initially we were speaking about buying broadcasting equipment. I can’t remember why we didn’t. It was probably too expensive.
Then Corona kind of sped everything up and Ausco was offering support for projects that ours happened to fit into.
Once you had the idea, how did you start actually building it?
Basically Jero is a software engineer and Chris is a front end web developer and I (Ben) did some interface design so it just happened.
Most other things like getting all the gear and streaming software was learnt as we went.
What has it been like seeing the project realised and come to fruition?
It’s been really fun, lots of good times and meeting great people.
It’s very nice to have an idea realised and have people respond to it how they did. I think people are really stoked to have any kind of infrastructure for music built in Sydney because most of the time it’s being taken down haha.
What have you learned in the process?
The whole process has been a learning experience because when we started we were unsure about how people would respond and if it would be useful to us or anyone else.
Can you see it outlasting the pandemic?
It’s hard to say anything in relation to the pandemic because information regarding the pandemic changes so much. Either way we will have to adjust. We have had a lot of people that respond to it in a positive way.
I don’t know how it’s going to look like without physical distancing but it could be useful in other ways regardless.
What’s a few of your favourite moments or performances on GUMMI?
We love your stream!
Nicola Morton helped curate some artists which was great, they are all good for various reasons.
It’s cool to see people use the website in different ways.
What’s the reaction been like – locally and globally?
It’s been great! A lot of people have contacted us and expressed interest which is reassuring – We are doing something that people understand which goes a long way.
It’s a mostly Australian based community which is probably our first priority.
Once borders open up it will be interesting to see how it will evolve.
What is next for GUMMI?
We will hopefully continue what we are doing, we are entirely funded by Australia Council so it will be thanks to them!
We never expected for it to come this far in the first place so we are just letting it be what people want it to be and just go from there.
What was the most challenging part of building GUMMI?
The most challenging thing about building GUMMI is the fact that we are a small team and some of the tasks require us to learn on the fly.
There is always the chance of live technical issues which adds to the pressure to get everything right the first time haha
Did the concept change as you were programming the website?
The concept was very loose in our heads and we are kind of trying to keep it that way so it can evolve more easily according to demand and other contributing factors like Covid and the economy.
We are still really flexible because we think that in order for any website to get better is by people using it.
If money was no object, how would you see GUMMI as both a digital platform / broadcasting service evolving?
If money was no object it would be much easier and quicker to develop more features and adapt quicker to how people interact with the site.
I think it’s good to not have a plan for a website and just respond to the needs of a community otherwise you might get a kind of myspace situation.
Has any other people in the streaming / Covid event community been in touch with you?
Yes there has been a lot of different people who have experimented with streaming that we have been in touch with.
During the beginning of Covid I think people were the most interested in streaming and then eventually it evened out. But in Sydney’s case it’s been one of the only places where people have been able to play anyway so the streaming community has included almost anyone who wants to play.
How does the camera / live stream work?
I don’t really know. Haha, we use a free program called OBS.
And the audio ?
The audio we just use is a really basic mixer for the time being.
What could you say to anyone reading this, that you want them to know about GUMMI?
Tune in! You can follow us on instagram @g_umm_i or go straight to the site g-u-m-m-i.net we don’t have Facebook because we are trying to not be reliant on big tech companies so it’s great that we can get exposure through media outlets. Also thanks to Australia Council for funding us,you Angie for putting on a great radio show and coming up with lots of ideas for us, Nicola Morton, Laurence Von Oswald, Harry Glass, DJ Farj from east side radio, Tyson from Keep Sydney Open, and everyone else who played or helped us thanks a lot 🙂
(Header photo of the GUMMI guys by Angela Garrick.)