We caught up with Jen from Music Broth a wee while ago to find out more about the business and to see how lockdown affected them.
Music Broth is Scotland’s first musical instrument and equipment library, a social enterprise with charitable status (SC048299). Their ethos is to make music playing, learning and enjoyment accessible to all. The Music Broth library of over 1400 musical instruments and equipment is for sharing; from tin whistles to pianos, ukuleles to PA’s, trumpets to bass amps, something for everyone!
They operate through affordable memberships for those who can contribute; individuals, bands and organisations, with income generated supporting their hardship fund for those in need. Music Broth support anyone wishing to pursue a musical venture; providing instruments for learners and established musicians alike, to take home long-term or short-term, occasional use of unusual instruments for recording, backline for gigs, PA for events, musical workshops, use of the library space for jamming, rehearsing, videoing, and training and volunteering opportunities. All are welcome. All are valued. Let’s make music!
Q: What led you to starting Music Broth?
Jen: I’m Co-Founder of Music Broth, Scotland’s first musical instrument and equipment library, social enterprise with charitable status. I run Music Broth alongside Founder Felix Slavin from our base in Govanhill, Glasgow. Our whole ethos is to provide equitable access to musical opportunities for all.
Felix came up with the idea for a musical instrument and equipment library after being left 8 instruments by his late musician uncle Paul and considering how best to share his legacy. I met Felix in summer 2017 and I was drawn to the idea of supporting those less able to access music, and also the re-use aspect; getting neglected instruments repaired, restored and shared to new hands. We’ve been working together since then and our Music Broth library, thanks to the generosity of the Glasgow and wider Scotland community, now has over 1400 musical instruments and equipment which are accessible to all. Everything from tin whistles to pianos!
Q: What’s your favourite part of running Music Broth?
Jen: Bringing joy! Supporting and enabling people to harness their musical talents, creating equity and opportunity, working with great people, and learning their stories, and about the unusual musical instruments that arrive in our library and the wonderful stories that go along with them.
We have supported young people with additional needs to access skills they didn’t know they had, helped refugees and asylum seekers take instruments home to allow them to express themselves and their stories, and get more involved and make friends locally. We’ve supported fledgling bands to do gigs they might not otherwise have had kit to, helped our volunteers grow in confidence and develop into tutors and mentors.
We’ve supported great bands and organisations with affordable backline for gigs and events. It can be stressful, and there’s a lot of lugging kit around and background work making sure everything is working and in the right place at the right time (I’m a pretty good roadie now!), but there’s immense pride in the kit you’ve restored working and sounding well in a good venue. Added bonus we get to see some fabulous diverse acts whilst working, that’s not so bad either! Running my own business is great too in contrast to working for someone else, sometimes there are pretty steep learning curves but Felix and I basically manage and drive everything together, we’re a pretty formidable team.
Q: Why did you open Music Broth on the Southside?
Jen: We very deliberately chose the Southside as the location for our Music Broth library hub due to the diversity, openness, vibe and appetite for creativity here. We're very appreciative of the generous support of people across Glasgow and wider Scotland, and the Southside community support of our Music Broth journey so far has been key in this.
Our library hub (before lockdown) has been a great creative space in the Southside. Our library members, donors of instruments and finance, and our amazing volunteers have been instrumental; there is so much time and effort dedicated behind the scenes; repairing and restoring instruments, cataloguing, photographing, social media, supporting library members, lugging bass amps around... all the things that make things happen!
Q: Do you have any advice for other business owners?
Jen: In general; work hard, try to be as hands on as possible, authentically knowing your business is the best way of building others confidence in what you do, channel your passion, don't expect to be an expert on everything straightaway, get good help where you need it but continue building your own knowledge too.
In lockdown; adapt, be realistic but stay positive! Being in the music industry we've had to adapt to losing a huge amount of income during lockdown with all our paid events, gigs and workshops cancelled for the foreseeable. We've also had personal circumstances to manage around our business being a keyworker or having 24/7 carer responsibilities with schools closed, or volunteers and members in shielding.
We've adapted our business and supported our community by introducing our sanitised zero contact 'musical instrument to your door' free delivery service with membership of our library, and working with local musicians and tutors to support online tutorials. We designed this in recognition of lockdown isolation impacts particularly on mental health; the benefits of learning a musical instrument or to switch off and enjoy the pleasures of music and creativity.
Q: What does the Southside Fringe mean to you?
Jen: Southside Fringe have been hugely supportive of us as Music Broth organisational library members. We've had many sparky conversations, supported each other's events and activities, shared helpful connections and in general worked together supporting Southside Creativity.
“A huge thank you to our community and volunteers for all your support during lockdown. Stay safe everyone, keep making music, and we're here to help if you need us!” - Jen O’Brien, Music Broth