Home-Grown Homoground:

Aug 9 • COVER STORYNo Comments on Home-Grown Homoground:

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GIRL POWER: (l. to r.) Jax Keating and Lynn Casper are the founders of www.Homoground.com, which advocates for more representation of LGBTQIA and female musicians and artists in the media, providing a podcast platform to reach listeners. Photo by Shea Carver

Out-FM in New York. Rainbow Radio out of Romania. Peruesgay out of Peru. Pride1 out of Germany. Homoground out of Wilmington, NC. They all share a commonality: In some form or another, they’re filling a void in mainstream media by giving the LGBTQIA community a voice, whether through once-a-week podcasts, daily live-streaming radio or hour-long shows. Why? It’s simple, really. Much of our society’s culture panders to a hetero public, our airwaves included.

encore’s 2011 Wilmington Webbie winner, www.Homoground.com, began streaming podcasts on the net thanks to Wilmingtonian Lynn Casper, aka Scantron. She and her business partner, Jax Keating, wanted to give LGBTQIA musicians a platform to reach out to audiences who could be impacted by the music and the people playing it.

“Growing up in the Ogden area, I always felt out of place,” Casper, a fresh-faced 20-something, who also works at local nonprofit Working Films, says. “I never saw any positive representations of gay or lesbian people.” Noting she always felt like she was being frowned upon as “bad,” “gross,” or even more to the extreme, “something that no one should ever want to be,” her life turned around after logging online.

“I really struggled with feeling ashamed of who I am,” she admits, “and scared that someone would find out. There was really no one I could relate to, nor anyone I felt would understand. I found support and a sense of community on the Internet with others who felt the same way, and it was amazing. Then, I discovered riot grrl music, and it just changed my life.”

Music impacted her as much as the enlightening connections to other gays and allies. Hence, her confidence found its footing. “That’s what I hope our website and podcast at Homoground.com can accomplish for kids growing up now who are dealing with those same things,” she says.

Casper and Keating have recognized a niche that needed to be filled, seeing as radio only plays the likes of Elton John or Adam Lambert, a very minute representation of their community at best. With the help of Bambi Weavil’s organization, Out Impact, Homoground debuted in Decemeber 2010. Though Weavil moved to New York in the winter of 2011, it didn’t stop Keating and Casper from continuing to guide Homoground’s reins. In true DIY fashion, they put feelers out to musicians and began compiling their podcasts once a week to release on Thursday nights.

“We quickly caught the attention of bands from around the country and Europe,” Keating says. “[They] submitted their music to us, which helped the production process and propelled our listening population.”

A mere six months later, Homoground.com has gathered quite a following, and with guerilla marketing and word-of-mouth advertising only. It has featured 100 artists and bands and 29 podcasts, garnering support adding up to 3,000 visits, 5,000 page views and 6,600 unique visitors per month.

“We’ve seen an increase each month, too,” Casper says. Listeners live everywhere, from Wilmington to NYC, Portland to Durham, DC to Philly, Los Angeles to Austin, and Chicago to Seattle. “We’re also seeing steady growth in Canada, the UK, Germany and Brazil,” Casper adds.

After acknowledging requests to hear more music, the ladies decided to release digital “mixtapes” every Monday night for free. The mixtapes feature Homoground artists and usually centers around a theme. The team thought not only would it be appropriate for artists to align with current trends and LGBTQIA talk but have Homoground reach out to businesses and organizations.

“[We] thought it would be a great networking tool if we invited others to submit mixtapes,” Keating says. “This way, both organizations receive publicity through the appreciation of music. Whereas our podcasts unite us with three or four specific artists, and allows us to promote information about their upcoming events, the mixtapes align Homoground with writers, record companies, or community organizers and nonprofits.”

At the beginning of the summer, Homoground paired up with the NYC Dyke March, a protest which rallies lesbians who want to vocalize their rights, safety and ensure visibility. “We made a ‘rally’ mixtape,” Keating says. “Listening to it just makes you want to get up and do something good! It was tremendously exciting to work with the organizers of their 19th annual demonstration. . . . we have the right to free speech and recognize the need to use that freedom,” she continues. Their rally cry is a direct concern for Homoground: “Be visible. Be heard.”

The website has become another outlet to link up to socially conscious efforts and align with issues worth investing in. “More nonprofits and grassroots organizations are incorporating various types of creative media to reach across different audiences and encourage others to get involved,” Casper says. Homoground will continue to be of that ilk.

Its roots are growing even deeper, as well. The ladies have hooked up with filmmakers to help organize screening events. They’ve curated music videos at Wilmington’s Pink Sheep Film Festival, which took place during Pride Week in June. Now, they’re launching outside of the digital world and into the physical by throwing concerts in cities from New York to Wilmington.

“We actively book shows for many of the bands we’ve represented,” Keating says, “and through building relationships with venues across the country, we’ve been able to host ‘Homoground’ events, meaning a venue will contact us and donate their space for a night. We then contact various bands or artists that we feel would be appropriate for the event. These are a great outreach opportunities because they allow us to meet new musicians, listeners and other helpful people along the way.”

Currently, Homoground is undergoing a site update, which will include a Google map, an archival database for bands and venues to correlate with their touring schedule. “Every artist that we work with gets placed onto the map by their location,” Keating says. “Female, LGBTQI and allied musicians we have yet to work with can also place themselves on the map. Finally, politically allied venues that we or any artists find are also place. [It’s] a network tool, which enables them to contact other bands in areas that they may be traveling through.” Though not yet complete, bands can expect it to be an indispensable addition.

Musicians have been contacting Homoground constantly; the outpour has been nothing shy than overwhelming for the ladies. In fact, they’ve had to suspend new artist submissions until September, as they want to file through them equally with diligence.

“We accept all genres of music,” Casper notes. “We’ve had everything from electronic to folk-country to pop to metal. We don’t make any judgements on the music people submit because we know how meaningful it is to work hard to create [art] and share it with others.”

Homoground’s flock of submissions are evidence that the work is paying off; yet, the most rewarding aspect to starting the site has been support elsewhere, too. “We have met some really amazing and truly genuine people,” Casper says. “One of the most memorable was when a soldier stationed in Afghanistan contacted us to tell us she listened to Homoground nonstop. When she came back to the States, she joined our team and went to shows to gather video footage. Now, we have a growing collection of high-quality videos from live events.”

Though Casper and Keating have to juggle their daily jobs, loss of sleep, growing addiction to Red Bull and expenses from their own pockets, it all remains more than worth it. The community collaboration sets in motion a need to recognize all people’s worth and creative talents regardless of sex, race, religion or gender choices in love.

“We’re both so incredibly passionate about Homoground that we don’t mind staying up until 4 a.m. working at our computers,” Keating, who also works as tour manager for 307 Knox Records, says. “As time goes on, we find ourselves meeting some generous donors who also believe in what we’re creating, which not only helps us fund Homoground but also reminds us how many people care about the project.”

More so, they’re hoping to make an indelible mark on the recognition of the plethora of queer and female artists who are so often overlooked. “The music industry is still heavily dominated by white men,” Casper says. “and minorities are often left with the shit end of the stick. We are finding out about awesome new bands, but we are essentially documenting a part of history that isn’t documented as much as mainstream culture.”

The future for Homoground remains to educate people via various artistic mediums. This includes its hetero listeners and artists who ally the site, mainly because it isn’t an “in-your-face, militant” spin on politics. Its only rule: No haters.

“We are open-minded about collaborating with anyone, as long as they are open-minded, too,” Keating says. “One of my mottos is, ‘Why compete when you can support?’ At the end of the day, we’re all humans who just want live happy lives.”

Homoground is always accepting volunteers, gay and straight, as well as music submissions. Check them out on Facebook to find out how to become a part of their street team. New podcasts come out Thursday evenings at 9 p.m.

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