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The history of WSM has been written in the first person and from the perspective of the founder Ryan.
The Mixtape's success rests on a thin thread and several overlapping opportunities. Had things occurred slightly differently, I doubt WSM would be here today. To pay proper respect to the individuals and moments that contributed towards the present, I have spared no details. I apologise for the length; I have condensed a year's worth of history as best as I can.
The House Party in Newtown
The journey begins at a house party in Newtown. It was early 2021 and I was at a party hosted by my friend Iliana and her house mates. It was at the end of the party when they brought out a mic and an amp. Iliana performed a couple of pieces and then opened the floor to anyone who wanted to perform. A couple of musicians came up and I remember feeling gutted, all I had was a half-finished poem on my new phone. Who would want to listen to a poet after a bunch of singers? I told Iliana about my half-finished piece and she spurred me on. I ended up finishing the piece and performing it in front of the party. What happened surprised me, the audience gave me the same recognition as they had the singers. It was my first open mic and it let an impression on me.
Coffee with Kuya Dave
A couple of weeks after the house party in Newtown, I had a coffee with my Kuya Dave. Dave is one of those guys who leaves his fingerprints everywhere, especially in the Western Sydney community. Coffee was every two weeks for us. During our time together, he usually asked me where I was in life and what had been happening. I brought up the house party and how I had performed slam poetry at an open mic. Seeing how excited I was, he asked me, 'if you had a space would you host an open mic?' That question was the catalyst in the birth of WSM; at that moment, I had to choose. I replied, 'yes,' and he told me about a space in Glendenning named OPN. He told me we would be in contact and went our separate ways. Once in the car, I played 'My Shot' from the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat until I got home.
I remember going through several names with my younger sister for the next few days. I can no longer remember the variants we came up with; it's been too long. I remember being in the kitchen and saying 'Western Sydney Mixtape' for the first time. I knew at that moment I had found the name. April 23, 2021, was the first time WSM was spoken in reference to Western Sydney Mixtape.
The WSM Logo
Now that I had locked in the name, I needed a logo. Fortunately, one of my best friends was a graphic designer. Sunshine and I corresponded back and forth over a couple of weeks, going through several logos until the current logo was produced.
Western Sydney Mixtape Genesis
The brand name was locked in. All I needed now was to name the event and plan it. It didn't take long to call the launch Genesis. Initially, I was going to name every event individually; the one after Genesis would have been Frequency. I was very ambitious back then.
Starting, I could count my artist's connections on the one hand; in other words, I had no connections. If it couldn't get worse, I had never run an event like this before. I was way over my head. To make a long story short, with Dave's help, I had the building blocks of what would be a very rough event. There was no vision, no backbone, and the event was destined to fail. The event was scheduled for July 27. In the month leading up to the launch, Covid was on the rise, and eventually, the first restrictions were put in place. I announced that I was postponing the event, and in the same fortnight, the lockdown was announced.
Western Sydney Mixtape Featuring
I had two options; the first was to wait until the lockdown ended and try again or to explore my options. I considered having an open mic over zoom, and no one was interested. The idea was a desperate attempt to make something happen, so I understand the lack of interest. I took the time to think things through properly and came up with the concept of an Instagram Livestream. The sales pitch was a Livestream that doubled up as an interview and a live performance. I made an Instagram story, and at that time, I had 50 followers and next to no engagement. It was a simple poll asking if people were interested in the concept, and five people hit yes. I messaged an artist named Vee with the idea, and she was down to jump on. I titled the branch WSM Featuring and made the promo.
After Vee, I interviewed the only other artist I knew, Busky and was ready to throw in the towel. To my surprise, an artist named Reesha got in contact and wanted to be interviewed. After that, I started organically connecting with artists each week. Between July and November, I interviewed 17 artists, most of whom would go on to make up the initial community.
Meeting Reesha and The Birth of R-SQUARED
Reesha and I had an instant connection during our Livestream. A week later, she asked if she could call me, and I agreed; during the call, she asked me about WSM and the direction I was taking it. By the end of it, we had decided to team up and build it together. We would dedicate a couple of hours each weekend to discussing WSM over a Zoom Call. During these sessions, we would work on google docs outlining the bare bones of what would become The Mixtape.
Western Sydney Mixtape Genesis - Take 2
In November of 2021, an announcement was made that WSM would launch monthly open mic nights on January 28. Nothing could have prepared Reesha and me for the rough couple of following months. Without revealing any personal information, our lives came crashing down and quick. Reesha had to step down temporarily, and I decided to push on with launch. Omicron was announced in early January, and the fear of another lockdown was prevalent. I remember gigs being pushed back, left, right, and centre as the Sydney music scene shut down again. In hindsight, this was for the best as, despite our best efforts, WSM still wasn't finished, and we'd be launching a half-assed project into the world.
The Breakup of R-SQUARED
As the world slowly returned to normal, Reesha's life became busy again, and she decided to permanently step down from the core team. She would stay on as a volunteer but wouldn't be able to invest in WSM as she once had. That season of life was rough for me, apart from Dave Reesha had been the most vital voice of encouragement in my life. She had spurred me on to this point, and now I had to move on without her. I became the sole head of WSM.
A Lack of Vision
Remember the personal problems I mentioned that started in November? Well, my life didn't return to normal until the first week of March. And my mental health was still shaky until the middle of April. Once I had recovered, I took the time to reflect on why I was trying to launch WSM and if it could genuinely make a difference in the community. From July 2021 up until April 2022, I had been pushing the movement forward without a central purpose. I had an idea of what the skin looked like, Reesha and I had placed the bones in place, but there was a lack of spine. WSM, as it was, could not stand on its own.
Artist Showcase Night?
On the way home from a gig one night, I was chatting to a friend I had made recently in the Central Coast named Rhi. She asked me about WSM and what I was building. I broke down the concept of the open mic Reesha, and I had been working on. She replied, 'let me challenge your thinking; she then explained why an open mic was a small idea. She introduced the concept of an artist showcase night 'this is already more premium,' she said. I immediately adopted it and began to shape ReeRy's model around it.
WSM The Mixtape
I decided with the change in direction; a new name was in order. Naming every event was not feasible. Eventually, I would run out of names. I had to come up with an umbrella term for the events. Messaging the group chat I made for the first event, I asked the artists what I should name the show. Ignasyo said, 'how about The Mixtape?'. At first, I rejected it. Western Sydney Mixtape, The Mixtape sounded off. I reflected on it and decided I had acted too hastily.
I ultimately decided to go ahead with The Mixtape. My reasoning being The Mixtape showed the relationship between brand and product. The Mixtape was being built up as WSM's signature product, and with it being a part of the name, it showed how closely integrated the two were.
The First White Paper
I had booked OPN for May 27 for the third attempt at launch. Toward the end of April, I spent a couple of weeks juggling between organising the event with the artists and fleshing out a 'why'. At the start of May, I developed the first white paper, a document outlining the purpose of The Mixtape and its core objectives. The Mixtape now had a spine and was able to support its weight.
The Mixtape is Born
On May 27, The Mixtape was launched with a seven-artist lineup. We sold a hundred tickets and filled the room. After the event concluded, I was grateful for the two failed launches. Without the delays, I wouldn't have had the chance to polish The Mixtape; it would have been a one-off event in both instances. The launch's success rests on a thin thread and several overlapping opportunities. Had things occurred slightly differently, I doubt WSM would be here today.
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