The Shape of Music is a video series in which TrackRecord looks at how fans are changing their local music scene.
Beams of afternoon light stream through the windows of Ace Props, a rental warehouse in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. In a couple hours, the sprawling space, filled with massive neon signs, prop art, and other kitschy furnishings, will open its doors to the public.
For now, a handful of photographers and production coordinators buzz around during soundcheck, while local food vendors and drink sponsor Becks prepare their stations.
Dubbed the Listening Den, the music event setting up on a Thursday in late August promised to introduce an alternative experience to Miami, where the local music scene is eclectic but can feel disjointed and even, at times, neglected in favor of DJs and bottle service.
“It’s a tough landscape without there being strong local music media platforms and consistent venues,” says Isabella Acker, founder of Prism Creative Group and the woman running tonight’s show. “But you adjust.”
Over the last few years, many small and mid-sized music venues have closed—often at the hands of encroaching developers and rising rents—creating the impression that despite a population of nearly 3 million, Miami’s live music scene might be dying. But some music-minded entrepreneurs are facing these financial and logistical challenges head on.
Acker started Prism two years ago, after stints as a marketing manager at LiveNation and artist manager at her previous company, Black Key Group. She bills Prism as a “creative agency,” with clients spanning from local indie bands to the popular athleisure brand Lululemon.
Acker was asked to come up with community programming for the Arts and Entertainment District, an area between trendy Wynwood and downtown Miami that’s being developed by a Miami-based real estate firm. She described it as being handed keys to the city. “I’d been dreaming about that question,” Acker says.
Two years later, the Prism team has earned a reputation for curating thoughtful, engaging cultural events around the city. Whether it’s an outdoor flea market, a pop-up urban park, a silent disco on local public transit, or an intimate concert like the Listening Den, there’s a common thread throughout most of the work Prism produces: Live music is at the forefront.
“That’s really our goal when we want to talk about doing community events. It’s a sense of place,” Acker says. “And it’s making you actually feel more connected and more rooted.”
By sunset, hundreds of guests have filled seats and crowded into the open areas surrounding the stage at Ace to watch tonight’s show. A hush settles over the room as the first band, local indie act Keith Jones, prepares to play.
Apart from the beautiful and unexpected setting, tonight also feels special because its intention is clear. Like-minded neighbors, Prism and Ace came together to provide a rare Miami music experience where the musicians come first; guests are encouraged to keep their phones in their pockets and their voices to whispers during the performances. The result is a room full of Miamians huddled close, choosing to listen together.