In the modern age of social media and modern dating, one never knows what to expect. Graphic designer Madison Van Houten definitely was not expecting a “swipe right” to kickstart her creative career in music.
Growing up in suburban New Jersey, Madison had the quintessential small town experience, complete with football games every Friday night. She quickly noticed the many adults that commuted to New York City. This was her first realization of yearning for something bigger than what her hometown could give her.
“I was always drawing, painting, or creating my own version of art,” explains Madison, “I was always supported in all of my creative pursuits .” Her parents noticed her continued interest in the arts, and suggested she take the graphic design classes at her high school. After completing the three course offered, Madison wrapped up her high school career, and set off for Hartford Art School, to complete her undergrad.
Whether you attended college, were traveling or already in the work field, almost everyone can agree that the early 20’s are a time for self discovery, experiencing new things and starting to gravitate towards what one wants to do with this life. At Hartford, Madison was able to hone in on her craft, in a new environment, that provided countless opportunities. She’ll never forget a specific night that changed the trajectory of her career.
“I was on Tinder and came across this band that was doing promotion via the app. I ended up matching with them,” explains Madison. “Funny enough – they were looking for someone to design a t-shirt for them.” The rest is history; Madison had her first creative project in the music industry.
The New Jersey music scene is overflowing with exceptionally talented artists. Household artists such as The Misfits and My Chemical Romance hail from the area and have paved the way for its reputation. “It’s a competitive environment, but everyone wants to collar and help each other out,” says Madison. She currently works at the House of Independents in Asbury Park. While it’s serves as a music venue primarily, it also puts on a variety of theatre productions and can double as a venue for private events. “My job here is a little bit of everything, such as booking talent, production work, and of course various promotional design work.”
When Coronavirus hit the United States, causing live events and shows to be cancelled indefinitely, it left a lot of creatives wondering what to do next. In previous years, House of Independents puts on an annual holiday party that features local artists and celebrates the DIY community scene. An in person party obviously could not happen. The only other option was to livestream some of the artists that would have been performing at the event. Madison made it her mission to make this livestream give off the same magic as it would in person, or at least come as close as possible.
“I had a $6 budget and about 1 month and 1/2 to make something happen,” explains Madison, “I reached out to about 40 different bands, set up a photoshoot in my friend’s garage and got to work.” The livestream ended up being her favorite project she’s cultivated thus far. It turned out incredible and brought people together, in a time when everyone needed it the most. The DIY community should not be underestimated.
Madison also designs for “The Alternative,” a music blog that showcases various artists. She started off by just crediting digital content and promotional ads for the blog, but quickly picked up videography editing as well.
“I always ask myself, ‘are you happy with this, and are you proud of your work,” says Madison. “At the end of the day, being satisfied with your work is the only form of validation you need.”
The DIY music scene in New Jersey continues to flourish, as we are seeing live events starting to occur more frequently, as Coronavirus cases diminish. One thing is for sure – the community is ready to take on whatever comes next.