Published Friday, April 15, 2016

Emerging musical talent and a supercharged fan experience are again at the top of the features for this year’s Mile of Music festival here August 4-7.

Festival planners announced “The First Fifty” acts – 30 new and 20 returning – slated to be featured at this original, music-first festival that commandeers a one-mile stretch of College Avenue in Appleton for several days each August. This sampling of the lineup, which will surpass 200 acts when complete, was presented at the official announcement event April 15 at the OuterEdge Stage. Groups of artists will continue to be announced in the weeks ahead, with the full lineup likely to be completed by mid-June.

The initial lineup consists of performers from four countries – Australia, France, Martinique and the U.S. – and 25 states. All told, the 200 acts will perform about 800 live sets in more than 70 venues over the four days. And it’s all free.

The festival’s niche – undiscovered, new and emerging artists performing their own original music – again will be the hallmark of what is being called Mile 4, denoting this is year four of Mile of Music.

Tundraland Home Improvements returns as the presenting partner of the 2016 festival. It’ll be the second year for Tundraland as lead sponsor, and the Kaukauna-based, community-focused company will continue to develop fun music-themed promotions and contests to support its sponsorship and add value to the event.

As part of the Tundraland sponsorship, company owner Brian Gottlieb again has committed to raise funds through festival activities to sponsor a music scholarship for a local student.

“The commitment of Brian and his team to support this innovative and original music festival and its philosophy of free and accessible music has been a difference-maker for us,” said festival co-founder and marketing executive Dave Willems. “The festival wouldn’t have gotten where it has this quickly without Tundraland and our other amazing community-driven sponsors.”

Cory Chisel, Mile of Music co-founder/music curator and Grammy-nominated songwriter, grew up in Appleton and says the city is a great spot for a festival of this nature given its welcoming vibe. “When we first talked about organizing a festival of this magnitude here, I felt confident that Appleton would embrace it,” he said. “Coming into the fourth year, it’s exciting to see how the community continues to be so enthusiastic about exploring new music and show such support to the visiting artists.”

Wilems emphasizes what makes Mile of Music unique.

“We’ll be sharing a strong message before and during the festival that Mile of Music began as, and wants to continue as, a music-first and artist-first festival,” Willems said. “We are a showcase of song and the power of music to bring folks together, so this is different from a social-first or party-first event.”

Mile 4 will follow the blueprint of last year’s festival, with some slight increases: slightly more than 200 artists (213 last year) performing more than 800 original music sets (750 in 2015) in 70-plus venues (compared to 65 last year) that include outdoor plazas and parks, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, museums, art alleyways and other settings in the heart of the downtown.

The festival has launched a video produced by the award-winning Image Studios of Appleton that captures the essence of this grassroots music spectacle. “It’s the world premiere of our vibe!” according to Mile of Music co-founder Dave Willems, CEO and principal of Willems Marketing and Events. “The community commitment shown by Image and its talented group of storytellers is another amazing example of why this festival has become what it’s become and why it can sustain.” The video can be linked from and from YouTube and other web portals.

This year’s festival app is now available to download. A link can be found on the website at

Gauging the Free Festival’s Attendance
Since Mile of Music is a free event, gauging attendance is a challenge, although festival planners are comfortable estimating last year’s crowd size at around 50,000 over the four days.

Given that most of the performance venues are indoors, even a rainy day last year didn’t dampen the turnout, Willems noted.

Organizers this year are working to provide more music at prime times and offer music at venues where it can be the focus, which is the intent of the festival. “The goal is to continue to improve the experience for the true music fan,” said Nathan Litt, festival operations coordinator.

Friday and Saturday will again be the fullest and busiest days, with activities from noon to midnight and likely more than 250 showcases each day. Both Thursday and Sunday will feature additional offerings over previous years, but not quite as full as the other two days.

Based on higher attendance on Sunday in 2016, Willems said more activities will be planned between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. “It’ll still be a bit more relaxed in comparison to Friday and especially Saturday, but the activity on Sunday will continue to evolve,” Willems said.

Some venues are looking to expand or enhance their music capabilities as well as the music experience for Mile 4 attendees through additional or better staging or more appropriate sound systems. Of note is Fox River House, where last year’s crowds quickly outgrew the sound system. “It’s a unique venue for us,” Willems explained.

The Mile team is doing a full review of venues with production partner Lighthouse Productions to determine the best ways to improve sound at both smaller and larger venues, including those that do not typically host music. “Most of our venues are not traditional music venues with customized acoustics, and we continue to tweak the production at some of the venues to find the right mix,” Willems said. “With 70 venues, it presents some unique challenges that also become opportunities to experience music in unexpected places.”

Music Education Component
Music education will continue to be a primary focus of the extra mile activities during the festival. Home to a world-renowned music conservatory, Lawrence University again will coordinate a team of 15 music mentors roaming the festival footprint and performing both scheduled and pop-up music interactives that engage attendees.

After a year’s absence, The Building For Kids Children’s Museum will return with a full day of hands-on music for children on Saturday. Willems noted there also will be more workshops at Heid Music during the festival. 

Beyond the Mile
Organizers see the evolution of the festival continuing, with music being staged in creative places. Some of these venues, like The Art Alley at The History Museum, the art gallery produced by John Adams from The Draw, the outdoor stage at Spats and the high-impact setting at The OuterEdge a few blocks off the Mile, proved highly popular with fans while still supporting the festival’s music-first philosophy.

“This year we’re hoping to do more at the riverfront venues,” Willems said of locations along the city’s Fox River shoreline.

As offshoots of the festival gain momentum throughout the year, Willems noted that sales of Mile of Music Music-Maker Badges have increased. The badges entitle holders to attend additional special events slated for their enjoyment. The badges “have been very popular,” Willems said, “so we’re excited. The value that comes with the purchase, especially for those year-round badge buyers, is significant and we are having fun finding new ways to add value with great shows and remarkable music experiences.”

Timely updates on festival details can be found on the Mile of Music social media and online at

About Mile of Music

The Mile of Music is an artisan, original music festival that kicked off in August 2013. In its first four years, the festival has quickly flourished. It brought 200 bands and solo artists to Downtown Appleton in 2015 alone, with 800 live music sets performed. The collaborative event was co-founded by Appleton marketing executive Dave Willems and Appleton/Nashville-based national recording artist Cory Chisel, with support from nearly 100 community organizations and sponsors as well as 300 volunteers. For more information, visit