The Prism Music Group Plans Events With a New Miami in Mind

Børns performs at a Prism Music Group event.
Børns performs at a Prism Music Group event.
Photo by Alex Markow

Anyone who has even had a cup of coffee in Miami can probably tell that we do things a little differently down here. We don't eat what most people eat. We don't eat when most people eat. We consume everything differently in general, with different people. 

It's all constantly changing, elusive in form. Miami can be loud, bright, and gritty at the same time.

Isabella Acker knew this to be true when she cofounded the Black Key Group about six years ago with her partner, Whitney Lykins. At the time, it was mostly an artist representation company, handling its fair share of mundane band affairs and logistics.

Soon, though, Acker realized it wasn't exactly the bands that caught her heart — it was the events the bands performed at. She recognized the level of creativity that goes into organizing successful events. When thoughtfully done, they have a visible and tangible impact on the community. She wanted to give it a try herself. 

Her experience at Black Key as well as some time spent marketing for Live Nation helped to develop her perspective, business sense, and sensitivity to different areas of Miami. When her partner had to move away, the Black Key Group was no more, and Acker suddenly had a new path to explore. 

Enter Pola Bunster.

Bunster met Acker at a job fair in 2013 and came on as the editor of the Black Key Group's first blog. One year later, the two formed Prism Music Group.

“Prism sprung from the overwhelming feeling that Miami, and the culture that it generates, was in dire need of a sense of place," Bunster says. "After years in the music scene and looking at the industry from every angle, Prism was created in order to give the city’s creative communities a voice and a platform for people to experience it on a regular basis. Our mission is to expose our city’s culture through collaboration and, as a result, elevate it.”

That mission statement looks all nice and happy on paper, but implementing that effectively is the tricky part — especially in Miami, where "collaboration" often takes a back seat to profits. Plus, Prism Music had to overcome the stereotypical image of a PR company: elitists who often pay more attention to their iced coffees than their target market, very much the PubLiZity sketch from Kroll Show.

The Arts & Entertainment District's Miami Flea, an event Prism helps throw.
The Arts & Entertainment District's Miami Flea, an event Prism helps throw.
Photo by Alec Artidiello

Isabella recognized that. “When you think of Miami events, you probably think of the exclusive and trendy sponsored events that you probably didn't get invited to. That was, at least, my own experience when I moved to Miami, and I couldn't help but feel so underwhelmed by the experience when I actually was invited.”

But the old way was becoming glaringly specific and pigeonholed. As Bunster put it, “...these days, you can’t just be an event production company or just a PR agency. If you’re producing an event, you need to tell the story behind it and of the experience it offers.” Sure, social media and email blasts are effective enough, but attention to detail leads to great events, according to Bunster. “Digital is great, but don't underestimate the physical...You just have to know your story and then be prepared to deliver it authentically.”

Upcoming Events

From the start Prism Music Group made it a point to integrate live, local music — sounds that authentically represented Miami — into their events. So along with a vast array of vendors, interesting themes, free admission, and local art, some of Miami's most talented and frequently unknown musical acts found themselves on display. 

These days Prism has a hand in some of Miami's most popular and burgeoning weekly and monthly events. There's the monthly Arts & Entertainment District's Miami Flea (1440 N Miami Ave.) — a year old in August — which garners around 2,500 attendees each week. Prism throws parties from Little River to Wynwood, often partnering with the Arts & Entertainment District for events like Rooftop Unplugged at the Filling Station or movie nights at Canvas. Prism produces two monthly events at the Wynwood Yard and, in a few days, will be throwing its 4th of July party with Zach Deputy there. The common thread in all these events is usually live, local music. 

Sure, the lack of established, functioning live music venues in Miami is stunning considering it's population and talent pool.

But never fear, says Isabella. “Although we barely have any authentic brick and mortar music venues left... I also think incorporating live music into events and programming has become trendy within the last two years.” Pola reiterates, “Sure, tons of venues have closed down, but we have endless space for unconventional concerts — parks, warehouses, neighborhoods that were once overlooked are now becoming cultural destinations. The music will find it’s voice again. We just need to make sure it keeps having a stage, even if that stage is under a bridge or on a rooftop.”

Is this customized, intimate, and local style of events the future in Miami?

It's hard to predict the future of anything in Miami, but the success of Prism Music Group is a good indicator that Acker and Pola are, at the very least, on to something. Local musicians are getting opportunities that weren't there just a few years ago. And, if nothing else, it's a positive step in the right direction for a beautiful but schizophrenic city that has a lot of soul and yet is constantly in search of it.

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