by DAWN DUNCAN
The 29th SXSW Music Festival wrapped on March 22 in Austin, TX; after a week of nonstop entertainment and bands from around the globe vying for the spotlight in front of fans, record execs, A&R representatives, and media. The Colorado Music Party, a collective designed through the collaboration between several Colorado non-profit entities and supporting businesses, grew exponentially this year. The Colorado music party expanded from two days of Colorado talent showcasing at The 512 Bar on Sixth Street to a full five days, including 102 Colorado bands and 12 guest bands from out of state.
This year, the Colorado Music Party not only grew in size and magnitude, the depth of talent stood out significantly as rich, sophisticated, and polished. It’s tough to find a “bad band” at SXSW, since just making it to this prestigious festival requires a level of discipline and delivery that not every band possesses. However, the people of Colorado can rest assured that our state was not only well represented in terms of talent, the Colorado Music Party created a stir on Sixth Street with high-impact branding. This includes flying three Colorado flags atop the party venue, hanging huge banners on the front of the building, and mega-branding the event so that passersby were enticed to come into the venue and see what was happening. The 512 Bar is a two story structure with a rooftop stage as well as a downstairs one, so the rooftop bands were audible well out into chaotic Sixth Street. In talking with Julie Sutter, Director of Marketing for SpokesBUZZ, the non-profit organization founded in 2010 by Dani Grant, designed to incubate selected bands in the areas of education, opportunities, networking, and business acumen and the cornerstone of the Colorado Music Party, Sutter had comments to share regarding the success of this year’s event:
DD: Comment on the diversity of genres in this year’s lineup and the bands’ performances.
JS: We were really pleased to see how well the bands at this year’s Colorado Music Party represented what Colorado music truly is: innovative, diverse, and extremely talented. For instance, we went from having a handful of standout hip-hop acts the previous year to an entire day of hip-hop on the rooftop. We kicked things off with several singer-songwriters on day one and ended with probably our most rip-roaring rock’n’roll lineup to date on day five. And everywhere along the way, people in the crowd remarked on the talent. “Epic” was a word that was mentioned more than once. And they were right — speaking as someone who sees many of these bands play all the time, I can say that the bands really gave it everything they had when they stepped on stage. They were literally crawling the walls and hanging from the rafters and climbing the stairs and jumping down into the crowd to interact with fans. It WAS epic!
DD: Do you feel the CMP was a success this year and, if so, how? What impact do you think CMP had on SXSW?
JS: This year was an experiment. We weren’t sure how the event was going to scale, having more than tripled in size in terms of number of performances. But what I saw was that the results related to our mission that we have experienced since the beginning simply multiplied: we were able to impact more artists and give them more opportunities to connect, and to grow and learn as musicians/business owners. We were able to demonstrate not only the musicianship Colorado has to offer, but the music industry and creative workforce framework that supports it. And we also got to show off Colorado as a very attractive place to live, work and play. We are still just hearing some of the anecdotes, but there are already stories of people at the event who talked about moving to Colorado, there were people who had once lived in or visited Colorado and stopped by specifically for the New Belgium or to buy a T-shirt. I was out at a SXSW show and someone saw just my wristband from the Colorado Music Party and struck up a conversation about starting a business in Colorado. We were definitely seen and heard in Austin more than ever before this year.
DD: What’s next? Will there be any CMP activities this year leading up to SXSW 2016? How are your organizations working together throughout the year while away from SXSW?
JS: Next, sleep and blister maintenance. And then we’ll look at the hard data: the hours, the dollars, the media reach, the number of artists served, the creative industry economic impact. Our partners will help us see where the Colorado Music Party fits into the larger music strategy for the state going forward. We’ll work together to see what to keep, change or remove. And that all starts the week we get back, leading up to the Colorado Creative Industries Summit in Fort Collins at the end of April … which coincides with FoCoMX … where the conversation will continue. What we’ve learned with three years under our belts now as the Colorado Music Party is that collaboration and leveraging our collective resources is smart. So we’ll keep doing that all along the way.
DD: Lastly, what do you feel the CMP gave to bands as far as opportunity, support, etc.?
JS: The Colorado Music Party gave an unprecedented number of Colorado bands the opportunity to experience the practical application of their business skills in addition to their musical talent during the biggest festival of its kind in the world. Navigating Austin during SXSW is like a capstone course as a musician. The logistics alone are mind-boggling, not to mention getting a very real understanding of how to put your best foot forward in new and challenging situations. But what the artists also got was a chance to feel the support of their state, from organizations who believe in them and are willing to invest – and from their fellow bands as well. And I think having that tangible sense of support always makes our Colorado musicians rise to the occasion, which they certainly did this week.
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by DAWN DUNCAN