By Molly McCowan
Nine SpokesBUZZ bands. Two stages. New Belgium beer. Coyote Gold margaritas. A vibrant, two-story venue in Austin, Texas, overflowing with musicians and music lovers. All during the annual South by Southwest festival: A gigantic yearly event that draws more than 50,000 people from around the world and upwards of 17,000 music industry professionals over a ten-day period.
Put it all together and what do you get? The most awesome national promotion of the Northern Colorado music scene ever created. And we have SpokesBUZZ to thank for it.
But What is SpokesBUZZ and What Does it Do?
Based in Fort Collins, SpokesBUZZ is a non-profit organization that works to raise global awareness of Northern Colorado’s music scene. SpokesBUZZ was founded in January of 2010 by Dani Grant: local music lover, entrepreneur and co-owner of Chipper’s Lanes bowling centers (Grant also became the co-owner of the Mishawaka Amphitheatre in December of 2010).
SpokesBUZZ aims to promote local musicians and support their careers, while also helping to spread the word about Fort Collins as a music destination.
“SpokesBUZZ’s mission is to amplify the local music scene, develop our artists, promote Fort Collins as a progressive cultural destination and grow the local economy,” says Grant.
How it All Started
In March of 2009, prompted by the Bohemian Foundation, Grant took a trip to the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas to explore what other “city showcases” were accomplishing.
Needless to say, Grant was inspired by what she saw at SXSW, and hoped to transfer that passion to the Fort Collins music community.
“I had a revelation that Fort Collins needed to be highlighted for what it had to offer because it exceeded a lot of what I was seeing represented,” she says.
Up-and-coming local music groups apply to be a part of the SpokesBUZZ program each year, and a limited number of bands are accepted.
There are three “levels” of SpokesBUZZ bands: “featured,” “supporting,” and “mentoring.”
“Featured” bands have been with the program for more than one year, and will graduate after they finish their second year in the SpokesBUZZ incubator.
“Supporting” bands are the bands that are formally accepted into the program that are still in their first year. These bands will often be considered first when new slots open up in the incubator program.
“Mentoring” bands are bands that are further along in their career trajectory who lend support to the SpokesBUZZ program; they understand SpokesBUZZ’s mission and culture and may be booked for SpokesBUZZ events.
Currently, the SpokesBUZZ “featured” bands are (in no specific order): Constitution, Peace Officer, Post Paradise, Musketeer Gripweed, The Honey Gitters and Trichome. The Holler!, Common Anomaly and The Lindsey O’Brien Band are “supporting” bands this year, and Euforquestra is the only “mentoring” band at this time.
SpokesBUZZ bands often applaud the organization for educating them on how to promote, market and sustain their musical careers.
“Being a part of SpokesBUZZ is a no-brainer,” says Constitution’s Matt Mahern. “It only helps you with more gigs and promotion for your band while asking nothing in return except to do what you do best: Play music.”
South by Southwest 2012: SpokesBUZZ’s Showcase
So what does all this mean? That the SpokesBUZZ bands are once again heading to Austin for the biggest SpokesBUZZ event of the year, of course – The SXSW showcase!
The showcase will take place on March 16 from 11am-6pm at the 512 Bar, located at 408 E. Sixth Street in Austin.
In addition to the SpokesBUZZ lineup, there will also be some well-known Denver bands playing at the event: Swayback and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. Greensky Bluegrass, an official performing band at SXSW, will also make an appearance.
Grant believes that the music communities of Northern Colorado should work together to promote each other, especially at a high-exposure event like SXSW.
“We are Coloradical!” she says. “Highlighting our Denver bands and their showcases is smart – a rising tide lifts all boats. We share in promoting and supporting each other in a very noisy festival, bringing all of us more attention.”
Michael Windham, of Trichome, agrees.
“The more bands from the [Northern Colorado] area that can mix and mingle – trade shows, collaborate on runs in different towns, et cetera – the better we can help each other launch into the national spotlight,” he says.
Attendance at the SpokesBUZZ showcase continues to grow each year, as does the credibility of the event as a whole.
Thinking of heading down to SXSW to attend the biggest and baddest showcase there this year? Take Grant’s sage advice.
“Wear good shoes and keep your posse down to two or three people or you will go insane trying to determine the next show you go to,” she says. “Also, don’t drink too many Coyote Gold margaritas or you might have to go to bed early.”
Find out more by visiting spokesbuzz.org or by “Liking” SpokesBUZZ on Facebook.