It may sound cliche, but sometimes making it in the music business comes down to being in the right place, at the right time. That’s why a number of music-minded businesses have entered 22 Colorado musicians into next year’s Folk Alliance International.
Taking place Feb. 17-21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri at the Crown Center Hotel Park, the 28-year-old conference puts hundreds of fledgling folkies from across the globe in front of many prospecting industry representatives. One of these reps is Chris Zacher, the executive director of Denver’s Levitt Pavilion concert venue. Zacher has been attending the symposium since 2013, and, last year, he invited Virgil Dickerson, the marketing director of Colorado burrito chain Illegal Pete’s and it’s affiliated record label, Greater Than Collective.
Dickerson was “blown away” by the symposium: “With the Folk Alliance, it’s easy to dismiss it as ‘I don’t like folk music,’ but it’s a broad spectrum. There’s bands from all over the world; almost every kind of subgenre.”
After his visit, Dickerson realized the Alliance’s musical diversity and strong industry presence could allow local artists to make some lasting connections and get seen. Since then, he’s been working with Zacher to organize the “Colorado & Friends” private showcase for next year’s Folk Alliance. It will feature a slew of Rocky Mountain artists like Brent Cowles (formerly of You, Me & Apollo), Stelth Ulvang (of the Lumineers), The Haunted Windchimes and Edison, as well as some national acts.
But, the showcase suite and each artist’s registration fees cost a lot of money, Dickerson explains. With help from new local partners Swallow Hill Music School, Sweetwine Entertainment and JT Munger, Zacher and Dickerson have set up this Friday’s Mile-High Music Showcase at Syntax Physic Opera. Eight “Colorado & Friends” artists will perform, as each $11 ticket will help fund their respective trips to the Folk Alliance.
“We are excited to see a growing presence from the rich pool of talented artists from Colorado,” says Aengus Finnan, the executive director of the Folk Alliance. “The formal presentation of artists from this area is an important step toward connecting them with national and international presenters who may not realize how much talent is available there.”
This sense of connection and community is what drew Finnan to the Folk Alliance. Before coming to Kansas City last year, Finnan was in Canada, working for the Ontario Arts Council. Now, he’s coming up with creative ways to freshen up the decades-old Folk Alliance and keep industry vets returning to Kansas City until 2018, when its contract with Crown Center Hotel Park is up.
“There was certainly a sense of adventure when the conference moved to a new city each year, however, logistically, we are able to produce a higher quality event by being based in one city for a longer period,” Finnan says.
And, because the Folk Alliance will be rooted in Kansas City for a little while, it has started to pique the town’s interest, Finnan notes. Next year will feature a number of reasonably priced public events, such as an awards gala, a music camp and a music fair.
Although “Colorado & Friends” will be an industry only showcase, Dickerson knows it will drum up plenty of attendance. But he wants it to push Colorado musicians forward.
“You could be playing before someone who is huge or somebody that you’ve never heard of, but you’re going to meet tons of people and you can easily make your big impression there,” Dickerson concludes. “Hopefully, it opens up doors for these artists.
For more info on the “Colorado & Friends” Mile-High Music Showcase fundraiser, click here.