Colorado support for local presence at 2015 SXSW rises nearly three-fold

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Photo: Dragondeer plays CO Music Party at SXSW
Denver band Dragondeer performs at the 2014 Colorado Music Party showcase during the South By Southwest music festival.

More than 100 bands from Colorado will trek to South By Southwest -- or SXSW -- next week. Many of those musicians will perform during the Colorado Music Party, which will have its largest presence in five years at the annual festival in Austin, Texas.

In addition to a rise in the number of Colorado acts performing, the amount of public funding has nearly tripled from last year. Collectively, Colorado Creative Industries, the Colorado Tourism Office, and the Colorado Innovation Network have contributed $57,000 to the 2015 Colorado Music Party.

A showcase -- which runs March 17-21 at a venue called the 512 on Austin's 6th Street -- aims to boost the state's presence at SXSW.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for the state to get out and show what their doing in terms of a strategy for arts, culture and music," Colorado Music Party organizer Dani Grant told CPR Arts Editor Chloe Veltman.

While the Colorado Music Party started in 2010 with $10,000, the budget now sits around $150,000. That support also includes contributions from other partners and private sponsors. And with that growth comes more deliberate tracking of attendees and other data, Grant says.

In 2014, the showcase received 26,688 RSVPs, collected 10,470 email addresses, and drew around 2,500 attendees a day.

"You just can't access that kind of a population anywhere else in the country," Grant says.

SXSW began in 1987 and has evolved to include interactive media and film conferences. The festival attracts many industry insiders with panels and other events. The 10-day conference reported more than 376,000 attendees in 2014. The music portion tallied 27,991 registrants and sets by 2,371 acts.

That's just counting the official festival attendees. Even more visitors flock to Austin during the festival for unaffiliated, public events that don’t require a badge or wristband to enter. The Colorado Music Party is one of those events indirectly tied to SXSW vying to capture the attention of several hundred thousand people.

"We're lean and mean," Grant says. "We're a grassroots organization, we do a lot of this through volunteers and blood, sweat and tears."

Grant on the state nearly tripling its funding

"You can't garner new fans by continually playing to the same people in your front yard, so you have to move yourself to a place where you're in front of brand new audiences. I think what they've seen from the data collection has been inspiring for them."

On two acts she's excited to see perform in Austin

"One is a band called Facing West, out of Evergreen. And it wasn't until after we had selected them that I realized they were 12 and 16 and they were sisters. And it really blew my mind."

"We just saw the Austin 100 from NPR, and to have a list of 100 bands that NPR deems worthy of going to find is incredible. Strawberry Runners is a small band from Denver that made this list."

On working with bands to get the most out of the experience

"A lot of the work comes before South By. South By is not a place where these bands are going to be found and it's going to be the start of a major career. But this is an opportunity for them to use the platform they have to start talking about their music. How many people are you going to meet a day? Is this going to be a career move for you or is this a party for you?"