Wed September 26, 2012
Music Interviews

What's All This (Spokes)Buzz About The BandSwap?

  • Erin O'Toole speaking with Dani Grant on Morning Edition

BandSwap is about more than music, it's a mentorship program from Fort Collins based non-profit SpokesBuzz. The goal is to nurture and develop local up-and-comers - and showcase local music & arts scenes.

I sat down for a conversation with BandSwap creator Dani Grant. She's the owner of the Mishawaka, and the founder and president of SpokesBuzz.

Erin O’Toole: Where did the idea get started; how did you come up with this?

Dani Grant: You know, I remember a couple of years ago sitting at a table in Austin with some of the band members who were with us at the South by Southwest event, talking about this simple plan of working with other bands to make touring easier.

And from there grew the idea of not only working with other bands, but also with other groups that want to make things easier for everyone and so it grew from that.

O’Toole: So how did you choose the host cities?

Grant: We were looking for markets similar to Fort Collins, secondary music markets, and also markets that had an inkling of interest in this kind of thing. So at South by Southwest, we met with Go Listen Boise, and we talked with the Memphis Music Foundation and got some interest there. And then - reaching out. And those that were interested, jumped on board and took some initiative where the cities that we ended up working with.

The Don of Division Street (Portland, OR) covering Neil Young's 'Tired Eyes'

O’Toole: What about the band partnerships – how are those set up? I don’t know how you choose the Fort Collins bands; is it a contest, or through relationships?

Grant: It wasn’t a contest. What we did is we offered to the partnering venues the selection of bands we had within our incubator, and they looked into the bands they thought would be the best fit from their city, and then tried to kind of match sounds, or create a show that they thought would be really compatible.

O’Toole:  And what about the bands from the other cities? Was it left up to the Fort Collins bands to reach out, or is it like an arranged marriage where you say, ‘Hey, here’s your band!’?

Grant: It is kind of an arranged marriage! But a lot of the onus was put on them. SpokesBuzz is a lot about teaching to fish, not handing over the fish, so we talked a lot about how to approach this. And we encouraged the bands from the other cities to get together, and so we’ve fostered a lot of the relationship-building.

But ultimately, once they made the connection, things just began to happen more naturally; you know, they’re all staying with each other at their homes when they come across. They’re hosting each other, and they’re sharing each other’s equipment, so they’ve had to have conversations about what equipment’s available and that kind of stuff. So it’s been really fun, and I think they’ll have some long-lasting relationships at the end of it.

O’Toole: I’ve noticed that you have a lot of support from businesses in Fort Collins, and also from the city itself. How important is that to a project like this?

Grant: You know, that’s ultimately… the fundamental success of SpokesBuzz has been that, when we started this out, we started with New Belgium as our only supporter, and we believe they really have helped set the culture that we’re representing. They took the risk with us.

And then from there, it was working with city leaders and other organizational leaders to try and share the same message, which was that the music industry was an asset that Fort Collins had. It all comes around like that. And it’s hugely important. We couldn’t do this without their support, and without their believing in it like we do.

O’Toole: So, Dani, assuming this is a success, what happens next? Where does BandSwap go from here?

Grant: I really feel this has already been a success; that the roads that have been built between the cities, the learning that’s happened for our bands, the awareness that’s come across… I feel like this has already been a success for us.

But as we change and grow, who knows how this will develop, who knows how this will affect other cities to do things like this in their communities or with other regional stuff. So I think it’s all wide open, and next year we’ll have to see, you know, how many cities can we handle? It is quite a Rubik’s cube of logistics.

BandSwap 2012

* Denotes a Fort Collins band

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