Texas Music Office's April 2017 Newsletter, ft. an interview w/the founders of Fortress Fest, Music Biz Day in San Antonio, SXSW wrap-up, and tons more TX music news!

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Texas Office of Music Newsletter

Greetings subscribers!

Look to this communication portal for music news, interviews highlighting various Texas musicians and music businesses, special events, and information about TMO programs and related events.

TMO Meets Industry During SXSW 2017

gov abbott and brendon anthony at mansion photo

TMO Director Brendon Anthony (far right) and Governor Greg Abbott address music industry executives at a reception at the Governor's Mansion during SXSW 2017.

In the middle of March, every year, the Texas Music Office is fortunate to have a large section of the international music industry come to visit central Texas for the annual SXSW Music, Film, and Interactive Conference. This year was packed full of opportunities for the office to meet with industry leaders and expand economic opportunities for Texas music industry professionals. 

The TMO joined Governor Greg Abbott in hosting a small group of music industry executives at the Governor's Mansion on March 15, then later that evening co-hosted the annual Capitol Salute to Texas Music concert featuring performances by Texans Kimberley Dunn, La Maquinaria Nortena and Aaron Watson at Saengerrunde Hall.

TMO Director Brendon Anthony, TMO Marketing Specialist Marc Fort, and TMO Program Specialist Steve Ray met with music industry professionals from all over the world that are interested in Texas music and moving their business to Texas. The TMO also joined its Economic Development and Tourism sister agency the Texas Film Commission in presenting a booth at the SXSW trade show where hundreds of conference registrants were able to interact with the office and learn about the resources available in the state for music - and film - production.

Fort Worth's Fortress Fest Debuts April 29-30

quaker city night hawks photo

The multi-genre Fortress Fest launchs with a focus on DFW acts and artists on the verge.

On April 29 and 30, 2017, the inaugural edition of Fortress Festival debuts in Fort Worth’s Cultural District.

Like many of the popular, long-running music festival throughout the state, Fortress Festival booked a tight mix of Texas acts (Quaker City Night Hawks, SURVIVE, Sudie, Bobby Sessions, Burning Hotels and more) as well as internationally renown headliners (Run The Jewels, Slowdive, Purity Ring).

If Fortress Festival appears to be a different entity within the thriving Texas music festival landscape, that’s because it is indeed unique. Festival attendees will be able to stroll into the Fort Worth Cultural District's museum galleries and experience world-renown art, as well as walk to the many restaurants and live music venues located within a few blocks from the Cultural District.

Fortress Festival’s distinctive focus on art and music curation is no accident. Festival co-founders Ramtin Nikzad and Alec Jhangiani are longtime DFW metroplex residents who met while working together within the North Texas film festival and special events production scene, where highly specialized curation is part and parcel of the full-time gigs.

We recently spoke with Fortress Fest co-founder Jhangiani about how they came up with this unique setting for a music festival, how they ended up partnering with central Texas-based concert promoters Margin Walker Presents, and how their curation of underground bands on the verge of breaking into mainstream popular culture helped them find their competitive edge within a packed national and international music festival landscape.

fortress fest lineup poster

TMO: What led you two into your desire to put together Fortress Fest?

Jhangiani: "I think it’s safe to say (co-founder Nikzad and I) have a higher than average affinity for music, but I don’t think I attended any more concerts as a younger person than anyone else. I did play some guitar in college and that sort of thing. I sang as kid and was in the Texas Boys Choir for a week until I couldn’t handle the pressure!

"More than anything, we’ve both been doing double-duty as curators and creators of ‘content' for the last 10 or so years of our respective careers, and I think while we both love creating things, we’ve both also developed a deep interest in the curation process and how creative that can be. It’s an art in itself. 

"And so that’s where the desire for Fortress Fest comes from: to curate on a large scale, in an industry that by its nature is gravitating so strongly towards live, communal experiences like festivals. I think we both feel (we) can have a major, positive impact on community through large scale events like this and we see Fortress as a really interesting addition to the character of Fort Worth." 

TMO: Between Fortress Fest, Hear Fort Worth (the new nonprofit supporting and promoting local music), and artists like Quaker City Night Hawks and Leon Bridges, it feels like something special is coming together within the Fort Worth music scene. What do y’all see – or feel – is happening on the ground, in the clubs, and within the city’s music scene…?

Jhangiani: "Beyond just the music scene, Fort Worth has entire dimensions to it that are under emphasized. Technically, the city has been here a long time, there’s a lot of history, a lot of different aspects that form it’s identify. 

"I think the music scene, with artist like Leon Bridges, that someone may not immediately identify with a city like Fort Worth, and the community of artists that came together to record his first album in a place like where that album was recorded, is part of this whole other side of Fort Worth manifesting to become more visible. 

"Again, that’s a big motivation for Fortress Festival. We feel we can honor the multi-dimensional character of the City on a large, very modern, very relevant scale through this event that will also hopefully attract people from all over the country, and the world, at some point."

survive band's fortress fest poster

TMO: How did the partnership with the Austin and Dallas-based promoters Margin Walker Presents come about?

"Since we started conceptualizing the event, Margin Walker Presents (promoters of Sound on Sound Fest) were our first choice for a booking partner because we felt they had the most interesting creative sensibility out of any of the Texas companies we were aware of. Ultimately we hired a consultant, Lauren Mikus, to help us put the first booking ideas on paper for the festival and she had a good relationship with Graham Williams so she connected us."

TMO: Y’all have curated a great mix of different genres, and local acts that have a strong following helping them bubble up from the underground. For instance, Sam Lao just came off her strongest year yet, sweeping several Dallas Observer Music Awards. How important was the music curation aspect to you…and starting a festival that spotlights some of the talented DFW artists?

"Curation is everything. It’s the prerequisite to the whole experience. One of the things I’m most excited about is becoming even more deliberate with our artist selection. This will come with broader knowledge of the music industry as well as our audience’s tastes. 

"Ultimately we wanted the lineup to be diverse but cohesive, and so while there are a number of different genres represented, there are also some key ones that are left out like punk, metal, EDM and straight ahead country/folk.

"This is intentional, not because we don’t like music from those genres, but because we think there has to be an idea behind the event and not just the desire to try to include as many different things as possible. A strong local lineup was very important to us and we definitely wanted to highlight music that people may not immediately associate with Fort Worth or North Texas."

sudie fortress fest poster

TMO: The idea of a music fest taking place within a beautiful, elegant museum setting is not common. Was providing a unique setting showcasing Fort Worth part of your original idea, or did the Museum setting come about with a little luck?

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TMO Outreach Around the State

brendon at mkt bar in houston photo

On Wednesday, March 1, TMO Director Brendon Anthony traveled to Houston to DJ some of his favorite Texas music at the MKT Bar as a part of their "Vinyl & Vino" guest DJ series. The special night allowed the Houston music community to meet with Anthony in an informal setting. Cactus Music sponsored the evening. 

Monday, March 6, Anthony gave a presentation at the Society of Talent and Entertainment Professionals annual conference which took place in Georgetown, TX this year.

The following evening found Anthony in Houston for a meeting with the promoters and producers of the Houston Rodeo. Rodeo Houston produces a multi-million dollar economic impact for the state of Texas with its annual concert series that draws from the pop and rock world, as well as traditional and modern country music. Anthony also met with Aaron Watson prior to attending his capacity crowd performance at Rodeo Houston. The show were perfectly timed, coinciding with the release of Watson's new LP which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Country Music chart.

governor abbott with zz top

Later in the Rodeo Houston schedule, Governor Abbott traveled to Houston to meet with and attend ZZ Top's homecoming show to a raucous crowd of 59,142 attendees at NRG Stadium. Governor Abbott presented ZZ Top with one of the Texas Music Office's charitable specialty license plates wherein $22 of the $30 fee goes to grants for traditionally under-resourced Texas school children. Texans can purchase a plate for their cars by clicking here, and for their motorcycles by clicking here. Non-Texans can order a souvenir version of the license plate from the Texas DMV.

Anthony also spoke to aspiring industry professionals at Neverland Retreats' Songwriting & Music Business Workshop at Blak Marigold Studios in Austin on March 11.

TMO Marketing/Digital Media Specialist Marc Fort gave a presentation on services and best practices at the North American Music Cities Summit on March 17, sponsored by the City of Austin's Music & Entertainment Division. The third annual summit gathered music office's from around the world, discussing everything from how a city hiring a "night mayor" can be beneficial, to sound ordinances, to dealing with the day-to-day constituent requests.

steve and sunny in san antonio at tejano fan fest

Sunny Saucedo Honored at Univision Fan Fair

The Grammy Award winning vocalist and accordionist was presented with a proclamation honoring his contributions to Texas music. 

On Saturday, March 18 in San Antonio during the second day of the Univision Fan Fair, Texas Music Office Program Specialist Steve Ray presented a letter of recognition from Governor Greg Abbott to Grammy and Tejano Music Award-winning artist Sunny Sauceda. Sauceda was recognized for his more than 35 years of working in Texas music, and his influence on the Tejano music scene.

In addition to the letter from Gov. Abbott, Sauceda was presented with a Texas flag flown over the State Capitol, in his honor. 

While accepting these items, Sauceda talked about "the seeds of music that his father planted in his heart and the importance of God, family and the support of his fans" before performing to a capacity crowd at Maverick Plaza in San Antonio's La Villita Historic Arts Village. The free, three day, Univision Fan Fair featured more than 50 musical acts on two stages and drew crowds of more than 2,000 people a day.

TMO to Appear at UTSA Music Biz Day

The Texas Music Office staff will appear on panel discussions and are helping sponsor the University of Texas at San Antonio's second annual Music Biz Day on Saturday, April 29, 2017. The conference is free and open to the public, and will take place from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm at the UTSA Arts Building.

UTSA School of Music Professor and Music Marketing Coordinator Dr. Stan Renard came up with the concept last year in an effort to show the university's music students just how many resources, businesses, and opportunities there are located in San Antonio and around the state.

utsa music biz day image

The small expo connects individuals who share a passion for music and seeks to bridge the gap between professionals in the music industry and students, allowing each to network and interact first-hand.

Topics for the conference's informational panels and workshops include: Panels will be held in the UTSA Arts Building and presented on Show Biz and Commercial Music, Role of Radio and Press, Tech, Services for Musicians, Creating an Urban Identity, Venues and Ticketing, and Careers. The audience will have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of each panel.

For more info, and to register, click here.