Bands: We Swapped Them

 

A few years ago Dani Grant looked around her local music scene in Fort Collins, Colorado, and saw through the way things were done to the way they could be.

Musicians face an uphill battle: struggling to move beyond performing for their friends, climbing the ranks of small to medium to larger venues, and hitting the road where chasing dreams meets raw survival in the world of shady oral contracts. Many a band has fallen apart on the road, broken down by debt and misplaced trust. On top of that, finding audiences in towns where they have no connections and no reputation is a dismal prospect, and often these self-propelled tours fail to expand their fan base.

If only there were a better way; a system where a band that had proven themselves at home could cash in on the love of their own community when playing to a far off audience. This idea was the seed of BandSwap.

In its fledgling year, BandSwap was little more than a grassroots effort to pair Fort Collins bands with those from other cities and set up partnered shows in each band’s hometown. Dani and her team reached out to venues and their contacts in each city involved, and just booked a bunch of shows. It was a concept with a lot of possibility, and a potential nightmare of logistics. All in all it turned out to be a success, but everyone agreed it needed some fine tuning in order to grow.

 

How has the project evolved this year? 

[After last year] Fort Collins was really gung-ho, but [they asked us to] do it better, which meant more money. Grassroots is great, but when you need to do some organization, you need some assistance. They challenged us to work with the city leaders, talk to the economic development directors of the cities and have them invest in the program, and my city matched every one of the cities that got involved with cash….it’s grown dramatically, so for me it’s like year-one again! It’s been great though, it changes the dynamic but it also brings more credibility to the bands involved when their cities are behind them in a more formalized way.

We did a big strategic planning with the city of Fort Collins, and we listed probably 15-20 cities that we considered admirable, and that also shared characteristics with Fort Collins. Chico ended up on the short list because you’re a college town, like we are; you guys have a great burgeoning music scene, and the bikes and the beer and the bands and all that stuff. There were a lot of matched characteristics and we thought it would be a good sister city.

This is kind of a multi-level benefit thing….[not just for the bands, but] bringing in the communities and the leadership of those communities to work further and create this network of secondary music cities that support each other and support local artists—and we can deconstruct that touring model that takes 15 years for a band to gather some fans.

So, how are you doing? 

Great! Crunch time! Just trying to figure out where the holes are in the logistics. There’s so many moving parts that I’m afraid some poor band member is going to be standing at the airport like “Heeeey…” That’s my biggest fear.

Today we had a conference call with all the city leaders, and it was one of the most fulfilling moments because I got to see in action the cities talking to each other about the struggles they have with trying to do arts and culture programming for economic development and how we can support each other, ideas that we can share and how we can utilize this network in the future, and that was huge.

The goal is to settle on about 10 cities that are behind this program and want to commit to it, it’s going to take some time to grow it locally. [Representatives from] Chico have shown us some wonderful ways to grow this event, so we’re pretty excited about Chico being involved.

[Economic Development Manager] Shawn Tillman brought in Anita Rivas from Chico State, and Valerie Reddemann from SynMedia, and that group of people brought some great ideas to the table. Val was talking with us about doing a shared website that will have access for cities that are trying to organize and plan, as well as a communication place for everyone to put up what’s going on. Shawn had the foresight to bring in Build.com as one of the sponsors of Chico BandSwap, and the whole point of that is to start doing some entrepreneurial swapping with these secondary music markets. We can bring a Build.com to Fort Collins and Lafayette and all that through this program, and we can do that with other small businesses that want to be involved in the network too.

Are there other things you want to swap, like MimeSwap or HoboSwap? 

I think there’s a ton of potential to bring in other art forms! I think the core will always be touring bands, but the beauty of BandSwap is that each city can identify with their culture specifically, and bring in the parts and pieces to their local events as they fit. I could see if there was a particular city that had a really strong theatre presence, and we could start incorporating theatre into that local stuff here in Fort Collins. I think each place is going to start to really characterize themselves in their local events, and we can then promote nationally. I think that’s going to be the whole development of the project.

What if we decide to keep your band? 

I bet you they’d be pretty psyched. We’d give them big hugs and kisses and wish them well! We’d have to fly out and see them play.

(Hmmm, note to Shawn Tillman: potential tourism dollars through kidnapping and extortion.) 

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