After seventeen years of being affiliated with the Denver Post, the Underground Music Showcase has been sold for an undisclosed amount to Two Parts, a Denver-based production company that has been specializing in craft food, beer and maker-focused events since its founding in 2013 by Casey Berry and PJ Hoberman.
The sale comes amid big changes at the Post. This month the newsroom moved out of its downtown Denver offices to its printing plant in Adams County. The paper announced it would start charging for online content for the first time since 2015, when it took down a paywall during the Aurora theater shooting trial. The Post's publisher, Mac Tully, executive vice president of Digital First Media, announced his January 31 resignation. And all of that comes after years of layoffs that slashed the 300-person newsroom to roughly a third of that size.
As for selling the Underground Music Showcase, “the Denver Post and its Foundation have been proud to produce the UMS to date," says Tracy Ulmer, executive director of the Denver Post Community Foundation. "The event has tremendous opportunity to grow and capability to continue to serve its fans and our vibrant Colorado music community. Passing the event along to Two Parts, who specializes in events of this nature, will take UMS to a whole different level, and we look forward to its continued success.”
Two Parts event manager Tobias Krause, who booked local talent at last year's UMS and did the same for the Westword Music Showcase for two years prior to that, says, "Now is the time that our team is really going to sit down and try to take into account everything over the last seventeen years and just continue to build off of that."
Krause will succeed Kendall Smith, who directed the UMS for seven years before taking a gig as vice president of sales and events at Denverite, an online-only news startup, last September. Krause says he learned a lot from working with Smith on on the 2017 festival. "Kendall was one of the best mentors I had," Krause says.
Smith says Krause's heart is in the right place to take on the new role. "I think he's developed some amazing skills working with Two Parts," he notes. "He has a genuine love for the music community. I have high hopes for the event. I think it was time for some new blood to take it, and if they tweak it — I don't know what their plans are exactly for it — but I think just a new energy is going to be great for the event."
When Smith took over the UMS in 2011, a year after the Post decided to put it under the umbrella of its Community Foundation, the event was already on a growth path, he says. Getting more sponsors and building up the main stage with more emerging national acts helped raise the festival's profile as well as its audience. It was around that time that the UMS went from around 200 performances to more than 400 over four days.
"Each year we seemed to get a little better at what we were doing, and the crowd was coming out," Smith says. He can't remember the exact numbers, but attendance went from about 9,000 when he took over to almost double that a few years later.
Krause says he'll bring the experience he gained working with UMS, Westword Music Showcase and Two Parts to shape the next UMS, which runs from July 26 through July 29, 2018.
"For the last four years, we've been trying to make a name for ourselves in the craft industry for events," Krause says of Two Parts. "You do tons of beer festivals and things of that nature — food and wine and other just experiential events. I think that's something that Two Parts does really well, and that's something that I'm excited to just divvy into the festival a little bit more and see if we can bring that Two Parts touch to life.
"We're just really excited to move forward on this event," he adds. "I think it's a great opportunity for Two Parts, and we're really excited to bring this event back at the end of July and see what's going to come of it. We're all very excited over here."
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