"It wasn't anything necessarily about the Denver scene itself," Heffron says about his idea to start Strings and Wood five years ago. "But working as a booking agent I'd reach out to places and they would laugh or pay artists pennies. I saw how poorly the best musicians were treated."
He decided that needed to change. With Strings and Wood curating a show, it may be just a house show with fifty people, but the artists get most, if not all, the money, and Strings and Wood take care of all the logistics (door person, posters, etc) so the artist can focus on performing music. On Saturday, December 27, the organization will be celebrating five years with a show at the Soiled Dove Underground featuring Seryn, Lara Ruggles and Stelth Ulvang of Dovekins and The Lumineers.
Strings and Wood started as a concert series at the Oriental, but it's grown a bit since its birth. It's found homes at other venues (like the Walnut Room) as well as more unconventional spaces, like Heffron's photography studio and Macon Terry's living room. The overall mission has remained: curating shows for touring and local bands where at least ninety percent of the ticket sales go directly to the musician.
"We could at least be this hub where touring and local bands didn't have to worry," Heffron says."A big part is that the audience and musicians are in commune together. Both are taken care of."
"If we were all transparent about [money] and no one agrees to play for free, the we ultimately build a world more sustainable for artists," says Ruggles. Strings and Wood tries to keep their shows intimate, and tries to educate the audience about how musicians get ripped off, hopefully to build a future where the fans and musicians care about each other and can grow together. "No matter the venue, it has the feel and expectation of a house show," he says.
The Highlands Church recently donated its Holiday Theater space for Strings & Wood to use every Sunday night. No matter what, the organization is committed to making sure local artists still get "a hell of an opportunity to build community," as Ruggles puts it, and some paychecks along the way.
"We would all love our full-time jobs to be music," Heffron adds. "The music industry needs to be sustainable for everyone involved in it. Everyone should get taken care of all the way around."
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