The Colorado Music Strategy Is a Reason to Be Thankful for the Local Scene

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There are many reasons to be thankful for Colorado's vibrant music industry, and this fall, two local organizations teamed up to make it even stronger — by investing work and money.

At the end of October, Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) and the Bohemian Foundation, a Fort Collins organization that funds music and youth programs, announced a partnership intended to advance the status of Colorado music. To do this, the two foundations are introducing what they call the Colorado Music Strategy (COMS), a plan to support music-industry endeavors throughout the state.

“The partnership was inspired by similar goals,” says Bryce Merrill, Bohemian Music’s programs director. “CCI is dedicated to advancing music as a key creative industry in Colorado and understands that music builds stronger, more vibrant communities. Likewise, Bohemian supports musicians and music-based businesses, and views music as an essential ingredient to a vibrant community.”

The COMS is a series of initiatives meant to offer a boost in funding for the Colorado music industry, increasing the revenues of artists and those in the local music business, and providing grants and resources to music-related nonprofits and opportunities for leadership.

"The COMS is intended to support Colorado’s music ecosystem, which includes businesses, artists, audiences, educators, government leaders and more,” Merrill says. “We’ll commission research on Colorado’s music industry, support live music and nonprofits, offer continuing education to musicians, and increase the visibility of Colorado music throughout the world. We’re particularly interested in connecting the Front Range with all parts of the state.”

For contributors to the initiatives such as Jesse Elliott, director at the Music District in Fort Collins and writer of the COMS, this work is deeply personal.

"This kind of work has been a lifelong passion for me, trying to figure out how art and culture and, in particular, music can enrich and bring together communities," Elliott says. "I saw that power of music firsthand for many years on the road with my bands, in every massive festival and every so-called fly-over dive bar we ever played."

Merrill, too, has a deep relationship with his work in advancing the local music industry. "I’ve been a musician for 26 years and working on innovative music support models for nearly ten," he says. "This work speaks directly to my personal interests, but also to my professional aspirations. This has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait!"

To accomplish all of their goals, Bohemian Foundation will provide $75,000 in matching funds to support the first year that the strategy is in place.

“Some highlights will include Detour, a music and community touring program where musicians tour within Colorado and spend extra time with communities to explore shared interests and challenges,” Merrill says.

Another important highlight: Shawn King, drummer of Colorado-based band DeVotchKa, has been appointed the first-ever Colorado Music Ambassador.

"Shawn King emerged early in the development of the Colorado Music Strategy as a voice for musicians and high-quality music recording during our statewide engagement," says Margaret Hunt, Director of Colorado Creative Industries. "He was particularly passionate about the missed opportunities for music licensing in commercial and film production for Colorado musicians and the desire to keep these investments in Colorado. As a member of DeVotchKa, he personally experienced the benefits of having their music scored in the film Little Miss Sunshine."

King's role as Colorado Music Ambassador entails working with Colorado businesses to increase licensing opportunities for musicians — identifying the companies that are making commercials and films and assist them in finding the appropriate Colorado sound for their productions.

“The COMS will also include regular gatherings of Colorado music communities and an annual statewide meeting with musicians, businesses, nonprofit and governmental organizations,” Merrill says. “The objective is to strengthen the connectivity of music communities throughout the entire state. The remainder of the initiatives will be announced in early 2017.”

As far as action items go, members of both foundations are settling the final details of the strategy in preparation for implementation. The official unveiling of the COMS is set for February 2017.

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