Encouraging cities across the U.S. to “think locally and rock globally,” Colorado-based music nonprofit SpokesBUZZ successfully completed a second year of multi-city BandSwap events in early October. The simple and innovative concept involved taking bands from Denver and Fort Collins with a good-sized local audience draw and partnering them with like-minded bands from seven other cities in their respective markets. In addition to sharing stages and enthusiastic crowds, the travelling musicians nurtured new industry contacts and experienced the community and culture in other forward-thinking cities around the country. The cities involved this year were Asheville, NC, Chico, CA, Denver, CO, Fort Collins, CO, Lafayette, LA, Madison, WI., Nashville, TN and Portland, OR.
Simultaneously encouraging audience growth and artist development for independent musicians, stimulating the local economy and increasing awareness of city culture was the impetus behind SpokesBUZZ founder Dani Grant and her team’s creation of the BandSwap program. Local media in this year’s swap cities embraced the events, calling the program, according to Madison Mag, “innovative and exciting,” and touting its propensity for “strengthening bonds," says Asheville Citizen Times.
Denver’s alternative weekly paper Westword observed that “trading gigs with bands in other cities is not just a novel concept, it's pivotal for acts trying to make inroads outside of the local scene. It can often mean the difference between playing for bar staff, those obligated to be there and actual fans. While countless outfits have been doing this for years, SpokesBUZZ out of Ft. Collins has established a formal means for groups to participate in such an effort with its aptly named BandSwap program.” Reverb, a blog run by Denver Post staffers, similarly noted that “for small-time bands, going on the road can be a humbling experience. No matter how big your following is back home, you might as well be a middle-school jazz ensemble to the folks two states over. Of course, right after the out-of-towner’s wrap their set to an empty room, the hometown heroes take the stage and pack the place like it’s free T-shirt night. Enter BandSwap…The bands play a gig together in the host city, as far as Nashville and near as Denver, and the visitors share in their hosts’ established fan base.
Lindsey O’Brien and her band have participated in BandSwap both years, and the musician commented to Fort Collins’ daily paper the Coloradoan, “As opposed to simply touring as a band, BandSwap groups have lots of additional support from the host city and its bands, as well as the local college, the venues and the local media, all of whom are heavily involved in making BandSwap a community event. We’ve already made some great connections with the other bands and people in the music industry because of BandSwap. We now have resources and connections in cities all over the U.S. to help when we hit the road or release new music.” O’Brien’s band received a tremendous reception this year in their swap city Chico when they opened for hometown favorites Big Mo and the Full Moon Band.
Lafayette’s Daily Advertiser noted that “it’s not unusual for the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission to have Cajun and zydeco music as promotional tools in its marketing campaigns. It’s been done for years. But now, local tourism officials are incorporating a Ft. Collins, CO, music nonprofit’s idea called BandSwap, and adding it to their game plan.” Chico’s Synthesis Weekly brought home once again the plight of the indie musician by stating, “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.”
SpokesBUZZ intends to continue the BandSwap program in the United States, adding additional cities for 2014; there are discussions in the works to take the program to international communities as well. The nonprofit is currently compiling metrics and results for reporting from this year’s program and plans on sharing those with participating communities, musicians and the media in November 2013.