Breckenridge gained a heavy asset to its musical community when Russick Smith moved to town. With a passion for creating music and years of experience working as an assistant engineer in a recording studio, Smith has lofty dreams for Summit County’s music scene and the drive and desire to see them succeed.
He is the founder of Breckenridge Authentic Music Project (Breck AMP), which he started as a way for local artists to showcase and promote original music in the area. He released a compilation album, “This Is What We’re Doing,” featuring the work of 13 Summit County musicians last September, and continues to help songwriters develop their ideas and actually get them recorded.
Organizers of this weekend’s Colorado Music Convergence had artists like Smith in mind when they created the event in Breckenridge to bring together musicians and industry professionals for three days of networking, education and free music to the public. Sponsored by Breckenridge Creative Arts, Mishawaka Amphitheatre and SpokesBUZZ, more than a dozen Colorado artists will perform from Feb. 19–21, showcasing musicians from around the state to local talent buyers and event organizers. On top of what it does for Colorado artists, it also provides three days of live music for the general public.
“I think that one thing that holds a lot of musicians back is not necessarily the songwriting aspect of it,” Smith said. “I think from a musical standpoint that’s something that comes to people naturally. What’s challenging about being a successful musician isn’t necessarily songwriting, it’s the nuts and bolts and the details of making it a career. And I think one thing that’s really cool about this conference is that it helps to connect musicians with the things that need to happen after they write songs. That could be anywhere from licensing deals to how to figure out a touring schedule — the stuff that’s not necessarily the creative side of things, but needs to happen in order for them to actually get work and be paid. I know there are a lot of people who are just like, ‘I’ve got songs now, what do I do with them?’”
FIRST BRECKENRIDGE EVENT
SpokesBUZZ is a nonprofit out of Fort Collins that works to incubate and develop talent from across the Front Range, giving them the resources needed to help take their music to the next level. Through a very competitive process, SpokesBUZZ provides musicians with booking opportunities and strategic planning, helping to propel them to create livelihoods from their art.
“(We) teach them how to run a small business, which is what they are, and very often they don’t understand that,” said Dani Grant, founder of SpokesBUZZ.
The organization was working on creating networking opportunities for artists on a national level, but more recently decided to focus its attention inward to Colorado, Grant said. Part of its mission is also to propel Fort Collins and the state of Colorado economically through art by fostering awareness and attention to music coming out of the area.
“We love helping musicians and there is such a gap right now in the industry of no education for these artists but yet they can’t get the professional services and resources they need to grow until they hit a certain level of popularity,” Grant said. “So there’s this huge gap — a knowledge gap — and we are trying to fill that gap.”
The conference in Breckenridge to bring these types of resources to local and Colorado musicians was a team effort by BreckCreate and SpokesBUZZ. Robb Woulfe, president and CEO of BreckCreate, said he was first introduced to Grant at an event a couple of years ago hosted by Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) — which is also partnering with the organizations to host the CO Music Conference. He said he thought SpokesBUZZ offered a unique model, and based on what BreckCreate was trying to do locally, there was an easy partnership between the two. BreckCreate was already working with the organization to bring Front Range artists in for its summer outdoor programming, and the idea for the conference evolved from that partnership.
Grant said the conference was ideal for her organization as they are now trying to focus their efforts to the state. She said she loves the idea of having a place where some of the top Colorado musicians can get showcased, and hopes that this is the first of many conferences like this in the future.
All of the events throughout the weekend are free, and Woulfe said it was important to BreckCreate to make the conference accessible to a wide spectrum of artists and fans.
“We also really wanted to open up these career development opportunities,” he said. “I think for the artists who are not showcasing, it’s still a great opportunity to come out, hear what’s happening with the whole Colorado music strategy, meet other artists, other promoters, other talent buyers, and really use it as an education and networking tool as well.”
An RSVP is required to attend the workshops, but anyone is welcome to stop by to listen to the live music showcases at the Riverwalk Center.
MUSIC IN COLORADO
Grant said they partnered with Colorado Creative Industries to give the organization a platform to talk about its Colorado music strategy, which includes a touring opportunity through a plan called Detour and a music-licensing program. She said CCI will be revealing more about the licensing program for Colorado artists at the conference, which she said is one of the things she is most excited to hear about.
Organizers have invited industry professionals such as venue operators and buyers, and operators of municipal festivals, giving musicians the opportunity to network. She also said the conference is a valuable opportunity for musicians to connect with other musicians across the state.
“I’ve seen how this works and one of the best ways is just making connections with musicians from different parts of the state,” she said. “They spend some time together, they network together — they will be in touch with each other the next time they come through town. Just having a connection in Grand Junction when you’re from Fort Collins is huge. … That’s priceless connectivity.”
Smith, who is also hosting one of the visiting bands at his house while in town, agreed that connections are a huge part of the music industry. He said he was surprised to realize how small the industry really is during his time working at a recording studio in Woodstock, New York.
“If you don’t know a person you know someone who knows them,” he said.
Smith, who will be playing at the Apres-Ski VIP party on Saturday, hopes to generate Colorado connections during the event, as a lot of the people he knows in the industry are on the East Coast.
Woulfe said he is excited to showcase local musicians like Smith.
“A smart, dynamic musician who is doing everything right,” he said. “He’s got his act together, he’s super talented, honing his craft, and we are thrilled to be able to showcase him … He really represents this movement of arts and creativity we are trying to focus on up here.”
Smith said he is working to get the message out that Breckenridge is full of musical talent, and hopes that even visitors come to recognize that there is a lot going on in the town musically. With Breck AMP, he hopes give creative people the encouragement they need to bring their music to the community, because he realizes it’s easy to let creativity fall by the wayside when artists are struggling with multiple jobs to make rent.
“I want there to be a great musical community because I’ve known some really talented musicians that have moved away,” he said. “… You meet someone that’s really talented, or that you get along really well with, and they leave for different pastures. I feel like if we created a community that they felt like they had some opportunity to grow, then it might be a little better of a retention rate. … It’s my goal keep good musicians in the area, make it more of a long-term community. … There’s a lot of great potential in Colorado and I think this is a really excellent step that is being taken to promote the excellent music that is in Colorado.”