Reviving the Music Industry in San Antonio

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La Villita filled with music lovers for Maverick Music Festival 2013. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

After spending the last several years on the road touring – working as a band manager, attorney, publishing administrator, and tour manager – I returned to my hometown San Antonio to focus on creating new events here.

This began with 2013’s inaugural Maverick Music Festival. The spirit behind Maverick was to show that San Antonio can have a concert-going public that supports acts that thrive in every other city in this country, yet have historically bypassed San Antonio – instead playing Houston, Dallas, Austin, and even Marfa and El Paso.

While San Antonio certainly hosts many events, we are in short supply of major events with new relevant band programming, excepting the rodeo and Echale. San Antonio has great Fiesta events and various other community gatherings, but the tendency is not to focus on obtaining cutting edge talent.

Rather, promoters for major events in this town tend to fixate on servicing an overly imbibed/consumable driven crowd. The current focus is not only detrimental to concert promotion, but culturally unhealthy for our community and the greater social good. If we want to have great entertainment in this city, I believe that we promoters must be held to a higher standard.

Historic La Villita transformed for the 2013. Maverick Music Festival. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

Historic La Villita transformed for the 2013. Maverick Music Festival. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

In order to become a first-class music city on the rise (again), we must solicit a level of entertainment young people and those wanting to live in the city center will find most attractive, so that people will stay downtown. This is not about venues, but instead about talent, a vibe, and a scene. Until now, we’ve been the only major city in this country without a major music festival that recognizes emerging talent. It is time for our city to come together to change this fact. It is crucial for development of the urban core, downtown growth, attracting young professionals, and the overall SA2020 vision. A festival of this nature has the potential to galvanize a central fervor and excitement for our city, and downtown in particular, similar to the manner in which the art scene and culinary scenes have emerged and developed successfully.

Likewise, we need the same level of commitment from the community for the music industry. This is not simply entertainment and recreation; it is a more than $26 billion industry, and not unlike many other industries we court from other cities in an effort to get them to settle in San Antonio. It’s time to responsibly do the same here, for events that are accountable to sponsors, the city government, and the public at large.

Breaking into the Industry

I grew up in San Antonio and graduated from Clark High School in 1999. Like many of my peers at the time, I was eager to get out of San Antonio to experience something new and attended college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I studied in the hospitality administration program, with an emphasis toward entertainment production. After leaving Vegas in December of 2001, I moved to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to attend Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. Following law school, I started my own practice focusing primarily on business litigation and entertainment law, while continuing to produce and promote shows in Austin, TX. 

Eventually, I started working with a young blues artist in Austin, TX named Gary Clark Jr. At the time, Gary had not ventured too far outside the Austin scene. At some point in 2009-2010, Gary decided he wanted to begin playing more places outside the city, ultimately culminating in a well-publicized appearance on Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival.

This is where the crazy journey began. Following his performance at Crossroads, Warner Bros. Records began to strongly pursue him. Along with Scooter Weintraub and Manjeri Krishna, we dedicated our focus entirely to doing whatever we needed to do to get Gary to expand his audience, while protecting him at the same time. Without going into detail, the negotiation with Warner Bros. Records was arduous, lasting nearly eight months, but finally resulted in a recording deal. As exciting as it was for everyone at the time, this is when the work really started, again.

Gary Clark on stage at Maverick Music Festival 2013. Photo by Jeff Harris Photography.

Gary Clark on stage at Maverick Music Festival 2013. Photo by Jeff Harris Photography.

In the case of San Antonio, leading up to Maverick, Gary played two shows at Sam’s Burger Joint, one show we produced along with the San Antonio Current at Arneson River Theatre, and then headlined the festival. This is noteworthy, because it’s a prime example of what happens when we develop an artist locally who has generated a lot of buzz nationally: our city responds overwhelmingly. The ascension in Gary’s career has been evident ever since and continues to swell to date.

Moving Home

After touring on the road for a few years virtually nonstop, I decided to come back home to San Antonio realizing the live music business is a $26 billion dollar industry, not unlike technology or the medical industries, but which until recently, the leadership in our community has all but ignored.

Looking back to the first Austin City Limits Festival, it’s quite obvious the city leaders of Austin embraced this potential long ago. On the other hand, the San Antonio community, culture, and leadership perhaps viewed this as more of a recreational or diversionary component in our society, rather than an economic force that thrives even in the worst of recessions. Acknowledging this opportunity has never been at the forefront of priorities in our city. Throughout this misunderstanding, there seems to be an inherent inferiority complex that resides: the tendency to import, resort and rely on outside leadership to enhance the makeup of industry in San Antonio.

The problem, however, is that outside entities and organizations, for the most part, do not understand how to promote this particular market effectively. This is further exacerbated by various critics and mediums within our culture who are oblivious to the surrounding macro-climate, unaware of what goes right over their heads on a daily basis, especially as it pertains to national and international touring acts.

Maverick Music Festival

A young woman enjoys live music at La Villita during the 2013 Maverick Music Festival. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

A young woman enjoys live music at La Villita during the 2013 Maverick Music Festival. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

After traveling and working on every continent except Antarctica, I noticed San Antonio was literally the only large city that did not have a proper music festival showcasing premiere as well as developing international talent. I knew it would be a delicate balance in San Antonio: negotiating the predisposition in our market to alienate new music, in order to finally bring an array of bands normally unheard in a live setting, and without a commercial radio format that supports developing, buzzworthy bands.

The idea for the first year was to merge Gary Clark Jr.’s nascent movement toward his now Grammy-award winning status, with the Toadies, who are a Texas (and specifically San Antonio) staple of rock music still appreciated in the San Antonio commercial radio world. Additionally, local sensation Girl In A Coma rounded out the lineup with Henry & the Invisibles. The event was a total success by all accounts. It was organized over the course of one day with local food trucks, vendors, and organized entirely by a team of people who grew up in San Antonio, but who have lived and worked all over the world at some point in time before choosing to return.

Selena Aleman ran all concession services, Garrett Karam handled finances, Matt Wolff took care of production, and Stephanie Guerra a.k.a. Puro Pinche navigated social media. This is where we all met Faith Radle, manager of Girl In A Coma and film producer who had recently returned to San Antonio after living in Los Angeles for the past 10 years. Instantly, we began to see eye-to-eye on the vision of Maverick.

This core group of organizers all grew up in San Antonio and we’re committed to developing the live music industry in San Antonio. Moving forward to the second year, we wanted to continue to gradually grow the event organically, with certain root values from the first year as the foundation.

As far as talent goes, we again wanted to bridge the disconnect between developing acts around the world and traditional mainstays historically received well in the San Antonio market and circulated consistently on commercial radio here. Hence, on one end of the lineup we have bands like Phantogram, Washed Out, and R&B sensation SZA, while on the other end we have the Psychedelic Furs and Candlebox. The vast majority of these buzz bands and developing acts would not come to San Antonio, but for Maverick itself.

We have extended the festival this year to include two additional stages, including the Arneson River Theatre, highlighting some of the best local and regional buzz bands all on one stage, as well as a third stage (Mondo Nation Stage) for additional musical acts. This was an effort to recognize and celebrate the music that San Antonio bands are creating, and to have them included alongside other national acts.

While this is only the second year we are hosting Maverick Music Festival, there’s a symbolic sense of a renaissance transcending the perfunctory event schedule engrained in our city’s calendar, especially in La Villita (San Antonio’s oldest neighborhood).

La Villita filled with music lovers for Maverick Music Festival 2013. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

La Villita filled with music lovers for Maverick Music Festival 2013. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

In our city, there’s a chance and opportunity to create what doesn’t exist – and to take what does and make it better. San Antonio will again emerge on the music promotion front. While San Antonio worked on expanding its infrastructure throughout the 1970s and 1980s in anticipation of growth, Austin resisted this expansion, so as not to draw too much attention to its “little sanctuary.”

In fact, the opposite effect happened. People began flocking in droves to Austin, as its centralized entertainment and bar district continued to flourish. It’s now time to bring more equanimity to our city of San Antonio, the actual city that can support growth. Together with Austin, we can collectively serve as a major hub for arts and entertainment. And with San Marcos as the fastest growing mid-city, by some accounts, we are a growing megalopolis—one of the largest collective markets of its kind in the country, as long as we work together and assume San Antonio’s place at the table. We have the infrastructure, the support, and the best community of people in this country to make this happen effectively.

We hope you will come out and celebrate our efforts to contribute to the live music industry of San Antonio at Maverick Music Festival.

*Featured/top image: La Villita filled with music lovers for Maverick Music Festival in 2013. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

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31 thoughts on “Reviving the Music Industry in San Antonio

    • Precisely! These are the shows our community needs to show up to. Whether or not you prefer the stylistic genre of each, and regardless of age, we need to support the artists above. They are the future. Even if you don’t understand the message, beat, vibe, or atmosphere, moving forward, this is what’s next!

      Let’s ensure each and every ONE of these shows reach CAPACITY!

  1. Blayne,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the SA music landscape.

    You touched on it briefly in your article, but, would you agree San Antonio radio stations are really dropping the ball for concert promotions. I was up in Seattle last summer they have concerts at the needle like every Friday. Radio station X, sponsors music/event, bringing in local/national acts and sells local craft beer. it’s a win/win. Why don’t we see something like that here?

    Further more, Do you think SA is ready for a more “buzzworthy” radio station? I think something like Trinity’s Indie over-night could be 24/7 and succeed now and is much needed.

    • The commercial radio stations in town are great at what they do. In fact, 99.5 KISS has been enormously helpful on the promotional front with regard to promoting Maverick via Candlebox, likewise with 96.1 and the Psychedelic Furs. Nevertheless, there is not a commercial radio format of any kind that supports developing acts in the manner a KEXP in Seattle, KUT in Austin, or KCRW does in LA.

      Would I love to see KRTU indie overnight run 24/7? Absolutely. Nevertheless, it’s a challenge in our city now for any one station to carry the full load and really engage a wider audience, including over 80,000 college students in this city, who invariably crave these independent acts that are so ubiquitous among the music blogs (e.g. Consequence of Sound, Gorilla vs. Bear, Pitchfork, Stereogum, Brooklyn Vegan)

      That being said, I have to give a ton of credit to the San Antonio Current for spearheading an effort to coalesce itself alongside KRTU, KLRN, and KSYM to embark on a new promotional series ahead called the “Garage Sessions”. The idea behind this concept is to create a promotional vehicle similar to the Triple A stations mentioned above that will provide a performance of 2-3 songs performed in the “Garage” along with an accompanying interview. This platform, conceptually, would then be streamed live or archived at current.com, but then (in theory) broadcast on KRTU, KSYM, and televised on KLRN. Thus far, KRTU is fully on board, and KSYM and KLRN are interested.

      Just to be clear, this is NOT a money making venture necessarily, but rather an effort to bind the community partners who have the biggest reach in San Antonio, in order to further the promotion of bands that normally do not get promoted through any commercial radio format locally, whatsoever. This would not only involve national touring acts, but prospectively working with folks like Ernesto Olivo from Local 782 to garner motivated local bands to participate as well.

      With this platform in mind, we can then begin to craft our own alternative to this conundrum we currently face.

      I urge all interested readers to contact KLRN directly, in support of this idea, as well as Dr. Onderdonk at KSYM jonderdonk@alamo.edu.

      Each medium mentioned above may have great content alone, but collectively, it’s a joint community force that will take our city’s promotional efforts for these “buzzworthy” bands to the next level.

    • Radius clauses can be tricky, but in reality, not our biggest obstacle.

      ACL Fest has radius clauses in place for all their festivals, and it is completely justifiable. Given the magnitude of the event and absolute need for them to protect their brand, they must include these provisions as a matter of course. Festivals of this size depend on out of town visitors from other regional cities to be successful. However, in the case of C3 specifically, they don’t summarily preclude all bands from playing other cities in the region, but it’s up to the agent, manager, band to bring that conversation up to the promoter, and more often than not they do in fact facilitate.

      On the other hand, my contention for a smaller, developing festival such as Maverick or touring bands (in general) which typically have an audience between 50 to at least 2000 is that they should be able to play both markets, under normal circumstances. This is an ongoing conversation with C3 and other promoters, which will take time to evolve, but ultimately it’s up to San Antonio as a community to bring all of this to the forefront: not outside promoters from other cities. We simply cannot blame them.

  2. I agree that SA has needed this for a long time now, and I know my friends and I are excited about the festival. And we all know and love these bands that are headlining. And especially as a musician in a band in San Antonio with higher aspirations than just playing in San Antonio, and as a volunteer who has been helping organize local musicians with Local782 since 2008 it’s been a challenge to bring people to become aware of the local talent in the San Antonio music scene. Which there is a huge abundance of huge talent. One “event” we are doing is Local Music week in its 4th year this cross-promotional event is going to be held at the end of May in 2014 and the focus is to have promoters, bands and venues to cross-promote their events and emphasize the celebration of local music in S.A., and it’s also an outreach if you will to bring the non-traditional music goer and make them aware of all the bands playing on any given night in San Antonio. We felt that there is a disconnect with the community and its local music scene.

    • It’s absolutely critical for our community to stand behind our local musicians and each other every step of the way. There’s no better time for everyone to unite. This not only includes every local band in San Antonio, but every promoter and community partner in San Antonio. Our city is in it’s infancy in this industry, so to quibble over minor disagreements, or premature misconceptions of competition, at the expense of everyone aligning together is illogical.

  3. I also left this comment on Traffic King’s facebook:

    I listened to the TPR program yesterday and I read this article today and I could not agree more. First and foremost, I must commend everyone’s recent efforts in bringing more acts to SA. Two years ago I seemed to be driving to Austin almost every weekend for a show. Last year, I was barely driving there once a month and this year, I haven’t been to Austin yet. What I’m saying is: it’s working. The shows are coming here and I’m going to them. As many as I can. However, I feel one issue in this revival is the fans. We need to create a sense of urgency about the shows or about the importance of the artist in an effort to get more fans to buy tickets early. Promotions work but everyone needs to share their love and tell their friends and CREATE the reputation that SA has cool shows. Once more people start attending and on a more regular basis, then the venues can afford to renovate their facilities and provide a better environment to house the shows.

    Thank you for what you’re doing, keep up the good work, and how can I help?

    • I completely agree. It will take time for the San Antonio market to develop when it comes to advance ticket sales. Looking at advance ticket sales throughout the country, San Antonio and Atlanta are both notoriously slow markets, in many cases, because there is no sense of urgency. As awareness spreads and people become more accustomed to “hot ticket” events, then demand increases. Again, the burden is on the promoters to create this climate. That’s a promoter’s job. The best thing we can all do is to keep attending shows, and supporting live music by buying tickets.

      We sure hope to see you at Maverick!

      • I will DEFINITELY be at Maverick Fest (I’ve had my tickets for a while 🙂 )! Legitimately some of my favorite bands are playing. So stoked to see at least a handful of them and excited to check out the acts I haven’t heard of yet. Love the diverse line-up!

  4. This is a very positive and interesting read. As a local organizer here in SA for the past 10 years, I feel that if Blayne Tucker and his group of friends really want to help the SA music community come together then he should invite all the local promoters, event organizers & music community to have an open meet & greet so that we can feel included in this movement. Many of us have not left SA and have been working with local musicians year after year through failures and accomplishments. We as a unit have a lot to offer and if you want to have our full support, we should be invited to join the cause.

    • You’re absolutely right. We’re all interested in building our city together. It is a community effort. We do not see ourselves as the sole leaders here, but just one piece of the bigger puzzle. We are open and happy to work with others. I hope you will come out to Maverick and meet us. It is a huge undertaking, we would love to meet up with you and anyone else interested to find ways to come together where we have. We have MANY local acts on the bill to check out. As I mentioned above in an earlier comment, it’s critically important that we all come together to work at different venues of different sizes, in order to develop bands at every level over time.

      Additionally, we need to collectively urge the city and county to generate greater discussion in a public forum to genuinely proceed with getting people together on those levels as well.

  5. Fantastic article and thank you for spearheading this massive and long-overdue effort here. I’m so excited to be a part of this movement to make SA better that is stretching throughout the community! Bravo to you and Selena and Maverick music fest. Can’t wait! you guys completely get the bigger picture.

    • Thank you Rachel for all of your support. Everyone here is committed to the bigger picture: elevating OUR San Antonio to the forefront of the arts. This is a collective, cultural push where we can truly come together for the future, a new frontier. Things are indeed changing thanks to the leadership of Mayor Castro, Judge Wolff, and Councilman Bernal, who recognize the value and virtue of live music in San Antonio.

      The ideas are in place. Now, we need to execute. Live music is only one facet, but a cornerstone nonetheless. Let’s make this happen together.

  6. Great article Blayne. Since I got “back into things” just over a year ago, it has pained me to see people leave to Austin for shows when there are so many quality events here in SA. While I don’t think we can necessarily “blame” the venues, I do think venues need to do a better job of providing quality when it comes to the experience. Shoddy bathrooms + lackluster sound and lighting all create the desire for people to seek out better places to enjoy the music. It’s a catch-22 though, because without support, the funds to provide those things are hard to come by.

    The same holds true for DJ events. The “clubs” here focus on a lot of retro music and leave a LOT to be desired in the area of sound & lighting. We have to bring out our own sound pretty much anywhere we’ve set up, but we’re committed to providing at “least” a great sound experience. When music is the focus, that’s a big key. Like you are doing with Maverick, we’re also trying to bring FRESH talent that is not typical of the SA market. So many of the DJ nights in SA get the same old thing, and we’ve tried to change that.

    When you and Matt & the gang are ready to tackle a high-quality Electronic Festival, I am ready to jump in and help. Look up festivals like BPM in Mexico, Movement in Detroit, Decibel in Seattle and even Praia Urbana in Houston. These are festivals that are constantly bringing high quality DJ’s and Live PA acts that aren’t going the “cheese” route of many festivals like EDC and Ultra. While the side stages of the latter 2 can be decent, the same acts thrive at the first ones mentioned. SOUL Family is on board if you ever want to discuss it!

    Good luck at Maverick!

    • Thanks Abe. You’re right about the venues as well. We have to ensure fans, as well as the artists themselves enjoy the experience. From a fans perspective, this means great front of house sound/lighting, adequate restroom facilities, and an overall environment to feel comfortable in. From an artist relations perspective, it’s about providing pristine stage sound, a clean, comfortable backstage area, as well hospitality and any support needed from a production and tour management perspective. As I know you know, when an artist comes to town, this is literally our only chance over the course of less than 24 hours to serve as an ambassador to our city. Do we want their limited impression to be relegated to the backstage in the back of a dirty green room? I think the answer is obviously no there. That being said, I applaud the efforts of venues like the new Aztec, Sam’s Burger Joint, and 502 Bar for providing a first rate experience for musical acts and audiences alike. Through my own experiences, as well as many comments from national booking agents, management, and other artists themselves, they are doing a fantastic job.

      Admittedly, I have much less professional experience on the electronic side of things, however, most of the fundamentals remain. In terms of the additional production elements needed I definitely defer to your judgement, as you would know best from both an artist/dj and production perspective.

      As far as an EDM events such as those mentioned below, I think we can definitely grow our own brand of festival here in town as well. Beginning with this year’s http://www.sanantoniosnowball.com, I think we’re off to a great start. Of course there are things we can do to improve in a variety of ways. There’s always room for improvement, especially when beginning budgets are miniscule. Nevertheless, this particular event seemed to be a great launching point for something of this nature moving into the next year.

      What are your thoughts?

  7. Hi Blayne,

    I’m a student interested in going into what you are doing. What’s a way to get in contact with you?

    • Hi Joshua, please contact us and send your resume to info@maverickmusicfestival.com for ways to get involved. In this regard, it should be noted we can only legally accept potential applicants who derive some type of benefit from an internship (e.g. College credit) or paid employment/contracting. We cannot accept volunteers of any kind.

      Thanks!

  8. I’m glad that this issue has been recognized and is being addressed. I always dread playing in San Antonio… The Cover Song Capital of the World.

  9. Blayne,
    I am very interested in getting involved and contributing to this movement! However, I am unsure of how to go about pursuing a career in this industry… I actually came across this article while researching the live music industry in SA (hence my comment over a year after this post), and I am so glad to hear of the efforts and results that have been reached so far. In expressing my interest with some friends, mentors and family, several people have mentioned/suggested moving elsewhere (LA, Nashville, Chicago, etc.) to pursue a career in the live music industry, but I am more interested in contributing to SA’s music scene, as I am more familiar and genuinely passionate about it.

    I recently graduated, so I am exploring job opportunities and I would like to be in contact with you in regards to getting involved! Please let me know of how I can do so.

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