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RedGorilla, Coincident with SxSW, Features Emerging Musicians

RedGorilla Music Fest in Austin is a free festival designed to promote the independent and up-and-coming musical artist. Over 12 years it has grown to 350+ performers and 45,000+ attendees. This year’s festival will run from March 11 – 15 which scheduling-wise is smack dab right in the middle of the neighboring South x Southwest — but as co-founder Brian Waymire will happily inform you, his festival is its own gorilla (sorry, had to).

Groovey: RedGorilla has grown from a handful of attendees to tens of thousands. How do you keep it a free event on that scale?

Brian: We really started the festival by accident. We had one band that we wanted to throw a showcase/party for in 2002 so we just wanted to do a free event to open it up to their local Austin crowd. For the first few years it really was just more of a party and, through the years, just more and more people have come out. It really has been for us, all along, about the exposure of independent and up-and-coming artists, so we have kept it free. The way that we have been able to keep it a free event is thankfully we have some great sponsors who have come on board throughout the years. Those are people who also believe in what we are doing as far as exposing these independent artists. So they have enabled us by sponsoring stages or parties or whatever it might be to allow us to keep the festival free and open to the public — which we love.

How many artists will you have this year?

We have 452 slots. There are some repeats in there, some artists that are playing two or three times for whatever reason, so I would say over 350 artists, probably closer to 400.

How did you choose those artists and how long does it take to put that roster together?

It really takes months. There’s a couple of ways we choose the artists who play. One, we get submissions through submission platforms like ReverbNation and through our own website — and we actually go through, here in our office, and listen to every single one of those submissions. There’s a listening committee of four or five people that just listen through everything. Then we decide what fits our demographic, which is twenty-one-up of course, and we just kind of know what works after twelve years of doing this. So the way that we choose the artist really depends on a lot of things. First it starts with the song. Just like everything in the music business, if the songs are great that’s the first thing that piques our interest.

What different genres are you hosting this year?

We host every genre. So we are going to have everything from country to hip-hop to DJs and electronica music to rock, folk and, interestingly enough, we have everything from Nappy Roots on the hip-hop side, to Katie Armiger who is at the top of the country charts right now, to Carolina Story who is this week #8 on the Americana charts. So we really look at what’s up and coming but we work every genre.

Are the smaller bands mostly from Texas, or are there artists coming in from other states as well?

People are driving in from all over the country, then we have fifteen other countries represented. So this year there will be bands from South and Central America, there are several bands from Europe and we have a band from Australia, a DJ from Chile, so yeah, we really represent the world.

Is there still a decent Austin presence at the fest?

There’s quite a decent Austin presence. We haven’t lost focus on that. Austin, Texas is the live music capital of the world and we really keep focused on that. So a lot of our artists are from Austin or have Austin ties; I would say over twenty percent of the artists. The reason we started this event was to showcase an Austin band and we have not lost touch with that.

What kind of promotion from the festival and what size audiences can a band expect from RedGorilla?

We do a lot of promotion. We do an iPhone app that will launch a couple weeks prior to the festival, we have our website where we keep links to all the artists, we print a pocket guide and give out thousands of those on the streets of Austin the week of the festival—and just as much as we can to expose these independent artists. We create graphics for the artists that they can put on their website and things like that. As far the audiences, every one of our clubs will be filled to capacity at night. During the day it will be from small crowds to packed to capacity, just depending on what people want to see. Our biggest venue holds a thousand people and that’s an outdoor rooftop stage. And total attendance for the full five days of the festival, including all our stages, can be anywhere between 45,000 and 70,000 people.

How do your crowds mix in with the crowds from South x Southwest?

We are a completely separate event. So we are not associated in any way with South by Southwest and I want to really be clear about that. All eight of our stages are on 6th Street and it’s a free event so we certainly get some crowd spillover from people who are in town for that. We definitely continue to push our artists and attendees to attend, especially their seminars, panel discussions and things like that they put on. So I definitely think there’s quite a bit of foot traffic between the two festivals.

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