Amplify Music Communities

Colorado, USA
Read Colorado's Transcript

Storm Gloor  0:06  

Hello and welcome. Amplify Music communities is an extension of our Amplify Music Conference in which we take a journey around the world to visit with leaders within the music ecosystems of various cities, regions, states and countries. Our aim is to have conversations about what’s happening at the ground level in these communities and elsewhere and to look ahead as to what’s shaping their future music economies. Today, we chat with three music economy leaders from the state of Colorado (USA). We’re excited to have with us our guests, Lisa Gedgaudas, manager at Create Denver and Denver Arts and Venues, a division of the city and county of Denver. Stephen Brackett Music Ambassador for the state of Colorado, Director of Special Programs at Youth On Record and Co-founder of the platinum selling band the Flobots. And Chris Zacher, Executive Director of Levitt Pavilion Denver, Board Chair of the Colorado Independent Venue Association (CIVA), and State of Colorado Chair of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). Welcome everyone. Thanks for being here and visiting with us today. We’re gonna start by asking you what, within your communities, is your specific role. Lisa, what is your, what is your role is in Denver Arts and Venues?


Lisa Gedgaudas  1:26  

Yeah, thank you, Storm, and thanks for having me on this. And hi to everybody. My role, I work for the city of Denver like Storm said. I run the Create Denver Initiative; supporting creative industries through the city of Denver, and more specifically related to music and recently put out a Music Strategy for Denver, and supporting any research policy and advocacy around our music scene.


Storm Gloor  1:50  

And, Stephen, what is your role, your various roles that is?


Stephen Brackett  1:56  

I think what one of the main roles is just being like a proud child of Denver, Colorado and Denver Public Schools and CSU and such and the same thing, like somebody who’s been in this music and creative scene for the entirety of their lives. And as such a massive advocate for the ecosystem that is the creative development of Denver and the state of Colorado. And so like my role as Director of Special Programs at Youth On Record, and I am aspiring to have my role as the chorus, choral statewide music ambassador, be that same kind of constant advocation. So that’s, that’s the role that I’d like to have it. 


Storm Gloor  2:36  

Awesome. Awesome. And Chris, tell us about the hats you wear.


Chris Zacher  2:40  

Yeah, I wear a lot of hats these days. I also teach at the University of Colorado, Denver, with you Storm. So there’s another one for the bucket. I’m the board chair for CIVA, the Colorado Independent Venue Association. We’re working on advocacy efforts for relief measures and friendlier reopening guides for venues across our state that not necessarily just music venues, venues in general. Then I with NIVA, I’m the lead for NIVA in this state and doing the same work that I do for CIVA, nationally, lobbying for federal relief efforts, we were able to pass a $15 billion bill through Congress was signed into law on December 27th. It’ll hopefully save a lot of our stages. And then at Levitt Pavilion. I’m the Executive Director for the nonprofit amphitheater, we produce a ton of music; free shows, paid shows, everything.


Storm Gloor  3:35  

Thank you. Well, clearly, we have with us three of the folks who are making a lot of the necessary moves and getting us to the future. And that’s what I want to ask about thinking beyond 2021 and our “new normal” and your roles, what will be the biggest successes, the boosts are the obstacle moves that would make the biggest difference in your communities? Lisa, you want to address that?


Lisa Gedgaudas  4:02  

Sure. I’ m happy to start. I mean, I think that because we got moved into the digital age in a much stricter way. It certainly opened up other doors, working with other cities that other city leadership and people that promote music, both non- and for profit the way that the city of Denver really does. And I understand with each other best practices, pitfalls, things like that, especially when we are working for federal funding. We had CARES Act money come through, it was great to tap into places like Seattle or other cities to say how did that go? What can we do best? How can we do it better? Um, so you know, to me, those big city connections make a lot of difference. I know the same thing would go for recording and touring opportunities when our community nationwide has come together through the National Independent Venues Association. We’ve just never seen a gathering of for profit music industry like this before. So I see a lot of good come out of that. One of the challenges certainly has been, well, a lot of these are band aid relief funds in my mind, I’m glad they have been coming out. But one of the biggest challenges I’ve had with it is: equitable, how equitable they are. You know, a lot of this is on a first come first serve basis, or for people that know how to fill out an SBA loan or a city grant. And so it’s been extremely challenging to kind of figure out ways to get into the areas of our community that really need that type of support the most during a time of trauma. So that’s something I hope we can work further on.


Storm Gloor  5:48  

Awesome. And Stephen, what are your thoughts on that?


Stephen Brackett  5:52  

It’s, um, there is no way to make small the crisis that we are in, as a music industry, as a nation, and within the world, just everything that is happening. And within any system, you get to see like, who the system works for and who it doesn’t. And I think we get to see an inflection point of need around the same kind of equity price that Lisa was already talking about. So like, as bad as things are, it’s even worse for certain groups. And in that there’s actually now, I think, an even greater opportunity to be able to address, well, okay, like certain things in the music industry, like the music industry is not working for about anybody, right? It’s really not working for these musicians in these communities, for bipoc musicians and such. So like now, we can also like, address a lot more of this, when the whole thing is halted a bit. Because like, we all know that our industry is kind of built on momentum and dizziness and activity. And with that, that means a lot of the wounds never get addressed. And then we can actually just like count the bodies of the brilliant people who got burned out, like in hindsight, but no point in time, can we slow down the machine long enough to be like, Can we do this a better or different way? So I think one of the things that’s been an opportunity of this moment, is being able to kind of explore alternatives, engage in dialogues with communities, while things have like slowed down a bit. And I do think that when we are returning to what I’m hoping is like a new healing, there will be all of these processes will be a bit more transparent to how they’re contributing to an equity or how they’re reducing inequity. And that’s one of the things like I’m seeing conversations like that happening at all levels of our industry as well. So if I’m talking to people at Youtube Music, and they’re talking about like, Oh, well, how can Google invest their money, and I put their money in their mouth ot where their mouths are like, with investing in bipoc creators for Black History Month, or even like talking about, like how profit trees are being built at Spotify, like see how like people are actually like looking at this. So seeing that the conversation is real has been pretty amazing right now. So that’s one of the things I’m looking at, like this opportunity, this disruption is a real chance to address things that have never been addressed in this industry before.


Storm Gloor  8:26  

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you for those, those insights. Chris, what are your thoughts from yourself?


Chris Zacher  8:33  

I gotta, I gotta follow up, Stephen. I think he just said everything. I mean, you know, he really pushed on a point there, though, the way this industry operates, when we’re in full motion, it’s really hard to go back and correct inequities. And those inequities are vast, they’re not just about people of color, or people with, people with disabilities. They’re about a systematic, systematic issues that really need attention. And because of what we were able to do on the independent venue side of things, creating this monster of NIVA, that’s been so successful. Our next step in what we’re working on now, is addressing a lot of these issues as we move forward. You know, independent venues, typically are fiercely independent, and there’s not a lot of communication or sharing of ideas from venue to venue. And that’s changed through this pandemic. And that is going to allow our independent music scene to carry on. You know, I think, if you take all of the issues we have as an industry. One of the biggest issues that exists is that we’re becoming like Amazon, where we’re going to have one or two people who control everything, and that’s dangerous. It’s dangerous for progress. It’s dangerous for marginalized people. It’s dangerous for just about anybody who’s not doesn’t have a seat at that table. And this pandemic has allowed us to flip that script and start talking about the issues that exist and working towards fixing them and correcting.


Lisa Gedgaudas  10:07  

I would also add to that, Chris can speak to this too. But NIVA made a point of hosting an open forum, like a town hall, every week, for any venue that was a member or becoming a member, we must have had 250 to 300 venues every week on that zoom call talking to each other, even talking through the George Floyd murder and how to consider if there are venues or even catering to people of color or how they can do it better and having a really open conversation about that. So it was an interesting coming together of a different type of family we didn’t think we would have, because it’s so fractured. 


Chris Zacher  10:48  

Yeah. And when when the SVOG grants, the SOS grant got passed by the federal government, the very first thing we did was sit down and say, How can we reach these, these clubs that are in a lot of trouble, that are in marginalized communities that are on, that are on native land, that don’t, aren’t necessarily being spoken to. So we spent weeks, we’re still doing it, trying to find all of these small venues to save them. When we think about music, we often think about these giant stadiums or these big, huge acts. That’s such a small percentage of what music is. And I know Stephen, and Lisa can speak to this as well. It’s such a small percentage, and we have to find a way to, to save, you know, the art before it’s too long, before it’s too late. It’s all gone. You know, it’s… we’ve got it. There’s a lot of work to do.


Storm Gloor  11:44  

Yeah. Amen. Amen. And speaking of work, in your all’s roles here in Colorado, what public policies will you be advocating for short and long terms to get to where we need to get? Can you think of any of those Lisa?


Lisa Gedgaudas  12:00  

Yeah, I mean, you know, as I mentioned, we put out the Denver Music Strategy a few years ago now. And through that we have the Denver Music Advancement Fund, and that, the goal of that fund, that grant, is to talk about how music saves lives, what it does for education, what it does on the other side of recording and touring, and really highlight those stories, and motivate people to remember that and get paid to do those things or spark new ideas for the future. New collaborations, that kind of thing. And I think, you know, I”m with arts and venues, so on the venue side, we run Red Rocks, and as a city agency, we’re an enterprise fund. So advocating for more dollars from a venue like Red Rocks, and filtering, you know, more of that funding into our communities, needs to happen more continuously with more funding. So we will continue to push our own agency along that route. Yeah, never done asking for more money.


Storm Gloor  13:02  

And I know you’re great at it. Stephen, music ambassador in the state of Colorado, not every state has a music ambassador. What, what will you be advocating for?


Stephen Brackett  13:20  

Here we go. I muted myself just to make sure that my I didn’t like mm hmm, amen. So much that distracted from what Lisa was saying.


Storm Gloor  13:26  

And there’s a lot to Amen. 


Stephen Brackett  13:28  

Yes, yes. But like, I think one of the reasons we even have a music ambassadors because of the work of folks like Lisa G, like because we have a music strategy, like that kind of stuff, is the proto policy work, where it’s demonstrating the value where people didn’t understand it before. And so once that’s done that evangelizes for you, so you can start like doing more work. And I feel like that kind of proto policy work is a lot of the things that I’m going to try to be doing as the ambassador. For example, I know, and all of us here know what music does, but most people don’t. And you have to code switch. And you have to like start creating different examples so people can see what it does. And once it’s demonstrated, then I don’t have to convince people of it. So in Youth On Record, like when we’re talking about, like the importance of arts education in the school day, like I have to convince funders with all of these different arguments, which I feel fine about, because I know it’s legit. So it’s easy to find data for it. But I’m looking at how do we expand that. So when we look at Colorado as a whole, and we see suicide numbers are cresting in rural communities. Now music won’t solve that, but music is where young people are. So music can be the medium for communication of resources and all of these things. So I am trying to explore more and more ways in which music can be the medium by which the medicine is is given out especially during a time of communal suffering. And so once you’re able to kind of do that, I think you’ve demonstrated the value in such a way in a time of lack. So that when we get to a point, when there’s a time of plenty, we won’t have to fight tooth and nail to say how important this stuff is. So, I’m working in lots of different ways, like some of them are really big ideas. Like, right now, I’m trying to talk with a lot of educators about perhaps creating additional kind of arts based programming to make up for the gap that most of our students are going to be experiencing from this past year. And if we can coordinate with all the amazing organizations that we have, taking kids to the mountains, or taking kids like to music programs are always like, create a great buffer this summer, then we won’t have to see this massive roller coaster dip off, particularly for students of less means that we see every year but this year, in particular, even kids who had like the best private schools are seeing a fall off and they’ve been in person the whole time. The arts can be one of the ways, music can be one of the ways that we get to actually heal some of these things and maybe start using these new systems as permanent systems. So I want to, I’m trying to create a program where we start seeing if we have different, like, block party variances, we can maybe start having neighborhood shows that move. So people can just watch the shows from their blocks, right. But then like, if we have a summer where everybody experiences music, do you think they’re going to want to walk that back? Right. So I think there’s lots of ways and opportunities within this, but like, I want to do some of the proto policy work that shows the value of it, and how much we need it so that people won’t be able to walk it back, like we have the last 15 years. Because, because we know that where it gets us and at a time of great suffering and need, we need it more than ever, and people need this music. So how do we get it to them safely? And how and how do we get it to like, get it to them at a time when they need it? So yeah, just little things, you know. 


Storm Gloor  16:59  

Just little things. From what you just said it is, Colorado is just so lucky to have you as their music ambassador, Stephen. Really appreciate those insights. All right, Chris, what do you, what’s your approach to that?


Chris Zacher  17:16  

Boy, you know, I’m working on a lot of like current policy and teeing up for future policy. You know, over the past year, we were able to craft, you know, legislation that I’ve talked about earlier, that was amazing that we were able to get that passed, especially for a group that was new under Congress that was controlled by the non art sector of our country. You know, I think, you know, long term, as far as CIVA/NIVA go, we pull our members, because we want to make sure we have buy it before we start advocating for something. So there are a lot of things we want to advocate for, we want to advocate for a $15 minimum wage, we want to make sure the gig workers are paid fairly for the work that they do. We would like to, you know, start/continue to advocate for arts in schools. We do run an art program where we teach kids in elementary schools in Denver that are underserved, music lessons. We want to continue to do that we want to help advocate for that on a state level with people like Stephen. You know, and then we think, you know, there’s a lot of issues we’re shooting for. So it’s like, you know, where do you start? Where do you stop, you know, also with working, working with independent venues across this country to provide these tracks to keep them alive and to keep themselves, you know, those are really the big pieces right now, outside of reopening, we’ve got to make sure that we have safe. And that’s the first word safe and friendly reopening guides, guides for venues that do not give advantages to the rich and powerful. And that’s the difficult piece because our state government, our city government, our federal government, our county governments, they all tend to always lean towards the rich and powerful, we’ve got to stop that. The people, the people have voices, and now we have an outlet to use them. And we have to do that.


Storm Gloor  19:15  

Great, great. And again, we appreciate the work you’ve been doing locally in Denver and nationally. And I know it keeps you busy, Chris. All right. I’m gonna get personal now and ask it in the just few minutes. We have left real quick responses, if you don’t mind to a question of what about you personally? How is your life changed between early 2020? And, and how do you think it’ll change between then and early 2022?


Lisa Gedgaudas  19:49  

Why I haven’t seen any live music, I don’t know about you guys. So hopefully that’ll change but I’m honestly on a personal note. I mean, it’s been pretty incredible to get some, I don’t know, more balance time with my family, my life, and my community in a different way. And have much more meaningful conversations and take time to self-care. I think that’s just so huge. And we don’t have that enough, especially when we’re expected to work, the hours that we do. And beyond that, which I know all of us, all of us here have so many hats. So having that space to be inspired, and even have space to think of new visionary ideas is ideal. Selfishly on another, more business minded side of my personality, I mean, I was able to work with Chris a lot over the last year and it’s been amazing to work nationally with him. We supported NIVA’s Emergency Relief Fund before that save our stages that came out and helped to distribute $3 million with our also colleague, Carl.


Chris Zacher  21:00  

$3.5 million. 


Lisa Gedgaudas  21:02  

3.5 million, yep. So another band aid. But it was amazing to be a part of that. And I think that was an inspiring moment to say like, it breaks down the barriers of where we are in this, in like nationally on map. And man, did I want to become a lobbyist? I’m like, that sounds good to me. No one’s you know, no one’s that knight in shining armor very much at the federal level. So maybe I can talk to Chris and to maybe Stephen here too. We could do this.


Storm Gloor  21:36  

There you go. All right. Stephen, what do you see yourself, transitioning between those two time periods?


Stephen Brackett  21:44  

Um, I think a little bit like to what Lisa was saying, this has been a great time to plant seeds. I’ve never had this much time to think about, work on stuff that I’ve always thought about doing. Not just like musically, but like how I do my music, how I communicate with folks ,what kind of coalitions I want to build, how I can challenge things. Like just like even in the fundraising bit like having conversations with foundations and being like, Can you move the 4 to 5%? Because if you did, do you know how much that would change things? Like, you can, you can give more, there’s no rule that you can only give the 4%. But like, if you moved it to five, like, it would be monumental or like, what if you flipped, like how we distributed money and like being able to have those conversations now. So I am looking forward to and I am terrified about the harvest. So what’s, what is going to come up, when things are really moving again, I feel like it’s going to be massive, there’s like so many things that are going to be popping up. So I’m intimidated by that prospect. But it’s also the thing that’s getting me through this time is just like knowing that I am dutifully, like trying to plant as many seeds as possible. So I’m really looking forward to, to like harvesting this, and what this harvest is going to mean for the city and state. And, yeah, that’s, I think that’s going to be incredible,


Lisa Gedgaudas  23:10  

That and your hair has gotten so long Stephen.


Chris Zacher  23:16  

Almost didn’t recognize you.


Storm Gloor  23:18  

Chris, what’s your view of the future there?


Chris Zacher  23:22  

I don’t know, you know, between when this started, and now I haven’t had enough time to think about it, of what’s changed for me professionally, or, or, you know, personally. I’ll figure that out when this is over. And I think that’s the attitude that those of us that are pushing so hard have, it’s that we’re survivors. And we care about this scene, and this scene has never been comfortable. There’s always obstacles. And one day, I’ll have a chance to sit back and look at it and say, yeah, you know, we went from here to there, or this happened, I think it’s important to remove your yourself from all of this when you’re working for other people, and to think about the community as a whole and not about yourself personally. So I’ll have a chance to do that down the road and figure it out at that point in time. For me, it’s just like, just like with Lisa and Stephen. I mean, we’re arts advocates, this is what we do. So coming into this pandemic, we were ready. I mean, we can handle it, we can handle anything. We survived this music scene for as long as we have. We can handle anything or music in general. So, you know, we’ll figure it out. We’ll figure it out down the road. I haven’t had the time that Stephen has to think too much about projects or anything. I wish, I wish that time. But you know, one day.


Storm Gloor  24:43  

All right. Well, thank you all so much for joining us and your insights are so valuable and we commend you on all you’re doing for the state of Colorado and we thank you as well. As far as Amplify Music communities, we’ll continue to talk to other communities throughout the world and you can find more info at Thank you.


Lisa Gedgaudas  25:09  

Thank you.


Stephen Brackett  25:12  

Thank you so much.


Chris Zacher  25:14  

Thank you, everyone.

Our Colorado Speakers

Storm Gloor

Storm Gloor

Associate Professor, Music and Entertainment Studies, CU Denver; City Councilman, Glendale, CO, USA

Chris Zacher

Chris Zacher

Executive Director and Founder, Levitt Pavilion Denver; Lecturer, Univ. of Colorado; Partner, Zebra Incorporated

Lisa Gedgaudas

Lisa Gedgaudas

Program Manager, Create Denver

Stephen Brackett

Stephen Brackett

Director of Special Programs, Youth on Record