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In a music industry dominated by big names, Boulder's Roots Music Project helps the little guy

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Posted at 5:00 PM, Jul 10, 2024

BOULDER, Colo. — Colorado is known for some incredible music venues, but those places are booked up by big, touring performers. Roots Music Project in Boulder is one of the few remaining small venues left, and it works as a nonprofit to help provide performance opportunities for local musicians.

“If you think of it like a baseball analogy, where you have a minor league or a farm league or a little league,” said Dave Kennedy, executive director of Roots Music Project. “We have the Major League venues here in Colorado. Red Rocks and Mission and Boulder Theatre and Fox. But when you start going down and you're a musician, even a pro, who's really trying to break through, you need those mid-level venues. That’s the void that we fill here, where we have a 200-capacity venue. Not a lot of those exist.”

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Dave Kennedy, Executive Director of Roots Music Project, performs on stage

It can be difficult for up-and-coming musicians to make it in the music scene. Smaller venues are being driven out of business by the rise of algorithms, streaming services, and big ticketing companies. That means fewer places for bands without a big following to play.

“It is disheartening for not only musicians who may be hobbyists and trying to become pros,” said Kennedy. “But pros who are really trying to make it on a national level, to make it on this scene.”

As a nonprofit, Roots Music Project can more easily serve as a small venue than venues who don’t have such a designation.

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Jack Hadley performs on stage at Roots Music Project

“We focus on all genres,” said Kennedy. “The name Roots Music Project doesn't necessarily define the genres. It’s more about the feeling that music is rooted to the community. So, we'll even have EDM, spoken word, blues, rock, bluegrass, jam, whatever. We can do it because we're a nonprofit and because we have grants. We have city support, we have donors, and that's our bread and butter, but it's still not easy for us.”

Roots is also trying to help the Colorado music scene, supporting other small venues by serving as a nonprofit booking agency for musicians. Kennedy believes if there are more small venues, the environment for musicians should improve.

“We're trying to help the whole ecosystem,” said Kennedy. “We're not trying to compete with other venues. We have our niche, and we like to stick to it and make all boats rise with the tide.”

Kennedy hopes that as the music scene changes, fans will still come out to support local musicians.

“Please take a little bit of that budget and support your local musicians,” said Kennedy. “They're going to be the next ones on Red Rocks stage, but you'll get to know them personally.”

In a music world overrun by big names, Roots Music Project helps the little guy


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