A year ago, Lance Yocom was preparing to venture out to the inaugural Fort Worth Music Festival.
Most probably approached the two days of live music as it what it was: a chance to enjoy fall in North Texas and hear a mix of local and national acts in a relatively intimate setting. For Yocom, a married father of three in his mid-thirties, the 2011 festival had a slightly deeper meaning. His music production and entertainment promotions company Spune had helped book some of the talent appearing on the festival's stages, and he wanted to see the results for himself, to reconnect with his love of live music.
Becoming reacquainted with the local music community of which he and Spune had become so tightly knit was important at that moment in time, as the event allowed Yocom to take a break from rehab, on the road to recovery from a mysterious illness that hospitalized him for weeks in Arizona. While that health scare gave Yocom a new perspective on balancing work and family (and left a faint tracheotomy scar at the base of his throat), Spune has spent much of 2012 being busier than ever.
In the last nine months, Spune, in addition to managing a handful of bands (Telegraph Canyon, Doug Burr, Bethan) and its booking duties for a variety of stages in Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton, has overseen the creation of the Untapped Festival, the "FLOAT" concert series and the upcoming Index Festival. (Spune also has a hand in this year's returning Fort Worth Music Festival.)
This year marks the Burleson-based Spune's 15th anniversary, which has grown tremendously from Yocom's days at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. Particularly over the last five years, Spune has confirmed of its status as one of DFW's pre-eminent independent booking/promotions/production agencies, building a small staff and helping bring literally hundreds of concerts to stages large and small throughout North Texas. The shows are only getting bigger -- Spune has aligned itself with AEG Live on several national tour dates, including Ben Folds Five, Justice and Foster the People -- and on Friday, Yocom is throwing a little party all of North Texas is invited to: Beach House will perform at the Palladium Ballroom.
To mark the occasion, the easy-going Yocom recently sat down with me at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (yet another space where Spune regularly books talent; Perfume Genius will play the Modern's auditorium Oct. 17) to briefly discuss the last 15 years and what the future holds for Spune.
Do you remember Spunes first show?
Yocom: I do, it was on a Monday night in Abilene. I was going to college - it was Brandtson and the Appleseed Cast, a couple of punk bands [from] back in the day. 92 people paid five bucks; they all came in and sat on the floor. It was a coffee shop, and I had to remove all the furniture and get everything set up like a music venue, bring in a PA, and then after it was over, set it back up for the next morning. It was completely DIY.
And it was just you?
It was just me and some friends in college, just trying to find spaces to put on shows.
Does it feel like 15 years has passed?
When you look at a calendar, it feels like a long time. Its flown by pretty fast, especially the last six or seven years. Its pretty consistent lately, so that makes time go pretty fast.
What are some of the challenges you've encountered over the last 15 years?
Just growing the company and [now] theres lots of competition, whether its on a small level or a large level -- several promoters, several venues, and being in DFW, theres a show every night all over the Metroplex. The biggest challenge is trying to stay strategic in how you market the right shows to the right room and get better at positioning those, the right events in the right city.
Do you look around -- there are a lot of other booking agencies in town -- and what is your perspective as kind of the elder statesman?
I think its cool because thats exactly where I started when I moved here in 2000, I was doing the same thing. I looked up and I was booking for 15 different bands, then I started finding myself intrigued on the venue side of things as a promoter, [and I] started wearing many hats really quick. Thats what a lot of other promoters are doing as well; it helps the scene. Theres obviously the over-saturation factor and the competition, but at the same time, I look at it as we try to bring a national spotlight to the local community -- that way, all the local bands have more chances to open up for those bands or to get in front of bigger crowds and play in bigger venues. Hopefully, what the "older guys" are doing, we can bring some profile to the different cities to help the community grow.
What makes a Spune show different, what sets it apart?
We try to be consistent with our branding and the friendliness with artists and the patrons that come to the show, from the second that the offers sent until the band leaves the room. Its a challenge every night to manage expectations with consumers and the artists who come through and dealing with different venue owners. Hopefully, [bands] experience someone whos organized and comes in, and its less work for them. From a patrons standpoint, they get to see a well-run show, have a good experience.
Is there anything you wish you'd done differently, any regrets?
There are always some regrets on some offers you send, some shows you do, some dont work out as well, it's part of the learning curve and growing, and I've definitely learned a lot in that regard. Everything else has matured me to get to this point, doing this for 15 years on the side, [and the] last seven years completely ... [I've] matured and developed as a business mind and a music fan.
What are your aspirations for Spune? The company already has a pretty large portfolio of artists, festivals and bookings.
Just to get better at all of those things, more strategic on what bands we work with, what rooms we pick up, and what events we do. The events category will definitely increase -- we started doing more events this year; 2013 well probably do twice as many. Working with rooms too, we hope to have an umbrella of rooms in each city in the Metroplex to grow a band from 50 people to 2,000 people. If we can network with the right people, that will allow us to have a good foundation.
Last summer, you had a pretty serious health scare -- did it change, how did it change the away you approach your work?
It definitely makes you put in perspective whats important. I try to not be a workaholic as much now as I was before, [but] the passion for what I do, it kind of consumes you. At the same time, it makes you respect the people around you who helped. Ive been able to be in the position the last couple years to have a team of people to pick things up. I feel like I was held back, but I dont feel like Spune missed a beat because there were people to run the ship. [The experience] definitely gives me a new perspective on life in general.
What's the most memorable Spune show you can think of over the last few years?
The first show was memorable because it was the beginning of something this actually could work, I might enjoy this. I had a few in Abilene that were memorable from being a fan of the artist I brought through, bands I listened to growing up. Seeing Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips at the Belmont ... in Dallas [this summer], and just being a fan of their music. Even though it was a smaller-scaled show, it was real intimate. We hung out with the band afterwards, and it was not a huge rock-star moment, but it was something that was simple and I could relate to with their music. The Untapped festival was a great success, so that was memorable from starting a new brand and having it being successful those are nice to have every once in a while.