Amy and George Whitesell are doing their best to keep the music live.
The duo owns A Music Company, Inc. and books more than 200 musical acts in the Springs area each year from bluegrass, to blues to rockabilly. No one is bringing in more national acts.
“They definitely influence the music scene,” said Steve Harris, host of “Grass Roots Revival” weekly show on KRCC radio station. “They have knowledge of all the music genres.”
Their business was born from a love of music. George has been a central figure in Colorado blues for more than 45 years with his gritty vocals and guitar skills. And, Amy has always loved music and happens to be an astute business woman with degrees in marketing and business. The two got together back in 2000.
“He’s been my musical education,” Amy said.
While George and his Metro Blues band were wailing away in clubs and festivals across the state, Amy cut her teeth in blues music too. In 2003, she co-founded the Pikes Peak Blues Community, a nonprofit organization, with the intent of bringing more blues music to area fans.
The group quickly brought in big names like Chicago blues musician Ronnie Baker Brooks and Charlotte, N.C. blues ensemble, Roomful of Blues.
That set the tone for a growing music scene.
“What I’m finding out now is that blues is very popular in our state,” Amy said. “In the Pikes Peak region, we are a big melting pot — because we are big melting pot, I think that is why the music goes over well.”
Everyone in the Pikes Peak Blues Community chose a role and Amy’s was event planner. It was fun, it was hard work and she thought there could be more.
In 2006, she broke away from the nonprofit and, with George, launched A Music Company to produce and promote local shows. Together, they had the connections, the experience and the passion to bring on the music.
“We are filling a niche that has been unfilled,” she said.
Many others have tried and failed in the music promotion business in the Springs, Harris said. They all loved the music, he said, but that often blinded them to the realities of business. Music promotion is risky — in most cases promoters are paying artists upfront and betting that people are going to show up.
“Basically, this whole business in a gamble,” Amy said.
But the music scene along the Front Range is growing. And while it can be, at times, unpredictable, “it’s thrilling,” she said.
It just requires knowing the bands, knowing the venues and knowing the fans, she said.
“We’ve had some shows with very few pre-sales and then it sold out at the door,” Amy said. “For a music promoter that gets your heart beating faster or beating slower.”
But, no one does it better than A Music Company, said Jana Rush, event coordinator at the Business of Art Center, which runs Venue 515 in Manitou Springs. She’s booked several shows through A Music Company, which does all the advertising and promotion and takes care of all the details, she said.
“I think, in a way, they are good teachers about how to do it right,” she said.
In some ways, Amy and George have become scouts too. They are regulars at all the area music festivals meeting artists, agents and other music promoters. Seeing the artists gives Amy a feel for where she can book them in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Woodland Park, Canon City or Green Mountain Falls — from 30-person venues to 500.
“My favorite part is, like last night, people coming up and saying ‘thank you for doing this because it doesn’t seem like a lot of people are providing live music,’ “ Amy said.
The pair approaches the business from the musician’s point of view, and musicians just want to play, George said.
He knows it can be tough for bands to get gigs, and it’s even tougher to get air play, especially if they have self-released albums. That’s why he created a spin-off division of A Music Company in 2007, Circle 504 Records, to get musicians on an independent music label “and get them more street cred.”
The label has signed six artists, including Big Jim Adam and John Stillwagon — a band George says could be topping charts around the country in no time.
“They are what I call an artist ready to break,” he said. “That’s the exciting part of this business — taking an act we manage and seeing them get ahead.”
In recent years, A Music Company has become more involved in music festivals, starting this season with the Meadow Grass Music Festival — a three-day Memorial Day weekend fest at La Foret Conference Center in Black Forest. The company also organized Blues under the Bridge and helped with the Pikes Peak Art Fest, where they manage dthe music stage.
“What we love are the people we meet,” Amy said. “It’s the love of music that brings people together.”