Bringing international music to the Live Music Capital of the World / By Chad Swiateki
It would’ve been easy for Dave Dart to shrug off a problem he kept noticing in his work assisting with lodging for international bands coming to Austin during South By Southwest. Time and time again, bands from abroad with tons of talent kept getting tripped up in the r ed tape of customs, artist visas and other logistical and bureaucratic nightmares that all but sunk their hopes of a successful tour before they’d even played a note. But instead of saying, “Not my problem,” and moving on, the longtime Austinite began working on a solution to help international bands venturing to the Live Music Capital of the World throughout the year.
“I’d see the connection that people were making with these bands coming here from India, Iran and Brazil, because they had so much in common musically with the bands from right here in Austin,” says Dart. “I wanted to be an advocate so they could get the help they needed with things like the visa process, promotion and immigration. At first, I thought it would be a cool small business and a way to help and get to hang out with bands I thought were great.”
The business plan eventually became Dart Music International, a nonprofit founded in 2008 with the mission of assisting bands from throughout the world trying to play shows in Austin. Since its founding, the group has worked with more than 50 bands from two dozen countries and created the Dart Music International House, which becomes a sort of musical United Nations during every South By Southwest, with a goal of presenting bands from every inhabited continent every day of the music festival.
Dart, who turned his back on a career in higher education administration to create DMI, says his long-range goal is for the group to have a presence at music festivals in other countries so international musicians are aware of and encouraged to experience the welcome environment Austin presents.
“Culturally, our shows really make you go beyond any stereotypes and bring together people with similar interests,” he says. “We’d love to take this to them in their own countries, to let them know we’re here to help with cutting their expenses and work, to make it possible to present their art in Austin.”
Music boosters throughout Austin and beyond have lauded Dart for the work done through DMI. Carolyn Schwarz, executive director of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, calls Dart a “bridge builder” for Austin to the entire world.
“I truly think more people need to know him because he’s an ambassador for the Austin music community,” she says. “He found a need and put his mind to figuring out how to address that. It shows what he has true love for and that he cares about making a difference. Ninety-nine percent of people get a good idea like that and it doesn’t happen, but he set aside his own career to help bands he’d never even met. That says a lot about him.”
For more information, visit Dart Music International.
Photo by Brian Birzer Photography