The life of a performing artist often means spending hours piled inside tour vans, crammed into hotel rooms, and sweating through rehearsals. In the midst of the chaos, the Underground Music Showcase (UMS) is committed to providing the hundreds of artists that play its festival each year with benefits that include thriving artist wages, mental health resources, and a reimagined green room dubbed “The Artist Care Lounge.”
These initiatives are all part of The UMS’s mission-aligned partnership with Youth on Record (YOR), a Denver nonprofit that joined Two Parts as co-owner of the festival in March 2022. The festival released its 2022 Impact Report detailing its goals and achievements from the collaboration. This year, UMS is deepening its commitment to accessibility, sober initiatives, professional development for artists, and overall artist care.
“At the UMS, we're all about embracing the transformative power of treating artists like our VIP clients at the music festival. Our goal? To take care of their well-being and fuel their creativity, making UMS an unforgettable experience for both our talented artists and the fest-goers that join us. We truly believe that when artists are taken care of, magic happens,” UMS Co-Manager and YOR Executive Director Jami Duffy said.
This year, The UMS is bringing in incredible partners to support artist care including Denver’s only multiversal transit station, Meow Wolf.
Thanks to an installation from talented Meow Wolf artist, Andrea Fischer, the Artist Care Lounge will be layered with colorful textile art that will inspire, comfort, and soothe artists. And if anyone knows how to appeal to artists, it’s an artist herself.
This year’s Artist Care Lounge will be a substance-free, calming space that offers healthy snacks, health and wellness workshops, a nap area, and access to mental health providers, art-making stations, and a vibe that lets artists know that UMS has their backs.
Youth on Record is also hosting the second annual “Impact Days,” a two-day series of workshops serving UMS performing artists and local musicians/industry professionals with professional development resources, creative opportunities, and networking.
“Impact Days is bringing together some of the country's brightest music minds to share experience, knowledge, and opportunity with regional musicians. It's an unparalleled opportunity for artists to learn, network, and navigate career choice in a tough and ever-changing industry. Impact Days explores industry topics like radio strategy and income opportunities for musicians such as teaching practice, venue ownership, and grant funding,” Impact Days Lead Coordinator Alysia Kraft said.
This is the first year that tickets to Impact Days are available to the public and the festival hopes to see all of Denver’s performing artists and music industry professionals utilize this opportunity.
Initiatives to improve the attendee experience are growing, too. Last year, The UMS rolled out its first ever Sober Bars, which offered alcohol-free mocktails at each of the three stages and received rave reviews on social media. The Sober Bars will reprise again this year, with expanded footprints to all four UMS operated stages, and a Recovery Cards Project, a partnership with Lift the Label, that encourages artists on a sober journey through inspirational greeting cards. Back for a second year, WellPower will co-sponsor the sober bars and provide mental wellness support throughout the fest.
Plus, The UMS 2023 will mark the beginning of a comprehensive three-year accessibility plan to improve how musicians and attendees with disabilities experience every aspect of the festival, from the website and app to stages, venues, vendors, and participating businesses. To spearhead this plan, the festival welcomed two artists with disabilities onto its team in accordance with its inclusivity mission, “Nothing about us without us.” These artists are Jessica Wallach, an artist and long-time disability and accessibility advocate, and Kalyn Heffernan, activist, educator, and emcee of Wheelchair Sports Camp.
"We're learning so much about what it really takes to make our hometown hero festival more accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities. Finally, we have a chance to do something with all our complaints and make this an extraordinary weekend for way more types of people,” Heffernan said.
To achieve its goals, the UMS has doubled its mission-aligned funding this year, receiving a combined $100,000 from government and philanthropic sponsors including: Notley Rising Tide, Colorado Health Foundation, WellPower, Keep the Party Safe, Lift the Label, Denver Arts & Venues, Denver Art Museum, Wana Brands, Rose Community Foundation, Vinyl Me Please, The Music Room Audio, and Meow Wolf.
"The support of government and philanthropy is crucial in fostering music festivals as containers for community care. Bringing important resources to the party is a strategy that not only enriches the festival experience but also strengthens our community. We are so impressed by the partnership support sponsors like Notley Rising Tide, Colorado Health Foundation, WellPower, and others, as it allows us to actualize our mission and create a more inclusive and supportive event for everyone,” Duffy said.
And for community members who want to support these initiatives, the festival says the best thing they can do is just buy a ticket and join the fun.