May 9, 2024 - News

Five questions with Why&How's Bruce Kalmick

A photo of Bruce Kalmick.

Photo: Bruce Kalmick/Why&How

Bruce Kalmick, CEO of Austin-based artist management and music company Why&How, has spent over a decade plucking up-and-coming artists from Texas and across the country.

Catch up quick: Kalmick bet on Austin, despite the pressure to create his business in Nashville, and he hasn't strayed from his Texas country roots.

  • Kalmick, a Texas State University alum and a former Triple 8 Management partner, founded Why&How in 2020.
  • His team quickly developed a broad roster of artists, including country stars like Chase Rice and Whiskey Myers, pop bands like Saint Motel and Echosmith, Icelandic rock band Kaleo and blues singer-songwriter ZZ Ward.
  • The team also discovered Texas native Angel White at C Boys on South Congress two years ago.

State of play: Most recently, Kalmick and his Why&How ventures produced the inaugural Cattle Country Music Festival in Gonzales.

  • The music festival brought together country headliners like Eric Church, Whiskey Myers, Koe Wetzel, Randy Rogers Band and Tanya Tucker.

On the heels of Cattle Country, Kalmick spoke with Axios about his music company and the state of Austin's music scene. This interview has been condensed and edited lightly for clarity.

Q: What led you to launch Why&How?

Kalmick: "I really wanted to put a business together that altered the antiquated model of the music business, and put family back into the first part of the conversation, not the third or fourth part of the conversation. … I brought a bunch of staff with me from my previous company and all of my clients."

What sets an artist apart when you're considering new talent?

"It goes back to shared values — I have to love the music and believe it, and the authentic element to music is everything to me, and then I have to really be aligned with the person. That's easier said than done in this industry."

What sets Texas country apart from Nashville?

"Up until a few years ago, it was incredibly different. It's gotten a little closer in terms of the creative styles of each of those cities, but I've always been drawn to Texas country music. I saw Pat Green at Gruene Hall when it wasn't sold out. I went to school with Randy Rogers, and I booked his first show that he ever played live. …

The Nashville scene, which I also work in that scene as well, it's pop. It's either pop country or pop rock. … It's a very different scene, or it has been. I think it's changing."

Have you noticed any changing themes in Austin's country music scene?

"The sound is contemporary Western rock and roll. The sound to me hasn't shifted all that much. It just now has an audience, where before you really had to sort of get lucky to break out of Austin."

How does your strategy change when cultivating talent in Austin?

"I use Austin as a proof of concept for a lot of things. … In my opinion, if a band can really gain steam and break out of this market then they can do it anywhere."

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