Attracting tens of thousands of eyes and ears to quirky music isn't rocket science. At least not according to Texas Music Scene executive producer Tom Hoitsma, who is enjoying unprecedented success after just one year in business.
"This is ACL 1976. I did not invent this," Hoitsma says, adding that Texas music includes everything from bluegrass to country to rock.
"Nashville doesn't want them," he says. "They aren't country enough. They aren't pretty enough, or skinny enough, and they're losing their hair. There are 100 reasons why they aren't appropriate for country music anymore. Yet fans are going crazy for them."
"I'm not in the business of breaking bands," says executive producer Tom Hoitsma. "You have to work your way into the Texas Music Scene."
He didn't dream up the idea of celebrating Texas artists, but Hoitsma is on his way to perfecting it. His model puts already established local performers on the stage of Texas Music Scene, which is a top-rated syndicated show across the Lone Star State, on 20 channels from El Paso to Dallas.
In Houston, the show appears on KPRC Channel 2 every wee, right after Saturday Night Live at midnight.
Each show runs for 30 minutes and has at least two original performances, a backstage interview, and a story from the road or a profile of a Texas music legend. Its genius lies in its intimacy, an experience fans can't get at a concert. The show is hosted by Ray Benson, the front man for Asleep at the Wheel.
"I tried to get Austin City Limits to do this type of show for years, something that’s all about Texas," Benson said in an interview with CultureMap Austin. "The talent here is unlike anywhere else, and we’ve got a lot of it — even if Nashville hasn’t figured that out yet."
"I've fallen in love with the whole thing," Canada says. "It showcases artists who don't get a lot, or any, radio play."
Although the bands may not be on the radio, if they make it to the Texas Music Scene, they've already made it big. Many Texas bands are on a rigorous touring schedule, playing five or six nights a week in bars, honky-tonks, coffee shops — basically any venue that will have them.
This kind of face time with fans builds a loyal base. Canada, whose last Texas Music Scene performance aired earlier this year, says that everywhere The Departed plays, at least one person mentions seeing them on the show.
"I'm not in the business of breaking bands," says Hoitsma, who receives about 10 artist pitches a day. "You have to work your way into the Texas Music Scene."
By integrating local radio stations, the show is customized for every one of its 20 markets. But this Texas-born and -bred product may soon be showing nationwide.
It may sound harsh, but Hoitsma walks the talk. A former door-to-door photocopier salesman, Hoitsma literally walked into the television business while pounding the pavement in New Jersey. His sales territory overlapped with that of television advertising representatives.
"They were young and all looked really happy and well-dressed," Hoitsma says. "I wanted to do whatever they were doing."
What they were doing was selling television airtime, and, after a 10-week course, so was Hoitsma. He's held a variety of jobs in the television business since the '80s, including producing a syndicated jazz show for five years.
Hoitsma, an art major who made a living as a musician before discovering he had "Champagne tastes," combines his love of art, music and televison as execuitive producer of Texas Music Scene.
"I believe that I make I art," Hoitsma says. "What you see on camera, I have dressed and built that set with a crew and my own hands."
Benson had been approached many times through the years about helping to produce a Texas-focused music program, but Hoitsma and his team showed the commitment and the ability to do justice to the artists. Clearly this is a formula that works: Texas Music Scene's Facebook page (dubbed Texas Music TV because the show's name was already taken) boasts nearly 90,000 Facebook fans. Its YouTube channel has around 2.2 million views.
Truly a state-wide effort, the Texas Music Scene stage has been located in Austin and San Marcos, while the production takes place in Fort Worth. By integrating local radio stations, the show is customized for every one of its 20 markets. But this Texas-born and -bred product may soon be showing nationwide.
Hoitsma has had meetings with CMT, the Nashville Network and Palladia. Stars such as Pat Green, Jack Ingram and Lyle Lovett already have appeared on Texas Music Scene, and Willie Nelson has committed to it.
"Texas music today is as big as it has ever been," Hoitsma says.