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Synth Island Festival Founder Interview

Synth Island is an upcoming virtual music festival for “Alt Electronic” music that’s also known as Synthwave, Retrowave, Synthpop along with other similar genres. The festival is a response to the lack of exposure that synth-based music genres are facing, in spite of the high overall quality of the music. Synth Island will be a showcase for the many diverse, talented creators of alternative electronic music to help create connections and let people see and hear the range of music on display

I spoke to Coolmowee who is the originator of the festival idea and host of the “Alt Electronic Nation” radio show. He told me about the genesis of the festival, what he hopes to achieve with it and we also discussed the future of the Alt Electronic music concept.

Coolmowee explains that the idea had its genesis as he was working on his radio show over the last year. He says, “I just couldn’t believe how many songs I heard and thought ‘Wow! These are awesome songs and I love them!’” However when he checked on how well those songs were doing on Bandcamp and Spotify, he points out that they weren’t doing as well as he’d hoped.

Coolmowee continues, “This conversation in my head happened over and over again. (It was) just like a good marketing story, I was told this story by the music many times over.”

The next step in the Synth Island creation process was to vet the idea with people who’d been on the scene for longer as Coolmowee has only been part of the synth scene for a few years.

One of the first people to whom he reached out was Blake Coverdale from KSWV Radio Shockwave. Coverdale had expressed similar feelings about the synth scene and getting more exposure for the high calibre music being created.

In a phone call, they discussed his idea and Coolmowee says, “The idea was that number one, have a brand new website that has all of the key information for the community, so that if a new fan goes there it really assists them in navigating the world we’re in.

Number two – have some kind of a festival and feature artists, feature influencers and feature the scene. While we do that we also market it, we spend time and money well in advance to get the attention we want.”

Coolmowee also had very important early conversations with key people to vet the idea and build confidence. The people with whom he spoke included: HeartBeatHero, Aisle9, Jonny Fallout, Emily Zuzik, Eric C. Powell, Elevate the Sky, Neon Fawkes, Forged In Neon, Pop Art Ave, SynthPrincipal, and labels RetroReverb Records and Purzynth Rekords. Many discussions with other artists, influencers and labels continued after these initial discussions.

There are some big ambitions for Synth Island as a website and a festival. The vision for the project is to expand the “Alt Electronic” or synth scene’s fan base and artist exposure. Some potential ideas wouldA vision of success includes a channel on commercial digital radio and more placement of the music in various media. The idea is to become “a visible genre alongside other electronic music genres.”

The Synth Island website will, according to Coolmowee, eventually “have all the main labels and artists in the scene and we’ll have filters so you can search all the artists by subgenre or mood. It will also have all of the key influencers like people who write blogs or people who do YouTube, podcasts or radio shows.”

In fact, labels RetroReverbRecords, Retrosynth Records, Purzynth Rekords, and State of Bass records are on the steering committee that Coolmowee leads. Many artists and influencers have helped bring Synth Island into reality.

In terms of the festival component, Coolmowee says that it’ll be a four day event over a weekend. He explains, “We’re going to try and get some headliners for Friday and Saturday night and make sure we give time to the established artists who aren’t yet headliners too. We want to give space to newer artists who’ve been on the scene for two or three years as well, who’ve released at least eight six tracks since 2020, and are active.”

Coolmowee expects there to be high interest in the Synth Island festival so there will be an artist music submission and selection process to fill the 60 to 80 ~ 80-100 openings in the festival’s schedule.

Coolmowee says, “We’ll give the artists a few months to prepare their pre-recorded “artist showcase” material. The lesser known artists will be given 20 to 30 minutes of pre-recorded time and the more established artists would get 45 minutes to an hour of pre-recorded time.”

Artist submissions will open on November 18, 2022 and close on December 21, 2022. The official announcement for all of the selected artists will be on February 14, 2023.

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