Home Music festival The return of So What?! Music Festival: an interview with Mike Ziemer

The return of So What?! Music Festival: an interview with Mike Ziemer


After more than a year of COVID-related cancellations, music festivals are finally returning to Dallas. February 15, So what?! Music Festival has announced its roster of participating artists for this year’s three-day festival at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington. Among the roster of performers are festival regulars 2 Chainz, Tyga, Rae Sremmurd and Trippie Reed, to name a few. But the real surprise was the abundance of Dallas-based musicians, like Bobby Sessions, Yak The Mack, 10K.Caash, and The Crown, TX.

The festival, formerly known as South By So What?!, is the brainchild of promoter-turned-marketing and music entrepreneur Mike Ziemer and his business partner, Orlando Mendoza. Since 2008, when the festival was launched, Ziemer has seen it as an opportunity for local artists to shine on the festival stage. In fact, Ziemer is still filling spots for local Dallas-Fort. Rappers worth performing at this year’s festivities.

Ziemer spoke to Magazine D about how local artists can snag those coveted spots and his fierce advocacy for Dallas music.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

Magazine D: Last year I covered JMBLYA and To posty Fest, two music festivals that were scheduled to take place but were canceled due to rising COVID-19 cases. When I saw the So What?! announcement of the music festival, I was excited for two reasons. First, because of the lineup’s multi-genres and underrated legends like Big KRIT Second, the additions of local musicians to the lineup.

Mike Ziemer: Yes. We are also adding more premises. We contacted many of them, but at the moment they don’t have agents or managers. So we contact them through social media platforms, like Instagram.

Earlier this week I saw your Tweeter“So far we have @bobbysessions @TheCrownTX @GUNMUSIC40 @IamYChibi @YakTheMack @astrusss @10k_cash @OODAREDEVIL for local DFW rappers. Who are we missing? We got a few extra spots for DFW acts LOCALS We also don’t sell spots, it’s chargeable Could you tell me more about the reasoning behind this?

We still have opening slots for hip-hop. I’m really looking for artists from Dallas-Fort Worth that we can put on the festival stage. Since the beginning of So What?!, it has been very important for us to have local artists and bands on the festival lineup. When we started this year’s festival, we had obvious choices, like Bobby Sessions, which we had booked for a previous edition of the festival. There is so much talent in Dallas. The goal of the festival is to bring together all those artists from Dallas who maybe don’t usually play together, but have them on a unique festival lineup. We love giving Dallas artists a chance to shine.

What I liked about the artists featured in the lineup is that you have Bobby Sessions, you have Yak The Mack, and you have 10k.Caash. Can you walk me through this selection process to make sure you have the Grammy award winner next to a viral sensation described by The New York Times?

Until Bobby [Sessions], we’ve worked with him before when we did a Deep Ellum version of the festival. We definitely wanted to put him on the same days as 2 Chainz, Big KRIT and Waka Flocka Flame, to give him an opportunity on the main stage. I met 10k.Caash when he was recording in my studio. Then with Yak The Mack we opened it for K Camp at Trees and we were really impressed. The selection process is essentially how can artists get our attention? Whether it’s their social media presence, the really great music, the extra effort they put into music videos, or seeing the name on a bunch of fliers or media coverage by Center track Where Magazine D. We try to pay attention to everything locally and see what we can lock down.

It reminded me of the local musicians who opened Westside Gunn and Smoke DZA at Trees. DJ Kimblee had P$O Kwama, Graham Malice, Devy$tonez and many more on the lineup. Last summer, Coach Tev and Devy $tonez sold Ruins. I see a trend for professionals in the field of concert promotion, using big names to draw the crowd, but selecting local artists to be the opening act.

In 2020, artists released a lot of music, but there weren’t many shows where they could perform. In response, I made a playlist called Dallas Sounds 2020. I put Pretty Boy Aaron, Devy $tonez, Rikki Blue, Pat Ron, Yella Beezy, Bobby Sessions, Graham Malice in it. I put all these artists who were creative during the pandemic and said, “I’m going to keep an eye on these artists to see what happens to them when they come out of the pandemic. Are they going to do shows? Will they continue to release music? It makes you realize how much talent is here in Dallas and deserves to be on display.

When I think about exposure, especially the last 12-24 months, it’s been great for Dallas hip-hop. Erica Banks, Tay Money, and Kaash Paige have received coverage in national publications, performed at major events like Art Basel and NBA games, and topped TikTok. I think the pandemic has allowed small market music to appear. Plus, the Dallas scene is so intimate. On Twitter, I saw all the local musicians shouting to their friends for one of those remaining opening slots. Will you consider these cries in your selection process? Will the selection be more organic?

I see everything. I notice the tags and support from a lot of different artists. We will try to add as many as possible. We work on pre-games, after-games and related events. This year we want to be able to make it bigger, so we can include more artists. If you’re an artist, I’ll keep you posted. Keep sending me your new releases, keep sending me music videos, send me live footage of your shows. That’s what I like to see. A lot of artists are doing it right now. Yeah, I mean, I’m just that everyone you mentioned is already on my radar. And I don’t know yet if they like to know it or understand it. But like, I see everything and like I do. Notice all the tags and love all the support for lots of different artists and house baits. We will try to add as many as possible. And we are working on pre-parties and after-parties and other events. And, you know, whatever we do this year, we want to be able to do even more next year and include more and more people. So I would just say like, as boring as it can be sometimes, keep updating me. As if you are an artist, keep sending me your new releases. Keep sending me the music video you just released, show me that live footage from your show.


Taylor Crumpton

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Taylor Crumpton is FrontRow’s online art editor, Magazine DThe arts and entertainment blog of . She is a proud Dallasite…