Artistic Director Spotlight: Cory Crossman, KOI Music Festival

After running their first concert at the ripe age of 15 (Cory) and 17 (Curt), the Crossman brothers helped revitalize the underground indie music scene in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. We spoke to Cory Crossman to learn more about what’s happening at the KOI Music Festival taking place September 25-27.
Q: What inspired you to create the KOI Music Festival?
A: My brother Curt and I had been doing concerts for quite some time and it was something that we’ve always wanted to do. We own a downtown business here, and we really wanted to showcase the Kitchener downtown core. At the time of the festival’s inception, the core was going through redevelopment and rebranding. We saw an opportunity for us to highlight the downtown core, as well as bring attention to all these local indie acts and great bands that call Kitchener home.
Q: What’s the story behind the name?
A: We get asked that a lot – KOI stands for Kitchener-Ontario Independent Music Festival. KOI just worked nice with the fish imagery. Last year, we did the comic book explaining the origins and it was just a great addition to the festival.
Q: What’s it like working with your brother?
A: It’s cool. We have the two businesses – Curt primarily works on Civilian Printing, and I work primarily on the festival. We both have a common vision and goal so it works out pretty good.
Q: How do you choose the music line up for the festival?
A: We’re always trying to curate stuff that we wouldn’t typically think of coming to Kitchener. In the past, we’ve brought big American bands who wouldn’t have even given a second thought about coming to KW. We also are integrating a lot of Canadian content in the festival and we try to find that nice blend between the two.
We also want to differentiate ourselves from other festivals and have artists that aren’t playing at every single gig across Ontario throughout the summer. We want bands to use KOI as a launching pad for them, use it as an opportunity for their career and we’ve worked with bands on their way up.
There are a lot of misconceptions about KOI that I hope we can clear – I don’t think people fully understand what indie is. They sometimes have their blinders on and see one or two metal acts and think the entire festival is metal. But it’s actually a wide variety of artists – and that’s something we’re working on this year to overcome, as well as showing off what the community has to offer. I always say “come see your favourite artists and come discover your new favourite artist”.
Q: What’s in the pipeline for this year?
A: This year we’re changing things up. In the past, we’ve had a lot of artists, like 120+ on one day. We’re now trying to concentrate our efforts on putting more people in front of bands by having less venues and less artists this year. That gives artists more time to set up and prepare, and hopefully play in front of larger audiences.
Q: What’s your vision for the festival?
A: We want to become much larger than we are and get some bigger name artists to perform and draw international attention to this area. The artists we’ve had in the past are already drawing international attention. We’ve sold tickets on multiple continents that include Germany, Holland, South Africa, Taiwan and Brazil.
We’ll also be opening band auditions in mid-May. If a band is interested in performing at this year’s festival they can visit the KOI Music Festival website and submit their electronic press kit.

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