Music Legends

SXSW Music Creative Director Brent Grulke dies at age 52

SXSW Music Creative Director Brent Grulke dies at age 52

austin photo set: news_aug_mike brent grulke
Grulke in London, 2012 Courtesy of

The Austin music community lost a significant voice on Monday.

Brent Grulke, the Creative Director of SXSW Music, passed away early Monday after suffering a heart attack following oral surgery. "The SXSW family and friends are stunned and grief stricken by this loss," SXSW states on its homepage.

An old-school Austinite, Grulke had been working as Creative Director at SXSW since 1994 and was responsible for booking the expansive music festival. With his extensive knowledge of the recording industry, he was a major part of the reason that SXSW Music has grown from a recording-industry insider conference into one of the most popular destination festivals in the world.

Prior to working at SXSW, he was a recording engineer, a touring manager and also the Records Review Editor for the Austin Chronicle. The latter position allowed him a pivotal spot in Austin's underground music scene, helping champion the city's emerging artists in every musical genre.

As one can imagine, being a music reviewer in the Live Music Capital of the World can be a daunting task. It takes a stalwart confidence in your own opinions and a comprehensive knowledge of artists past and present to grant your stamp of approval.

Grulke certainly had an impressive catalogue of Austin's best bands from throughout the years to provide the soundtrack to his greatly accomplished life.

Fortunately, his work was his passion, and it provided him a forum from which to share his knowledge with the rest of Austin and the world. His innovative spirit helped launch countless local acts but also brought the world's top artists to Austin stages.

On his personal blog, Style X founder and writer Joah Spearman thanked Grulke for his influence during the construction of his book Indisputable about Austin's music scene. He writes: "Hopefully, one day, I'll be able to make Brent proud... Brent certainly left an impression on me that I hope to someday leave on others."

Whether you consider yourself a fan of the Austin music scene or subscribe to the hype of the SXSW juggernaut, as an Austinite, you have been touched by the work of Brent Grulke. As his vision for the festival continues, his impact on the city's fiscal and musical landscape will be felt for years to come.

"He was kin to so many of us who felt like we arrived in paradise because music was always in the air," says longtime friend and former co-worker, Michael Corcoran. "It feels like a piece of Austin, a piece of us, has died."


To learn more about Brent Grulke's significant contributions to the Austin cultural community, check out these interviews with Austin Fanzine Project and In the Hot Seat, as well as this Thursday's Austin Chronicle.