Brent Grulke, creative director of the South by Southwest music festival, died Monday of a heart attack at the age of 52, according to the festival’s website.
Before taking the helm in 1994 of the annual Austin. Texas. festival that has become a magnet for musicians, managers, record and radio executives and other music industry personnel from around the world, Grulke had been a music critic for the Austin Chronicle as well as a record producer, tour manager, sound engineer and label executive.
SXSW transformed Austin’s vibrant homegrown music scene into an international nexus for musical talent.
“It was Brent who put the music festival in overdrive,” SXSW managing director Roland Swenson said in a note posted on the SXSW website. “His relationships brought in so many of the artists that went on to greater success. And it was Brent who recruited the music staff that carried the work even farther than we dared hope. He was willing to let his staff take charge of their own efforts, and take on huge endeavors under his gentle leadership. He had a lot of faith in people and had the courage to let things happen.”
The festival’s director of technology, Scott Wilson, wrote, “When I think through the years, I was most impressed by Brent's fearless championship of artistry. I clearly remember a dinner in 1999 in Portland during North By Northwest where Brent stood up for every band playing the festival. It was a decisive moment -- one that defined us all and, although difficult, the right thing to do.”