Dawoud and Isely bring the beat to Texas State, expanding local scene
By Catherine Harper
The beat is deafening, the lights are low — this is the atmosphere in which Texas State seniors Brad Isely and Omar Dawoud thrive and are making their move. With a motive to expand the music scene in San Marcos, Isely and Dawoud are finding their rhythm at Texas State and beyond with their startup business, AfterDark Entertainment.
“San Marcos has always had to travel to Austin and sometimes San Antonio, and now students here don’t have to travel; they can just go to the Square and see a top-notch show,” Isely, a health and fitness management major, says. “It’s about to be a town where people start to visit us instead of us having to visit them.”
With a loyal fan base as well as regular shows featuring local hip-hop, dubstep and electronica artists, Isely and Dawoud are making an impact in San Marcos and elsewhere including Austin, Dallas and Las Vegas. According to Dawoud, a business management major, an intimate knowledge of their fan base has helped their business expand.
“Every event we throw is aimed more toward Texas State students than anyone else,” Dawoud says. “Whether it’s an event in Austin, San Antonio or New Braunfels, we aim it towards Texas State. We are Texas State — we know what students want and like. Texas State students are our biggest influence.”
With a mission to promote local artists, Dawoud and Isely have sparked the scene in San Marcos with undercover talent turned into major headliners. From student artists such as Grant Montagne — also known as DJ Gamma — to alumni acts such as Austin-based band RUN DMT, the pair pride themselves on the authentic vibe of their shows which keeps artists — and audiences — coming back.
“Artists love working with us; they love our sound,” Dawoud says. “We actually take care of the artists and make them feel special when they come in town. It’s plus-sized our audience like crazy because they love the artists and love the energy.”
So big are the crowds, in fact, that the pair has started to shatter records in the San Marcos area within the past year. Hosting the Cablestock wakeboarding and music festival at New Braunfels’ Texas Ski Ranch in May with 2,500 students in attendance, Dawoud and Isely have seen a continuing curve upwards since their start promoting Austin-area bars with now-alumni Jack Zimmerman and Rich Pfromm.
According to Isely, the team’s leap from the bar scene to the music scene in spring 2009, when AfterDark began to take off, set their course for success from an entrepreneurial drive.
“When I got into college, I just knew that I wanted to be my own boss,” Isely says. “We got together because we knew that we had similar ambitions as entrepreneurs and we wanted to be business owners … [Music] was something we always wanted to do and things started working out for us.”
As members of Texas State fraternities Lambda Chi and Sigma Nu, respectively, Isely and Dawoud have made connections with student organizations such as the Texas State Sevens and the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) student organization as well as other fraternities and sororities that have helped spread the word and sponsor shows.
“We get a lot of different people from every corner of the university, so we can attract every corner of the university,” Dawoud says. “Engaging students, from the business side, is something we definitely try to implement.”
With weekly events such as College Night at Texas Music Theatre and annual events such as the “Shot in the Dark” Halloween bash, their fan base continues to grow as Dawoud and Isely expand their team — a diverse group of students with a uniting love of music.
According to Isely, the experience he has gained with the company will be a great asset after his graduation in August.
“The best way to learn is to experience,” Isely says. “Managing, sales, marketing and all that — I already have it down. I’m definitely going to use that to my advantage after college.”
Dawoud remains undecided regarding his path after his graduation in December — but he’s enjoying every step of the way.
“What I’ve learned with AfterDark will always be with me,” Dawoud says. “AfterDark will be around for a while. I’m not sure if that’s what my future is, but I love the music and I love people coming out to have fun. Just getting others to enjoy themselves is a big part of what I’m doing — and what I love about it.”