Promoters, venues key to growth for area concerts [Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.]
|By Mike Voorheis, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Soon after, artists like
If only it were that simple.
In reality, the venues represent potential. It takes a handful of promoters working diligently for months to turn that potential into real energy.
They evaluate the talent, contact their agents, synchronize the dates, stake their investment, market the show, sell the tickets, organize security, secure food and drink vendors, host the performers and ensure a smooth experience. Afterward, they analyze how things went and brainstorm ways to make the next concert better.
Sometimes, the shows go off without a hitch. Sometimes, there are glitches. And one poorly organized event, regardless of the responsible party, can have implications for everyone who promotes music in
The Penguin effect
On the morning after a concert at
The thing is, not every show at
Gunn has to try to clarify. He doesn't take credit for the shows he didn't produce, but he won't take the blame for others' mistakes, either.
"I tell them, 'We're sorry you had a bad time, but we had nothing to do with it.'"
Gunn said the Penguin expects to turn a profit on its concerts, but it tries to make them accessible. That means affordable ticket prices, free parking (which has become the standard) and no reserved seats.
"I'm a firm believer that live music is best enjoyed in that atmosphere where you can be with the people you love and your best friends," Gunn said. "I might not be able to afford a front-row seat. But if I love the band and really want to be in the front, I know that everybody pays the same amount. All I have to do is get in line first."
Behind the scenes
From the audience at a
Foremost, though, he saw an opportunity. Shortly thereafter, Pipeline Event Management was born.
"If (concerts in
That meant organizing the gates, putting up barriers, hiring more security and planning to have everything in place in advance of the concert, all things that
Pipeline put on its first concert, by the
Gunn trusts much of his show-day operations to Sikorsky. This weekend, she's working the Modern Rock concert at
She shows up at
"She affords me the ability to arrive at show time and do what I love, which is enjoy live music," Gunn said.
Make me a match
The process of bringing an act to the stage combines matchmaking with puzzle-solving and financial negotiating.
The first step is finding the right band. Sometimes the band's agent contacts the promoter; sometimes it's the other way around.
Those who have been booking in
"Over the past five years, people have become really into Americana, folk rock and the blues," Gerard said. "That's really what's getting people out again."
Not coincidentally, that's the style of music you'll hear frequently on the Penguin.
He pointed to a concert by the hard rock band Jackyl that didn't fill up half of the venue's capacity. The Christian rock band Needtobreathe, on the other hand, sold a lot of tickets, but it wasn't a big payday for Ziggy's. The bar sales that night were pitifully low.
Stephens said some of Ziggy's biggest hits so far have been
Gunn said it makes sense to bring a band to
"You generally don't see
Get a room
Matching the band with a suitable venue and an open date leads to contract negotiations.
Promoters must figure in the cost of the band, which can be more than
Sometimes, promoters will compete for dates. If one promoter has a hold on a date, another promoter can ask for a second hold. If the second promoter confirms the date, the first promoter has limited time to confirm or he loses that date.
Blame it on the rain
The object for all the promoters is not necessarily to maximize profits. Gunn said the Penguin builds its brand name by sponsoring concerts.
And Pipeline's five-year goal was not to make a certain amount of money. Rather, owners Lee and Walton set a goal to hold a major reggae festival within five years. They accomplished it in three.
And they've done it while keeping their day jobs. They operate Pipeline on evenings, weekends and lunch breaks. That makes for some busy weeks, but his employer has been extremely understanding, Lee said. "And my wife still loves me."
While profit isn't always the primary motivation, promoters do want to make money.
At Greenfield especially, there's always a risk. Bad weather can cancel a show, and even the threat of bad weather can hurt ticket sales.
Weather insurance is available, but the local promoters almost never purchase it. Unless they are paying tens of thousands of dollars for a venue, it's not worth buying coverage, they said.
Sometimes a scheduled outdoor concert can be squeezed into the
Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances cause a good show to go bad.
"Maybe it's the day of the week," Warnecke said. "It definitely happens. Sometimes you have the best band in the world playing to nobody, and sometimes you see the worst band in the world playing to a sold-out crowd."
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