We met up with Morgan Carney, Entertainment Manager at the venue Rocketown in Nashville. Morgan gave us some great insight not only about the inner workings of Rocketown, but about how indie acts get booked into venues in general.
The Fan Connection (TFC): Hi Morgan! Thanks for taking some time to talk with us today! We've spent a bit of time at Rocketown for different music events, and it's definitely one of our favorite venues! We LOVE the vibe there!
Morgan Carney: Of course! I appreciate the kind words!
TFC: Rocketown is so much more than "just" a music venue, and we're going to concentrate on the music side of things for the most part, but for starters, tell us a little bit about the other things that are available as a whole, and then we'll move on to the music venue information!
Morgan Carney: Definitely! Rocketown is a non-profit youth outreach center that has several different venue spaces (which host both public and private events), a skate park, a coffee bar, recording studio, and various after-school programs. Essentially, what we try to be is a safe place for all kinds of Nashville youth to come and hang out and grow together.
TFC: You're knee-deep into the bands there. Tell us about your part in all of it.
Morgan Carney: My job is to be the in-house buyer at Rocketown, as well as the venue rep for all 3rd party promoters that want to work out of our spaces. What that means is I will book shows for Rocketown where I will negotiate with agents, issue contracts, fulfill riders, book support if needed, etc. When 3rd party promoters come into our rooms, I manage our staff on site and make sure that everyone has a great experience.
TFC: How long have you been with Rocketown, and have you always had the same position there?
Morgan Carney: I was hired as the Entertainment Manager at Rocketown about a year ago and that is the same position that I have now. Before I worked at Rocketown, I did a short stint at Capitol Christian Music Group, which was where I landed my first job out of college.
TFC: There are three different rooms for concerts to be held at Rocketown, correct? What are they called, and what's the difference among each one?
Morgan Carney: That's correct. We have a small 100-capacity room called the Flex Studio that has a "house show" feel that we use for all kinds of smaller shows, in additional to our 500-capacity White Building and our 1,500-capacity Main Venue. The Flex Studio is where you're going to see most of our local shows and small touring acts, whereas the White Building is going to host regional bands and the Main Venue is going to be where you'll see mostly national acts.
TFC: How do you find the bands for each one of those types of shows? What's the normal protocol, if you will?
Morgan Carney: It all depends on the band and the show! For smaller shows or smaller touring acts, I'll generally reach out to younger or newer bands that I don't have a ton of history with to give them a shot to show me what they've got. Sometimes I'll post a Facebook status, post in a few Facebook groups, send out tweets, and reach out to bands that have emailed us about opening shows. When a White Building-sized show comes through, I'll mostly pull from bands that I have a history with and have proven to me that they have what it takes to hang with those acts, both in terms of performance and how hard they are willing to help promote the show. Main Venue shows don't often have local support on them, but if they do, I'm only going to pull from the best of the best and those who have proven to me that they are the real deal. In other words, if you're a band who has never played a show with me, or I've never even met before, I'm sorry...but you're not going to be able to open for a sold out main venue show.
TFC: That's some great insight. Everyone is always interested in ticket prices. Is there a typical range for each show?
Morgan Carney: Shows in our Flex Studio are going to be $5 to $10 depending on the size of the act coming through. Shows in the White Building are usually going to be between $10 and $15, and shows in the Main venue are mostly going to be above $15, but they generally aren't going to be much higher than $30.
"They brought in an LED screen (which is more production than we normally see in there), so the show itself looked great and the crowd was great too. There were about 250 people there from all walks of life absolutely going crazy and it was super encouraging to know that the acts they were cheering for were also just all-around great people."
TFC: How about some show stories? Any specific good memories of bands/shows/tours that have come through there?
Morgan Carney: I think my favorite show that I've booked was with a Christian hip-hop act named Derek Minor. It was in our White Building and absolutely LIT. The crew was absolutely the nicest and most respectful that I've ever worked with. They brought in an LED screen (which is more production than we normally see in there), so the show itself looked great and the crowd was great too. There were about 250 people there from all walks of life absolutely going crazy and it was super encouraging to know that the acts they were cheering for were also just all-around great people.
TFC: What have you got coming up on the schedule?
Morgan Carney: We have a ton of cool things coming up! We've got a band called Get Scared coming in next week, which is going to be a great time. Next month we have a sold out Underoath show, Andy Mineo, Wolves at the Gate, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and Parkway Drive! In addition to that, we have tons of smaller acts and local shows as well. There's a whole list of events over at the website.
TFC: Are there a lot of shows planned for this year? Or new bands we may not have seen yet at the venue?
Morgan Carney: There are tons of shows planned for this year. This spring is probably the busiest that we've had in recent years, with shows every weekend. Over the summer we have a High School Battle of the Bands presented by Journey's and then a ton of fun local stuff. Additionally, we're starting to work on some really cool things for the fall, but we can't talk about them yet!
TFC: The Fan Connection is a social media/e-commerce site for artists and fans. We've got a ton of really cool features being released this year. A few of which are: a new music player with radio-like format, professionally run Fan Clubs and merch stores where artists can make money, private chat rooms and live video streaming. Of the few I've mentioned, which one do you think will be the most beneficial to bands and why?
Morgan Carney: I checked out the site and I love the look and feel of it, as well as the interface! I think it's a great place to find out about new music and I like what you guys are doing so far! I think professionally run merch stores and Fan Clubs are going to be the most beneficial to bands, because having different revenue streams is so important to becoming self-sufficient as a band. While it's great that many bands these days are interacting more and more with their fans via the internet, if they can't find a way to turn those Twitter or Instagram followers into consumers of their music, shirts, and bracelets...then they are never going to be able to quit their day jobs and make the music a priority!
TFC: Morgan, thanks for taking some time to interview with us today! We're looking forward to our next trip out to Rocketown!
Morgan Carney: Anytime! We look forward to seeing you!
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