The Music is Here
Baton Rouge is a hot spot for nationally touring musical acts
By Alex BowenPosted Oct 3, 2012
It’s no fluke. Baton Rouge is slowly becoming one of the top music markets in the Southeast. Louisiana’s capital city really is an attractive option for nationally touring bands driving through the South.
Bush, Henry Rollins, Matisyahu, Corey Smith, Bassnectar, MuteMath, Robert Earl Keen, Rebelution, Wolfgang Gartner, Kendrick Lamar, Alan Jackson. That’s just a sampling of the talent making its way through town this fall. As the talent buyer of the Varsity Theatre, I might have a little bit of insight as to why this is happening.
First and foremost, Baton Rouge is home for a wide range of musical audiences. The rock, rap, electronic dance, jam-band, and country fans come together to form the rich gumbo that is the population of music lovers throughout the city.
LSU and its 30,000 attendees boost the diversity of Baton Rouge. There is a group of music fans for every genre, and bands, their agents, and managers love to play to that younger crowd. They strive to appeal to audiences that are part of the younger, 18-24-year-old demographic. The local college’s large population and its diverse array of music fans make Baton Rouge extremely attractive to artists.
That’s only the obvious, however. There are some more surprising reasons as to why Baton Rouge is becoming a top-notch music market.
For example, geographically, Baton Rouge is a great stop for nationally touring acts. We sit astride the intersection of two major interstates, and are located within a few hours of major music markets in Texas, Alabama, and Georgia. Baton Rouge is a no-brainer for an agent routing a band.
A common question is, “How does being so close to New Orleans affect Baton Rouge’s market value?” My answer is that Baton Rouge benefits a great deal from being so close to New Orleans. There’s no question that New Orleans is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, music towns in the world, and national acts play there all the time. However, surprisingly New Orleans is being oversaturated with music these days to the point where Baton Rouge can provide a nearby market with less clutter for musical acts. Agents take note of that, and Baton Rouge gets the benefits.
To support the city’s desire for music, Baton Rouge has no shortage of great music venues. From the Varsity to the Manship Theatre to the Spanish Moon and the River Centre, there is a top-notch venue to fit any size act that wants to play here. If you’re an up-and-coming national act, like Kendrick Lamar, or even a well-established act like Galactic or Bush, The Varsity Theatre is the place for you. If you’re a major recording artist that plays arena tours, the River Center is perfect. If you’re a smaller indie act out on the road, the Spanish Moon is great. With our wide variety of people in this town, there also comes a wide variety of venues to house the acts that come through.
It is obvious that the city is growing a reputation for live music, and that reputation is only going to get stronger.
My job as the talent buyer of the Varsity is to keep my thumb on the pulse of not only the Baton Rouge market, but also the music business as a whole. I have to figure out what the next biggest thing is going to be before that act blows up. A lot of my job is like digging for gold in that sense. For example, Kendrick Lamar just played this past Monday, and the next night he was on Jimmy Fallon live. He also just won Lyricist of the Year at the BET Awards. This all came after I booked him. That’s a perfect example of how you can strike gold as a promoter.
Most of what guys like me do, however, is about relationships. I have to work to build relationships with bands and their agents who are responsible for giving the green light for acts to play at my venue. Agents are the ones who give you the chance to prove that Baton Rouge is worth it to the bands. So, in order to maintain these relationships with booking agents, who are essentially the gatekeepers of the bands, my team and I must get the people in the door and produce results. As with any business, the music industry is results-oriented. If I can’t sell the tickets, then I can’t keep doing business with the agents, and therefore I can’t continue to bring in the best bands. It’s all about bringing out the crowd, and I encourage everyone to blow off some steam, take a look at a venue’s calendar, and check out some great music. That is where my job gets tricky and challenging. But I, for one, welcome this challenge.