Forum addresses music as an economic driver

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Beaches aren’t the only attraction that bring tourists to the Cape Fear region. Wanting to learn more about the area’s music scene as an economic driver, more than 50 people turned out at Satellite Lounge Tuesday night, Aug. 27, for a panel discussion on the topic, hosted by the Cape Fear Economic Development Council.

Beau Gunn, program and music director of local radio station The Penguin, said  the local music scene is important to the Cape Fear area, by citing his station’s success in hosting a wide variety of acts at Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre.

“We noticed that a lot of the zip codes were from Raleigh, from Myrtle Beach and Charlotte,” Gunn said. “In terms of heads on beds, bringing people in and [them] eating in restaurants … it is truly what this is all about.”

Gunn wasn’t the only panelist to point to the economic multiplier effect of out-of-town music tourists. Panelist Richard Leder, executive director of the Brooklyn Arts Center, agreed that a vibrant music scene was a major factor in attracting visitors to the region, but he pointed out the importance of smaller acts as well.

“A big part of the music scene goes beyond the clubs,” Leder said. “We have an astonishing number of musicians.”

Questioned after the forum whether local business recruiters are doing enough to use local music to attract location-independent firms, Leder shrugged.

“Well, they should be. Whatever pamphlets they are passing out, they should have pages dedicated to the artists that play here, that have played here, [and] the venues,” Leder said.

Moderator John Staton also asked the panel about the sufficiency of the area’s existing music venues, and specifically why the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s spaces were not attracting top talent. Panelist Chris Lee, owner of Pipeline Event Management, answered concisely.

“Alcohol. That is the ultimate answer. … Our profits are you guys’ consuming.”

Gunn took the chance to expound on the local booking scene, pointing out that “big opening acts help us sell tickets,” but pointed out that this doesn’t always benefit the local bands. He explained that opening act bookings are “generally taken out of the hands of the promoters by the agents,” who tend to fill those slots with their own preferred groups.

Another issue taken up was the “100-mile radius,” which refers to the Myrtle Beach House of Blues’ contractual requirement that any band playing there not play within 100 miles of the area, which includes the entire Cape Fear region.

“We’re selling more tickets than they do,” Gunn said, explaining that while the sell-out crowds in Wilmington might net slightly fewer tickets overall than Myrtle Beach, “a lot of bands will take that small, tiny pay cut to have a sold-out concert, and a lot of agents like that as well.”

“This is about perfectly typical of what we want to do,” said Ian Oeschger, a founding economic development board member at the forum’s conclusion. “I think this was a huge success because it was a discussion about economic development, but broader than economic development is typically framed. It brings in a larger contingent of people who have great ideas and strong feelings about this area.”


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