IT'S ALIVE! Could Rock Resuscitate Rogersville?

History, Bluegrass, Yarnspinnin’, Whittlin’, Fiddlin’, Crafts, and County Music.

For years, Rogersville has been convinced these aspects of our cultural heritage will attract droves of tourists to the area. The problem is it’s a heritage we share with countless cities throughout the region. Not to mention, the market has subdivided itself into smaller, competitive niches. So, while we do attract some visitors – it’s not the droves we wanted.  And we’ve been so focused on finding ways to stand out in the crowd,  we did not notice the crowd is changing.

But Jimmy Southard did.

Southard, a local musician and owner of the House of Music, realized that much of the entertainment and events offered locally held no appeal for the younger generation. While he remains supportive of existing markets, he points out the lack of diversity has been driving a large number of musicians and fans out-of-town to seek alternatives.

Quite simply, Jimmy says, “There’s nothing for them here.”

So when the Mystery Man (no seriously, he wants to remain a mystery) behind Concert Guy Promotions approached Southard with an idea to do something different, unheard of, something that’s never been done before – are you sitting down for this? A non-country, non-bluegrass End of Summer Rock Bash in the Rogersville City Park, Southard jumped at the opportunity.

And he hasn’t stopped jumping since.

Rock? In Rogersville? Really? Let’s face it. He had his work cut out for him – particularly since Rogersville is a tiny speck of urban fringe, outside of Kingsport and too many miles away from Knoxville.  It wouldn’t be considered a “major market” by any stretch of the imagination – so even if there were someone willing to organize and promote the event, what rock band would come here?

Well, despite the doubts and disbelief, Southard used his connections in the industry to help net an impressive line-up for the August 30th event.

The End of Summer Bash includes Egypt Central, whose January 2008 release debuted at #8 on Billboard’s Top Heatseakers chart, currently sits in the Top #50 on the Mainstream Rock Charts and has appeared on motion picture soundtracks for The Cave and The Condemned.  They are one of the most requested bands on XM Squizz. (In fact, prior to their Rogersville gig, EC has been invited to seize control of Squizz and play anything they want on August, 5 at 8PM ET/5 PT… replay August, 8 at 12PM ET/9PT)

Also appearing at the Bash will be well-known bands such as Framing Hanley, 32 Leaves, since october, the Amend, Blindsight, venejer, Waiting to Break, Adire and Doomsday Revival. (No, they probably don’t know where Rogersville is located, but it’s okay. They can get a Google map.)

The added benefit of booking well-known acts is that each of these bands come with their own fan base, which has helped the promotion go viral.  According to Southard, ticket sales, which are $10 advance and $15 at the gate, have exceeded expectations with a surprising number of the online sales going to out-of-state fans. (Tickets are available at the House of Music and online.)

Of course, securing the talent and getting the word out is only one aspect of creating a successful event.

In order to provide a quality experience fans will want to repeat next year (which is precisely what Southard intends to do) he has also enlisted help from a few familiar faces.  Musicoxide, a Johnson City production company who has turned knobs and tweaked sound for some of the best acts to pass through the region, will be providing their services. Immortal Security, a company accustomed to working large venues such as Freedom Hall, is on board for the event – and GoTricities will be lending their promotional power. (See the GoTricities promo video here.)

Southard has also acquired a respectable list of donors and sponsors – including Dean Guitars, who will be donating a guitar autographed by members of Egypt Central to be given away at the Bash.

Unfortunately, there are few local names on the list.  Some of the larger businesses, known for their generous sponsorship of local events, have shied away from the Bash perhaps fearing it would be controversial or not quite mainstream enough.  The exceptions are @Work, Comfort Inn and Old Stage Printing.  Likewise, area food vendors haven’t been standing in line to participate: so the options are a bit more limited than promoters would like. (Interested vendors can contact Southard at House of Music.)

And honestly, I find the reluctance short-sighted.

In speaking with Southard, it’s clear his primary motivation is to give the kids in the community something to call their own; he is not, however, unaware that his efforts will be tapping into a fast-growing, under-served demographic with expendable income.  The Bash has vast appeal to scores of Generation Yers (ages 15-24) and more than a few Xer’s (ages 25-34+) – groups which account for about 43% of Hawkins County’s population.

We already know the Xers have been dubbed $1 trillion generation based on the group’s aggregate buying power – but what about those young Gen Yers?  According to marketing studies, the 71 million children of Baby Boomers, who are now coming of age, will be an enormously powerful consumer group.  In fact, research indicates the biggest distinction between leading Gen Ys and their Gen X predecessors is Generation Y loves to spend.

A Northwestern Mutual study revealed that 37 percent of Gen Y currently owns three or more credit cards, while only 13 percent claim none – and that overall, college students have a purchasing power of $108 billion.  And the second wave of the Ys (12-17) spent $165 billion in 2006,  $3 billion more than they did in the previous year – this being the fourth annual increase in a row.

Certainly, the concert goers will purchase gas, food, many will need lodging – but what remains to be seen is will they return? Will something here entice them to come back?  You know, within the next five years, these kids will be the heartbeat of the economy- they will be buying cars, houses, starting out and settling down.  Why not support events, which could help Rogersville catch the attention of these up and coming consumers now.

Personally, I think we may benefit by rolling out the welcome mat and getting with the program – STAT.


3 thoughts on “IT'S ALIVE! Could Rock Resuscitate Rogersville?

  1. So when the Mystery Man (no seriously, he wants to remain a mystery) behind Concert Guy Promotions approached Southard with an idea to do something different, unheard of, something that’s never been done before – are you sitting down for this?

    Hasn’t this been done twice before this YEAR? Jimmy Southard tries to profit from kids ideas and hes made out to be a hero, how ironic.

  2. No, it actually hasn’t – not with bands of this caliber or any having mainstream appeal.

    We have a couple of young men here, who host what I’d consider a showcase for unsigned talent. I don’t mean to be offensive or negative in regards to this event. In fact, I think the effort itself is fantastic, but it is not marketed well and/or the line-up does not appeal to a broad audience.

    Good marketing and broad audience = economic impact.

    With the “showcase” event, I suppose the town benefits from rental on the park amphitheater, which will be used toward covering clean-up or maintenance after. Otherwise, we’re not seeing any increase in sales revenue above what is normal. The events are modest in terms of attendance and most were local kids: while this has the potential to grow, the bottom line is – right now, aside from having entertainment value, the event provides very little economic benefit.

    With the larger well-organized event, because promoters have made the investment in a familiar, well-received line-up of artists: we see an increase in visitors/tourists coming into the town for the event, which means in increase in local sales (aka tax revenue). Likewise, those out-of-state ticket sales increases the possibility that Rogersville will benefit directly from the 7% lodging tax.
    And to my understanding, Southard has also partnered with a local non-profit to provide concessions for the event. Again, this is all money coming back into the community.

    One event serves as a stimulus. The other does not as of yet.

    As to to the rest of your comment: organizing a rock concert isn’t quite what you’d call a novel idea. Tickets for the event are only $2 more than what was charged for a roster of unknown bands. And while I don’t know that I’d describe Southard as a hero nor do I suspect he wears a cape and tights in his spare time: he is certainly making contributions here.

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