Sep 13, 2022 - Business

Americana Fest's unique venue strategy

Jaime Wyatt
Jaime Wyatt. Photo: Jordi Vidal/Redferns

A trendy new restaurant in Germantown. The backyard of a record shop in East Nashville. A meat-and-three south of downtown.

  • Americana Fest will feature approximately 200 artists performing in Nashville's most hallowed concert halls. But the festival also will tap into hidden gems and convert unique spaces across the city into makeshift venues — including Arnold's Country Kitchen and The Groove record shop.

Why it matters: Americana Music Association executive director Jed Hilly says the use of unconventional music venues came about because businesses — most of them independent and locally owned — wanted to be a part of the annual event.

  • Just 15 years ago, the festival was restricted to seven venues and one hotel and featured 53 artists.
  • This year, 51 venue locations spanning eight Metro Council districts will serve as hosts. Hilly says the strategy showcases Nashville itself to the fans who travel from around the world for Americana Fest.
  • Venerable venues such as Station Inn, the Ryman Auditorium and Exit/In will host shows throughout the festival, which begins today and ends Saturday. "We have Charley Crockett playing a show at Station Inn, and he could easily sell out the Ryman. That's part of what makes us different."

What he's saying: "It happened organically," Hilly tells Axios. "What happened was we had venues that wanted to be partners. They wanted to get involved."

  • Hilly says it's important to remember that the evening showcases are booked by the association's staff, not by record labels or talent agencies.
  • "I'll have a booking agent say to me, 'Hey, I've got two artists playing at the same time.' First of all, we try to avoid that. But that's sort of proof that this is curated by our staff."

Yes, but: Because the festival spans the city, it has created the need for organizers to police venues that market concerts this week as official Americana Fest events when they actually are not.

  • "Inevitably what happens is I will reach out to them after and say, 'Be a partner. We want you to get involved.' Maybe that backyard gathering that drew 150 people could bring in 400 people next year."

If you go: Festival passes, which get you into most concerts (space permitting), are still available for $175.

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