CV MUSIC AWARDS BEST PROMOTER AND BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE
By Rich Henrich
Congratulations to Big Rock Golf & Pub at Indian Springs for their wins at the CV Music Awards for Best Promoter (Lisa Morgan) and for Best Live Music Venue. Yesterday, I was able to catch up by e-mail with Lisa Morgan, who also serves as the Chief Business Development Officer and the Entertainment Director for Big Rock and discover more about what the victories mean to her and the venue.
CVW: Local musicians often are limited by the quality of the venues they have to play. How has the desert changed over the years and how important is it to have a venue like Big Rock?
Lisa Morgan: “All the venues are important, from small and insignificant to huge and intimidating. It all forces you to tap into and build who you are as a performer. A great entertainer needs all of them in their resume – even busking on the street is important. How are you going to reach people in different settings? You have to figure that out and be able to play anywhere. I love Steve Martin’s quote: ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’ However, playing too many venues that are not dedicated to the quality of the music and who do not place much value in what you are bringing them, can break a musician’s heart and spirit. Simple principle: You can’t plant corn without soil, and the richer the soil, the better the crop. If you have no place for musicians to debut their raw material, a casual venue where they can hone their skills, and then a place where they can showcase their hard-earned skill set to an appreciative audience, your music community will die or go somewhere else.”
“The exception to that rule: I love the stories from our early desert rock musicians… hauling generators out into the middle of the desert to throw a concert, or taking over an abandoned building, passing out hand-made flyers and literally creating a scene from nothing. Today, we have venues like The Hood, Palm Canyon Road House and others that see value in local musicians and give them a stage to grow on. Many other businesses are realizing that entertainment is a valid budget item in their marketing plans. Bands and musicians are their own little marketing engine today and can be a huge part of growing your business, even if you’re not a music venue per se.”
“Big Rock was built with live music in mind. It was part of Ken Hanna’s vision. The way the room is engineered, it forces the attention to the stage. It can be a little intimidating to musicians who haven’t played our room before. People sit there and actually look at you and wait to hear what you have to offer. It’s a far cry from most rooms where a band is more like a glorified jukebox to be played in the background quietly so people can carry on their conversations. It’s a great place to “be heard,” and a solid thing to have on your resume locally. But most importantly, it’s great preparation for bigger things. It’s a legitimate hope of ours that one day, one of the musicians/bands that have played our stage will make it big. Many of them are worthy and deserving.”
CVW: Going from musician to promoter, what helped you in the transition to becoming a promoter and what have you learned about music and entertainment on the other side?
Morgan: “When I left Las Vegas to focus on a stable day job, it was a natural fit to go into advertising and marketing. I have 20 years working in traditional and digital media, from the Los Angeles Daily News and associated newspapers to radio and television. In Oklahoma a few years back, I received great training in digital media and continue to educate myself in that industry. All that knowledge is helpful, but you still have to have some strong people skills. Nothing replaces relationships, and a good part of being a strong promoter is your reputation in your field and how you network with and treat others. Good networking means creating mutually beneficial partnerships. You have to be ok with a lot of hard work and getting a little less than what you give (which pretty much sums up the business model of a dedicated musician). The only way you can truly be ok with it, is if you love what you do. I love music. I love this music community. I believe in the things I promote. I am incredibly blessed to have a product like Big Rock to offer to musicians and to promote to the community. I absolutely work my ass off, but I also know that I am very fortunate to be in the position I am. I do not take that for granted, and I don’t do it alone. I have an amazing team at Big Rock, and I mean AMAZING.”
CVW: What is the best part about being recognized as the Best Promoter/ Venue in by the CV Music Awards?
Morgan: “I think being a promoter is generally a fairly thankless job most of the time. You do a lot of background grunt work to get a group in front of an audience. Anyone who does it for any length of time only does it because they get most of their satisfaction from seeing the success of the shows and artists they’re promoting. Being recognized is a very public way of hearing, ‘We see your hard work and we value it.’ I ain’t gonna lie – that feels pretty damn good. I’m not sure why I got the votes. Everyone else on that list of nominees works very hard to make their projects thrive. I know much of it has to do with the venue I get to promote. Ken Hanna has created a beautiful thing for this music community, and I feel an incredible weight of responsibility to honor that. I’ve also had a budget and some help to do it with. Not every promoter does. I greatly appreciate the win, and it means a lot. It’s definitely good for the venue, and I like to think it gives me some job security. But I hold every single nominee, and even some not mentioned, in very high regard. I watch what Robyn at Pappy and Harriet’s does (and has been doing for over 15 years) with awe.”
CVW: What advice do you have for musicians trying to get a gig at any venue and those who want to play at Big Rock?
Morgan: “It’s phenomenally eye-opening to be on this side of things. As musicians, we may not like the ‘business’ side of the music business, but there’s no escaping it. I do not have the freedom to simply book bands that I like, or book my friends, or my friend’s band. I have a responsibility to make our music program better than our competitors and cost-effective so that this business that is a restaurant, bar and golf course, can sustain a music program. My boss is an incredibly charitable person, but every business is accountable for their bottom line or they won’t stay afloat. In addition, people’s livelihoods are affected. If we have a slow night or people not coming or walking out because they don’t like the entertainment, there are single moms and dads, struggling college students, husbands, and wives, going home without hours and tips.”
“I get a lot of messages saying, ‘My band is totally awesome and you should book us.’ If you give me no collateral to back up that statement, I’m going to notice your lack of professionalism as a lack of experience, and that’s not a good thing. You’re a bad risk. If you’re an ass to me in a message, I’m going to assume you’re going to be an ass to work with, and I’ll opt-out.”
“Let’s say you actually are awesome and a great fit for Big Rock; great photos of your band and a polished, updated EPK (electronic press kit) that I can use in promoting you, makes for a win/win for all of us. You may think your band is ‘awesome’ and a ‘perfect fit’ for Big Rock, but I have to communicate that to people who don’t know you. Check out the photos bands have provided to the House of Blues in San Diego, and get your marketing to look just as professional. That way, you make my website and social media look awesome, and when people have to decide between coming to hear you or going to another venue, they’re inspired to choose you. It’s an investment, but you are asking people to invest their time and money in you. Make your best effort. Treat the venue, your sound tech and service staff with the same kind of respect you want to be shown.”
Big Rock will only be 3 years old in November, during our award nominated (CV Music Awards “Best Music Event”) Cars, Stars and Rock and Roll Event. When I came on booking the bands, when it was still under construction/remodel, we had a cool stage that was on a hydraulic lift, but no sound system. Bands had to provide their own. In 2017, I brought in Greg Little (2019 ‘Best Sound Engineer’ winner) to meet with Ken, and Greg volunteered his time and experience to recommend the sound system we now have for bands. He also trained Jeff Mazur (who won the award for ‘Best Sound Engineer’ in 2018). Jeff Mazur is our Front of House Manager and handles everything from technical issues with the wifi, televisions and POS, to the graphics on our monitors behind the stage. Without those two guys, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation about Big Rock’s win for Best Live Entertainment Venue.
For more information on upcoming shows and events at Big Rock, go to www.TheBigRockPub.com