Wow, what a weekend it was!
The inaugural Downtown Huntsville Women in Music Weekend featured 30 performers at over 15 venues over of the course of four music-packed days. These incredible musicians played at a diverse set of venues including a coffee shop, wine bar, local breweries, restaurants and busker corners around Downtown.
A huge thanks to our musicians and venues for collaborating (and making great music) for the big weekend as well as the event’s producer (and performing musician) Alex Hendrix along with the great DHI team!
This week’s Explorer Blog looks at three important takeaways from Women in Music Weekend that we’ll use to make the 2019 version even better and other cities can use to create their own version of this event concept.
Get musicians involved early, often and through the entire event.
When we developed the idea for Women in Music Weekend, one of the first calls was to Alex Hendrix. We knew she was a great musician and that she had worked with many fellow female musicians in the region. This was a key partnership form the onset because, while DHI coordinated the participating venues, Alex coordinated the participating musicians. That’s a big deal because it meant you had musical professionals working together to develop the weekend schedule—a peer to peer set-up which gave the event credibility from the very start.
If you decide to organize a Women in Music Weekend for your city, make sure to find a female musician(s) to serve as a key member of the organizing committee. They essentially need to be given wide latitude in deciding who to book and where to book them.
Long-term success starts with a modest beginning
Once we realized that this concept had the potential to be super successful, the immediate temptation was to think of every way it could be big and dynamic right out of the gate in the first year. We started brainstorming on everything from buskers to feature national acts in all types of venues including large concert halls.
Fortunately, we were able to slow ourselves down just a bit for the first year. While we plan to grow the event to make it bigger and higher profile each year, we realized that starting modestly with a great collection of “free to attend” performances was the most sustainable way to create the event. The idea behind “free to attend” was that it would encourage audiences to visit multiple different venues and performances each evening rather than staying at only one venue as they might do if they paid an admission fee
This allowed Women in Music Weekend to serve as something akin to a “music crawl” where guests sampled a wide variety of musicians at a wide variety of venues. In the future, we may add admission-based events, but we’ll always keep in mind that the goal of Downtown Huntsville Women in Music Weekend is to provide exposure and opportunities to as many local and regional female musicians as possible. The ability to provide free admission to each performance really advances that goal.
Diverse Venues that are engaged in the event
At its core, the Women in Music Weekend was a tool to organize and feature as many female musicians as possible by scheduling as many as possible over a single weekend. The key to success though was to create an environment where the venues benefitted also. The entire concept doesn’t work if it’s good for the musicians but not for the venues (or vice versa).
That’s why we worked hard to identify Downtown venues that were committed to promoting their performances individually in addition to the overall event promotion. For instance, many of the venues created their own promotional posters or Facebook events in addition to the master promo poster and Facebook event for the entire event.
We also worked with the venues to determine what type of music would work best for their performance. For example, some requested jazz, some requested rock, and some requested folk. By working with our event producer (and the fact that she was also a musician) we were able to connect the venues with the right type of musical genre that they felt their guests would enjoy the most.
Finally, while many of the performances were more conventional evening performances, we also worked hard to include several brunches and late afternoon performances, so we could reach audiences that may have schedule limitations or may just prefer not to stay out late.
The end result from all of this intentional and deliberate planning was a dynamic weekend featuring amazing female musicians. Providing these musicians with this dedicated platform will yield benefits for years to come, especially since we intend to keep Downtown Huntsville Women in Music Weekend going every August for years to come.
Thanks to the thousands of people who attended the performances, enjoyed the musicians and patronized the venues.
We’re thrilled that the event realized statewide coverage from organizations like Alabama Newscenter and the Alabama Tourism Department plus feature coverage from local news outlets and blogs such as WHNT, al.com, IheartHSV and Rocket City Mom.