Come and Take It Productions Strikes A Cord with Artists and Audiences Alike
What’s It Like Booking Shows in The Live Music Industry?
It’s no secret that Austin is a hub for live music artists and fans. At last count, Austin boasted 200 live music venues and and nearly 2,000 bands and performing artists in and around the city. As great as the performing arts scene is, however, it poses challenges for promoters who must compete for an audience who has dozens of options any night of the week. They must be good at what they do, earning trust from artists, promoters and venue owners while often juggling family, long days and late nights.
For Anthony Stevenson, founder and owner of Come and Take It Productions, working in the live music production and promotion industry in Austin for more than a decade is exactly where he wants to be. He appreciates the friendly competition as just another sign of the transformative power of live music and how well Austin has embraced it as part of their DNA. “I’ve been surrounded by music since I was a kid,” he says. “I’ve always been fascinated with performing and it led me to promoting. I can’t imagine doing anything else anywhere else.”
Stevenson chose the historical company name to pay homage to the state he loves, but also as a slight challenge to area promoters when forced to compete with one another for shows. It can be cut-throat, but there’s a mutual respect amongst the contenders who are all just trying to give people great music and make a little money doing it, not an easy task given the thin margins.
It helps to own their own venue, where they can book their own shows or compromise with fellow promoters by renting out their venue and still earn revenue off of concessions. Stevenson says this is precisely what helps him win bidding wars that further shrink margins. Things may get brighter for venue owners like Stevenson. The Texas state legislature is weighing a bill from and Austin-based live music advocacy group that would give venue owners a boon, providing rebates on liquor tax payments to offset the rising land prices.
A Day in The Life
Stevenson is a busy guy. Days can begin at the crack of dawn with his wife and children and not end until the wee hours of the morning after settlement and his venue closes its doors. He oversees the entire booking, production and promotion side of the venue via Come and Take It Productions and his business partner Ben Davis runs the bar side of the Come and Take It Live venue. He also does his own local talent buying and marketing while he continually nurtures relationships with artists, sponsors and radio stations.
Everything Stevenson does is, as he says, “very hands on.” Placing holds, sending offers, confirming shows, billing, and of course, lots of emails and phone calls are just part of the gig. So is researching new local talent and bringing national and international artists to town. It’s a lot for a small production and promotion company, but Stevenson has found a way to make things easier.
“I started using Prism software a while back and it has really changed how I work,” says Stevenson. “It expedites the hold and offer process, making my day less complicated. I want to be as efficient as possible and actually enjoy the shows I put on without worrying about all of the math, calculations and holds. With the software, I feel like I’m shaving off at least 30 to 50 percent of the time I put into building an offer and making sure I had the correct hold placement. Now everything is in one place and I don’t have to constantly reach out to people anymore for information. It’s all right there in Prism.”
In It for The Long Haul
Even with the challenges, Stevenson plans to stick around, perhaps finding a larger venue space to accommodate larger shows. “I love that there’s so much to choose from in Austin,” he says. “I would rather deal with the hurdles than to not have enough music.”
Music may be in Stevenson’s soul, but he believes everyone has a genre of music that resonates with them. It’s why he does what he does. “To see the joy in the attendees' faces and have people come up to me to tell me how much a band’s lyrics or an artist’s musicianship have touched them gives me so much satisfaction,” he continues. “Regardless if the show is a raging success or not, music changes people and helps them get through whatever issues they may be dealing with. Being able to facilitate that is awesome.”
As far as where he sees the music industry moving in the next decade, Stevenson believes it will continue to go digital, particularly in how music is promoted. Instead of passing out fliers or advertising on billboards and radio, hoping your audience will see it once or twice, promoters must constantly feed their audience with content through social media and messaging platforms. There are also software platforms to help make booking shows easier and purchasing tickets more streamlined so as not to lose potential sales to an audience with short attention spans.
“Marketing and sales efforts have completely shifted,” says Stevenson. “For me, I want to focus on the music, the talent and the experience, so I leave the marketing to younger pros who know the social trends. People’s love for live music hasn’t changed much over the years, only how it all comes together. Come and Take It Productions is leveraging technology and the wisdom of our talented staff to keep us relevant, profitable and above all, delivering the live music experience people seek. If we keep doing that, we’ll be just fine.”