MOKB Presents Evolves from a Popular Blog Site to Producing 1,500 Events and Counting
MOKB Presents began as a music blog (“My Old Kentucky Blog”) created by Craig Lile. Since that time, the blog evolved to include a weekly music show on SiriusXMU. When Josh Baker connected with Lile at a concert, ideas were thrown around to combine their love of music with their experience working various jobs in the live music industry. The two began putting on monthly concerts in Indianapolis at local nightclubs. After their first few shows were a resounding success, the duo rolled out the moniker MOKB Presents as their promotions company. Never in their wildest dreams did they imagine their small concerts would expand to be a full-service event management, promotion and marketing powerhouse.
Thanks, in part, to MOKB Presents, the Indianapolis music and cultural scene has never been better. It wasn’t always that way. Tours would often pass over the town in favor of higher-profile cities. MOKB Presents aimed to change that. And did. By developing relationships with agents, promoters, up-and-coming artists, and community leaders, Baker began to put Indianapolis on the live music map. “Music stands the test of time,” says Baker. “No matter the economy or what’s going on in people’s lives, music has the unique ability to connect and make a positive impact. Live music is stronger than it’s ever been because people want to not only listen to music but experience music.”
After ten years, MOKB Presents has produced more than 1,500 events, managing virtually anything that involves presenting a live show, including:
- Venue management
- Concert production
- Talent buying
- Sponsorship sales
- Gate management
- Promotional marketing
- Event production
It’s about the Music, Man
Spend any time in the music industry and you’ll find not all venue managers and talent buyers are known for their integrity. Not so for Baker and his team of passionate music lovers. MOKB is built on trust and relationships. They only make promises they can keep and they become personally invested in the musicians they help develop. They’re willing to take risks and be patient. Not every band will pack a room overnight. MOKB is in it for the long haul and bands and agents want to work with them because they know they have their best interest at heart.
Not surprising, when asked what he enjoys most about what he does, Baker immediately mentions the bands. It always comes back to the music. “I love working with the bands,” he says. “It’s completely different every day. I think we’re pretty blessed to get to wake up and work with incredible bands, musicians and fellow music lovers all sharing a common goal. There’s nothing greater than finding undiscovered talent and helping them get exposure to build their fan base, however long that takes. I feel like like the work my team puts in really helps to make a difference in this city. We’re building a cultural foundation, one that will last and support the efforts for future generations.”
Of course, running Indianapolis’ premier live music management company isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Parts of his job aren’t so fun. The growth of the Indianapolis live music scene is exciting, but it creates a challenge in finding experienced people in the music business to fill the demand. Baker finds himself doing a lot of stuff himself, recruiting skills from outside of the city or state or training locals. This takes time and cannibalizes his time to launch something new.
The live music industry hasn’t always been profitable for Baker, either. When he began as an independent promoter, he had no ownership in any venues. Once he paid the bands, staff, catering and other pros required for a show, there was hardly anything left over, not to mention the late nights and working multiple jobs. Thanks to the relationships he made over the years, he was able to secure investments from friends who believed in what he was doing. He and his partners eventually created a venue of their own. This control opened up new profit centers and allowed their growth to become more aggressive. He went from waiting three or more days for venues to respond to booking requests to less than a minute, enabling him to book more shows with the bands he wanted to promote.
The Change Agent
So, how does MOKB manage so many services in their relatively small shop? Technology. Instead of ridiculously complex spreadsheets and various systems, they use Prism event management software. Now, Baker efficiently tracks calendars, offers, budgets, reporting and historical trends in one place. “Prism has completely changed how I do business,” he says. “The creators are from the music industry and built it for venues and promoters. Everyone I work with, including marketing, has what they need in one tool. No more Dropbox or spreadsheets. This saves us so much time and has increased the efficiency of our communications. We all have the same information at our fingertips. Everything we do comes out of Prism now: settlements, calendars, offers, hold level tracking, confirmations, real-time financials and even integration with Eventbrite. I can literally watch my financials update in real time with every ticket sale without me having to touch anything. It’s a night and day difference.”
With the music industry witnessing a seismic digital transformation, MOKB is betting on the constancy of live music as people will continue to seek out personal experiences with artists. MOKB will persist in providing the best live concert experience possible, even looking at regional options outside of its beloved Indianapolis. “We are always looking at new venue options,” says Baker. “We’ve developed a successful model that can be replicated. For the time being, we are focused on continuing to explore and expand in Indiana.”