Rick Thurmond | Cultivating An Emerging Music Community | #Charlotte

Cultivating An Emerging Music Community #LMS Rick Thurmond Terry Hudson rbeatz.com 2024
Rick Thurmond | Cultivating An Emerging Music Community

Center City Partners’ CMO, Rick Thurmond, sheds light on how Charlotte, NC, is emerging as a music city. Learn what it takes to be part of this growing music scene, from music festivals to an industry conference. Center City Partners is helping shine the spotlight on the Queen City.

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Trending on rBeatz: Rick Thurmond Q & A Live Interview

Rick Thurmond Q & A Live Interview

Hello and welcome to rBeatz.com. I’m Terry Hudson and we’re here today focusing on Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte’s always been known as kind of a banking capital. It still is, but it’s also becoming known as an emerging music city. And if you are a music performer, if you are a music fan, you need to stay tuned in today my guest in the studio is a true visionary and he is the chief marketing officer for the Charlotte Center City Partners. He also heads up Music Everywhere CLT, which is a non -profit that works to develop Charlotte’s music scene and also Charlotte’s music economy. This includes Carolina’s Premiere Music Confluence, and if you haven’t attended, it’s coming up again this year in October. We’ll be talking more about that. So let’s talk about it here in my studio is Rick Thurman. Welcome, Rick.

Thanks, Terry. Thanks for having me.

So, you know, I know how brilliant of a guy you are because I’ve been around you and I know what a music fan you are, but I want our viewers and our listeners to know more about you. So tell us a little bit about your background.

Yeah, sure. So first of all, I don’t play an instrument. I can’t sing a note and I’ve never written a song. So, I am a lifelong consumer of music, but that means that music has meant a lot to me throughout my life. And like I tell people that some of the best nights of my life have been spent inside music venues, seeing shows, that sort of thing. So I grew up in Florida, moved up here to North Carolina to go to college and then stuck around. Charlotte, for me, was the perfect kind of city. It was not too big, not too small, but growing fast. So, a place where I could see myself being a part of the city and making an impact on the city over time. So I actually spent the first 20 years of my career in local media. I helped relaunch our city magazine, Charlotte Magazine, General Interest Magazine, covering all things Charlotte, and then ended up doing all the jobs at Charlotte Magazine. For the longest portion of that time, I was the editor of the magazine all on the content side, and then spent some time running the business as well.

Well, what better way to get acquainted with a city than to run the magazine that’s all about the city because then you learn what the lifestyle scene looks like here and music scene, corporate scene, everything right from just doing that. So that’s a great intro into it.

Well, I felt like I had a seat on the front row, watching the city grow up over time and had the responsibility we had of telling the story of the city. Month by month, year after year and throughout that time we made music one of the hallmarks of our coverage. It wasn’t just “hey check out this artist” or “go see this band” but we felt like music that music was is a way as city expresses itself. We tried to tell the stories. Here is the story of this artist who they are why they do what they do, why they matter. Here’s the story of a venue we did a music issue every couple years and we put the Avett Brothers on the cover in I think 2006, the first magazine to do so. So we always made it a big part of our coverage and I think I always knew in some ways I was trying to grow the music scene because I knew what it could mean for a city.

And you know that’s the key thing you’re talking about is story. And this is one of the things that we’ve always talked to artists about is it’s not just about your music. It’s about your story. If you look at, you know, even from the older days until now, it’s been whether they signed you or, you know, whether you got booked in a certain place, it was about your story. And I’ve had, you know, artists on various shows and I always tell people, it’s good when you get up there and perform, but it’s more important that when you come back and sit in the chair, you have something to say to the host that you have something that’s very interesting that’s going to pull people in. That’s another great reason you know why you had a cool intro into it.

Well that’s just how we as humans connect through stories.


That’s how we connect with our kids when they’re growing up, it’s how we learn, it’s how we connect with each other and a hundred percent that’s how we connect the most with our artists. You know that the more times artists tell stories, stories through their songs, that you see yourself in one way or another. And then the artists themselves, you learn their story and you understand it’s not just a voice coming from your speakers, but a human with a story as well. That’s how we connect.

And you’re talking about being a music fan as opposed to a musician, but the insight that you have from that is the perfect setup to be able to understand what a city needs from artists and how the community itself needs to use the word a lot, but connect. Such a big issue right there. Not competition, but collaboration, social capital, connection, and that’s how you build a community. And that’s, you know, how this has formed. But I think it’s so important that you came from, you downplayed a minute because because you’re like, well, I’m not a singer. I’m not a, you know, I didn’t play an instrument, but you were a true music fan. You understood it. You understood what people want from that, what they get from the artist, how it impacts their life, how music is the soundtrack of life. And you’ve been able to use that pretty well. It’s given you a great understanding.

Yeah. And it was funny you said that because early on when we were pulling people together to sort of launch this movement, if you will, I would would say the same thing to venue owners and others and finally Joe Coolman, owner of the Evening Muse, stopped me said “Rick like if we could just clone you, we wouldn’t have any issues because you’re why a scene exists because you come to the shows you you stream the music, you buy the record, you you buy the t -shirts, you tell other people about it. That’s what we need. That’s what it’s all about.” I think what I can also bring to the table is I understand cities. I understand how they work, what they need. And so being able to connect the two is pretty powerful because what we’re trying to do is more than just, “Hey, go support the arts. Hey, go see a show.” That’s important. That’s really important, but it has to go deeper than that if you really want to have a lasting, sustained impact.

Absolutely. So let’s roll into Charlotte Center City Partners. Tell us how I could do a two hour show just on the things they do because they do so much. But let’s hear from you as far as, you know, some of the important things that they do.

Yeah, sure. So there’s a lot. And I could probably spend two hours trying to explain it and people still might not fully grasp it, but at its heart, we’re a nonprofit and we’re missioned with the vibrancy of our urban core. So, that’s essentially our downtown which in Charlotte, we call Uptown as well as South End , which is a booming district just to the south of Uptown. We do that through a variety of ways. We do it through marketing, through event production, also economic development research research, advocacy, and I’m probably leaving out a couple things. So it’s sort of a full service approach to growing vibrancy in the downtown area.

Yeah, and there are some things that when it comes to music, I think a lot of new artists, even in past times, don’t realize they’re important things. Like when you grew up being an artist just years ago, you thought that Billboard Magazine was the number one magazine for music. And when really to sell music, the number one magazine was the Target Circular. So looking at the avenues like that. One of the things that I think more artists should apply for and try to get in is the Novant Thanksgiving Day Parade. And isn’t that something that you guys put on as well or involved in?

Yeah, we absolutely produced the Thanksgiving Eve Parade. And we always feel. feature at least a half a dozen local artists on that parade. Just like when you watch the Macy’s Parade, right?


There’s a performer that does one of their songs on the TV production is a televised parade.

So they’re on TV and they’re in front of those thousands of people. I go to it every year. Just thousands of people lining down the street.

You perform the song from the flow. It’s a really cool experience. It really is. So for example, we’ve given a platform to Renee Rapp. So, Renee Rapp is a recording artist from Charlotte. She’s blowing up right now. She was on a float in the parade maybe three years ago.

Yeah. I’ve had artists on there and I’ve gone to see the artists every year. It’s always such a great show and it’s such a spectacle behind you. It makes you look even bigger than you are. So it’s great for people to see in that platform plus Everybody takes all the pictures for social media. So your faces are blasted, you know all over everything after that and with other events you do that there’s one in particular. It just happened We’ll talk about that one a little bit later because you just had it about I guess I guess it’s been a couple weeks now But it was it was days long. It was such a great event, but What other events in addition to that do you do?

Well, those two are absolutely the biggest. We do some street festivals in Southend. We also do the New Year’s Eve celebration in uptown.

Okay. I wasn’t aware you did that. I’m at that every year too.

So we have a local artist to usually play at that more of a party band, I would say. And smaller events as well. We have a venue called Victoria Yards, which is such a great place parking lot. But it’s a gorgeous art field spot and we’ll put artists on stage there as well.

Especially the way you guys upgrade, I mean, I went to it kind of in the beginning and then I went to it a few weeks ago for a Charlotte’s Creative event and it was like it was transformed you know that quickly and it was pretty amazing.

We’re not done yet. Because an internationally known artist will be one of those things that people travel to Charlotte just to go see because people appreciate her work so much, Morag Myerscough is her name.

Yeah, and aagain, I mean people go to other cities for concerts for the arts for the museums and so the way our city has developed in that. I mean, there’s so many great spaces for you know photos or just to go hang out where you’ve never been, you know to the city and more and more people are noticing that and it’s definitely put us on the map. Let’s talk about Music Everywhere. Is that a part of Charlotte Center City Partners? How does that correlate?

Yeah, it’s a great question. So we launched it as an initiative four or five years ago with the idea that, hey, what if Charlotte could become more of a music city than it is? And if so, what if we got intentional about that? Now, the initiative is for the whole city. It’s not just for uptown. We have this little side nonprofit where we launch things like this that we think have, will be a positive impact on the urban core, but also are city wide. So we launched that initiative about five years ago to grow Charlotte’s music scene in economy. So it is still housed within Center City Partners.

Okay, I thought that was the case, but I want to be pretty clear on. And there’s so many great things about that. I know you guys are involved in the Community Music Hang, which is a great event. I’ve been to quite a few of fact. I think that’s where I met you the first time I think it was a matter of fact. I think it was that jam box and you’re also sponsoring the Lovin Life Festival Local music stage this year. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that’s gonna be?

Yeah, absolutely. So that is happening this weekend in Charlotte. This is a major music festival. Headliners are Post Malone, Stevie Nicks and Noah Kahn. But the organizers are from Charlotte. This is a first year festival. It is a significant financial investment on their part. And we are really thrilled to be able to sponsor the local stage, where they have an entire stage dedicated to acts from the Charlotte area. So I think it’s 18 over the three days will be performing. I mean, this is in a lineup of around 50 acts. So they didn’t have to do this, right? Especially a first year festival. They didn’t have to devote stage time, money, et cetera to acts that may not sell as many tickets as Stevie Nicks. But they did and we’re grateful for it. And we’re super excited to be the presenting sponsor of that stage, to be able to intro and outro these acts and introduce them to fans that may not be familiar with them, but I guarantee you they will come away fans.

Oh, and you know, I’ve seen the lineup, and of course I’ve had, I think we’ve had two of the artists from that that have been on here. The last one I did was Natalie Carr having her on the show, but you got Modern Alibi, you know, and groups like this, and these are really, really, really great artist groups that I see doing it right. They don’t overplay. They don’t overexpose themselves. They have educated themselves pretty thoroughly on the music industry in all aspects from, you know, social media to Spotify playlist and things like that. You’ve chosen very well for the stage and it gives people something to aspire to.

And I give the organizers full credit for that because they chose the acts, you know, so they had booked the lineup before we even came on as the sponsor, but candidly we wouldn’t have done it. We didn’t think it was a good representation of the area.

Oh, yeah and some of these people you’ve used and Shout Charlotte.

Absolutely, they played Charlotte Shout. Two of the acts played Confluence last year. Without revealing anything. I’m sure that several of these will be playing confluence this year as well.

There there’s one more thing that you do as part of Music Everywhere that I don’t know if it’s undervalued or if the artists here really understand the true value of is you send out an email. I’m signing up for this email list. Every performer and musician within the Carolinas, I would say this would be something that could be open to anybody anywhere because the content you have on it, you do feature local acts, you tell the things that are going on in Charlotte. But as importantly to me, there are so many avenues for music education on there. You’ll repost people’s newsletters, you know, links to those, and I think one of them is called The Morning Coffee, which is a great one, and you find all these resources through that, including, you could actually listen to the panels of things like South by Southwest and, you know, those kind of videos, which were so educational and you’re hearing from top A&R people. All that was coming through your email list. I found out about these that way and of course you list open mics, you feature a certain performer, you also have a link to a directory where you have all of these performers in a directory where venues can find them. So it’d be another thing for venues to be on the list as well because you know they have their buyer that you can see the artists that have quality pictures that have spent time in what they’re doing, so it’s pretty important piece of information, I feel. And something I always tell artists, it’s hard to get them to do it. And this might be a subject that comes in for Confluences, the value of an email list. When you are on social media, like they all are, you’re just renting your list. But when you have an email list, you own your list. And that’s a good example of how a list should be done. You know, you’re setting an example there. They need to sign up for it. They need to view that content but also look how does an email list like this gets done Get you know get done because if we have our fans at our shows signing up for these then all of a sudden We’ve grown our fan base and we have a little more control should something happen with social media. You know, we again, we all remember myspace. We all remember periscope. We we know what’s going on there. 

Well not all of us remember periscope but no, I think it’s the difference between followers and fans. And we actually had a panel on that last year’s Confluence conference but somebody that in a split -second decision clicked like or follow to your Instagram feed that that matters, right? That’s a follower, but somebody who gets your email each time and read your email. That’s a fan and you are communicating one to one with that fan. And you are having a dialogue with that fan however often you’ve seen your newsletter out. In fact, you’re right, Terry, the number of artists to whom I have subscribed to their newsletter, and then I never get one where it rarely comes out. And I know it’s hard that we have a million things to do, but we are trying to show with that newsletter, right? Like we’re trying to add value. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to add value with this newsletter, not just repeat the same things others are repeating toward our goal of developing the music scene in Charlotte. So we’re listing events that build community. We’re highlighting links that artists can use right away to grow their careers. We’re telling stories about places that where where you can gather with other music community members. And we have people reach out to say hey can you put my show in your newsletter? That’s not what it’s for we have other people that do that. I think artists can do the same thing with their own music how do you add value to your fans maybe it’s a special early peak at a release or a video only for them or hey come see me at this you know private viewing party for my next single.

Followers to fans. Well we got two events we’ll go talk about when we come back. We’re gonna take a quick break to hear from our sponsors and also a special video before we roll back in. So we’ll be right back with Rick Thurman here in the studio.

Welcome back to rBeatz Studio here with Rick Thurman in the studio and you’ve just seen the the video of Confluence, the Carolina’s Premier Music Conference. Let’s talk a bit about that coming from the music industry. Now, obviously I spent years in it and I actually went to confluence this past year was very impressed with what you guys had accomplished. You brought in a combination of guests. You had guests from the local county and state government you had people from the music industry, yet you had Mikey from Ari’s Take, you know, gotta give him a special shout out because that’s such an incredible music podcast as well, and you had like, I remember Friday Jones teaching this amazing seminar that was so detailed and step -by -step of how to create your electronic press kit. This was real information combined with panels and it’s where I met Patra Sinner, which we’ve had on the show. I met her through that conference. I met some great artists not only in town but from out of town who came to the city to see what we had going on. So tell us more about Confluence.

Yeah, thanks. It was definitely a labor of love. So we put this on last year and we’re bringing it back this year. We intend for it to be an annual event. It’s in October. It is a music industry conference. So two, three days of panels, workshops, keynote speakers, and we really try to bring in a mix of Charlotte, regional and national speakers to the table because one of the goals is to connect the national music industry with the local music scene.

Let them know we’re here.

You know, this conference is rooted in the Carolinas. I mean, the URL is ConfluenceCarolinas.com, so we really want that to shine through in what we’re doing. It’s not designed to be a generic conference, but we want to invite the national industry leaders in to see what we have going on here, not just in Charlotte, but in both Carolinas. And then at night, we have a showcase festival. We want to get people inside the local independent venues. That’s the backbone of any music scene. And we did a lot of research. I won’t bore you with all of that. But what we learned was there are a lot of people in the area that identify live music fans that essentially were only going to the big national acts, which is fine, that’s great. I think it’s just because they aren’t sure how to go to a venue they’re not familiar with in a neighborhood they don’t usually go to to see an act they don’t know much about. So how do we break down some of those barriers by making it easy for them to get inside those venues and give artists a chance to showcase their talents, not just for local fans, but for visiting industry to help build those connections.

Yeah, and you did a great job with that. Something else I like, I’m not sure if you’re using the same venue this year, but I love that venue because you had so many great rooms and then you had just an easy transition into the restaurant area where so many of these people sat and talked and of course Tosco, you know, had his people out there playing and entertaining as well. He always has amazing acts that he works with. And then you had just different areas where the artists could sit and talk, you know, in between that and get to know each other. And I think that helped a lot with social capital as well.

Yeah, that’s what it’s about is building connections. We will be at the Affid Exchange Music Factory again, which is for those that don’t know entertainment complex in the heart of Charlotte. Multiple music venues and other destinations. And we’re also picking up on what you just said, we’re building the one thing we heard feedback was, hey, we want more networking opportunities. So yes, a lot of it happened organically, but we will also be planning and producing some very intentional networking events as well.

And maybe even kicking that off was how to network. Because a lot of people, not only they not know the rules of networking, they don’t know how to present. They don’t know how to follow up and it’s not common sense. I mean, I didn’t know when I first got into everything there were people that taught me and having that knowledge makes you more comfortable with going into a situation like that. It was it was such a great place for that because you had people from different realms people that were talking about Bitcoin and the blockchain, you had people that were talking about booking, you had people that were talking about recording. I even learned of this one vinyl company that was there that they actually have chips under the label that you can scan, you know, and play the music as well on vinyl, which was a cool new thing that I had done all about. So there was so much to be learned like that that you wouldn’t even expect to learn. And just like I said, the friendship and collaboration for that, so.

Well, and you hit another key element of it is that we’re trying to design a music conference for where the music industry is going, not necessarily where it’s been. I think there are a lot of things that are timeless about being successful in music industry, but there’s a lot that’s changing as well. So we want to bring some of those ideas to the table, to Charlotte, to introduce people to maybe new ways to think about releasing. releasing your music, promoting your music, whatever the case may be, but also introduce those people to each other. Because as you mentioned earlier, there are so many people doing some of this, even in Charlotte, that don’t know each other, that didn’t know that they were here. And, you know, we had four or five startup founders on panels that had some connection to the Charlotte area, some that did not. That’s how deals get done, that’s how partnerships get made.

And that’s how people get seen because you’re using different fan bases. You know, when you have a fan base and some one else has a fan base and you’re kind of cross -collateralizing and you see a lot of that on a national scene. Where an artist will be on another artist, maybe in their video or guest spot on the song and all of a sudden they’ve opened their Spotify audiences or they’ve opened their YouTube audiences and it’s a lot faster growth than just… trying to build that whole thing yourself. And even you know in that it’s not just collaborations with other musicians, but it’s collaborations with poets. It’s collaborations with visual artists and which you know your event Charlotte Shout, that that’s a great example because you have that stuff all over the city. You have performance, but you have these amazing displays that people come and they take so many pictures. I’ve seen everything from like these little egg sculptures.

We have 13 of these giant eggs in a park. This is Charlotte Shout, of course, that we’re talking about, 17 day Arts and Culture festival in uptown. Each egg was designed and decorated by different artists. Which, in itself was in pretty amazing piece It also became a pretty popular Instagram backdrop.

One of my favorite things (was) the DJ booth that was in a pirate ship right in between the Mint and the Beckler. I was sending that to everybody and they were like what kind of crazy party are you at? I was like this is a festival. This is what we have in the city. Well, you had concerts as well.

The funny thing is that that pirate ship is actually a float in the parade. We had it designed and built by an artist this year for the parade. And then we thought this thing is so amazing. How else can we use it? And so we installed it right on this beautiful sort of alleyway like street between two art museums as a perfect spot for a DJ booth up top. And we hired mermaids and pirates to dance around. And then right next to it was this giant art installation called Sonic Runway that mimics sound waves when you come through it and the lights react to the music so, especially as soon as it got dark, it became like a dance party every night it was really cool.

Yeah and it introduces you to new venues too because I’d never heard of the Pianodrome before that. With those events there’s this  room in the round, kind of like an amphitheater indoors in a church, but it’s made out of piano parts, you know, like broken up grand pianos and things like that to build the something unique to our city that nobody would have known had you not had that. Of course another Instagram moment as well with that. Well, it’s been such a great privilege to sit here with you because I’ve known you a little while now and so impressed with your work but to actually be able to sit down and and to let people know that this is such a deep story of what is happening in the city. Imagine what this is going to be five years from now or three years from now or even two years from now because of the work that’s being put forth. So thank you very much for what you and Charlotte Center City Partners, Music Everywhere. You’re making this just so much better of a place to live. Even though it’s an already incredible city, now it’s a city where you just have something going on all the/ time that’s just great to be a part of so thank you very much.

Terry thank you thank you for those kind words and thank you so much for having me it’s been a privilege.

Just always let us know when you have something to promote or something going on.

Thanks man I appreciate you absolutely.

You’ve been listening to rbeatz.com with our special guest Rick Thurman, who’s the chief marketing officer again for Charlotte Center City Partners and we will see you next time. Thanks for tuning in. Much love.

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