Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Country in the NEWS: Where New Country meets Old Country ....February 7, 2018 (Chris Lane - Topgolf Sports Entertainment)

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Golfers Flock to Concerts as Nashville's Topgolf Renames Live Music Venue, Eyes New Markets

  Chris Lane

Topgolf, the Dallas, Texas-based global sports entertainment company known for its innovative point-scoring games in multilevel driving ranges, has seen remarkable growth in its 19 years of existence. During that time they have rapidly expanded, with 44 locations stretching across the world, from its original Watford, England location to its newest facility in El Paso, Texas.
Having revolutionized the live sports entertainment experience with their technology-based approach to golf that relies on microchipped balls that score themselves on distance and accuracy, Billboard has learned that the company may now have their sights set on becoming a serious contender within the live music community as well, with their first step toward it being a small change made at their four-month-old Nashville location.
The company tells Billboard that they are renaming the music venue found inside their Nashville facility The Cowan, tossing the old name Topgolf Live. Taking its new name from the street that the facility sits alongside, those within the company at the local level have watched as the lone music venue within the Topgolf family has quickly become a big part of the Nashville live music scene, while also noticing some lingering hostilities from neighboring venue owners and performers. In a neighborhood that has long prided itself on the rich history of artistic independence it has offered the town, it came as a surprise to some local club owners when indie bands that would normally play an intimate dive suddenly started being booked to play the stage of a spot that makes the name of nearby Louisville, Kentucky's KFC Yum! Center sound subtle in its commercialism.
"Yeah, that's been thrown [at me] before," says Jon Shyer, Entertainment Manager for The Cowan, "Topgolf is taking being a part of the Nashville music community very seriously. We need to stand out, to not be what some might expect us to be, and not just be a thing for tourists that happen to come through the area. That's been done, so we'd rather bring in great talent, and not just the acts that cater to bachelor or bachelorette parties that people might assume we'd primarily book. We want to eventually build up to three or four nights of great national talent a week, as well as regularly offer opportunities to some of the great local talents that Nashville is known for. I have seen some musicians playing small clubs here in town that I would love to see play our bigger stage. If we get some extra eyes on them from the industry folks who are already attending shows here, it can only help their careers, while at the same time building our name and story within the community locally. We don't want to be just one more spot for music in Nashville."

The change from Topgolf Live to The Cowan is more than just cosmetic in nature, as it also points toward a potential change company-wide where it comes to its relationship with live music. While each Topgolf facility does offer some form of music space, in nearly every other city that is embodied by a small riser in the outdoor area, basically suitable in size for a singer-songwriter or a DJ. The success that the two-story 600 capacity Nashville venue has shown in less that six months - including multiple sold out shows - would be remarkable in any city, which has caused some within the company to discuss expanding the venue's concept across the brand.
"The potential [for expansion] is there, yes," relays Topgolf Senior Communications Specialist Morgan Wallace. "I feel that the company is in such a phase of growth right now that we're really using our research and tools to find out what our guests and associates want and need, and making those a reality. Everything is evolving, and we're always looking to incorporate new thought processes. In terms of our brand, only a couple of years we were focused on the golf aspect of the business, but with our music venues we're specifically looking at ways to incorporate different content series that involve music, ways to showcase Topgolf outside of the four walls of the venues."
Topgolf currently operates 38 facilities throughout the United States alone, with locations coming soon to both Canada and Mexico. While country star Chris Lane - who recently headlined a sold out show at Topgolf Live in Nashville in late January as part of his Take Back Home Tour - may have no shortage of venues to choose from when it is time to book a tour, Topgolf could potentially be able to offer artists at Lane's level within the business forty-plus guaranteed stops cross-country on their schedule if expansion of the music venue concept were to occur. Once combined with the thirteen million guests that visit Topgolf facilities each year, and will see upcoming shows being advertised multiple times on each visit, that also spells a lot of potential fans that a performer doesn't have to fight others for in a crowded market.
If that expansion of live venues ever does occur throughout Topgolf's existing facilities, Nashville will be where it all started. With so much riding on the continued success of The Cowan, it would be easy to assume that the team in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the music venue might begin to take a safe approach to booking talent here on out, but not so according to Shyer.

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