Charlie Jennings, senior vice president, Danny Wimmer Presents.
Charlie Jennings was born in Bristol, Tenn. Before joining Danny Wimmer Presents, he worked for AC Entertainment, which has offices in Knoxville and Nashville, for 11 years.
DWP, which bills itself as the largest independent festival producer in the country, produces 14 annual festivals in 13 U.S. cities. DWP-promoted fests in the Kentucky/Tennessee region include Louisville’s Bourbon & Beyond, Hometown Rising and Louder Than Life.
Although Jennings now lives in Los Angeles, he’s never far removed from his Southeastern roots.
How would you compare the Kentucky/Tennessee market to other markets in the country?
Both states are in major growth mode. In Knoxville there is very robust music programming. Chattanooga is a town that’s exploded over the last 10 years from being a town known for country and Christian music to being a town known for all genres. A lot of people never saw Chattanooga as a strong market, but over time it’s gone through tremendous growth and is now getting some respect.
Across the board all the cities in Tennessee have seen rising revenue and attendance. Louisville is a cool, hip town and right behind Nashville as the premier live event city in the region.
What’s fueling the growth in the region?
The rich history of music in the area has led to a renaissance of live performances in the region. From Elvis to Kentucky bluegrass to Justin Timberlake, there’s a strong history of music here. Nashville had the leadership of the city behind it as far as keeping the live music business strong and vital. When the economy rebounded, people got used to going to live events again and it’s stuck.
Tell us about the festival space in the region.
We’ve got a lot of festivals here. There’s our DWP Louisville festivals, plus AC Entertainment’s Forecastle Festival. Over in Manchester, Tenn., we have Bonnaroo. Nashville has the CMA Fest, and the list goes on and on. The collection helps fuel the artists’ presence in the region and gives them exposure, and when they come back to the market to play individually, business is better because the fans are coming out to see something familiar.
Why is region such fertile ground for festivals?
No. 1 is the geography. The population around Louisville is very big and there’s tons of potential ticket-buyers. Two, it’s a beautiful part of the country. We’ve got a great park system and people want to get out and do things outdoors here. Three would be the amazing spring and summer weather here. We don’t get a lot of highs and lows — it’s consistent.
Do you see country music as the key to the region?
In general, we’re highly country and bluegrass. Certain cities are more rock-oriented or soul-oriented, but our roots are still solidly on the country side, and the live music scene is filled with country artists.
Do touring bands often play in both states?
Most bands will stop in Nashville, Memphis and Louisville. Smaller bands typically add in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Lexington.
Are ticket prices and per caps healthy in the region?
The fans here are enthusiastic and they buy a lot of merchandise and drink a lot and take part in the food offerings, so per caps are strong here. Ticket prices are below other major markets; this is a price-sensitive region, and that helps leave pocket money for the concessions and merchandise.