Pink performs at American Airlines Center in Dallas. (RAP Photo Co.)

Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center, Midland
Stephanie Rivas, general manager

How did you do in 2018?
We had a great year. We had 191 events with a total of 107,963 tickets sold. We are a great venue for routing but knowing that our patrons will come out and support these acts makes all the difference.

Big shows
Disney Live, Jerry Seinfeld, Jo Koy, Foreigner, Alison Krauss, Bob Dylan, Illuminate, Chad Prather, Darci Lynne Farmer. We had a lot of great shows in 2018. Our only subscription opportunity is for our Broadway in the Basin season. It had great titles this year, helping to increase our subscriber count, sitting now just under 1,000. For a venue with 1,827 seats, we are pretty proud of that.

Changes
We wanted to work on creating some new opportunities to engage with our communities and help introduce them to all that we have to offer. We held three free movie days in the summer months of June, July and August that we tagged Cinema Under the Stars. The venue has a unique star field in the ceiling that makes it feel like your sitting under the West Texas sky. Patrons were invited to get out of the summer heat, sit under our “stars” and enjoy the day watching three free movies. 

What went right
For us doing it right means keeping a consistent variety of programming. It is the best compliment when someone says, “You really have something for everyone.”

What went wrong
I can’t say that anything went wrong. Not every event is a win, so when we don’t win we just do our best to learn from that experience


American Airlines Center, Dallas
Dave Brown, chief operating officer and general manager

How did you do in 2018?
We hosted 47 concerts, besting our previous best total of 45. And with more available dates, we would have easily broken the 50 mark. In addition, we also hosted marquee sporting events like the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Round 1 and 2 and UFC 228. 

Big shows
Pink, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars and Elton John were some of the biggest we saw in 2018. All performing double nights, with JT and Bruno performing a total of three shows in less than a 12-month period. Michelle Obama was another big one for our market and a different format of show than we are used to seeing. It was a fast sellout and large gross. 

Changes
We launched our AAC app in the fall with the move to exclusive mobile ticketing. The app has been a game changer to our guest experience, giving our guests one location to plan their whole experience. 

What went right
The big shows are doing huge numbers in Dallas, not only in ticket sales but also tour merchandise. Dallas continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, which has really accelerated demand for entertainment. 

What went wrong
We literally started running out of bookable dates in the fall when most tours were wrapping up. We are a two-team building, home to the Mavericks and Stars, so we start the season with 80 unavailable dates on the calendar. 


Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land
David Skinner, general manager

How did you do in 2018?
2018 was our second year open for business, and we definitely did not have a sophomore slump. We finished No. 9 (in Pollstar’s ranking) in the world in ticket sales for venues under 10,000 seats. We deepened our relationships with a variety of outside promoters in addition to a solid lineup of in-house bookings. Variety and diversity of our programming has been a mission for us and I think we have shown that Smart Financial Centre can be successful with a very wide range of shows that appeal to a wide range of audiences.

Big shows
We had some huge shows in 2018, from three sold-out shows with Dave Chappelle and Jon Stewart to sold-out shows with The Killers, Khalid, Erasure, Slayer, Bad Bunny and many others. Our Christian music shows also proved to be massively successful with the Mercy Me and Lauren Daigle tours. 

Changes
As 2018 was just our second year, we didn’t have any major changes or improvements. We learned and implemented better ways to serve our customers and how to better utilize our space not only for customers but for sponsors and back of house. 


Austin360 Amphitheater, Austin
Glynn Wedgewood, general manager 

How did you do in 2018?
We’d been in the range of 22 to 25 events per season with Live Nation but last year we were up to 33. It was the busiest and most successful season we’ve had so far, with 270,000 attendees.

Big shows
Foo Fighters, Eric Church (which we rescheduled for 2018 after his 2017 show was canceled because of Hurricane Harvey), Post Malone, Imagine Dragons, Logic, Queens of the Stone Age, and Slayer.

Changes
None, really. We didn’t deviate too much from our partnership with Live Nation and C3 Presents. Venue improvements are a constant for us or doing things to tweak the staffing and improving our operations.

What went right
We had a run in the middle of the season of five shows back to back, and that was part of a run of seven shows in nine days. When you think about what that takes to load in a band at 8 o’clock in the morning and then run for 20 hours so you only have a four-hour turnaround, it takes a lot to run those shows at a high standard. Getting everybody working together for five days straight on very little sleep was something I was very proud of.

What went wrong
We’ve had Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic for a number of years and last year while we were expecting some weather it wound up getting a lot heavier. It came in so hard we had to evacuate in the middle of the day, getting people out into their cars or our buildings to keep everyone safe. You have to have a plan for weather and sometimes it comes in worse, but you have to roll with it and do whatever it takes.


Bass Concert Hall, Austin
Will Shirey, talent buyer 

How did you do in 2018?
2018 was a very strong year for us on all fronts. We did more stand-alone commercial events and sold 15 percent more tickets than any other year on record. We worked with new partners, explored new programming opportunities with our Essential Series and had a strong year of Broadway with seven titles over seven weeks. Our in-house F&B company made great improvements to the bars and food service in the building enhancing the fan experience and, most importantly, we rolled out extensive updates to our security policies and infrastructure to ensure the safety of everyone attending events in our building.

Big shows
Two Steve Martin and Martin Short dates, which put up the highest combined gross of any concert event in venue history, “Book of Mormon,” David Byrne, Max Richter’s eight-hour overnight performance of “Sleep” during South by Southwest to 200 sleeping fans on Beautyrest mattresses set out on the Bass Concert Hall stage, and the Philip Glass Ensemble performing “Koyaanisqatsi” live.

Changes
We added magnetometers and self-scanning ticket podiums at the main entrance, implemented a new clear bag policy and added or upgraded multiple bars. We also completed a major dimmer upgrade in our McCullough Theatre.

What went right
The enhanced fan experience in the building and growth in almost every aspect of the business.

What went wrong
We lost one of our dear friends and beloved box office managers, Josh Bernard, in 2018. His name is now displayed on what he always thought was the best seat in the house in Bass Concert Hall. He is sorely missed by all of our staff and patrons that he worked with over his years with Texas Performing Arts.


Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, San Antonio
Aaron Zimmerman, vice president of programming and marketing

How did you do in 2018?
It was a banner year. We saw between 7 (percent) and 10 percent growth in ticket sales, and that continues a trend we’ve seen since 2015.

Big shows
We had David Byrne sell out twice, and that’s the first time we’ve had the same show in the spring and the fall. Culture Club came for its third sold-out show in two years, this time with Thompson Twins, and we had the Echo and the Bunnymen and Violent Femmes co-headlining tour. We also had a reading from President Bill Clinton, and good shows from Fleet Foxes, Shinedown, Jason Isbell, Weird Al Yankovic, Jason Mraz and Billy Idol.

Change
We hired our first digital content coordinator because we’re doing less and less traditional mediums like print for marketing. Some of the higher art stuff like symphony and ballet still use that, but the majority of our plans have shifted to digital and online marketing. 

What went right
We’re seeing non-touring artists becoming more successful, and that’s shows from different podcasts and comedians, television stars, book tours and lectures. Those aren’t in the normal medium of “Let’s go to a rock concert,” and those performances are helping to fill the calendar and balance out the demographics of people we’re reaching. 

What went wrong
Some of the nostalgia acts that have traditionally toured performing arts centers aren’t performing as strongly because those audiences are getting older. That’s where the new digital measures we’re taking to reach millennials are helping to fill gaps we’re seeing from artists who have toured every year for 20 or 30 years. 

 

READ ON:

Texas: Big and Getting Bigger
Q & A: Kristyn Ciani, talent buyer, C3 Presents
Scene: Austin — Q&A with Graham Williams, founder of independent promoter Margin Walker Presents