Jessica Bartet and Charity Painter are old souls whose love for independent musicians and sharing the artistic greatness that is Chattanooga pushed them to create the Flashlight Shows series. Up-and-coming indie bands and local charities come together for one night a month at different venues to show that “music is capable of producing an exponential amount of good for both the concert-goer and community alike,” as their Facebook page has advertised. They were also attendees of the inaugural Craft Masters class, which is an 8-week music industry intensive course developed by SoundCorps.
What inspired you to create Flashlight Shows?
Jessica: Charity was living in Atlanta at the time, and she was able to see a lot more indie shows that might not even tour through the Southeast. That was something she wanted to bring to Chattanooga once she moved up here. She called me up and said that she wanted to start this nonprofit music series in Chattanooga. We started Flashlight Shows to attract shows that would normally skip our city.
Charity: Yeah I think that’s how I originally started this. When I knew I was moving back here, I was excited/bummed about the music scene because I knew I wouldn’t get to see all of the bands I was seeing in Atlanta. Before I moved, I was cooking up this idea to partner with local nonprofits and try to do some shows to benefit them. When my family and I decided to move back to Chattanooga, I thought, “Why not do it there?” I wanted to start promoting shows, but I also wanted it to have a non profit side to it so I asked Jessica for her help because she seemed very supportive of the idea. We started hardcore planning in August 2014; we starting talking to people and making lots of Google Docs, messed around with different logos and started creating a business plan. We talked to anyone who would talk to us in the art scene here in town. A lot of them either didn’t get the idea or didn’t think that our business plan was feasible.
Jessica: Or they would say, “This sounds like a good idea, come back to us after you have a few shows under your belt.” But then we felt like we needed people to help us put on a few shows. We managed to pull it off. I didn’t really have any interest in booking shows, but the idea of doing it for fun and to help raise money and awareness for social causes was what excited me. Booking was more of Charity’s thing.
How do you end up finding the acts that you book?
Charity: A lot of the first few shows were just bands that was I listening to that I didn’t think would put Chattanooga on their tour schedules. I was constantly reaching out to bands that I thought had enough buzz that a few people in town would have heard of and tell their friends, or bands that I thought were about to build buzz. It’s all about hitting them at the right point. I like finding bands as they are on their way up; I like to see their hard work ethic when they're creating their own tours, booking their own gigs, and all around just working their asses off as an indie band. Those are the bands that I try to book.
How have you chosen the nonprofits that you guys partner with to raise money for?
Jessica: It’s not very systematic; it’s just been things that have ended up working out. The first one that we worked with was a group called Story Creators, which is an after school arts literacy program. There are 43 elementary schools in Hamilton County and 31 something of them don’t have arts programs, which to me is the most devastating thought, to not have art at such a young age because it saves. They were one of the first ones I thought of because I really liked what they were doing. They only needed $1200 for their funding for the next year and we were able to raise $700 of that. It’s nice to be able to raise a donation that makes a big dent in helping the beneficiary reach their goals. We wanted to see that money really be put to use, and we wanted to support locally. We tend to be passionate about the arts and children, so we’ve raised funds for a number of charities with a similar focus.
Were some businesses hesitant to sponsor you because of your business model?
Jessica: We got feedback that it didn’t look like a sustainable business model. “It all looks great, but where do you pay yourself?” Well, that isn’t what we’re really in it for. But people want to see that you value your time enough to pay yourself something.
Charity: We sat down with a lot of people and explained what the shows were and that we were going to raise money for the shows beforehand so the band would get a solid guarantee and that we would pay for the venue so that the ticket sales could go towards the featured nonprofit. Businesses, however, asked where our income was coming from and how we were planning on sponsoring the next show. They wanted to know why we were giving all of our money away. That was our model, and we figured by now that every third or fourth show we (Flashlight Shows) have to be the featured nonprofit and we use that money to perpetuate future shows. We’re still tweaking that a little bit at a time as we work on our business plan and how to file for nonprofit status.
What was your biggest take away from the Craft Masters class?
Jessica: It really got me thinking about legal issues and contracts and covering ourselves. When we book a band, we don’t have them signing anything that will guarantee that they will show up. Same with each of our shows; we have a featured artist set up their local gallery at each show just to bring color and awareness to their artist. We need to start creating contracts even for those artists who bring their work in saying that they’re agreeing to show up on that day. That was the main thing that Craft Masters got me thinking about, was getting contracts out to opening acts, main acts, artists, etc., to ensure their attendance.
Charity: We’ve gotten lucky; everyone has showed up like they’ve promised. The class was a general refresher about starting a business and kinda got us energized to start working on things again. We’re gonna take some time to tweak and do more work on paperwork. Going back to branding, it’s been important for our branding to push that we are throwing events. We try to incorporate as many different facets as possible and curate it so that attendees don’t have to know a ton about the band or visual artists, but that they will come into the experience and trust that we will provide a good time. That’s what we’re trying to build is a reputation so that people trust us enough to come out once a month to an event where we make sure every detail involves a level of enjoyment for them. We have yet to have a bad night. All of our shows for some reason have a good vibe and everyone leaves happy. We haven’t made a penny off of this; in fact Jess and I have poured a lot of money and sweat into this, but we love it. You also have to do things that makes your brand look legitimate so other businesses and other people take you seriously. That’s something I’ve been thinking about.
Jessica: I think that’s when we would be able to get more sponsorships and support, is when we have that business side figured out. I can understand people’s hesitation in donating money to us if they can’t see the breakdown of where the money goes. We want to be transparent with that stuff, so if we raise $500 from ticket sales then we can show how $70 went towards hospitality and $200 towards the musician, right? It’s worked out for us so far, but I think that if you do things for the right reason then that tends to happen.
To follow Flashlight Shows and see their schedule of shows, go to flashlightshows.com or find them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat.