In 2010 Matt Busby was drawn to the idea of creating a Chattanooga-based coffee shop and community oriented space. He moved to Chattanooga on a Saturday that summer, walked into the Camp House the following Monday, and has been involved with the business, an eclectic combination of church plant, coffee shop, restaurant, and venue space, ever since.
What is your role at the Camp House?
Matt: I am the director, which means that I handle the marketing and public events that we host. Our vision is to be a place that cultivates culture and community in the city, so my job is to ask those questions and act according to that vision.
The Camp House has a multi-faceted role in this community as a church, coffee shop, restaurant, and venue space. As a music venue, what is the process you go through to book artists?
Matt: Our process has changed since our move from the Southside to downtown. In the last space, I used to get emails directly from artists and agencies and determined who would play based on personal independent research. We did that for our first year in the new location, but moving from a 150 person venue to a 475 person venue increased our risk of losing money. In 2016 we decided to lower the number of concerts that we host, and that has been consistent going into this year. I book few artists independent from a promoter, so now I work with promoters like Gig City Productions, Tenesha Irvin, Anthony Byrd, and River City Sessions. I will say, however, that I am 100% willing to work with artists who also act as their own promoters. But that can significantly change the dynamic of the show.
How does it change the dynamic?
Matt: Typically for local artists, a venue will give an artist a base amount to play a show. For us, we would rather work with an artist that works as their own promoter. That means that at the front-end, it may cost the artist more up front to work with us, but there is far more back-end potential if a show goes well than at other venues. We want artists to guarantee a minimum of 100 people at their show if they want to play here.
What have been your favorite acts that you’ve worked with thus far?
Matt: My favorite acts are fairly evident based on how often they’ve played here like singer/songwriter David Ramirez, Noah Gundersen, and Ben Sollee. Locally, we’ve had Danimal Planet and Summer Dregs. They are all great and exciting acts to watch.
How have you seen the Camp House contribute to the growth of the local music industry?
Matt: When we started, there were several other midsize venues in Chattanooga that after our six years of existence are now gone. The fact that we’ve been a consistent venue for seven years come this summer has been one of our biggest contributions. In the past, we’ve done all we could to support the songwriter community in Chattanooga. Hopefully in the future we’ll be able to do that again. Even more recently, working with Mike Sick out of Atlanta has helped stimulate a hip hop community in Chattanooga that is still growing with the help of Hip Hop CHA.
What are some plans you have for the Camp House in 2017?
Matt: I think that the most important thing I can tell you is that we can look at the past and see what we can take on in the future. Part of the growth process is understanding what we needed to walk away from because we couldn’t sustain it, and seeing what we can take on again because we’re in a better place to do that.
What advice would you give rising musicians?
Matt: Understand that your art has to be excellent, and never underestimate the power of your audience. For venues to be successful we need bodies in the building and anytime we can work with an artist that can bring in an audience, we are more than happy to facilitate and create. It’s hardest, especially as a midsize venue, to work with a new artist that hasn’t taken the time to build that audience to where we financially can’t do that right now. Rising artists shouldn’t underestimate the power in building a rabid audience.