Monica Kinsey is a native Tennessean whose passion for music led her and her husband ask, “Why does Chattanooga get skipped by so many large touring shows? Wherever they’re going, whether it be Asheville, Nashville, or Atlanta, they’re passing us.” Their solution was to open what is now one of the largest music venues in Chattanooga, Track 29, which has brought in a variety of acts and put the city on the musical map for tours.
How did you get involved with Track 29? Was Track 29 your brainchild?
Monica: Yeah, I guess. My husband and I did research after traveling quite a bit to attend concerts and festivals and thought that there must be a way to bring more musicians into town. So, we brainstormed what it would look like to open up a venue in Chattanooga. We already had a relationship with AC Entertainment in Knoxville so we talked to them, looked at 14 different buildings and landed on this one because of its infrastructure and how it helped lower our capital fundraising needs. We went with that location and Track 29 was born.
We opened it on September 1, 2011 to a lot of noise from naysayers claiming that it wouldn’t work. There were still a lot of venues around the city, but we felt there was a gap in the market that needed to be filled. We have places like JJ’s, Rhythm and Brews, Raw and back then there used to be Club Fathom, but it jumped from places that could seat 350-500 people max to a 1700-capacity venue at the Tivoli. The Tivoli also had a different feel than those smaller venues; there was no large club presence that could fill that huge 500-1,500 capacity gap. That’s why we opened. We felt like the more options we had, the more it would build the market.
How have you seen Track 29 change over the past five years?
Monica: Track has changed quite a bit. One of the smartest things we did in the beginning was cultivate the relationship we had with AC Entertainment. They’re basically our mediator and we often rely on them to find the artists. We still make the decisions on who to book based on the risk, the range of dates available, however. That is one of the best things we did because they already had the relationships with the touring acts and this is very much a relationship based business. So, we had a foot in the door and now the artists and the agents alike have gotten to know us and regularly approach us about playing at Track based on what type of experience we give. They reach out to us because they now trust us and they know that we’re serious about giving them the best experience possible.
Our fan base has also changed quite a bit. When we started out, we had to educate the public about how the community can benefit from this type of venue, having concerts more often, having sold out shows, and even showcasing different types of music and genres that aren’t necessarily available on local radio stations. Our customer base has changed as we’ve grown, however, because we’ve reached more people from out of town. 85% of our customers are still local, but we’ve evolved to attract more and more music fans from out of town.
What do you see are some challenges for booking your venue?
Monica: We have some production challenges in the existing space on some shows. Some artists are able to pull off very elaborate shows, but there have been some that wouldn’t fit because they needed a higher ceiling to accommodate their equipment. We constantly have offers from many different artists and have to decide what will work and what won’t based upon how they build their shows. It also depends on how reliant that artist is on certain aspects of the production for their show.
Booking was more difficult in the beginning because we were still a new market to agencies and artists and we had to prove that we were worth the risk. We had to hammer it into the public that they had to come support these artists if they wanted them to come back to Chattanooga because they don’t want to come to a spot that they won’t sell out or at least have a good showing. It doesn’t reflect well on their business and it’s difficult to move forward.
My appeal to music fans is this: whether they’re your favorite artist or not, go check out new music because typically when we get them they’re on their way up or on their way down. You really need to go see them because after us there’s really nowhere else they can perform in town unless it’s outdoors. Since this is a relationship business, you want everyone involved in it to have a great Chattanooga experience because they all talk about it after the fact. The roadies, the bus driver, the tour manager - they all talk. We want them to have the best Chattanooga experience possible so they will share that information with their colleagues. We’ve had so many repeat folks come through because many touring musicians and crew members jump from tour to tour. It’s a good showing for Chattanooga, but also for the venue.
Monica’s Top-10 Track 29 Memories
The Avett Brothers
Drive By Truckers
Alabama Shakes. They came to Track 29 just as they were changing their name from the Shakes to Alabama Shakes, and Track 29 is honored to host them again on April 25, 2016.
Are there any local music projects that you’re excited about?
Monica: I’m a board member for SoundCorps, and I’m pretty excited about the initiatives involved with that. It’s a huge undertaking; a lot of projects, so I’m excited to see where that goes. It will be good to see what the buy in is from local artists as a community and what they will participate in. I’m excited about what the guys in Undaground are doing. I saw them at Will This Float? and have spoken with them and hope to pull together an event with them soon. I also think that this is the time to start heavily supporting our local artists and putting them more in the spotlight. There’s a certain pool of people who always come to the local shows and I think it’s high-time we expand that audience base in Chattanooga.