Before I knew I was moving back to Michigan, I was able to interview talent buyer Tim Sweetwood. You know all of those awesome indie, rock, dance and metal acts you’ve seen in Old Fourth Ward? It’s likely Tim brought those acts to the Masquerade. Aside from shows and festivals, Tim is the catalyst behind one of the best music fest line-ups of 2013 with Shaky Knees Music Fest. I spoke with Tim before Shaky Knees was officially announced, but it certainly seemed like he had something up his sleeve. Check out the interview below.
Masquerade is a diverse venue now with 4 options for bands, but what is the history of the building?
It was an excelsior mill in the 1800’s, where you basically chopped up wood chips and packed things here. Then had them packed and there were train tracks in the back, which is now the Beltline. It was abandoned in the mid-1900’s, then in the 1980’s it was a movie theater and a club. Around ‘89-90 is when the Masquerade was here and then developed to what it is now.
In the 1990’s, it was a completely diverse place with anyone from Radiohead to Nirvana to Flaming Lips to Butthole Surfers. Then there was a gap in the early ‘00s where it kind of got a metal reputation. I’ll always go on record saying there is nothing wrong with metal music. It is great, diverse…people tend look at venues the wrong way. People should look at who is playing there that night, if you are interested in seeing a band that night, great. If not, you are not required to go. If you look at our overall schedule, metal is about 10% of what we do. When I got here, we started to go after everything from electronic to indie bands. I care about good sounding music and people that want to have a beer.
There are a lot of venues in Atlanta and the Masquerade has a variety of rooms, what venues do you compete with most?
You kind of compete with all of them. With us having such a wide range from 250 capacity in Purgatory all the way to the amphitheater in the back at 4,000. We compete against Rival guys at Centerstage, Variety and Live Nation with Tabernacle. Those are the 3 primary, but we are very much like Switzerland here and work with a lot of other promoters. We’re not afraid to bring new bands in our room.
I’ve seen you promote events outside of the Masquerade, like recently the xx show at Tabernacle. How does that get decided?
Theoretically, any room should be open, but they aren’t always that way. It depends on the promoter doing the show, not the building doing the show. It happens to be in places like Variety, Centerstage and ourselves, where we do a lot of shows in house. Then there are rooms like Buckhead Theatre where they sometimes have a buyer for the room and sometimes they don’t. At places like that its almost 80% of the time someone else promoting there, so I’m just renting the room and putting on the show. Whether it is the Earl, Verizon Wireless, or Tabernacle, you typically have a history with the band or agent and you are the one presenting that show.
A band can only make so much money in our room upstairs and that’s the game, trying to find the right space. Production-wise, it helps because it is a bigger set of production than upstairs (Heaven) can hold.
You mentioned the Beltline earlier, how do you think that will affect the Masquerade?
It will only help us. It goes along the property and should expose us to more people. They support us and we support them. It’s what Atlanta needs for transportation in some of the more populated areas of town.
What is a normal day of talent booking like?
More e-mails coming in than I can handle, getting holds for shows, putting in offers, securing shows, putting shows on sale and promoting them. Depending on what particular show is that night I help run the show. We have a production manager here, but I still oversee how the show is running from night to night. You cater to a band’s needs when they are here and make sure they are comfortable. Staying until the end of the night and doing the financial settlements of that show.
It is a very entrepreneurial job. I handle a lot of different roles here from talent buying to general manager, dealing with beer/liquor and sponsorships. I have a company that manages bands as well.
When it comes to bands and who should play the Masquerade, do you seek out bands or are agents primarily contacting you?
A little bit of everything. You want to find bands when they are younger, seeking out their agents and who is going to popular. They also come to you based on past relationships or history with them and depending on their tour plans.
How do the ticketing relationships work? Most of the shows at Masquerade are with LN/Ticketmaster, right?
All ticketing companies related to a venue or promoter are contract based. We sign a contract for a certain number of years with a company. Masquerade is with Ticketmaster, but it is building based. If I plan a show at another venue, they might have a different provider.
Masquerade puts on A3C Hip Hop Festival and Winter Beer Festival, but have you ever worked on large music festivals like Music Midtown or Counter.Point?
We’ve worked on there and there is something in the works for the future. I can’t get into too much of it, but those events are always in the works. I think it is about doing it right and making it quality.
Thanks Tim. Atlantans – Get your Shaky Knees single day tickets now before it sells out!