Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clay Nutting: Reaching Out through Music

In 2002, Clay Nutting began the Sacramento chapter of Concerts 4 Charity, a non profit organization whose mission is to raise money for music and arts education.

Since then Clay Nutting, with a highly dedicated staff, collaborative partners (like Adam Saake who helped organize the Sac Electronica Festival) and local like-minded musicians, has put together some amazingly eclectic shows, donated guitars to 450 kids and taught them how to play, and today they continue to expand their outreach.

As an audiophile who attended concerts since adolescence (his first being Huey Lewis and the News), Clay is constantly driven to put on the next great show. And according to him in order to beat a bad economy and a societal ethos that he says is too easily "captivated by Thursday night television" it is important to make every show special.

What's the first step: put together a diverse line up that draws a crowd.

CN: There are some people who aren’t that interested in the indie music scene in Sacramento but they’ll come out for John Vanderslice, [and] once they’re there they see DOOMbird open and that knocks their socks off and then Sea of Bees – how can you not like them. All of a sudden you’ve bread or cultivated this group of people who may have come out to support John Vanderslice but are now supporting the local music scene that they may not have been connected to before.
TNHZ @ the Townhouse | Aug 21st
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Take for example C4C's Ballet + Live Local Music event coming up September 17th at the Crest Theater. After the success of their first show in 2007, this year's contemporary ballet will be performed with music by local acts like DOOMbird, Sister Crayon, Drifting Shapes, and Exquisite Corps.

Or one of the newest projects in the works: an adaptation of the classic Peter and the Wolf featuring Harley White Jr. Utilizing famous jazz performers as representations of instruments the goal is to encourage and invigorate jazz education.

This is what Clay is talking about by making the show "special." Create an event that brings people of different interests and tastes together to get them exposed to music or arts they wouldn't regularly be exposed to.

However special the show, C4C also puts together a cohesive marketing strategy to help spread the word. The trick is, it is a delicate balance according to Clay. You have to "tell the story of the show without overwhelming and turning people off by over promoting." 

It would appear in the age of social networking that online promotion is the best way to get people interested in your band, show, etc. It's quick and easy. Using your phone you can post on your Facebook wall, update your MySpace status and Twitpic your show photos on your lunch break. From Clay's experience, however, this is still not enough.
CN: Social media has become a crutch for a lot of people. They think they can put it on Facebook and MySpace and people will “know” about it [the show]. But I think the opposite is true. I think it compliments a whole promotion strategy, have something that someone might see out at a coffee shop, then they see it online and then you shake their hand at Concerts in the Park, for example and say "hey I’m doing this thing" and then all of a sudden it all comes together and they are more likely to come out. 

A key promotional tool, outside of social networking, that Clay uses to catch the eye and interest of people around Sacramento are posters with original art.

CN: I have really cool people doing poster design like Asbestos Press and Melissa Arendt. They bring a whole other element to it because there are people who like music and there are people who are visually turned on by the design and check out the music later. And many of the artists develop an identity by doing it [designing poster art].

By infusing art with music, concerts with fundraising, Clay Nutting and the rest of the C4C's staff and supporters have truly created an important support system for local music and arts education. And despite the frustrations of running a non profit in a recession, of drawing people to events and inspiring them to buy tickets, Clay is positive and driven.

ChkChkChk @ Harlow's | Sept. 13th
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CN: I think the music in our community is very strong. You just have to sometimes look harder. [But] If you’re not happy with the amount of people who are aware of the music and arts community find ways to bring them into it. I take it upon myself and my friends to bring other people in.

As a promoter you focus on the scene as a whole. [The plan is to] throw out this net and hope people come but really you have to pay attention to the people who influence – ask them to help you, even if it's not your show, to bring people out. Support the Verge Gallery, support a show at Old Ironsides, at Press Club, at Townhouse. Wherever there’s music going on, bring someone out and hopefully increase the number of people that are excited about the community.

So for a guy who loves music and knows how to put on a great show, I was curious: if he could put together a music festival here in Sacramento, who would he book?

I should point out, when I asked him this question he agonized over his answer. He became quiet and intensely pensive.

CN: It's painful for me because in my mind I need to put together the perfect bill.

After a few moments, he threw out some names, suggested that he would take over a few city blocks in the Midtown/Downtown area and then stopped - stumped and looking a little defeated.

Later that day, I went through my Facebook Inbox and found a message simply headed "I thought about it..." sent ten minutes after I left our interview. Here's what he came up with (with a little added flare on my part):

Be sure to check out Concerts 4 Charity and one (or ALL) of their upcoming shows!


cb said...


Paduta.Com said...

Thanks! We really love what Concerts 4 Charity is doing in Sacramento.