Archive for the ‘News’ Category
By Tamara Fuller
When we opened The Velvet Note in 2012, I often asked myself the question, “Whose job is it to promote our shows?” I sincerely hoped the answer would be, “Not yours, Tamara.” After all, hadn’t I come up with the concept, invested my own money, built the club from scratch, designed the decor and interiors, and taken the risk of location and size? Didn’t I spend countless hours doing accounting, finance, taxes, contracts, and website management? Didn’t I book the artists, choose the menu, create the recipes, buy the food and booze, obtain the endless licenses necessary to operate, recruit, hire and manage the staff, and open and close the doors each night? Please oh please oh please, let the job of show promotion be anyone’s responsibility other than mine!
Unfortunately, this was not the answer. There was no answer. Artists and venue owners throughout the industry seemed divided or unsettled on the issue. Poignant contemplation on the subject matter had been published in national articles, with no commonly-held conclusion reached. After years of frustration and anger, I finally decided that whose job it was was completely irrelevant, and that if I wanted the privilege of sitting down with a $10 glass of wine (or a $3.99 slice of pizza) and watching 100-plus years of accomplished musical experience perform in front of my eyes, it might not be my job, but I had better make sure that the promotional job got done.
And then, I had to face an inconvenient truth: I didn’t know how to do it.
Yep. I had to admit to myself that the reason I kept asking whose job it was was that I didn’t know how to effectively promote a show. If I had, I would have been doing it instead of trying to find someone else to do it. And when I say “effectively promote”, I also mean “cost-effectively”. Anyone can spend $1000 and throw up a Hail Mary that will probably pay off. But having a budget of..say…$20, crossing my fingers and hoping customers would come simply wasn’t enough. Ms. Know-It-All-or-Figure-it-Out had forgotten to take a digital marketing class, or even learn the basics of Facebook advertising. Was paying for a $7500 billboard more effective than calling 6 friends with large email lists? I didn’t understand Twitter or Instagram, and I couldn’t conceive of the logic behind SnapChat. And most of all, I doubted that any of it would work, even if I figured it out. As a representative of my target market, I do not sit in front of social media all day, waiting for someone to tell me where to go for entertainment. Why should I expect anyone else to do so?
Fortunately for our club, The Velvet Note has featured many, many artists who are very good at promoting themselves and who fill all of the seats when they perform. Artists such as singer Karla Harris, saxophonist Dwan Bosman, singer/actress Toni Byrd, guitarist George Price, saxophonist Kenyon Carter (list goes on and on) were essential–from day one–in helping us to grow a club that can make money and have great talent on stage too. At some point, I stopped getting so frustrated with the artists and started paying attention to what they were doing. I watched them, asked questions, picked their brains, counted their seats, followed their pages, and years later, they–and a slew of other artists–have taught me a great deal about what any artist must do to successfully fill seats. For each and every show, we know that we must pick up where they leave off and carry the ball over the goal line. It has taken a while, but I think we’ve finally figured some of it out. Artists and venues whose shows consistently sell out share a definitive set of qualities, behaviors and actions in common. It’s not easy, but it is achievable and repeatable. Whether you are a venue, a musician, a promoter, or a fan-bassador, show promotion might not be your job, but it is certainly in the rational self-interest of anyone who wants to enjoy a world in which live music flourishes.
Woo. I received the following text message this weekend:
[Names changed to protect the adorable] “Hi Tamara…I asked Mary on a date, and the only place she wanted to go was The Velvet Note. Coming to the 9:30 show. Please make me look good (I know you will). See you soon! “
Now John and Mary have been married for over 20 years, so asking her on a date and being genuinely anxious about the outcome is…well…unusual. And beautiful. You see, John (fierce, hot shot lawyer by day) is wooing his wife, as if she’s not a sure thing. He’s not taking her for granted. And Mary is flirty and giggly and feels like she is in love, which she is. And it’s all happening in everyday life. Go ahead and try it. Ask her if you can bring her lunch today…right in the middle of her speech preparation. Tell her you’d enjoy doing that for her. You can start wooing right now. Who? You.
By Tamara Fuller, Owner, The Velvet Note
February 14th is right around the corner.
Valentine’s Day—the day when we ensure the sustainability of chocolate manufacturers. The day when men trade their lunch hour to stand in line and have a custom-designed bouquet crafted at the Whole Foods floral counter (seriously, this should be a tourist attraction). The day when we make a point of saying “I love you” with a slight uptilt on the word “love” and a slight extension of the word “you”, indicating that what we reallywant to hear is those words comin’ back at ‘cha.
Okay, so I’m no relationship expert. I haven’t even found my person yet. And—as you can clearly discern–I have a healthy amount of skepticism around any holiday that amplifies something that we claim to value as part of the fabric of everyday life. Nevertheless, underneath my jaded exterior beats the heart of Love’s Head Cheerleader, wildly shaking my pom poms and rooting for any and all of you who choose to dive into the deep end of lifelong, committed affection. As a trained, keen observer of the human condition, the owner of Alpharetta’s Best Date Night, and the neighbor to The World’s Largest Brazilian Wax Salon, I am declaring myself to be properly credentialed to share my observations on what we do for love, especially as we head into the sweetest of holidays.
So here we go—
(#5–Sunday) Be willing to make yourself vulnerable. In some ways, it’s a jungle out there. I know. Real, grown up life is full of negotiations and trade deals, cases and chases, each of which is an illustration of who we choose to be in the world. We all have a character—an Avatar, of sorts—that gets us through the game, advances our agenda and protects us from harm. Of course, your Valentine likes and admires your avatar, but your Valentine is not in love with your Avatar. S(he) is in love with you. Yes, YOU, silly. The gooey, tender, imperfect you. The you who is willing to exchange your Tom Cruise action movie for a romantic comedy on Netflix (or vice versa). The you who speaks the truth about your feelings, even when it involves fear and uncertainty. The you who can laugh and not take yourself so seriously. The you who is willing to sing in public, off-key. The you who is willing to ask for help and say thank you. Let the vulnerable you come out to play this week. Start early. Start today. You will be surprised by what can happen when you insert something as simple as an unexpected and heartfelt “thank you” into the mix.
Coming Monday: Woo who?
The Kenny Garrett Quintet performs this weekend at The Velvet Note, June 29-30, 2019, at 7:30pm and 9:30pm showtimes. Vernell Brown on piano, Corcoran Holt on bass, Samuel Laviso on drums and Rudy Bird on percussion.
When Kenny Garrett performed at The Velvet Note for the first time a couple of years ago. I must confess, I didn’t much like him. I mean…I liked his music, but I didn’t like the fact that the second night of his shows didn’t sell out. For a small club like ours, having empty seats for a superstar artist is rough for everyone involved. To make matters worse, he and his quintet needed to park themselves in our city for a couple of days before moving on to the next stop on their tour, so we were making our club available to them for rehearsals. Empty seats and extra rehearsals too? Ugh.
Kenny had called me on a Tuesday morning, hours before his scheduled 2:00pm band rehearsal time. He had a special request: he wanted to get into the club early. Not the whole band, just him. Now this was just getting ridiculous. I rolled my eyes in silent persecution, took a deep breath, and then assured him that I would open up that morning just for him.
If you’ve ever met Kenny Garrett, you know that his personality is…well…somewhat dry. And quiet. So, upon approach, there was no hug, no special sentiments of appreciation, barely a smile. Not what I would do in that situation, but oh, well. I had brought some work to do while sitting in the back of the room, waiting for this to be over. He had his saxophone with him, as well as a large notebook. He would play a few bars and then scribble in the notebook. A few more, and then some more writing. This went on for about an hour, at which time he asked, “Could you make some copies for me please?”
That moment was when the screaming in my head began. I was tired, I was hungry, I was supposed to have a day off and hadn’t. We didn’t have a copier at the time, so making five sets of collated copies required that I drive over to FedEx/Kinkos. “Dude”, I thought. “My parents didn’t send me to a top-ten school in order to make copies for you! I am the owner of this club, not your Girl Friday!” I alternated between pinching my lips together and clamping down on my tongue. I felt my head about to begin its roll-around on my neck. Thankfully, no sound came out from between my lips. “Certainly, Mr. Garrett,” I said. “I will be right back.”
Down the street at Kinkos, I opened the notebook. Inside were hand-written pages of a composition he had just written, or at least started. I made the collated sets and then returned to the club. And then, the most unexpected happened.
Kenny Garrett placed a copy of his sheet music at the piano and then proceeded to play the piano part as beautifully as any pianist I’ve ever heard. As he played, he scrawled some notes on the piano copy of composition.
Then he got up and placed a copy on a stand in front of the upright bass. He embraced the instrument that towered above him and proceeded to play it as beautifully as any bassist I’ve heard. As he played, he scrawled some notes on the bass copy of the composition.
And then he did the same with the drums. And then he went back to his saxophone.
I sat in the back of the room, shaking, my eyes welling with tears. I began scolding myself. “You are an arrogant fool, Tamara. Most people in this world—including you–can barely master one thing. This man in front of you has mastered every instrument on his stage, a fact that most people are completely unaware of, since they think of him only as a saxophonist. He is so modest that he allows them to think just that. He has given you the greatest, most inspiring gift—allowing you to see a part of him that almost no one knows about. You have just had the privilege of witnessing him compose a piece of music that has—in part– been written from the perspective of every instrument that will perform it. He has allowed you to witness the fact that he is as good at playing the instruments in his band as his band members are. He trusted you with his hand written notes of an original composition. You should be thanking him for the intimacy of this experience, not barking about you will and will not do.”
I got up and walked to the front of the room where he sat with his saxophone. “Mr. Garrett, I am going next door to get some lunch. May I get you something?”
“No, I’m fine, thank you.”
As a sat in the sandwich shop and continued to beat myself up, members of his quintet arrived for rehearsal, one by one. I thought about how true greatness and intrinsic power can enable us to be tender and quiet and vulnerable all at once. By the time I returned to the club, the band sounded like a jazz symphony, coming together to play the song that Kenny had freshly composed.
This weekend, The Kenny Garrett Quintet will perform again at The Velvet Note. If you’re one of the lucky few with tickets, we welcome you to our little club. You are in for an extraordinary musical experience. And I look forward to meeting you personally. I will be the woman carrying Kenny’s water bottle, with a look of profound inspiration and joy on my face that reaches from ear to ear.
I can’t believe our fifth anniversary is right around the corner. What started as a literal dream, today is a functioning reality that I love. Many thought The Velvet Note wouldn’t be sustainable, but we are here and prospering! For the last five years, I followed that dream to create an amazing venue that allows people to meet the artists, have great food and drinks, and enjoy a great atmosphere.
We are so grateful to everyone who make The Velvet Note a success. Thanks to the artists. To the employees. And to the guests who keep coming back – we can’t wait to see what the next five years brings!
To celebrate, we proudly announce that The Velvet Note is open and available for private events. What better way to impress your clients and business partners than our private room with gourmet food with live jazz in the background, and the kind of upscale, creative atmosphere that can only be found in Atlanta’s most intimate live music venue? Call us today for more details and to book your event!
I sat down with the team at Shofur.com to talk about this exciting new chapter for their podcast. I also learned what Shofur does; they help event planners aggregate buses so guests can easily get around during events like Coachella, The Super Bowl or your private event at The Velvet Note! Check out our discussion here.
The next time you’re looking for a cool venue to host an event, think of The Velvet Note.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be at an event inside The Velvet Note? Take a look at a clip from a recent show!
It’s hard to imagine that it’s been an entire year since we opened our doors here at The Velvet Note. Over the past twelve months, we have been pleased and honored to bring fresh, high-quality entertainment to our guests, and we look forward to doing so for many years to come. Recently, the stars aligned to celebrate The Velvet Note’s anniversary and reflect on their experience in performing with us:
Joe Gransden, Trumpeter, Vocalist and Big Band Leader:
“I love performing at The Velvet Note. The sound and the ambiance areperfect! It’s an amazing atmosphere in which to create music. The Velvet Note is, by far, one of my favorite jazz clubs in the country.”
The Velvet note was featured in an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently. The article discusses the origin, design and experience here along with interviews and photos.
Stuck in the middle of a strip center on Old Milton Parkway, in a narrow storefront that was once home to a yogurt shop, The Velvet Note is a straight-ahead jazz club in a place you might least expect to find one.
But its location and design are anything but random. Owner and general manager Tamara Fuller said she chose suburban Alpharetta based on demographics, including median income and education.
Ryan Whitehead was born in Warner Robins, GA. This sleepy small town dominated by an Air Force base happens to be my birthpace too, although I didn’t grow up there as he did. Nevertheless, I will take this rare opportunity to call him my “homeboy.” Anyway, the first things you notice about Ryan are his eyes, which barely conceal the mischief crafted by a child whose intellect has outpaced his options for putting such mischief to constructive use. Ryan Whitehead’s face is always asking, “How much can I get away with before you notice?”
By the age of 13, Ryan was an overweight, 220-pound adolescent with few friends and a severely overactive personality. He decided to make some dramatic changes, including running, incorporating fresh vegetables into his diet, and music. “My first week in middle school band, I was kicked out for disorderly conduct. My dad suggested that I go back and apologize and make it work. After that, I began practicing 6 hours a day, every day. I fell in love with it.” He credits his school band leaders for spending the time with him necessary to give him a great start as a young musician.
Whitehead had a brief stint at Kennesaw State University, studying under the great Sam Skelton, who he says taught him to “be on time and know your craft.” Mismanagement of his new-found campus freedom cut his college career short, but helped propel him into the professional scene at a relatively young age and with an unusually focused ambition. “This is all I do. It’s the only thing I’m good at. I make an effort to make sure people have a great time at my shows.”
This will be Ryan’s first performance since his recent two-month Mediterranean tour with Norwegian Cruise Lines during which he played saxophone, clarinet and flute each night. He describes his upcoming show as “classy” and “different” and as he talks, there’s a mischievous twinkle in his eye—he’s still trying to push the limits and see how much he can get away with. “I know I could make a living just playing “Brick House”, but I want to do the music that resonates with my soul.” Accompanying him will be two of his best friends–Mark Sims on bass and Jacob Deaton on guitar. Hopefully, they will be behave themselves. Or hopefully, they won’t. Showtimes are Friday, October 26th at 7:30pm and 9:30pm and tickets are available at www.thevelvetnote.com/schedule-ticketing.