Getting to Know.... a concert promoter
BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin News Writer
Jim Clay is a music lover.
"Music is like your personality, it is always a work in progress and your musical taste and interest change and evolve over time, at least mine have," he mused. "I had my pop music phase, country phase, rock and even a Sinatra phase. I have absolutely no musical talent myself but I have always had a good ear for good music. The old saying is if you can't perform, promote, so that's what I have done."
Clay became a concert promoter in 2007 with the beginning of Visionary Promotions. Since that time more than a dozen acts have made the trek to Van Wert from as far away as New York, California, Texas, Montana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Minnesota, and Colorado. Clay's next concert features a group from Sweden, Abalone Dots.
Convenience was a major factor in the beginning. Clay remembered, "Back when I started Visionary Promotions, there were a lot of artist I wanted to hear but did not want to drive two or three hours to do it. So I thought why not bring these performers back to my home town and we can all enjoy hearing some great original music right here!"
Few of the Visionary Promotions shows have featured household names. Bryan White had some success on the country charts and Jimmy Fortune became well-known singing with the Statler Brothers. However, most others have been virtual unknowns unless you follow new music by singer-songwriters. Those attending the shows have been amazed at the incredible musical talent being brought to Van Wert.
"These shows have been pretty well attended and it seems anyone who attends one show comes back again so I know they are enjoying them," Clay remarked. "I think the common thread running through all of these artists is originality and that they are writing their own material. It's one thing to go on stage and mouth words and music written by someone else, but it's a whole new level when the songs you perform are your own. For about the last ten years I have really gotten into original music from young emerging singer songwriters. I have been so impressed with their talent and their willingness to put themselves out there in front of a live audience and basically say, 'Here I am, hope you like me'."
Clay noted that he discovered most of these artists while listening to free Internet radio stations, then doing further investigation about the music. Being a concert promoter also puts Clay in the unique position of introducing a whole new group of people to a singer and his songs.
He said, "One of my biggest challenges has been to get folks to come out and take a chance on music and performers they have never heard of. There will always be a place for Oldies and cover bands but to me there is just something exciting about hearing music for the first time and being moved by a performer you knew nothing about prior to the show."
One other challenge has been finding a place for the concerts to be held. At first, the shows were presented at the Marsh Foundation Auditorium, but this year Perks Cafe volunteered to host the events. Complications eventually arose with the small venue and the shows have had to find new homes. Ben Carroll and Jonathan Clay each did their shows at Hickory Sticks Golf Course in a last-minute venue change. The Abalone Dots show on Sept. 9 will be held at Willow Bend Country Club.
Clay pointed out that combining the Visionary Promotions concerts and the other musical presentations around town, Van Wert is extremely blessed to have so much to choose from. "There are a lot of things in life that you can have too much of but fortunately music is not one of them!" he smiled. "I am thankful for all the musical options we have in a town our size. From the NPAC to concerts in the park to my own events - we have a little something for everybody."
Along with the Abalone Dots show, also on the 2010 schedule are concerts from Matt the Electrician (Sept. 18), Gabrielle Louise (Oct. 16). and Jeff Miller (Dec. 18). "I am also currently working to put together a two-day music festival in downtown Van Wert or the surrounding area," Clay revealed. "I already have commitments from three or four performers for a September 2011 event."
Clay has been fortunate to be able to sign a number of acts, but there are still a few that have eluded him. So far he has not been able to bring Josh Ritter or the group Iron and Wine to the area. His dream concert will never happen. "I became a huge fan of the music of Eva Cassidy about ten years ago which was shortly after her death from skin cancer at age 33. She was a virtual unknown at the time of her death, but as a vocalist she was as good as it gets in my opinion," he said.
For Clay, it's all about the music. "Music has no expiration date, we don't stop loving it just because we get old. In fact I think we have an even better appreciation for it as we age," he observed. "My definition of good music is anything that you personally enjoy. If you like it, its good music."
Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette Article
Published: October 5, 2008 6:00 a.m. Ohio promoters showcase acoustic music Steve Penhollow The
If you were paying attention this summer (and hopefully paying admission), you know that a bevy of local music lovers (and bevy is the correct term) were going out of their way to sidetrack cool touring acts out of their way and into the region.
One Lucky Guitar’s Matt Kelley, C2G’s Brad Etter, Rich Lee and Rob Wood of NIPR’s Little Brother Radio, WhatzUp writer Greg Locke and the folks over at the Brass Rail on Broadway risked all to bring to the area bands so cutting-edge that they will probably break up before Ryan Seacrest has had a chance to call them cutting-edge.
We can only hope.
Now another group of plucky promoters has entered that fray.
Visionary Promotions of Van Wert, Ohio.
The goal of Visionary Promotions is to encourage singer-songwriters to perform at the Marsh Auditorium in that northwestern Buckeye town.
First up is Boston folk phenom John Gorka on Oct. 11.
Gorka hasn’t agreed to perform any closer to Fort Wayne than Van Wert as far as I know.
“This whole journey began when I discovered the music of John Gorka while totally looking for something else on the Internet,” Visionary Promotions spokesperson James Clay wrote in an e-mail. “I listened to a few seconds of one of his songs, liked it and went to my iTunes to buy a couple of his songs. By the time I was done I had bought 35 songs and spent nearly $40. This was followed by trips to Toledo and Dayton to hear John perform live and I was hooked.
“I wanted to bring that kind of uplifting music back to my hometown and the surrounding area,” he wrote. “There is an old saying among these artists that says ‘There is literally hundreds of dollars to be made performing folk music,’ and that is so true. They are in it not for the fame and fortune but for the craft of making great music.”
I was working at an eclectic western Massachusetts radio station in 1990 when Gorka’s first CD, “Land of the Bottom Line,” came in.
My favorite song of Gorka’s, “Raven in the Storm,” is on that CD. I can’t think of a more ominous and chilling confessional song in folk music.
The task that Clay and his friends have set for themselves is tougher than it might seem to someone unschooled in the economics of folk and acoustic music. Touring singer-songwriters tend to stick to college towns and certain big cities with a lush history of supporting folk music.
“Not sure if this venture will be a success or not but I have enjoyed putting it all together as much as anything I have ever done,” Clay, a youth basketball coach by day, wrote.
“I think if folks come out and give it a chance they will really enjoy the experience and come away from it with a new appreciation for great acoustic music,” he wrote. “Huge venues with thousands of seats and loud ear-splitting music are OK sometimes, but for my money there is nothing better than a guy and a guitar singing about life and making your spirit soar.”
Clay isn’t taking any chances where “encouraging people to give it a chance” is concerned – Visionary Promotions is offering an unprecedented “100% Good Time Guarantee” on all its shows.
If you don’t like a concert, you can get your money back after it’s over.
Upcoming performers include Kate Campbell, Red Molly, Bryan White and Storyhill.
To see a full list and to order tickets, go to www.visionarypromotions.org. Or call 419-238-7419.