In the contemporary music industry, artists and bands have increasingly relied on digital means to connect with consumers and amplify their fan base. Along with this shift comes a need for expertise and management in the digital sphere—to turn the complicated into simple, and provide real results. For the guys over at Rockhouse Partners, a new entertainment agency based in Nashville, channeling this growing reliance on technology into effective marketing strategies has become their central focus. Founders Joe Kustelski, Tawn Albright, and Kevin Brown are confident they can redefine this aspect of the industry. American Songwriter had the chance to talk with Brown about the group’s latest venture.
What exactly does Rockhouse offer?
Rockhouse Partners is a technology-based entertainment agency focused on sponsorship creation, activation, and measurement for music, sports, and live events. The ingredients in our solutions typically include digital marketing, technology & products, the highest-level of business strategy, data aggregation & analysis, online to on-site (and in venue) integration, and even some big-bang creativity… although because every client is lovely-special, every solution is too.
Otherwise, Tawn plays a wicked banjo, Kevin tells horribly-inappropriate jokes, and Joe gives good hugs. Swing by the office any given morning…
What motivated you guys to create Rockhouse?
We all led teams at Echo, Ticketmaster’s digital marketing firm, where Tawn was CEO, Kevin was head of Strategic Marketing, and Joe was VP of Technology & Product. Once Ticketmaster decided to move Echo to Los Angeles, the three of us knew we didn’t want to leave Nashville and realized we could create something special here. We had seen over the years that sponsorships have become the glue of the entertainment industry. And while many folks play in the sponsorships space, the services are still fragmented and there’s a lack of scalable technology products that address specific business opportunities.
Finally, once Rick’s Cabaret told us they didn’t hire “girls like us” … we knew our last resort was to start our own business.
How do you define success in this industry?
We’re fundamentally changing the way that brands integrate sponsorships into sports & entertainment properties. Until we’re there, we won’t rest and won’t claim “success”. On the touchy-feely side, success is about creating a scalable business; building a team of the most innovative, passionate, hard working folks in Nashville; doing world-class work for world-class clients; and frankly… having a helluva lot of fun and never taking ourselves too seriously.
Oh yeah- and frequent boat rides with T-Pain.
On your website you say its all about data and dollars — that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. What type of role does number-crunching play in all this?
Number-crunching is just the means to an end. Measurement and ROI are baked into everything we do. If you can’t measure the results, why do it in the first place? Industry authority IEG reports that 30% of sponsorship deals aren’t being measured, and more than 50% aren’t evaluated on the front end. We’re changing that. So every sponsor initiative we touch starts with a conversation about success metrics and ends with clear, concise reporting about what worked, what didn’t, and recommendations on what can improve next time.
Who does Rockhouse target?
Our ideal clients fall into six buckets: sponsorship brokers, live entertainment properties, brands and their agencies, sports entities, advertising/marketing agencies, and media companies.
We originally thought taxidermists would be great clients too, but there was a Costa-Rican chinchilla incident we’ll tell you about another time.
You officially launched this month. Do you have any clients yet?
We technically formed last summer, but only officially “put the OPEN sign out front”. So yep- we’ve been cranking away since last year with clients like C3 Presents (Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits Music Festival), Lance Armstrong and the RadioShack Pro Cycling Team, Next BIG Nashville, the Tennessee State Fair, Nashville agencies like redpepper, and other entities across the entertainment vertical.
Very nice. What about beyond this year, are there any expectations for the future?
See above. It’s not grandiose to say that we’re fundamentally changing the way that brands integrate sponsorships into sports & entertainment properties. We will own this space, and not to sound arrogant… but we plan to become the beacon of digital innovation for this industry.
Also- sometime in the near future, we need to get Joe married off. Kevin plans to take up scrapbooking. And Tawn just hopes to make it through his 40s.
Lastly, do you feel Rockhouse is a real game-changer in the digital entertainment department?
We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think we could radically change the game. We joke internally- we’re not playing Triple A ball. Nobody will work as hard as us, and we’re confident in our unique model. Bring it.