It’s only fitting that one of our favorite venues in the Midwest recently knocked down a wall to double its capacity. Giving fans more—and doing things bigger and better—is what Josh Baker, owner of The HiFi, has always strived to do.
After promoting shows throughout the region for several years, he opened the Do317 Lounge, a tiny, 75-capacity space in late 2013 to capture recording sessions on video and throw small concerts. Music fans quickly took notice when nationally-acclaimed acts such as Young the Giant and Sturgill Simpson started rolling through. They outgrew the space but, as luck would have it, the venue downstairs from the lounge became available, so in May 2014 they rebranded as The HiFi. It was bigger—200 capacity—and gave Baker an opportunity to do things in-house and have more control of the room. Aside from that, there wasn’t much else to write home about.
The venue was housed in an old building, and Baker and his crew faced many challenges that came with it. But after two years, Baker again had an opportunity for growth: the space next door became available. In late October, they tore down the wall and gave the new space a top-down remodel.
“It was a full gut to the bones—HVAC, restrooms, flooring, stage lights—a full rebuild,” Baker says. And they did it in just 45 days, relaunching The HiFi in January.
Now at a 400-person capacity, The HiFi is seeing an uptick in attendance and attracting bigger acts, with about 70 percent of their shows selling out. What’s more important for Baker, though, is how fans and artists are treated.
“The fan experience is much, much better now. From an artist standpoint, we have a dedicated load area, a production area, [and] a green room,” Baker says. “All those things have really enhanced the venue and we’ve been getting nothing but positive feedback.”
Baker credits Ticketfly for the assist.
“Ticketfly has been a great partner since I started promoting shows. A lot of the marketing tools and resources that we’re able to use through Ticketfly have been instrumental in helping grow our advance ticket sales,” Baker says. In addition, Ticketfly’s Pandora partnership has also generated traffic to the new venue. Of the tickets to the HiFi sold through Ticketfly’s integration with Pandora, 100% of them were to first-time ticket buyers.
The upgrades to The HiFi included an external box office, which utilizes Ticketfly’s on-site operations tools. “Being able to sell tickets through a ticket window and print them on-site is super helpful,” Baker adds.
With all eyes on the shiny new HiFi, Baker is also seeing an increase in organizations wanting to rent the space. Later this year, The HiFi will host the Heartland Film Festival awards ceremony.
“It’s traditionally been held in much larger venues,” Baker says. “The new renovation has allowed us a lot more opportunities in renting out the venue as an event space and not just a concert hall.”
In less than three years, The HiFi has doubled its capacity two times over, and is more successful than ever. By taking advantage of Ticketfly’s powerful live events platform, prioritizing his vision, and focusing on a quality experience for artists and fans, Baker has accomplished what many venue owners only dream of.
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