Jun. 12, 2015
Put your hands together for the next entry in our new series, “Ticketfly Talent,” which shines a spotlight on the many folks at the ‘fly who make and play music outside of work. We’ve got loads of musicians, DJs, singers, and other artists of all types who are Flyers by day and rockstars by night (though we tend to think they’re rockstars 24/7). They’re awesome, and we want the world to know.
Today we’re sitting down with Acacia Newlon, Product Marketer extraordinaire coming up on her four-year ‘flyversary. In addition to being a member of the San Francisco Bach Choir, Acacia also runs a monthly free concert series called Wood Shoppe for the Bay Area community. Here, she tells us about recording trailer music for big budget fantasy flicks, how it feels to sell out a show, and why cheap drinks are key to finding new fans.
Ticketfly: You’re out seeing shows two or three nights a week, along with hosting your own! Tell us about your nonprofit, Wood Shoppe. In a city where nothing comes cheap anymore, how do you manage to throw free shows?
Acacia: I used to live in LA and many of the eastside venues like The Echo and The Satellite have free Monday night “residencies.” Different artists headlined each month, and the shows created a community around the music scene. If I didn’t have solid plans, I could show up to one of the venues, run into someone I knew, and hear great music. Back then, I was lucky enough to catch some of today’s household names like Local Natives, Silversun Pickups, and Fun play for less than 100 people. Wood Shoppe, the free monthly series I co-produce here in San Francisco is modeled after that. We were also inspired by Aaron Axelsen’s success with Popscene here in San Francisco, but wanted to keep it free. We book buzzy, up-and-coming talent, on a small budget from the bar, and every cent goes to the bands. We support the venue by driving bar sales with bodies in the room so people can see new music without the pressure of a cover.
TF: How did Wood Shoppe come about? When you moved to SF, did you not encounter the same music community that you had in LA?
Acacia: The music community is different here. There’s less industry and the small venues are spread out all over town. There’s lots of great music being made and celebrated, but it doesn’t feel as easy to stumble upon as it was in LA. I wanted to create that hub here. Soon after I moved to San Francisco, I made some friends at the High Road Touring booking agency—Zach, Wilson, and Abby—who felt the same. One night at dinner, I mentioned my idea of booking a free residency, and as it turns out, they had a similar idea. So we said, “let’s do it!”
TF: Saying you want to start something is a lot easier than actually doing it. Was it a lot of work to get off the ground?
Acacia: Yes, but we were into it so it was fun. Our first choice for a venue was Brick & Mortar, which had only been open for a few months. We pitched our idea for a free residency, and to be honest, we were expecting to get shot down, but they went for it, giving us the first Tuesday of the month. They took a chance on us, and we’re grateful to this day. Once we had a venue, we had to start thinking about logistics—securing liquor sponsors so we could serve cheap drinks, getting people to show up… all that stuff. We started out booking local bands when we started in 2012, mostly garage rock, and told all of our friends come out and support (and bring all their friends). We tried to hit up all the local blogs like The Bay Bridged, put up a super DIY website, invited everyone we knew on Facebook, got friends to help design posters… the list goes on, but somehow we pulled it off.
TF: And people showed up?
Acacia: Yes! People showed up. More than we expected. We had about 300 people the first night out. Our friends clearly love cheap drinks. Over time we’ve seen the crowd grow and evolve, and we’ve learned a lot. It’s weird what you notice, like for certain genres the bar is hopping, and other genres bring in a ton of bodies but the bar can suffer. We’ve also had some really great successes—for example, we booked Foxygen’s first show in SF and they’ve gone on to play the Fillmore. Others have signed major record deals. My good friends, PAPA, had a line down the block for their Wood Shoppe, and they’ve since sold out nights at Bottom of the Hill, The Independent, and The Chapel. San Francisco became their second-biggest market. It’s so great to see that trajectory. We love making new music accessible and booking bands we genuinely like.
TF: In addition to being a concert promoter, you’re also a singer. Tell us a bit about that.
Acacia: I started singing in children’s choirs, and my high school had an amazing choral program with five different ensembles (even some football players participated!). Our “elite” group, Main Street Singers, gave me the opportunity to travel all over the world at a young age—we performed throughout Eastern Europe, Russia, and Scandinavia in more languages than I can count on my two hands. From the beginning, it was music that connected me to the wider world.
At UCLA, I performed in China as a soloist, and and after graduation I joined the Angeles Chorale and got to sing at Disney Concert Hall and record trailer music for big budget fantasy flicks (think: Hobbit, Lord of the Rings). We were invited to sing at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Phil a few times, too. Now, I sing with the SF Bach Choir (one of the longest running choral institutions in the city—this fall marks its 80th season), and my goal is to audition for the SF Symphony Chorus when I can find the time.
Aside from the classical voice stuff, I’ve been known to get serious at karaoke nights. Lately, I’ve been busting out old classics by Patti Smith or Carole King, but I can slay some Disney!
TF: Choral music is an interesting choice for a millennial—what about it appeals to you
Acacia: Some people are natural born athletes. Singing feels natural to me, and joining a choir post college was a great activity to disengage from work and personal stress. For the few hours I’m in rehearsal or performing, my phone’s off, and I’m using my brain and body in an entirely different way than I do on the marketing team at Ticketfly. Reading music is a skill and singing (correctly) is a workout. Your body, not your voice, should be exhausted after a three-hour rehearsal.
I also think early choral and chamber music is beautiful and intimate. Most Baroque and Renaissance music is sacred, and although I’m not a religious person, I can connect to the beauty of the music and appreciate the genius of the composers. We’re lucky to bring in instrumentalists with the SF Bach Choir that are playing period instruments like natural horns and baroque style oboes.
At the end of the day, I’m not singing in a choir to be cool. I’m doing it because I genuinely enjoy singing and bringing joy to those who also appreciate choral music.
TF: Marketer by day, promoter and performer by night. How do your personal passions intersect with your work life?
Acacia: I’ve been lucky enough to choose a career path that combines personal passions. Perhaps it’s coincidental, but most of my social circle is involved in live events in some way. My best friend happens to book the Troubadour, and many of my close friends are agents, talent buyers, and venue marketers, who are directly connected to our business at Ticketfly. Before Ticketfly, I worked in artist management and tour marketing, and now that I put on my own shows, I understand our business from end to end and what our partners go through every day.
TF: Why do you think musicians make good employees?
Acacia: With Wood Shoppe, we have to be super scrappy. We have no marketing budget, and we have to be creative with our small talent budget. I also think there’s something to the whole “right brain, left brain” thing. Lots of musicians (especially classical ones), tend to be better at math and science, so they say. I’ve worked with a lot of engineers who are musicians and I think it makes sense because it is calculated and logical, to some extent.
I think it’s really healthy to have a creative outlet—music makes me a happier person. Some people go to the gym and sweat it out, other people go home and strum their guitars or sing.
In the SF area and want to check out some homegrown Ticketfly talent? The SF Bach Choir is on hiatus for the summer, but you can catch the next Wood Shoppe in July.
Love music and tech? Check out careers at Ticketfly.