NowPlayingNashville: Celebrating 10 Years of Where to Go and What to Do
In 2005 and 2006, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee convened a conversation about the extraordinary support our community had shown in creating and supporting the Arts.
Those present — which included Susan Simons, Jack Bovender, Nelson Andrews, Howard Stringer, Judy Liff Barker, Cathy Jackson, Kitty Moon Emery, Steve Turner, Pat Embry, Kerry Graham and Denise Alper — acknowledged the fact, however, that the Arts were vulnerable to the changing fortunes of the untimely deaths of benefactors, or the ever-possible fluctuation of political will to support the Arts.
The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee knew how lucky we had been and saw the need to cushion any future calamity by helping arts organizations create income streams which could be sustained. After extended conversation about different opportunities which could be created, in late summer 2007 The Community Foundation launched the nonprofit website NowPlayingNashville.com.
Its mission was threefold:
1) “Butts in Seats” — Building traffic and ticket sales for area arts and entertainment organizations;
2) “Heads in Beds” — Promoting Middle Tennessee as a cultural tourism destination;
3) “Economic Development” — Recruiting employers and talented employees to the region.
Think back: Ten years ago, virtually no one ventured downtown. Downtown hosted a fraction of the attractions and nightlife now available, and relatively few people lived there. No one had heard the term “app,” and few of us thought of cellphones as an informational lifeline. The media landscape — both social media and traditional print and broadcast media — looked far different than it had.
A decade later, though much has changed, NowPlayingNashville’s commitment to the community has never wavered.
Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, NowPlayingNashville remains the only comprehensive events site in Middle Tennessee. You can go to one site and see a vast array of events to fit every budget and every interest and passion, and buy tickets on that very same site.
NowPlayingNashville now regularly hosts more than 2,000 upcoming events, sharing answers to the questions “Where to go?” and “What to do?” Its page views average more than 12,000 per day, and its visitors, who come from all over the world, number in the millions annually.
It’s an impressive feat, particularly when you consider that four people manage all of that information, editing and approving hundreds of event submissions each week, and/or researching, gathering and entering hundreds more.
That content serves not only visitors to NowPlayingNashville but other sites as well. The Nashville Convention Center and Visitor’s Corporation/Visit Music City’s Live Music App — which attracts users worldwide — pulls all of its music listings from NowPlayingNashville. Several county Chambers of Commerce also use the data to serve local audiences.
As Nashville has evolved, so has the site. In 2016, it was upgraded to a fully responsive, mobile-friendly platform. Now it’s easier than ever for locals and tourists to find events, regardless of the device they’re using.
Without losing sight of the three charitable goals listed above, the site also created a blog, now dubbed “Stories,” to go deeper behind arts and cultural events in the region. Edited by NowPlayingNashville Director Joe Pagetta, it includes recurring posts about literary events and arts and entertainment news, day trips, free family friendly events, and a nonprofit community calendar dubbed “Benefits,” which helps organizations schedule events that do not “step on each other’s toes.”
While the site remains a free resource for both users and event organizers, over the 10 years, it has become imperative that we expand our affordable advertising options for those organizations looking for increased promotion. Advertisers can now take advantage of space on the site’s home and category pages, reach 18,000 subscribers on NowPlayingNashville’s e-mail list, or take advantage of the initiative’s robust reach on social media. These opportunities, under the guidance of Online Promotions Manager Erin Holcomb, are continuing to grow.
To serve its mission of building audience for arts organizations, one of the tools the site implemented in its earliest days, was a discount ticket marketplace. Organizations can sell excess tickets through NowPlayingNashville’s platform and ticket buyers can get a great deal by taking advantage of the site’s promotional reach and easy access. Managed by Content Associate Jessica Musman, the site has sold tickets for Full Moon Pickin’ Parties, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Circle Players, Nashville Fashion Week, Jeffrey Steele and Friends, and many more.
Beyond the stories, advertising and tickets, there is the aforementioned content – the “meat and potatoes” of the site. Long-time staffer Tina Randolph as well as Pagetta, Holcomb, and Musman handle it all, from the season announcements at TPAC, Nashville Ballet, Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators; to every concert at Ascend Ampitheater, Bridgestone Arena and the Ryman Auditorium; to every gig at 3rd and Lindsley and The Bluebird Cafe. And then there are art openings, neighborhood festivals, programming at various community centers, poetry readings in cafes, hundreds of events at area libraries, and thousands more things to do. If you can leave your home and go to it, whether it’s on a stage, a screen, a street or a field, it’s on NowPlayingNashville.com.
Moving ahead, NowPlayingNashville will soon unveil expanded restaurant listings. The recent Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study on the economic impact of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations proves the vital connection between the arts and restaurants. Attendees to arts and cultural events spend an average of $38.11 (on top of ticket sales), almost half of which is spent on meals and refreshments. People want to eat when they go out, and NowPlayingNashville will help you find the best restaurant to make your night complete.
According to the same study, the arts and cultural industry in Nashville generates close to $430 million in economic activity in Davidson County, supports more than 14,000 jobs and generates more than $51 million in local and state revenues. Looking back on its original mission 10 years later, NowPlayingNashville is proud of what it has accomplished and its role in the impact of the arts in Nashville.
Our tag line is “Where to go … what to do.” Some 75% of non-resident respondents in the economic impact study say they came to Nashville specifically to attend an arts event. We like to think they found that event on our site. The metrics indicate it’s very likely.
At The Community Foundation, we connect generosity with need. At NowPlayingNashville, we connect you with the activities you choose. And we look forward to continuing to find new ways to help you Play Nashville in the decades ahead.
As a nonprofit initiative, NowPlayingNashville would not be possible without your generous support, and that of the community. We thank the Nashville Convention Center and Visitors Corporation, and dozens of area advertisers, organizations, and individual donors. In the past decade, generous support has come from the Metro Nashville Arts Commission (Metro Arts), Tennessee Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, Gannett/The Tennessean, The Frist Foundation, The Memorial Foundation, The Country Music Association, The Danner Foundation, Ingram Charities, The HCA Foundation, The James Stephen Turner Family Foundation, The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, The Nashville Predators Foundation, The Jane and Richard Eskind and Family Foundation, the late Mr. and Mrs. Bob Zelle, Mr. and Mrs. Lucas Simons, Mrs. Sue A. Andrews, Mr. and Mrs. Clay Jackson, and, of course, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
A look back at the NowPlayingNashville.com Launch party. Photos by Peyton Hoge, 2007.
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