Dave Grohl, Avicii and Afrojack: A Promoter's Approach to Booking Music at Sundance

Park City Live is the only regularly operating nightclub in Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival running Jan. 17-27. It enters its second year of operation as a concert venue the day the festival begins.

The major Sundance-related concert at Park City Live is the debut of Dave Grohl's Sound City Players on Jan. 18. Mostly an invite-only event, Park City Live put 300 general admission tickets on earlier in the week for $100 apiece and they were sold out in a minute.

Formerly Harry O's, primarily a dance club, Park City Live CEO Kathryn Burns has overseen the transition and spoke about her first year as a promoter.

What sort of risks are you willing to take with bookings during the festival?
The more types of music we can put into the building ,the broader the demographic we can reach. We are trying to be everything for everybody, so every socio-economic and demographic that might be at Sundance. Your initial bookings are Avicii on Jan. 19, Afrojack on Jan. 20 and 2 Chainz on Jan. 21. Sounds like you're going after party music.

We obviously look at it what are the most popular genres in nightclubs right now. EDM is popular and profitable so we reached out to the Wynn for a partnership. When we were thinking  about EDM, we made sure we were partnering with a group that had that kind of cache in the EDMworld. The second week we will have some top 20 acts and we're looking at a country act, something new for Sundance.

How did the Dave Grohl booking come about?
We were approached by William Morris Endeavor many months ago when they realized they may be in the festival. The debate was whether we hold the date because if the movie didn't get in they wouldn't come in. Friday and Saturday of Sundance are my two biggest nights of the year  -- to hold a premium night on a whim was really risky. The day they found out they were in the festival they called and we got the date.

You opened the doors of Park City Live the first day of Sundance last year. What made you want to go into the concert business?
We have really tried to turn it into an events center. Saturday night club nights are fine, but unless I throw seven to 10 concerts a month it's hard to cover the cost. We've done a real wide range, Skid Row, Shaw Colvin. When we did Shawn Colvin there were people in the audience who I am sure had never been to Harry O's.

What will be different from last year, as in what did you learn in year one?
One thing is how much people love Champagne. Not only did Park City Live run out of Champagne,  but Park City ran out and Salt Lake City ran out of Champagne.  This year I would say we have tripled the amount we have ordered. We had someone who sprayed 10 bottles of Dom Perignon at the crowd. Didn't drink it, just sprayed it. We've dialed in our front door staff and have really learned how to get people in quicker. Also hired more cocktail waitresses. We foundpeople couldn't drink as fast as they wanted to. Biggest thing, we  have a full license so we are open until 2 a.m.

What made you want to get into this business?
I'm an engineer and have an MBA and worked in strategy consulting. This has nothing to do with anything I know anything about. One of the things I found most interesting, having that  background and being a straightforward black-and-white person, the keys to success in thisindustry are much more subjective. It's much more than what is the cool hot thing at the moment and how do you present it. It's also about who are the scam artists trying to take you for a ride. I've definitely surrounded myself with people who know the industry and by bringing some of the more rigorous aspects of my background to the nightclub industry I believe it has helped. We do verydetailed estimated cost analysis of show to make sure we're not just taking calculated risks. It's been interesting --  a whole different skill set than what I needed as a strategy consultant.