Q’s With A Pollstar Award Winner: Melanie Cantwell, Nightclub Talent Buyer of The Year

Melanie Cantwell
Waterproof Pictures
– Melanie Cantwell
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Melanie Cantwell of the 9:30 Club bounds up to the stage to collect her Nightclub Talent Buyer of the Year Pollstar Award.

Melanie Cantwell, who books the 9:30 Club, as well as The Anthem and Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C, won the Nightclub Talent Buyer of the Year Award at this year’s Pollstar Awards. 

Noting she was shocked to have won, she accepted the award by saying, “I was really thrilled that I was nominated to begin with. I know how lucky I am to work with a great group of people who are excited to come to work every day. So thank you.” 

See: Pollstar Live! Conference Hub

Full Pollstar Awards Winners

Pollstar: Nightclub Talent Buyer of the Year! How does it feel?

Melanie Cantwell: It feels great! There’s a lot of great venues in the industry and we’re extremely proud. It’s great to be recognized and be a part of this group of really amazing women who love what they do.

The 9:30 Club seems to have a certain cachet in this business.

The 9:30 is a gem. It’s the cornerstone of what we do and why we do what we do.

Who would you like to thank by name?

Well Seth [Hurwitz, I.M.P. Chairman] and Donna [Westmoreland, I.M.P. COO]. I’ve been with them both for almost 16 years.

How do you approach booking?

Seth booked the club for 30 years and I was his assistant for almost 10. He taught me how to be a great buyer. When he asked me to book the 9:30 I didn’t deviate from the formula because it’s been a success.

What do you think prompted the industry to vote for you? 

Bands love playing the 9:30. I was really honored people would even recognize me at all. Other people essentially do the same thing I do. The ironic thing is I’m told every day how difficult I am.

Really, by agents?

Yes, every day agents say, “Every other promoter is giving me this and you’re the only one who isn’t.” I wanted to laugh when they said, “Best Talent Buyer, Melanie Cantwell.” Somebody yesterday said I’m the most difficult promoter in the country and they were going to give me the most difficult promoter award!

Who said that?

It’s a manager, actually. I was hoping he’d be here. But I really love and enjoy talking to all the people I deal with. Ultimately, we all have the same goal: to have really great artists and shows in our room and do a good job.

Any advice just for women getting into this side of this business?

It’s not easy and be ready to get your ass kicked, but don’t be afraid to speak your mind or say no. I love the challenge of what we do, but yeah, I want more women in this industry. We hire a lot of women and it’s important.

How’s it going with the Anthem?

The room is amazing. We’re so lucky to have this beautiful space for live music. Once bands get to that level, they’re ready. With the 9:30 Club you’re sometimes dealing with developing acts which can be a little more creative in figuring out what to do with them. With the Anthem it’s more of a money conversation.

What’s been the industry reaction?

I love it when an agent is resistant to bring their band to the Anthem and then they get there and see it and they can’t believe how amazing it is. It happens every single time.

What are you doing now?

Paradigm has a poker tournament, it’s their fourth annual. And I love playing poker. It’s a room full of agents and managers and whoever. It’s a good way to sit down and talk to people.

What message would you put out to agents?

Thank you. Thank you guys … and a few girls.