C3 Talent Buyer Kristyn Ciani Discusses The Texan Market

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Kristyn Ciani, a talent buyer for Austin-based C3 Presents, says Texas is starting to expand the kinds of music that it’s known for.

In the 13 years Kristyn Ciani has logged as a talent buyer with C3 Presents, she’s seen the Austin-based company grow by leaps and bounds. Its festival business, which began humbly with Austin City Limits Festival in 2002, now covers the globe, and the company’s traditional concert and casino business made it attractive enough that Live Nation bought a controlling stake in 2014.

Ciani’s split responsibilities for the Austin and Las Vegas markets give her the perspective to dish on the Lone Star State and how it compares to others around the country. Her short answer: Texas is open for business.

VenuesNow: How is Texas doing?
Kristyn Ciani: Texas remains a very steady, healthy music market. A large part of that is all the growth in our state and the top four or five cities are outweighing most other markets. We’ve got such tremendous growth with people moving here for new jobs and that is a big plus in the live entertainment space. We’re also seeing the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio playing a big role, with those two cities eventually becoming one metroplex. Around the state each market is big enough to support its own music economy, so we can run shows for 1,000 to 2,000 capacity in each market without any conflict. That’s a benefit because we can say to someone who’s picked a festival in Tulsa or New Orleans, if they want to do some hard ticket dates to support that we’ll get them a show in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio, or some combination of the four.

Anything else playing a role?
Culturewise, we’ve always been a no-brainer in the Americana and roots space, but we’re slowly starting to expand what we’re known for. We’re not Nashville or New Orleans, where we’re known for one specific world, and we’ve started to expand the genres where we’re getting more into the urban space, the eclectic rock spaces, obviously dance music and we’re trying to get more into the Latin space. There’s a push to diversify the music in Texas because we’re an easier state to travel to for festivals and there’s lots of places to put large events.

Do you see any gaps around the state in terms of venue stock?
In Austin there’s not a 3,000- to 5,000-capacity venue at this moment, but when the Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park opens that will check that box. We could use more seated venues in Austin that are on the smaller side to suit more intimate shows.

How’s the state’s festival market?
It’s very strong. You’ve got events happening almost every month of the year in just about every major market. That’s true of even some of the smaller markets on the outskirts, and they all touch just about every music space with your dance festivals, hip-hop, ACL Fest, South by Southwest, Willie Nelson’s Picnic, and then all the food and music festivals that are happening. There’s even stuff happening in El Paso, which you never would have thought of as a major music market and they’ve got the Neon Desert festival.

Are there up-and-coming players?
The festival space is hard to get into, bottom line. You can have some small event but to grow it to a 75,000- to 100,000-capacity festival is really tough. What I think the other promoters are doing well is coming up with creative ideas to keep them small and intimate until the market dictates otherwise. Levitation Festival was a multiday festival at Carson Creek Ranch outside of Austin and they’ve moved that into the music venues to create a unique kind of festival that’s still built around the same concept. JMBLYA out at Austin360 Amphitheater is another big one, and they can all be different and successful without being enormous.

What makes Texas so fertile for festivals?
A big part of it is that we’ve got so much space here. And there’s lots of land outside the major markets, which means you don’t have to drive an hour away to go and put up a music festival. And it’s also the case that some people like to throw a festival in the heart of a city like we do in Chicago for Lollapalooza or ACL Fest in Austin. But if you’re doing something unique or more subdued like some of the folk-type festivals, then it makes sense to get a bit away from the cities to create a distinct identity with camping, great beer and bluegrass music.

How price sensitive are the different markets?
Urban, dance and pop music in the last five years have been the driving forces in what’s selling tickets, and you can get by with a much higher ticket than you used to be able to, especially in the last three years. People here in Austin do put up a stink about not wanting to pay what’s normal for a New York or Los Angeles, or even Dallas, but it’s less so than it used to be. So I wind up pricing lower in Austin than in the other Texas markets. 

Rank the four major Texas markets in terms of industry importance.
I’m biased but Austin is No. 1 because there’s the biggest support system for live music, which is the most important part of a musician’s career right now. Plus there’s big festivals, and we do over 1,000 shows there a year. From there, probably Dallas, then Houston and San Antonio.

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