Courtesy C3 – What Becomes A Legend Most:
Stubb’s Bar-B-Q in Austin, Texas, is named after barbeque chef C.B. “Stubb” Stubblefield, who passed away shortly before the live music venue and restaurant opened in 1996.
Last week C3 Presents and parent company Live Nation announced it acquired Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, the iconic Austin, Texas, music venue and restaurant that opened in 1996. A de facto hub for the annual SXSW Conference and synonymous with incredible live music, the venue has hosted shows by everyone from Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and Willie Nelson to The Beastie Boys, Metallica and Loretta Lynn to the New York Dolls, Merle Haggard, Lady Gaga and far beyond. Pollstar spoke with Stubb’s and C3 co-founder Charles Attal and C3 promoter Amy Corbin, whose careers began at Stubb’s, to find out more about the venue, the acquisition and plans for the future.
Pollstar: How far back do you go with Stubb’s?
Charles Attal: I built Stubb’s with partners and investors back in 1996. In a few years time, we bought the land and property. For the first few years, I was the booking agent, marketing agent, production manager, sometimes the ticket taker. It was all hands on deck. We didn’t know what we were doing back then, we still don’t [laughs], but we’re going on 27 years here.
What was the value of the property back then?
Attal: It wasn’t as much as it is now. Austin was a different place back then.
How much has its value has increased since then? Like five-fold, ten-fold, twenty-fold?
Attal: I can’t talk numbers, but Austin real estate is expensive now. It’s an international market now. Non-stop international flights are popping up all over the place, it’s a destination city. It’s growing faster than any city in the United States. So everything’s changed, the marketplace is changing. We’re a tier-one market, we used to be a B-market for touring for a long time. We’re just getting out of that, we’re now an A-market, but everybody thought Austin was very hip and cool, which it is, but it hasn’t been an A-touring market until recently.
At SXSW, Stubb’s feels like the epicenter – was it always like that?
Attal: It was not. When we started developing the property to put Stubb’s there, we found old stagecoach wagon wheels in the backyard. It had been that untouched and we still have one of the wagon wheels up on the wall. There were chickens back there when we bought the property. It was the Wild West, literally.
Keep Austin weird, right?
Attal: It still is. We haven’t changed much down there and that’s the whole goal, to keep the footprint of Stubb’s look and feel. There’s a lot of land behind Stubb’s and a parking lot be hind Stubb’s, and that’s the area we want to expand and make the experience better. We’ve had Portelet bathrooms out there for 27 years. We’ve got to put some real bathrooms in there. Just the obvious stuff, it’s pretty easy.
How long have you worked at Stubb’s, Amy?
Amy Corbin: Since 2000.
Is that when you first started in the industry?
Corbin: Yes, I think in 2000, we went from, I don’t know, maybe 20 outdoor shows that year…
Attal: Yeah, to 80… Amy and I both started at Stubb’s.
Did you have both indoor and outdoor stages?
Attal: When we opened, we thought with the indoor we would do some special events. And the first show we ever did was The Fugees, we didn’t even know who they were. They just had a record drop a few weeks before and they were on their way to South By and 5,000 people showed up. That’s when we were like, “Oh, wow.”
Corbin: That was outside. That’s when you realized you should have a stage outside.
Attal: We were like, “Oh, we better get building here quick.”
Courtesy C3 Presents – Where The Magic Happens:
Stubb’s hosts more than 100 shows a year, with a capacity of 2,500. According to 2,456 Pollstar Boxoffice reports dating back to 1999, Stubbs has sold 2.28 million tickets with an average gross of $24,900.
If you’re capacity is 2,500, how did you handle 5K?
Attal: We didn’t (laughs), that’s the problem. There’s a parking garage next door where the police station is, everybody was piled on that. They were piled on the street and in the back. There was probably another 2,000 on the street. We had a chain-link fence that was pieced together. We didn’t have a roof on the stage and it rained. I’ve been doing this for 27 years, it was the first and last time I got on stage to call off a show. I had to stop the band. We put them in the dressing room, they were not happy. It was a mess, and we were running all over the place, not knowing what we were doing, but at the end of the night, when all was said and done, we poured ourselves a drink and said, “This may be a really cool business for us to get into.” I liked the energy of it, so that’s how I got started in the music business.
How do you think you’ll continue to grow it as part of the Live Nation family, which you’ve been a part of since 2014?
Attal: We haven’t thought that far ahead. We’re going to make improvements to the space and then we’ll take it from there. We’ve constantly got ideas as to what we want to do next. We’re going to have a Stubb’s kiosk in the Moody Center which opens in April, so the food will be served there. Stubb’s is an iconic local Austin brand.
Corbin: That’s very much how the beginning went, it was organic. I don’t know if we were thinking long-term international branding strategy versus continuing on the path were on, producing great music in the backyard, food, artist amenities and fan experience and then the rest will take shape.
Attal: One thing not a lot of people outside of Austin know is that there’s Stubb’s, which is 2,500 seats, and the Moody Amphitheatre, which is 4,000 seats, and now the Moody Center (15K cap) and they’re all on Red River. We have three major music venues all on the same street, which is pretty cool.
And you have Emo’s, right?
Attal: Yeah, we’ve got Emo’s and The Scoot Inn. Also City Limits.
You are vertically integrated and the dominant promoter in the market, essentially.
Attal: It was all organic. We grew organically here. It’s been a good, Austin’s a great music town, it’s been a great place to be based.
Who would have thought that a crazy show with The Fugees would turn into an iconic internationally known venue and brand?
Attal: It’s funny how wild that show was in the rain, the production nightmares and everything else. At the end of the day, the energy rush from it was beyond. That’s when I knew I wanted to stay in this business. Amy runs six states for Live Nation. And we do shows in 14 countries, how many shows do you think we’re going to do this year, Amy? 2,000? 3,000?
Attal: Yeah, sounds right.
Do you think there are opportunities to bring Stubb’s BBQ to other events, like Lollapalooza?
Attal: We haven’t yet, but we may. We’ll look at opportunities and address them one by one. We literally just did this deal, so we haven’t looked outside of what’s in front of us because there’s a lot of work to be done here.
Who were some of the people at Stubbs you’ve worked with over the years?
Attal: Oh, boy, a lot of people. There’s still a lot at C3.
Corbin: Yeah. Margaret Galton, the current talent buyer, she’s been there, seven years and is now booking. She’s been with us 12 years.
Attal: Huston Powell worked production down there and he books all the Lollapaloozas, now, and he’s been with us for, what, 20 years? And Ryan Garrett, the general manager down there now has been there 23 years.
Corbin: John Mickan was our street team manager and has been production manager for the last 8-10 years. It’s just something that when you get in, you love it and like it’s everybody’s baby.
So no Stubb’s, no C3?
Corbin: No, I don’t think so.
Is that where the Charlies first congregated?
Attal: We all did. Yeah, Charlie Walker and Charlie Jones and I all used to hang out down there. When we got started in the business, we were all working for different companies. Charlie Walker was working for Pace and Charlie Jones had his own company with Tim O’Connor and also worked at the Backyard. I was doing Stubb’s and that was our home base. We were technically competitors, but we were all hanging out at night and at shows, eating barbecue. We were running buddies and became best friends down there. So yeah, we all grew up in that spot.
Who was Stubb?
Attal: Stubb [C.B. “Stubb” Stubblefield] was our partner, and he was a famous barbecue chef in Texas. And he was best friends with Terry Allen and Joe Ely and all those Texas songwriters. He had a place in Lubbock in the ‘70s and a place here in Austin. He had a heart attack and died literally right as we were getting that project going. He was going to be our partner and his heirs ended up being our partners. He was a great guy. It was his vision and his barbecue recipes that goes into the sauce and into that building.
Maybe it’s like spiritual or divine thing that makes Stubb’s so special?
Attal: He stays alive in that building, for sure.
What were some of your favorite shows?
Attal: There’s different moments in time for me. The Fugees is obviously the first show, which was mind-blowing. Back in the indie rock days when Pavement would come and do two nights or Ween would come do two nights. Then when the Beastie Boys played and Metallica and Bob Dylan. We had iconic shows in that room. I remember we packed Muse and that rock show was just beyond. There’ve been a lot of great rock and roll moments in that building.
Corbin: I remember being in college going to the Eminem show. That was amazing. Willie Nelson did three nights, pretty epic.
Attal: Merle Haggard, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, they’ve all played there. George Jones came, he was about an hour late.
It is interesting the way a venue becomes a shrine and Stubb’s feels like one of those places.
Attal: It’s always everybody’s favorite place to see a show no matter where you are in Texas.
Corbin: And to play a show. A lot of artists could obviously play other venues, but they want to come and play Stubb’s. In the early days, we’d have to really pitch the venue, and when they arrived, they’re like, “What is this place?” There’s something about it when the sun goes down, it’s just transformed and becomes this amazing experience for the artists and fans. It’s just special. You can’t replicate it. s