This is part two of my conversation with Dan Rogers, director of marketing and communication for the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN.
Ryan: How do you measure the success of your marketing efforts?
Dan: The Opry’s proverbial yardstick is always going to begin with the number of folks who come and see a live performance every year. There are lots of other barometers but I dare say that, if more people are coming to visit us, that just means that all of the other yardsticks are looking pretty good, and, by the same token, if all those other yardsticks are looking good then our attendance is probably going to be really good as well. Honestly you can look at the number of people coming to Nashville in a given year and really be able to guess how we’re doing in terms of the Opry as well because for so many people, a visit to Nashville means a visit to the Grand Ole Opry.
Ryan: You recently published your second book. How is marketing a book different from marketing a live show?
Dan: First of all, I wanted that book to be written because I wanted those stories told, and I wanted those photos to be able to be seen, and for the people who came to The Grand Ole Opry and had taken a tour, I wanted them to be able to take some of those photos they’d seen home with them just to remember their trip and to tell their friends about it. Another reason for writing that book was that book, I feel, helps the Opry tell its story. A media outlet’s first question is always what’s new, and the book actually became a great marketing tool for the Opry itself. We did a satellite media tour in support of the book but really we were talking about that book on Fox News, MSNBC, and media outlets across the country. By talking about the book we were essentially talking about the Grand Ole Opry. For us, marketing the book became, really, a key component of the Grand Ole Opry’s marketing plan.
Ryan: Like a really cool hardback business card.
Dan: Yeah. I feel like when people take that book home they’re talking about having taken a backstage tour of the Opry and if they give that as a gift or even if people see that book on store shelves in the airport and that sort of thing it becomes a marketing tool for, not just the Opry, but also our backstage tours. We’ll do tours now seven days a week, at least nine months out of the year, have a day time tour, an evening post show tour, and then a VIP tour. That’s become a huge part of our Opry business world as well. That tour gives us the opportunity to tell the Opry story which is this incredible story of legendary artists and friendships that blossomed between folks hanging backstage for two hours or sometimes four hours on an Opry night.
Ryan: If somebody’s reading this interview and they have never been to the Opry, tell them why they should pay a visit.
Dan: Well, it’s the show that made country music famous. You’re going to see a one-of-a-kind country music performance, and you’re going to see American history come to life before your eyes over the course of a two-hour show.
Ryan: Anything cool on the horizon that you can tease?
Dan: We’re going to celebrate nine decades of great country music next year and I’m really excited about all that that anniversary means to the Opry. I’m most excited because I feel like the Opry is in this incredible place in which to celebrate and in which to tell people to come and visit us. We’ve had a great year this year with appearances from Loretta Lynn, Charlie Daniels, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Little Big Town, you name it. It just feels like the Opry is at this place of contemporary relevance but with still a genuine respect for our history that it’s a great, great time for us to celebrate where we have been and where we’re going, and there are just a whole lot of fun things that we have planned that I’m personally looking forward to being a part of. I think that fans will be excited as well.
Ryan: Dan, what is your all-time favorite backstage story?
Dan: I was talking to Vince Gill in his dressing room about the book and about what the Grand Ole Opry meant to him, and he shared the story of a night that he had come off stage and his wife Amy Grant was there with him. He had just put his guitar in his case and was packing up and they were ready to leave and this fiddle player came in and had his fiddle with him and said, “Hey, you want to pick one?” Vince said, “Sure, what do you want to play?” He got his guitar out and they sat and played a couple of tunes, the guy playing fiddle and Vince playing guitar. Then, Vince packed up his guitar and he and Amy walked out to their car.
About halfway home Amy turned to him and said, “That last guy must’ve been a real legend for you to have stuck around and played with him. What was his name?” Vince said, “I have no idea. I’ve never met that man before in my life!”
Vince said that, to him, is what the Opry is; Just going to the show ready to have a great time and kicking back and playing the music you love with old friends, and new friends, and maybe somebody you’ll never ever see again.
Ryan: My last question is probably the most important question of the entire interview: What is your favorite Little Jimmy Dickens joke?
Dan: Well, can I tell you my favorite Jimmy Dickens punch line is, “Thanks, doc. Now I know what I did with my hearing aid.”
Ryan: I think I can fill in the blanks.
My sincere thanks to Dan Rogers and The Grand Ole Opry for this interview.