The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority on Wednesday announced that it has partnered with the Steep Canyon Rangers bluegrass band to help promote the Asheville music scene.
The TDA is spending $20,000 on the marketing effort, in addition to paying to have the Rangers’ tour bus wrapped with a composite image that includes a scene from the band’s 2016 performance in Pack Square Park. The park image is by Asheville photographer David Simchock, and the mountain backdrop scene was shot by Dave Allen, another local photographer.
In addition to the band’s logo, the wrap features the Asheville destination brand and web site, ExploreAsheville.com. With more than 150 tour dates from coast to coast (a tour that will also include Rangers collaborator Steve Martin and another comedian friend, Martin Short), the wrapped tour bus serves as a traveling billboard for the Asheville music scene, TDA officials say. The two entities will also share social posts featuring Asheville’s growing reputation as a music destination.
Steve Martin tweeted a funny response to the Ranger’s announcement, apparently referencing the photo, which shows the backsides of the band:
Congratulations, guys. But how will we know it’s you?
The partnership with the Steep Canyon Rangers is part of a greater, ongoing effort by the Buncombe TDA to promote Asheville’s music scene. The effort was launched last year. It includes a new section of the TDA’s exploreasheville.com website highlighting local performers, as well as an online “radio station” featuring songs by local musicians. The music is licensed and paid for by an entity called Asheville Commercial Music Enterprise (ACME). So far, 26 artists have been licensed.
In another effort, the TDA is sponsoring a series of concerts recorded at Asheville’s Echo Mountain Studio by Independent Arts and Music Asheville (IAMAVL) that are broadcast on UNC-TV.
The TDA is also finalizing a contract with Crissa Requate and Molly Kummerle of Mason Jar Media, an Asheville-based public relations agency that represents musicians, bands and music festivals. Local tourism officials and Mason Jar Media will work together on “media outreach to tell the music stories of the region,” according to a press release.
The goal is to get more television, newspaper and magazine coverage of Asheville’s music scene by connecting with reporters and editors, as well as industry insiders and tastemakers.
In Wednesday’s meeting, Dodie Stephens, the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau’s director of communications, outlined some of those story pitches. They include framing Asheville and its music scene as a “Grammy incubator.” This story about Asheville’s Grammy Award connections is a direct example of that story.
Stephens said other story pitches could include highlighting Asheville’s multifaceted music scene. “We need to own the fact that the Asheville sound is not one sound,” Stephens said. Another pitch would focus on “the uniqueness” of the music experience, she said, noting that Asheville-area venues and stages have a distinct sense of place. “Even our sidewalks are stages,” she added.
Asheville tourism officials have also worked with local musician Josh Blake, who wrote an inspirational song about the local music scene and had it recorded by vocalist Helen Watson, granddaughter of world-famous mountain balladeer Doc Watson. Tourism officials are waiting for just the right time to release a music video for the song, said Marla Tambellini, the CVB’s vice president.