Officials with the Branson Chamber of Commerce said an upcoming comprehensive study will help the chamber make informed decisions about Branson’s entertainment future.
The study was first announced in a May 21 press release.
Grant Sloan, vice president of member engagement for the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB, said Sound Diplomacy, a strategic consultancy, will lead a comprehensive study of Branson’s theatre industry.
“People will tell you this study should have been done 10 years ago,” Sloan said. “In order to make educated decisions, you have to start with research-based information.
“This is a way to truly understand current dynamics within the industry and have strategies brought forward that can strengthen it, not only today, but long term.”
According to Sloan, the study is expected to last nine months, with a $75,000 budget.
Sloan said the process began in January and involved the Branson Show Task Force, which is comprised of 17 show owners and producers representing more than 26 shows, to craft the request for proposals.
“From that process, we got back five different proposals,” Sloan said. “As we went through the vetting process Sound Diplomacy definitely stood out. Music strategy, music study, that’s what they do, that’s their sole focus. So we’re really excited about what they bring to the table.”
The Branson Show Task Force, Sloan said, is a chamber committee designed to “provide a forum for the discussion of issues and coordination of strategies related to the constant improvement and preservation of live shows as a key industry in the Branson economy.”
The task force is comprised of Cynthia Carson with Sight & Sound Theatre, Timothy Haygood with The Haygoods, Larry Wilhite with The Mansion Theatre, Dathan Atchison with Million Dollar Quartet/Shrek, Lena Hughes with Hughes Brothers, Sheila Dutton with The Duttons, Nick Guevel with Showboat Branson Belle, Jeannie Horton with Legends in Concert, Mike Patrick with Grand Country, Tom Brett with A Bretts Family Christmas, Brandon Mabe with Branson’s Famous Baldknobbers, Jody Madaras with All Hands on Deck, Jeff Johnson with Shepherd of the Hills, Luke Johnson with The Johnson Strings, Randy Brashers with Little Opry Theatre, Ellen Petersen with The Petersens and Tish Knudsen with Six.
What made Sound Diplomacy stand out, according to Sloan, is the company’s focus on music entertainment.
“While other agencies would have to bring a music person on board to analyze our market, all they do at Sound Diplomacy is music studies,” Sloan said. “They’ve worked in over 30 different countries on six different continents. I think they understand the value of what music can have on the local economy, and they just jumped off the paper when we saw their proposal.
According to a press release from the chamber, Sound Diplomacy has delivered the economic impact and music strategy for: Vancouver, Canada; Brisbane, Australia; Cardiff, Wales; Huntsville, Alabama; San Francisco; New Orleans, Louisiana; Indianapolis, Indiana and Manchester, UK, among many others. Sound Diplomacy also wrote and published the global guide to music tourism for the UN World Tourism Organization and ProColombia, the nation’s tourist board.
“Our team will look for ways to celebrate the rich heritage of live music shows, while also outlining strategies aimed at strengthening the bottom line of shows performing in the market today,” Sound Diplomacy President Shain Shapiro said via press release. “Data collection is absolutely important, but it only tells part of the story. We will start by meeting one-on-one, and having round-table discussions, to fully understand local dynamics before we begin the comparative analysis process.”
Sloan said the study will be focused on the following areas: A marketplace analysis of Branson’s theatre industry, an economic review of Branson’s theatre industry, a comparative analysis of Branson’s theatre industry against other successful, like-minded live music cities worldwide and a concise and comprehensive live music strategy to strengthen Branson’s theatre industry health.
Sloan said the early stages of the study will consist of stakeholder input with opportunities for public input.
“It’s not just data, it’s talking one-one-one or round table discussions to truly understand our market before we ever compare ourselves with like-minded markets,” Sloan said. “But we’re excited to roll out ways the public can get involved with this process.
When looking to the end of the study, Sloan said Sound Diplomacy will be able to offer a new point of view on issues in the community. Having an outsider perspective, Sloan said, is something both the chamber and show task force found valuable.
“Sound Diplomacy will bring to the table things we haven’t thought of before, or be able to answer questions folks in the community have always had,” he said. “It’s really hard to say what that looks like, the end of the study, but I really do think we’ll gain a better understanding of that market.”
The study is also part of the Chamber’s “5 in Five” initiative, which Sloan said is an effort to address the five most pressing issues identified in the community by local businesses.
“There were five areas identified by the business community; workforce development, highway 76 redevelopment, theatre industry health, proactive government and shoulder season business,” Sloan said. “This is one of those five the community saw as valuable and this is one of the strategies we’ll be using to strengthen the theatre industry long term.
“There’s a vision right now and when you start getting into it and that’s when things start taking shape. This first step of selecting Sound Diplomacy was a step in the right direction. While no start date for the study has been announced, Sloan said the chamber hopes to have more information soon.”