Sharon Burns Brawner is Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum where she has day-to-day oversight of the museum’s traditional revenue-producing areas including ticket sales, restaurant/catering, and retail. Oh, and there’s the fabulous Hatch Show Print and Historic RCA Studio B. Over the course of 13+ years at the museum, she has made a significant impact on many fronts. Under her direction, ticket sales revenues have increased over 111% since 2003. From 2003 to 2014, revenue for special events have increased from over $677,400 to upwards of $11.7 million. From 2006 to 2014, Brawner has overseen a 102% increase in retail sales and has grown their retail presence in the museum from one store to three, in addition to an art gallery.
1. How has marketing for the Country Music Hall of Fame changed over the years?
I have been with Country Music Hall of Fame for 14 years, starting as the director of sales for group sales and events. We have exploded in all the earned income of ticket sales, retail, special events and licensing and product development. We now have 17 different businesses under one roof. In 2003, we started a rotating exhibition program that started with one and now is up to a dozen in a year. Repeat visitation has not risen to a big number but we are appealing to a much larger, diversified overall audience. We now have a marketing team of 23 folks divided into four teams – PR, Digital, Creative and Marketing Services.
2. Has the newfound popularity of Nashville contributed to the popularity of the Country Music Hall of Fame?
I thank the good Lord everyday for the blessings that have happened to our wonderful city. In 1991, I came from Dallas, Texas and it has been wonderful to see the growth. A lot of credit goes to our mayors, governors, and convention and visitors. The museum has been positioned as part of Nashville’s Triple Crown – the Ryman, Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame. We have partnered with the Ryman and the Opry. They were leading the pack at the time and now we are seen as a trio. We also work a lot with the Frist and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. We work hard to be viewed as a community asset. The new Music City Center campus has done so much to make us a great convention destination. So much of the new convention space is new event space bringing more social events, more weddings, more fundraisers.
3. What is the typical target audience for the Country Music Hall of Fame? Are women a significant part of your target audience? Are you seeing many of the bachelorette groups coming to Nashville?
Yes, women are very important. About 65-70% of our target audience is female. The majority of the women are the decision makers of what the groups of visitors are going to do. The bachelorette groups come to Nashville for the party scene, but weddings are part of our business. Weddings have grown because of the beautiful spaces we have for ceremonies and receptions.
On the business side, there is something I do appreciate about the museum. In our Senior leadership, we have 3 senior vice presidents that are women.
4. We understand Rosanne Cash is the current Artist-in-Residence. How do strong women like Rosanne and Emmy Lou contribute to the country music landscape?
Rosanne is so great, so humble. She is only the second woman accepted as Artist-in-Residence. It is a very high honor given to an artist that has a canon of work very deep and broad. Rosanne followed Connie Smith. She asked her friend Emmy Lou and Lucinda Williams to make guest appearances. They were magical and commanded the room. She is well revered and a great and brilliant songwriter and performer.
5. What are some of the challenges you face in marketing next year?
Kyle Young , our Director and Chief Executive Officer, has talked about it. The city of Nashville has to be very careful not to lose our authenticity. We appreciate and respect every tourist. We can’t let the brand get so big so fast that we forget why the tourists came here. We need to take advantage of serving our new guests but as we build, we need to keep our roots. All music has a home here and that’s why we call it Music City. We don’t want to lose site of our values. At the Country Music Hall of Fame, we have to keep waving the flag of our history. We think we are an anchor to staying authentic.
6. What has been your favorite moment at Country Music Hall of Fame?
I am a huge fan of this music. It is why I came here. One of my favorite moments was being there when George Strait was inducted into the Hall of Fame. I have a dual role as both a fan and a professional woman now working with country music. I started watching him in college and now it is part of my job to keep his legacy alive.
7. What’s going on for the holidays this year?
Every year we do Deck the Hall. We have a treelighting in the lobby. It’s the day after Thanksgiving and it’s the first in the city. We also have a free concert. Last year it was Brenda Lee.