Tag Archives: live

Revamped Radio

March 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When the band Train came to Omaha’s Baxter Arena for a concert in December 2016, there were plenty of flashing lights and excited fans. “But when the lights go out and the audience starts screaming, there’s no rush like it in the world,” says Andy Ruback, general manager of NRG Media. Ruback knows a great deal about screaming fans—when a big concert comes to town the likelihood is that Ruback had his hand in the planning. His role as general manager has evolved over the years from managing radio stations to include managing events brought to town by NRG Media Live.

The business is a natural fit for NRG, which owns stations ranging from Power 106.9 to 1290 KOIL. The company was looking to the future for broadcasting and leaning toward live shows as a way to increase profitability. NRG used their strengths in connecting people to music to expand into the business of concert production. With the radio stations’ on-air talent knowing their listeners’ preferences, the media company naturally knew what acts had potential to bring in revenue, and which ones might not.

Ruback came to Omaha from Lincoln, where he served as general manager for their NRG stations. Upon his arrival at the NRG offices in Omaha in 2012, Ruback went full speed ahead. He says the intention was never to focus on live shows over radio shows; rather, he called his plans a method for “diversifying for growth.”

Concert production is a challenge that Ruback gladly accepted, but in it, found unique bumps in the road. Some of those bumps included special requirements, such as permits, that needed the legal team’s help. Shock rocker Alice Cooper, for example, required the team to acquire special insurance because of the pyrotechnics involved with his show. Ruback and his team figured out how to get the right insurance, and now know who to ask the next time someone wants to light up fireworks onstage.

Ruback says some of the more surprising challenges he and his team have faced come from smaller, more routine details.

“I would say it’s more about the crowd experience logistics,” Ruback says. “How do we try to work with the arenas to make sure there’s enough concessions on the floor? What should be the entry ticket price? What should be the price for the front row?”

Logistics is the simplest description for the business of producing concerts. Is the specific artist available at the time? Is there enough interest in this artist to fill the seats? Is a venue available on the day needed?

“We could have the great idea, and the right price, but there could be a UNO hockey game and a Lancers game on the night we want, and we’re out of luck,” Ruback says.

It is a revenue stream in which many community businesses desire to participate, and there are many ways for them to participate, including attaching their name to experiences such as meet-and-greets with the band before or after the show, and attaching their name to souvenirs. Attendees at the Train concert, for example, vied for flashing bracelets and cups branded with a sponsor’s logo. Signage prominently displayed throughout Baxter Arena featured sponsor logos.

The scenario is beneficial to everyone involved: the band gets to play to a well-attended venue, the fans get to enjoy the band, and the sponsors get to present their message in an effective way.

“On that day, no other media group is producing a concert,” Ruback says. “So you’re looking at content that advertisers want to be a part of, but no other client can do.”

The diversification proved wildly successful. Ruback says that since 2014, more than 100,000 people have attended an NRG Media Live event. Associate athletic director for University of Nebraska at Omaha Mike Kemp enjoys his business dealings with NRG Media Live and says that when Ruback puts on a concert at Baxter Arena “… it’s not just a concert—it’s an event. He has great vision and ideas and that’s the true charm of what he does.”

“I think NRG Media does a great job of engaging the community to get behind the events,” adds Kemp. NRG Media has the ability to promote coming shows using the radio stations on their roster and their strong social media presence. This equals solid attendance numbers at concerts and happy sponsors.

“Andy’s full of energy and great ideas,” Kemp says of Ruback. “He’s an honest guy with great enthusiasm for what he does.” Rubak’s vision has evolved NRG Media into much more than an organization simply running local radio stations. In fact, the next time there is a popular concert in town, there is an excellent chance that Ruback can be found there, smiling and enjoying the rush.

Visit nrgmedia.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Nebraska State Fair

July 22, 2013 by

It’s time to head to Grand Island for the food, fun, and thrill of Nebraska’s annual must-attend event: the Nebraska State Fair.

This year’s fair, from August 23 to September 2, is luring visitors with a new midway provider. Wade Shows will offer rides that are sure to be a huge draw for little ones and thrill seekers alike.

Families will find kiddie rides in the Lil’ Pardners area, family rides, thrill rides, and a new slate of the spectacular rides fairgoers expect at a state fair. An all-new Gold Access Program will give participants the VIP experience by allowing them to jump to the front of the lines.

The partnership with Wade Shows began last year with the new Sky Tram that provided 30,000 fairgoers with a high-flying look over the fairgrounds.

Also new for 2013 is a jaw-dropping BMX stunt show. The Mega Jump Action Sports Experience will feature the largest jump in the industry, giving riders plenty of airtime to attempt the most dangerous tricks at perilous heights. At the end of the show, families can hobnob with the professional athletes.

Top-notch musical artists will perform, including free concerts by Kellie Pickler on August 23, Mel Tillis on August 28, TobyMac on August 29, and the Eli Young Band on August 30. Paid performers scheduled are country superstar Trace Adkins on August 25, Chicago on August 31, and Lynyrd Skynyrd on September 1.

Of course, the fair will be filled with any kind of Nebraska farm and ranch animal that moos, neighs, clucks, or whinnies. Come see the livestock exhibits or take in a competition show. If that isn’t enough, discover Butterfly Adventures, a petting zoo, camel and pony rides, racing pigs, acrobatic sea lions, and stock dog trials, featuring handler and dog teams that guide unruly cattle or cagey sheep around a fast-paced course.

Come on an empty stomach because no one can leave the fair without eating something on a stick. In fact, there’s an app for that. Before arriving at the fair, download the Nebraska State Fair Mobile App to locate your favorite fair food, download daily entertainment schedules, find friends and family, and even track down where the car is parked. This must-have app is available free in the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.

Find directions, complete schedules, and more at statefair.org.

The Acoustic Gangster

August 20, 2012 by
Photography by minorwhitestudios

When musician Brian Alexander first arrived in Omaha, he decided on a big approach to introduce himself to the local music scene.

Alexander, who also goes by “the Acoustic Gangster,” plastered his image across three billboards in town, adorned with the phrase, “Having your own billboard is pretty gangster.”

“I knew I was fresh to the area,” Alexander says. “I wanted to put myself out there and blow up.”

Alexander says the gambit was pricey but ultimately worth it. And that’s not the only wild purchase Alexander has made to promote himself. He also has a life-size cardboard cutout of himself that he hauls around to gigs. Alexander says people try to buy it, steal it, drunk girls try to talk to it, and guys have even tried to pick fights with it. Everybody seems to take pictures with it, too. “That’s been one of the most interesting purchases I’ve ever made,” says Alexander, who enjoys being a bit eccentric.

But Alexander hasn’t relied solely on having his own cardboard doppleganger and putting his face on billboards to build his audience. He’s also spent time building tight relationships with local bars and clubs where he plays, especially Stiles Pub (1204 Howard St.) and Parliament Pub’s Shops of Legacy and Old Market locations.

“I’m really loyal to people that give you chances,” Alexander says.

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During Alexander’s sets, he relies on a selection of covers that point toward the sort of music that he writes. There’s plenty of ‘90s-era material from acts like The Smashing Pumpkins, Live, Blind Melon, and the Presidents of the United States. Alexander says he seeks to give his audience a little bit of adolescent nostaglia. “I do stuff that brings them back to high school,” he says.

Alexander’s music takes those influences and combines them with a modern acoustic pop feel that brings to mind contemporary acts like Jason Mraz, Eric Hutchinson, and G. Love. His latest single, “Lemonade,” brings that light-hearted pop vibe together with a simple beat and acoustic guitar.

Omaha may have become Alexander’s musical home, but it was a long journey before he arrived in town. Alexander lived in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., before attending Penn State University.

His first impulse for pursuing a music career was to pack up for Nashville, but soon an Omaha friend that Alexander had met while studying abroad in France convinced him to give Nebraska a try.

Before long, Alexander had settled down in Omaha and began playing regular gigs. Then one night at a gig, a fan called him over to the bar to buy him a drink, slung his arm around Alexander’s shoulder, and introduced him as “my man, the Acoustic Gangster, Brian Alexander.”

There was no shaking the name, Alexander says. “It kind of stuck in my head the rest of the night,” he recalls.

And it helped him with the dilemma of just how to stand out from the crowd of singer-songwriters out there. In looking up the number of Brian Alexanders on Facebook, he encountered hundreds. That number dropped dramatically for the newly minted nickname. “Sure enough, there were no ‘Acoustic Gangsters’ registered anywhere,” Alexander says.

Now, there’s one who’s eager to make fans any way he can.