Eventbrite | Customer Story

How a Legendary Austin Venue Controls the Chaos

The “live music capital of the world” may be the most exciting place to own a music venue — and the most stressful. Austin, Texas is home to more than 250 live music venues, and hosts performances every night of the week. To succeed here, a room can't just keep up, it has to set the stride.

Just ask James Moody, the owner of Mohawk, a live music venue in downtown Austin. When the room opened its doors in 2006, Moody knew he had to bring something surprising to the table to stand out in a crowded scene. But the technology the Mohawk team relied on to manage shows and sell tickets wasn’t just unsustainable for the staff — it was also slowing their growth.

“Success in the early days looked like survival — period,” Moody says. “If we could make rent and keep the fire department out of here, we were stoked.”

To keep the doors open, Moody knew he had to innovate. “Technology was one of the ways we differentiated when we entered the market,” Moody says. “We wanted to have a unique digital experience and use that as a way to get in.”

“Success in the early days looked like survival — period. If we could make rent and keep the fire department out of here, we were stoked.”

– James Moody, Owner, Mohawk Austin

Back in 2006, that experience meant having a website (complete with a picture of a mohawked chicken) and an “over-the-top” MySpace page. The room quickly grew in popularity, hosting thousands of artists from Iggy Pop to Bill Callahan, and won numerous “best live music venue” awards. The room is now firmly established, but the need to stay ahead of the curve has only become more urgent.

Mohawk // Austin, TX
Hear the story of how an underdog venue became a national live music destination

Mohawk // Austin, TX

Hear the story of how an underdog venue became a national live music destination

The challenge: Creativity was stifled by archaic booking and ticketing systems

Mohawk has always been on the cutting edge of the Austin music scene. The problem was, they couldn’t find a booking or ticketing technology as advanced as they were.

“When your phone is light years ahead of your workflow, it’s frustrating,” Moody says. Every step in their booking, ticketing, and management system was separate. “I was upset that we couldn’t get anything done with one password. We were working on archaic systems that our competition owned, and it was just a list that added up to: ‘Why are we doing this?’”

Unfortunately, their outdated system was exactly what was stifling their creativity. “People can be more creative when they’re comfortable,” Moody says. But with their outdated technology adding undue stress to the job, the staff was far from a relaxed state.

Photo Credits: Cody R Cowan IG @crc.images (Header, Above)

“Monopolies exist in the live music world. Once you realize that your competition owns your ticketing company, you start to get real uncomfortable. That’s a lot of data. And we just weren’t comfortable with that.”

– James Moody, Owner, Mohawk Austin

Cody Cowan, the General Manager of Mohawk, saw his staff suffer through repetitive tasks that kept them from more visionary work.

“If you have to do one task a day, that’s easy,” Cowan says. “But if you have to do more than three pieces just to get one job done, you start to resent that. You can’t do it efficiently. It just drags out and sucks up all your time — and in our world, it’s a 24/7 job.”

The combination of unnecessary steps for basic tasks and the lack of tracking was more than inefficient; it was hurting their reputation with agents. “Our methods were prone to human error, and all of the drama of disorganization and poor communication,” Cowan says. “But drama is for the performance of rock ‘n’ roll. We’re in the business of rock ‘n’ roll. We need to have our game tight.”

With that in mind, Cowan and team set out to tighten their game in three core ways:

– Using tech to increase bookings and build stronger relationships with artists

– Simplifying their work by unifying their platforms

– Planning for the future with real-time data on shows and financials

Photo Credits: Cody R Cowan IG @crc.images (Above)

The solution: Technology that put them a step ahead of the competition

Moody and team knew that the system they needed to work most efficiently didn’t yet exist — so they decided to do something about it. “The industry wasn’t innovating, so we decided to build our own solution,” Moody says. “Most clubs around the United States right now are using Google Calendar to manage their talent and shows. Google did not build that calendar for live music venues, but venues use it because it’s ‘good enough.’”

The team partnered with long-time collaborator Greg Patterson and team to begin work on what would become Queue (now Eventbrite Venue). This booking and management system was designed to solve the production challenges facing the entire industry — and make the lives of the Mohawk team easier in the process. Designed with insider input, venues and promoters anywhere can now use the technology to simplify their work.

“The platform is custom for music venues, to make things more efficient, more transparent. To have that all inside of one platform is huge. The market’s so competitive, so Queue gives us an edge.”

– James Moody, Owner, Mohawk Austin

Queue has transformed the way the team tackles their daily work. The team uses Queue to manage holds on a flexible booking calendar, push live shows to their website and launch ticket sales, and keep track of any notes about the show in one place.

“The platform is custom for music venues, to make things more efficient, more transparent,” Moody says. “It integrates our calendar with our talent buying, our promotion and marketing, our social media, our financials, and our inter-office communication. To have that all inside of one platform is huge. The market’s so competitive, so Queue gives us an edge.”

Now that the platform is available to all venues, “whoever’s using Queue is light years ahead of anybody else who’s not right now,” Moody says. “I can speak from personal experience — I use Queue every day because of what we built.”

Mohawk by the Numbers

  • 60+

    team hours saved per month on booking & ticketing

  • 30%

    faster check-in times

  • 10

    years in business

  • 30%

    increase in 2017 bookings goal

Photo Credits: Cody R Cowan IG @crc.images (Above)

Using technology to increase bookings and build stronger relationships with artists

Reputation is everything in the live music industry. One delayed email or misplaced rider sheet can damage a venue’s credibility and hurt their ability to book bands. And despite Mohawk’s reputation for being a killer room where anything goes, the smallest miscommunication could jeopardize bookings.

“We have to answer emails within fifteen minutes to make sure shows don’t fall through — even shows that are months away,” Cowan says. “All of those little details and tasks which used to draw us away from the crises of production, Queue just manages like ‘boom, boom, boom.’ I don’t need to worry about it — so I can focus on the things that really matter.”

For the coming year, the team is focused on increasing bookings. Today, about a third of their calendar is filled by small events like happy hours or DJs. “We see an opportunity to fill that time with more types of music,” Moody says. In 2017, he’s looking to increase their bookings by 30% so they can get even busier.

Photo Credits: Cody R Cowan IG @crc.images (Header, Above)

“Our obligation is booking the right talent. And if you can book the right 
talent inside of a better system, that means better service to them, better communication. They’ll appreciate the club for being professional and 
on time.”

– James Moody, Owner, Mohawk Austin

Queue is a big part of how they’re going to get there. “The calendar function is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and it’s all connected to our ticketing and booking system. We can upload every file, every contract, every W9,” says Graham Williams, the founder of Margin Walker, who handles some of the talent buying for Mohawk. “Essentially, it helps us book more shows. The less time it takes to be organized and keep on top of things, the more time we can dedicate to what it is we love doing.”

“A lot of the friction in the venue world is caused by poor process management on the back-end,” Cowan says. Because the team can share settlement info in a more organized and transparent way, they’ve improved their relationships with bands and agents. “Building good reputations is key to bands coming back, or agents working with your venue,” Cowan says.

Photo Credits: Cody R Cowan IG @crc.images (Above)

Simplifying their work by unifying their platforms

Moody had a clear goal for the Queue team: “How many passwords can we eliminate? How can we centralize our workflow and communication? Being better at business frees up time to be more creative.”

“Technology should fade into the background, where it can handle a lot of the excruciating minutia of our daily flow,” Cowan says. “Queue can handle the business side, so we can get into the piece that technology can’t do — rock ‘n’ roll and serving people.”

“This technology allows us to get people in faster, and then actually get to the details of the show. To growing our staff. To growing people’s careers. To lowering cost and raising sales in order to provide more money for artists and for staff. This technology is indispensable to the live music community.”

– James Moody, Owner, Mohawk Austin

With Queue, they’ve been able to consolidate their talent buying, ticketing, marketing, and reporting all under one account. Different staff members receive different access levels, and Graham is able to connect the various clubs he books for, managing multiple shows in multiple rooms at the same time, on the same calendar.

“Queue helped eliminate unnecessary process steps, allowed for real-time tracking of sales and capacity, and fostered better communication,” Cowan says. “It’s improved on-site management efficiency by more than 60 hours per month.”

Photo Credits: Cody R Cowan IG @crc.images (Above)

Planning for the future with real-time data on shows and financials

The biggest change over the course of Mohawk’s 10 years in business is the venue’s focus on sustainability. “We went from, ‘How awesome was last night’s party, and who’s tweeting about it?’ to ‘How do things look quarter to quarter? How did that compare to the year before? And are we able to pay all our bills and our investors?’” Cowan says. “We grew up a little.”

Part of growing up was measuring monthly and quarterly results, and keeping close tabs on the financials. “Being able to capture and look at financials, make that process more efficient, and monetize that, can do a lot to help the new music industry,” Moody says.

“Queue has given us the data to track our bookings — their performance, their settlements and contracts, and their frequency. It’s created the opportunity to see how we can tune overall trends, add performances, track changing costs, and become better at long-term strategic programming, rather than getting stuck being reactive to the calendar.”

– Cody Cowan, General Manager, Mohawk Austin

To make sure Mohawk could build stability in their business and allow for creative growth, they needed instant access to their data, from anywhere. Before Queue, whenever Moody needed information or to fix something on the fly, he had to call or text the venue and hope someone would answer. But they were usually busy, so important questions or issues often went unsolved. “Now, I can be overseas and the info I need is live and in real time,” Moody says.

Moody and Williams used to have to wait until the next day to see how a show performed. Now that they check guests in with a mobile app — getting fans in 30% faster in the process — they can access information the moment they need it. “In real-time, I can look and see how a show is doing, an hour before the show’s over,” Graham says. “I could never do that before.”

Financially, this instant and in-depth reporting has helped Mohawk protect their business. “I can run the economics of the show from my phone, see if we’re making money or losing money,” Moody says. “I can go and see the workflow of how we got there to learn from that. Sustainability becomes more and more important every day, and this is how we’re going to get there.”

As Mohawk evolves, so will the technology they rely on. In 2016, Eventbrite acquired Queue to bring together the first complete venue management solution. Venues can now manage every aspect of their shows in Eventbrite Venue, which combines the functionality of Queue with Eventbrite's ticketing technology into one interface — so rooms like Mohawk across the country can get back to the music.

Want to stay on the cutting edge and build your room into a sustainable business? Find out more about Eventbrite’s venues solution by contacting us here or calling (866) 902-2531.

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