A new Branson non-profit organization has begun their journey to affect, ensure and support the growth and health of Branson’s music and theatre industry.
Officially formed in September 2020, the Branson Academy for the Advancement of Music and Theatre was created in response to recommendations made by Sound Diplomacy, a consulting organization who completed a nine-month theatre industry study of Branson last fall.
BAAMT President Bob Nichols said after the study was presented to the city of Branson, he was contacted by members of city leadership for assistance.
“The request was to get all of our shows and theatres together in one organization, speaking with one voice, to work towards fulfilling those recommendations as an industry and if we could do that, the city offered us support,” said Nichols. “Since August we’ve accomplished that goal. We’ve formed our business league and have begun the work of fulfilling these Sound Diplomacy recommendations.”
Nichols explained that one of their organizations many responsibilities is the marketing of Branson. Nichols said that one of the first recommendations they’ll be fulfilling is the upcoming publication of their Branson Show Guide.
“It’s been many years since an official show guide was published in Branson and we’ve taken that up as our responsibility. So we’re printing 150,000 copies of a magazine sized show guide to get broad distribution, not only in print, but a very substantial digital push,” said Nichols. “The area we’re pushing that in is from Atlanta, Georgia to Denver, Colorado and from Minneapolis, Minnesota to San Antonio, Texas. Within that circle there are 114 million Americans living there, about 35% of the U.S. population. So we’re going to focus the distribution of our guide in a geographic area.”
Nichols added that the guide will feature every show and theatre in town. Once the initial show guide has been published, Nichols added that they’ll begin working on their Christmas Branson Show Guide, which will be distributed in late September or October.
“The second thing we’re working on very diligently is a digital marketing push for the entire industry,” said Nichols. “We’ll be using the most modern and current social marketing applications and platforms to drive people within that geographic area to our website, which contains direct links to the box offices of all of our members.”
To go alongside their marketing efforts, Nichols said BAAMT is also working on a video archive project.
“Branson’s extremely rich history is documented on tape, because that’s what everybody shot throughout the years. Everybody shot video, so some of our video of our most famous performers is over 30 years old. That tape has to be digitized in order to save those images,” said Nichols. “So we’ve gathered up a little over 5,000 hours of video so far of all the performers in Branson’s history that were documented that way. We’ll convert them to digital and return that digital copy to the owners and then we’ll use those digital images for our marketing purposes in terms of the digital push we’re getting ready to create.”
Nichols added that he expects the video archive project to be an ongoing process.
“Right now we’re working on the video library from the Vacation Channel. As soon as that’s completed we’ve got yet another video library to go through,” said Nichols. “We continue to collect video from different sources and probably as more people hear about it, the more video they’re going to send in.”
In addition to the marketing efforts, BAAMT is also continuing to develop Branson’s national reputation as a music and theatre city, as well as diversity of product.
“We want to diversify the offerings coming from our shows and theatres while we support our current shows as well. Our geographic that runs in that circle, Atlanta to Denver to Minneapolis to San Antonio,” said Nichols. “That geographic is extremely diverse and for Branson to appeal to the widest possible part of that geographic we need to offer a little something to everyone.”
Nichols added, another thing BAAMT is doing to diversify Branson’s offerings is through the support of the HOOKED! Songwriting Contest, which is produced by Prince Ivan in September.
The mission of BAAMT is, “To affect, ensure and support the continued growth and long term health of our music and theatre industry curation, education and innovation.”
Nichols said with that mission in mind, their organization not only wants to support Branson’s existing theatre and music businesses, but also serve as mentors for anyone wishing to enter Branson’s music or theatre market.
“If you’re coming to town and you want to open a show, a theatre or a music entity, we’ll show you how,” said Nichols. “Our members have a pretty aggressive data cooperative and we offer real experienced industry advice and support, because anyone who enters our industry, our marketplace, we want them to be successful. So we show them the right way to come in with a business plans and capitalization and their marketing and everything.”
Additionally BAAMT has programming to assist shows with upgrades to the interior or exterior of their theaters and production values.
“There are two things on a stage. We have our talent and then we have the production values or the things we do to augment their performances and to illicit emotions,” said Nichols. “So these production values are key and we want to show our members how to innovate and upgrade those.”
Nichols shared they are also working on a passport program that would help encourage locals who routinely support a particular set of shows in Branson, to branch out to see other shows.
“We would like to incentivize those folks to take in more of our members shows and to see more of our member theatres by cross promoting with a local passport program that amplifies the experience of visiting our local shows,” said Nichols. “We’ll offer awards and prizes for people who fulfill different elements of the passport by seeing different shows and groups of shows during different times of the year.”
Nichols said they are also taking a very important action to support the music industry in Branson.
“We are charged with growing that sector of our economy, so we will be announcing a year long schedule of music festivals and exciting events designed to attract music industry businesses to Branson,” said Nichols. “Along with supporting our existing personnel and facilities, we are working to attract song writers, producers, recording technicians and new studio installations.”
BAAMT currently has 36 members. For any theatres or shows in Branson that BAAMT has yet to reach out to, Nichols said he would encourage them to reach out to him.
“We are a new organization and we’re working very hard to be in connect with all of them,” said Nichols. “Everybody has a seat at the table in this organization. We want to encourage them to reach out to us.”
Joining Nichols as members of the BAAMT Board of Directors are Board Chairman Larry Wilhite with The Mansion Theatre, Board Secretary Jeannie Horton with Legends in Concert, Board Treasurer Brandon Mabe with the Branson Famous Baldknobbers and Board Members Sheila Dutton with the Dutton Family Theatre and Lena Hughes with the Hughes Brothers Theatre.
Those wishing to learn more about BAAMT or to become members can visit their Branson Academy of the Advancement of Music and Theatre Facebook page, call 417-332-5338 or email Nichols at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website, baamt.org, is currently under construction, but should be running soon.