From left: Co-moderator Bryan Doleshal, Dan Hays, John Boyd, Lauren Woodward, co-moderator Ellie Westman Chin.// Photo by Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Dozens gathered at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs hotel Thursday afternoon for a business lunch discussion of the local entertainment industry, presented by Williamson Inc., the county chamber of commerce.
Panelist John Boyd, the president and creative director of LabeLive, a Franklin production company, said entertainment was part of the history of Williamson County.
“It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are,” Boyd, who moved from his native Australia to Williamson County 13 years ago, said. “Entertainment is a function of who we are.”
Boyd said executives at LabeLive, which sits on Seaboard Lane, discussed moving to Nashville, but decided to stay in Williamson County, where many artists reside.
“If we go and move to downtown Nashville, we’re actually going to move away from our core group of people that we do life with,” Boyd said.
Andrew Vaughan, Williamson, Inc.’s director of marketing and communications, moved to Nashville, then Williamson County after working in entertainment journalism in his native England.
“The idea is to promote and highlight just how much of an industry there is in Williamson County with entertainment,” he said.
Though most people think of Nashville as the entertainment center, the point of the presentation was to draw awareness to the industry’s economic impact in the county.
Dan Hays, the executive director of the Franklin Theatre, said that in the six years since the theatre reopened, more than $5 million has been raised for charities.
In 2017, over 82,000 ticketed patrons attended one of 590 events held at the theatre, garnering an annual economic impact of $7.4 million.
Ellie Westman Chin, the president and chief executive officer of the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, noted Franklin’s recent designation by Billboard Magazine as a “hot hood,” or one of three towns surrounding a large city where musicians have retreated to live.
Brandt Wood, the co-founder of Pilgrimage Festival, talked about the music event drew on the history of the region; he pointed to a tent at the event to showcase the Americana Music Triangle, a driving loop that traces the roots of folk music through New Orleans to Mississippi to Franklin and beyond.
“If you’re following the industry, it’s condensed down to more local, more boutique, more contributory from the community and from the leadership to build a festival that resonates strongly with the locals,” he said.
“Franklin and Williamson County have been the very best partners producers could hope for,” said Wood, who recently spoke to the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen about a five-year permit for the festival.
Westman Chin pointed out the economic benefits from the festival, which sold approximately 27,000 tickets each day.
“For the first time, we saw a lot of people in town on Friday,” she noted, including a 40 percent uptick in shopping from the year before.
“What people say a lot about Franklin and Williamson County is, ‘I come there because it’s where I can be creative,’” Westman Chin said.
She related what one man had told her about the environment: “Every time I come there, I bring my guitar because I can sit and write songs.”