5 minute read

Shaping the Success

Christian Webb, Brown County Music Center Executive Director

~by Ryan Stacy, photos by Michele Wedel

From the beginning, priorities for the Brown County Music Center were clear. The new venue had to offer top-quality entertainment, bring visitors to Brown County, and remain a communityowned facility. And thanks to the talent and hard work of the planners involved, the Center’s path from conception to completion—though not always the straightest or easiest to travel—was ultimately forged, with its priorities intact. But once the venue was built, who was going to run it?

Fortunately for Brown County, another path was about to cross ours. When a longtime pro in the largescale events business named Christian Webb saw that the Music Center was looking for an Executive Director, he jumped at the opportunity.

Christian’s journey started in the 1990s, when he was a freshman at the University of San Diego. Fusing his love of sports with his interest in business, he took advantage of the school’s new tourism program; a few internships later, he had experience in sporting events operations and sports radio on his resume. After college, he found himself working for the San Diego Chargers, where he eventually became their Stadium Operations Manager. A few years as the Venue Manager at an Olympics training facility in Carson, California followed, and Christian figured his path in life was pretty much laid out for him.

Then came the call from Live Nation. The higherups at the entertainment giant had gotten word of Christian’s success in athletic events, and wanted to see how he’d do with live music and other non-sports entertainment. The offer was a management position in the Midwest, which meant moving to Indianapolis. Having visited Indiana family growing up, Christian already liked the area, so he took the job, getting to know the ins and outs of the live performance world. “Unlike with sports events, where some of the audience is always going to go home unhappy, ninety- nine percent of everyone leaving a music venue is happy. Plus people in the Midwest are just handsdown nicer,” he says.

….It’s been tremendous to take my history and apply it here. It’s my chance to do something unique.

—Christian Webb

Things were going great at Live Nation, but a few years in, Christian had to step away unexpectedly. His parents, who had followed him to Indiana, were now in poor health, and he chose to focus on helping them instead. What he didn’t know at the time was that another opportunity would soon present itself, as the new Brown County Music Center’s Executive Director. It was a more workable prospect given his family obligations, and he started in this new role in December 2019.

Starting from scratch was a change Christian welcomed. “That was one of the things that was so intriguing with this brand-new venue,” he recalls. “As an operator, you always want to put your personal stamp on something, to be the leader and decisionmaker. It’s been tremendous to take my history and apply it here. It’s my chance to do something unique.” And while executive directors at larger companies might be out of view day to day, staying hidden in an administrative office, that’s not the case at the Music Center, which employs only a handful of staff. “I oversee all of the contracts and bookings, liaison with all the contractors like concessions and security, and even do things like change light bulbs and unclog toilets,” Christian explains. Along with his staff, “We’re all willing to do what it takes to make things happen.”

Another key difference with the Center—unlike at a privately-owned for-profit venue, there’s no pressure to pack the calendar as full as possible. The result is a more carefully-curated schedule of events, which Christian sees as a huge benefit. He can respond to homegrown popular demand for country and americana acts, he says, while also presenting the community with genres outside the norm.

“We need to have comedy, hip-hop, rock,” he maintains. “We’re going to continue to push the envelope.”

So far, the response has been tremendous, with locals and out-oftowners alike filling the 2,000-plus seats at Brown County Music Center reliably. Besides the roster of national performers—which has included Vince Gill, Martina McBride, Peppa Pig, and Weird Al Yankovic—audiences love the pristine sound system as well as the venue’s layout. For Christian, that’s confirmation that the Center’s philosophy of providing a superior customer experience is a winning one. “People don’t have to spend their hard-earned income on concerts. This isn’t putting gas in your car or feeding your children. We’re making memories. This could be the only show somebody goes to this year. We had a couple get engaged here the other night. When people leave here, we want them to say ‘I will never forget this show.’”

Christian gives the credit for delivering those memories to his staff, and to the Center’s volunteers in particular. “We call them the red vest army,” he says. “They do our ushering, ticket-taking, greeting, checking bags….They’re the backbone of how this all happens.”

All in all, Christian says, his first two years at the Center have exceeded expectations. “I’ve been able to meet incredible families and businesspeople in this community. The passion the people here have for this venue is why it will succeed. We will build a legacy.”

For more information on the Brown County Music Center, visit <browncountymusiccenter.com> or call 812-988-5323.

Jeff Overby, Christian Webb, Andrea Swift-Hanlon, and Shea Briggs.

Jeff Overby, Christian Webb, Andrea Swift-Hanlon, and Shea Briggs.

Volunteer coordinator Dave Jones gives a tour during the 2022 Volunteer Party.

Volunteer coordinator Dave Jones gives a tour during the 2022 Volunteer Party.