Carrying the Torch for Bluegrass

By Emerald Butler

 

Ernie and Debi Evans have done a little bit of everything in the music business. The couple started as radio DJs, but now they are more involved behind the scenes and not just behind the mic. Evans Media Source is one of the biggest production companies in the field of southeastern Bluegrass, and that statement is displayed by the company’s latest acquisition of Adams Bluegrass Festivals. Like most things, however, it didn’t all happen overnight. Through trial and error, failure and success, hard work and good ole’ determination, Evans Media Source carries the torch forward and shining a light on the present and future of Bluegrass festivals and events.

“We wound up doing quite a few different things in the industry,” Ernie began.

“Promoting festivals and concerts, we opened up a studio, plus we were performing.” Ernie is a fourth-generation banjo player who’s played with several different bands including Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike. “To be in the music business our income had to come from a lot of places. Eventually what happened was that the promotion business started taking over and that became our main source of income, so we focused more on that segment of what we were doing. We found that it grew much quicker. I think we were better at it.” Due to the increase in the production business, the couple let go of two of their radio shows leaving them with only one that they still produce to this day on WFCF 88.5 FM in St. Augustine, Florida.

 

 

“It was about 20 years ago when we had our first event. We were very bad at it. It was an eye-opener, but we’re stubborn I guess when it comes to trying to get something right, so we went back at it again. It took us about a good eight years before we learned what was going on. I would say that we learned on the go. We did a lot of research and had a lot of friends in the business that gave us a lot of advice.”

Ernie shared that a job loss during the bad economy of the early 2000s is what motivated him and his wife to start their own business. “We had too,” Ernie stated. Evans says that they love what they do and that although it may be a “job” it isn’t when you love what you do.

evans mediaHowever, Ernie did share some of the challenges of the business. “The hard thing about the festival business is that the landscape is changing under our feet the whole time because there’s a shift in the music. People are leaving and coming into the music. There’s just been this big paradigm shift in the last 20 years in technology, how you bring something to market, ticketing, and advertising. All of that has changed. Just because you knew how to do it 20 or 30 years ago doesn’t mean you know how to do it today. The things that don’t change are persistence, will, and the love for music. If those things aren’t there, nothing is going to happen.” 

One of the ways that Evans Media Source keeps things current is through innovative new techniques and high-quality acts. There have been some skeptics, however. “For everyone that gets upset, doesn’t like it (nontraditional acts and festival styles) and walks out, 15 other people are waiting to get their chair. Our festivals are growing and getting bigger. It’s really sad that people don’t open their minds up. I’m not saying that traditional bluegrass festivals are going away, but they better do something. Some of them are doing ok, but they’re not going to command the price for the ticket that they need to continue. They’re going to need other things to help support that music and bring people to the festival.”

evans mediaAnother one of the latest changes in the festival business for Evans Media Source has been the Adams Bluegrass acquisition that took place last fall. “It was a very, very, very, good situation,” Ernie stated. “Norman Adams was motivated to retire, and we were motivated to go to the next level of what we do. It was a good place for both of us. It’s one of the biggest things that’s happened in bluegrass since I’ve been in it. We’re in the thick of things with that, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way. I don’t see us changing our career anytime soon.” Currently, Evans Media Source owns eleven festivals, and they do production for about seven outside festivals like for city events or county fair festivals. That’s about 18 events a year total. “We stay pretty busy,” Ernie confirmed.

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