Finding The Artistry In Entrepreneurship

by Marc Kaplan - Entrepreneurial Events

SubCulture was born five years ago from the fundamental belief that the arts change lives. We built it to be a place where intentional design focused your attention and made great performances possible. It’s an intimate space where artists can feel the energy in the room, where audiences regularly experience that range of emotions from respect to amazement. But as a business, it’s been an odyssey.

When we started out, we were driven to approach everything from the POV of music fans and performing artists. That was our passion, our raison d’etre. We didn’t want to sell drinks with a side of music, and everywhere we looked, focus and engagement had become a challenge. Active listening too often gave way to being active on social media, and live performances were demoted to being just another ‘screen’ rather than the immersive experiences they should be. Much of this comes from the way audiences have been conditioned to participate, but a lot has to do with the way that events are produced. The production values, the venues themselves, and the care for details that make all the difference are often neglected. Audience members and artists deserved better, we thought. So we set out to create the ultimate experience for both.

Musicians played. Audiences engaged. We practiced our craft with the understanding that we were part of the performance, and we were meticulous. Outside the spotlight, our staff tended to how a performance looks, feels, and sounds, but it wasn’t only about the technical aspects. It was also how we greeted people, set the room, poured a beer behind the bar, and emptied the garbage at night’s end. No gesture escaped our scrutiny, and we stripped away every element that could take attention away from the performance. From the way a door closes quietly to muffling the sound of the refrigerator compressor behind the bar, we were on it. Just like the artists on stage, we approached each task with intention.

Three years ago, the age-old tension between making money and creating art threatened to snuff out our dream. We had gained a devoted following of enthusiasts who understood exactly what we were going for, and SubCulture had become a sacred place for them. We had learned so much about the art of performance, the price of authenticity, and the value of surrounding yourself with great people. But music alone just wasn’t enough.

Then something happened that we hadn’t anticipated: people started seeking us out for business events.

Entrepreneurs, growing startups, creative agencies — people with passion and vision who cared about their audience. We didn’t think much of it at the time; it was a way to pay our bills. But as I got to know those early clients, I started to see things differently. The same attention to detail they put into crafting their mission statements was what they wanted to see, hear, and feel in an event, especially one where they were the headliner. They wanted an environment designed to capture and hold your attention, where people want to be a part of what’s happening on stage. When I asked one client what he wanted his event to feel like, he told me “a cross between the best TED talk you’ve ever watched and a Springsteen concert.”

At that moment, it clicked. He wasn’t talking about metrics, money, or logistics, but of the audience experience. This was how musicians talked to me about their concerts, about playing for the person in each seat. It’s also how I remember the transcendent moments I’ve experienced in the audience. When an artist moves me like that, I’m willing to take a journey with them almost anywhere they’ll guide me. I give myself over to the performance.

It’s been almost 3 years since that conversation, and what I realize today is that entrepreneurs and artists are the same. They both spend a lifetime creating and taking risks — putting their work out for people to believe in or reject, buy into or go somewhere else. And they both need the same things along the way — a stage to showcase the fruits of their labor, an audience to inspire, and people to believe in them.

When we started, I thought we were here to celebrate music, creating a place for artists to perform and connect intimately with their audience. But I know now that performance matters in every context, and producing experiences that resonate is our art form. SubCulture is our way of bringing a bit more artistry into the world, and we’re going to keep playing our part.


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