Music With Friends Club Draws Big Stars to Small Venues

Nashville is the new home to a private music social club where members pay a premium price to see top artists give three performances per year at an intimate venue in town.

The first performance for the new club, called Music With Friends, was on Monday and featured Diana Ross at the new CMA Theater inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Music With Friends founder Larry Farber, a music industry veteran from Charlotte, N.C., said members pay a one-time permanent seat fee of $500 and then $1,500 annually in exchange for three shows that feature a preshow cocktail party and a post-concert event.

As of Monday, Music With Friends had garnered 400 members in Nashville using a word-of-mouth marketing strategy featuring in-home events at the homes of prominent Middle Tennessee residents.

Music With Friends started in Charlotte in 2007 and expanded to Charleston, S.C., in 2010.

“I had a dream to create a music club, if you will, a country club for music lovers,” Farber said.

After the program’s first year, the approximately 660 seats in the Charlotte venue have been sold out, as have about 420 seats for the Charleston club. The CMA Theater, where the plan is to hold all the Nashville shows, seats 777, Farber said.

“You want to give fans the chance to see artists like Diana Ross, Willie Nelson, major acts at a small venue they otherwise wouldn't play,” Farber said.

By NATE RAU / The Tennessean :: View Entire Article

Posted on Oct 31, 2013

Want to join? Membership information is available here.


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High-end Charlotte music club is full of big surprises

Chicago performs at McGlohon Theater in September for members of the private Music With Friends club. Courtesy of Donna Bise

When the server at Davidson red-hotspot Kindred asked me what I wanted to drink last Saturday, I took one look at the cocktail menu and went the adventuresome route.

“Barkeep’s Choice,” I told her.

The idea is simple: Indicate what kind of spirit you want the drink to be built around and how you want it to sit on your tongue (i.e. sweet, sour, etc.), then wait for your $12 surprise to arrive.

In a sense, this is the same basic concept that propels Music With Friends, a private club that promises its members three concerts per year headlined by mystery guests who virtually always turn out to be highly respected veteran artists; the difference is, the cost of the surprise is a whole lot higher than $12.

But if you have classic musical tastes (Taylor Swift fans need not apply), a go-with-the-flow attitude, and pockets deep enough, the payoff can also be a whole different kind of intoxicating.

I wrote about Music With Friends for the Observer in December 2012, and since then, it has continued to book names that resonate loudly with baby boomers and younger Gen Xers: the Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson, Steve Miller, Heart, Foreigner, Michael Bolton, Steve Winwood, Chicago and – just this past Monday night – Joe Walsh of the Eagles.

Music With Friends brings them to Spirit Square’s tiny McGlohon Theater, which seats just 700 people and is arguably Charlotte’s most acoustically pristine venue; it plies you with all the free Porcupine Provisions catering you can eat and a wide-open bar for the 90 minutes before showtime; and then keeps the party going with more free drinks and snacks afterward, often at nearby Blue Restaurant.

My two experiences with Music With Friends have both involved Eagles – Walsh this past week and Glenn Frey back in 2012.

The vibe is unchanged. The crowd looks the same, full of aging, affable, affluent folks. The setup for the pre-show party inside Spirit Square was a carbon copy of the previous one, down to the piles of tenderloin sandwiches and crab claws.

Upon pressing club founder Larry Farber after Walsh’s concert to come up with examples of how the club might evolve in the future, he struggled a little. “I think what I might do next year ... to keep it fun is do the three post-parties all in different locations, so that it feels different.”

Translation: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

In fact, in the surest sign that Music With Friends is a stroke of genius, Farber has brought additional locations of the club – founded here in 2007 – to Charleston (opened in 2011 with Diana Ross), Nashville (opened in 2013 with Diana Ross) and Houston (2014, Tony Bennett). Farber says he and his partners are working on Dallas as a possible fifth city.

Still, if you think about it, it’s an unlikely success story. Who would have thought so many people would buy into a high-end club that leaves so much to chance?

Members can make requests for artists, but this isn’t a radio station; ultimately, Farber books the shows. And if you don’t like who he gets? Sorry, no refunds.

This makes Music With Friends an unprecedented type of season ticket. Although Carolina Panthers PSL seat holders have no guarantee Cam Newton won’t get injured or traded, they pretty much know what they’re getting into. With the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s “Broadway Lights Series,” annual subscribers can opt out if they don’t like the looks of the forthcoming lineup.

But for us adventuresome types, part of the thrill is the element of surprise. And even if we don’t love what we ultimately get, we can socialize over it with the people sharing in the experience, and tell stories about it afterward to those who weren’t there.

Of course, we can only gamble as much as we can afford. For me, that’s $12 on a mystery cocktail in Davidson. The cost to join Music With Friends?

Sorry to keep you in suspense, but it seems fitting to close with a surprise: Membership is $1,650 annually, with a one-time seat fee of $500.

By THÉODEN JANES / The Charlotte Observer :: View Entire Article

Posted October 2, 2015

Want to join? Membership information is available here.