Inside Events: National Battle of the Bands
11 Jul, 2018By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Derek Webber, Marketing Director
Last month, the Queen City Battle of the Bands (QCBOB), held annually in Charlotte, North Carolina, as a competitive platform for marching bands in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) announced it would be broadening its scope and moving its event. Along with relocating to Houston, Texas, the QCBOB will be renamed the National Battle of the Bands and will make its inaugural band showcase at the NRG Stadium beginning August 30, 2019. The growth of this event is just one indicator of the widespread proliferation of band competitions in general.
Sports Destination Management: The QCBOB has gone through a big change. What spurred you to move to Houston?
Derek Webber: We unable to come to a good conclusion with Charlotte, and we had opportunities with other cities. Houston was one of those and so we came to a three-year deal to host the event at NRG Stadium.
SDM: What will remain the same?
Webber: We will still be a HBCU event, and our event’s focus is still to raise awareness and generate scholarships. We will still fulfill that mission.
SDM: How big is the event now?
Webber: We started by showcasing the top eight bands throughout the country. Over the last five years, though, we’ve gone up to 20 bands. If you look in the HBCU arena, there are 45 to 50 colleges with a full marching band.
SDM: So there is room for continued growth?
Webber: Yes – in Charlotte, the stadium had a capacity of 20,000 and we were selling it out. The move to Houston will give us the ability to host between 30,000 and 40,000 spectators.
SDM: Is it a party atmosphere?
Webber: It’s a family-oriented event. The ticket prices are around $15 a person, so it’s very affordable. It’s also a completely balanced audience: you get the family and friends of the students in the band, the alumni from the school and the band-heads who just love marching bands. You also get the local community that comes in to see the show. The audience goes from people in their seventies on down to teenagers and little kids. Alumni from the colleges are young and old – they just love being a part of their school again.
SDM: Is the audience from in-town, out of town or both?
Webber: Right now, we’re close to having a little over 50 percent of our audience from out of town.
SDM: So it adds up to a significant travel event.
Webber: You’re looking at about a two-night stay for each band, and with the spectators, it’s about 600 room nights, maybe a little bit more. There are at least 53 charter buses that come.
SDM: Any idea about the economic impact?
Webber: We had close to $5 million plus in Charlotte, with $2 million in direct spending – and that was with no city involvement at all. In Houston, with the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, we’re going to be able to elevate it to a national event. I think we can easily double that figure.
SDM: What is the format of the competition?
Webber: It’s more of a showcase– you’ll always have fans on social media who make their judgments about who has the best performance, but in our eyes, it’s more of a way to kick off the year so fans can see the new performances each band is going to do.
SDM: Is there anything in it for the bands themselves?
Webber: Each school sending a band receives $10,000 in scholarship money. That’s pretty good at a time when funding for music, education and the arts is all being cut back.
SDM: In college sports, team members are almost celebrities. Do you see the same thing here with the bands?
Webber: It’s amazing; we have to keep it a secret where our bands are staying; otherwise, the followers would not let them have any sleep the night before the event.
SDM: Band competitions are growing and band travel is becoming even more extensive.
Webber: It is and it’s a whole new world. When we started looking at the analytics of it all, we were really surprised.
SDM: What other events do you have taking place at the same time?
Webber: In the initial discussions with Harris County Houston Sports Authority, we started talking about a step show, an after-concert, information on music scholarships, band clinics, people working on projects for Habitat for Humanity, a bookbag drop – really, a whole weekend of festivities and community involvement and engagement. We have 3,000-plus students there and a lot of colleges are set up in the exhibit hall so the kids can get exposure to schools from all over the country. The colleges can do one-on-one interviews with prospective students, hold virtual tours, even give out scholarships on site. It’s a great way to raise awareness – just a sweet spot for the colleges.
SDM: What factors do you think are important when it comes to choosing a site for this event, or any band-related competition?
Webber: You need a good stadium to avoid weather-related issues, a supporting city government for community initiatives and an area that is easy to travel to.
SDM: Will the event stay in Houston after three years has passed?
Webber: I’d say we’ll see how the next three years play out. I think other cities will come to the table once they see the success we’re having.