Recap: South by Southwest 2017

Frances Blout

As South by Southwest 2018 applications have opened up, we’re taking a quick look back at our time at SXSW 2017. It was mid-March, and - always up for an adventure - Julie and I decided at t-minus one day to take the South By plunge and book our trip. It was our first time going to the festival, and we really didn’t know what to expect. The details were hammered out that night, and we took the 9 AM Sunday morning flight out of Nashville. We landed in Austin and our SXSW experience officially began when we found ourselves in a taxi, stuck in traffic, and 250 people in their underwear ran by us. Keep Austin Weird, right? (For the record, the naked people were apart of one of many outlandish activations promoting new Netflix and HBO shows)

After checking into our hotel, we booked it to the convention center to get our Interactive Passes and to really get our day started. After a quick pitstop for margs and tacos (gotta love Texas!), we were off to the races and began exploring the city. Without a plan, a guide, or even a single clue of what was really happening, the first day was pretty overwhelming. Luckily, everyone around town was incredibly friendly and helpful in giving us tips and tricks of how to navigate the festival. In fact, no one even laughed at me when I asked why there was no Southwest Air branding anywhere - they kindly explained that the festival, which has been around since 1987, was named as a play on the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest and had nothing to do with SWA.

After a few short hours, we were already calling it “South By”, checking out the “houses”, and judging the “activations.” Just call us locals! Later that night, we went to a happy hour thrown by The Founders Organization - props to our friend Anoop Kansupada for a fabulous event. Food was delicious, The Hard Truth was playing great music, and the drinks were on point (we quickly realized that SXSW was just as much about the food & drinks as it was about the music, film, and interactive expos).

After the Founders meetup, Jules and I hit up the “unofficial South By” parties including the Twitter House, the Mashable House, and finally the Snapchat House, where we eagerly ordered two pairs of spectacles from the vending machine. We would not let this week go undocumented!

Over the next few days, as we got into the groove of the festival (pun totally intended), we had a packed schedule. We met up with old friends, made new ones, listened to great music, and explored the future of the interactive world. We did all of this on foot - next year we are definitely packing more comfortable shoes! Highlights include checking out the booths at the expo, such as the one from our friends at Oliso and Bevi, doing meetings and shows with the wonderful Kelleigh Bannen, and attending thought-provoking panels. One of our favorites was the one about the future of cannabis; Elizabeth from Willie’s Reserve and Elise from Kind Courier provided amazing insight into possible changes for music festivals and the music industry as the legality of cannabis changes as well. We even got to sneak off to Rodeo Austin to see Marbaloo client Cole Swindell steal the show.

Some of the most valuable information came from exploring the interactive expositions from companies like Shazam, National Geographic, Google, and more. We learned that augmented reality is the future, and that the future is now. We were so excited to experience all of the new AR developments that as soon as our plane landed back in Nashville, we came up with a game plan for how to begin implementing augmented reality into future client campaigns.

Our biggest takeaway from the festival was that amazing things can happen when you combine the best and brightest in entertainment, science, technology and innovation together in one city for one week. When Julie and I ventured to South By for the first time this past March, we both didn’t know what we were getting into but it’s safe to say we were blown away. Our time in Austin was so amazing - we had clients to see and hear, made so many great new connections, and - most importantly - ate (and drank) our way through the best of Texas. We’re so excited to start booking hotel rooms and flights for next year’s SXSW - will we see you there?

Full Hearts and Full Shopping Carts

Haley Schaafsma

Working in the music industry, it can be so easy to get wrapped up in your own “problems” and “crises.” We forget sometimes that there are so many families right in our own neighborhoods that are experiencing a real life problem and crisis, hunger. Myself and the other Marbaloo employees had the chance to see first hand the true effects hunger has on many Nashville families. Fortunately, through the amazing efforts of 1GenAway and Team Music is Love, a foundation founded by Martina McBride, we were able to help take one small step towards a solution.

On Friday, June 9th, Team Music is Love and 1GenAway teamed up to provide fresh produce, groceries, medical examinations, and a lot of love to many Nashville families in need. With our love for the music industry and passion for giving back to the community, there was no chance Marbaloo was missing out on volunteering for this event (even in the middle of CMA Fest.) We bagged fresh produce that was rescued from local farms and grocery stores, helped families fill their carts with their favorite foods, and then escorted them to their cars to help load everything and said a prayer. Even though the families were the ones receiving the food, I believe Marbaloo received a lot more. Here are just a few statements and stories from Marbaloo employees about the experience:

Kalaway Voss: “This experience was a humbling one.I don't think I spent more than 14 minutes with any one family or individual, but I saw vulnerability, I saw appreciation, and I saw love. So quickly, when we are in true need we forget about ego and about pride. It is an overwhelmingly human space. One that is easy to forget as we enjoy our lives of fortunate abundance. Friday reminded me to be thankful, to remember where I come from, and to be even more giving, if only of time.It feels good to be grateful. It feels good to give. I would like to remember that more often. Also, very proud to work for a company that believes in philanthropy and giving back”

Maddi Farr: “Each time, after loading their car and shutting the door, I asked if they had anything they wanted to pray about. I never expected someone would take me up on it, but every single person did. Mostly they prayed just for everything to be okay, and they held my hands tight like we had known each other for ages. After that, we parted ways. Moments like that are what made the event so special, and I'll take that with me.”

Frances Blount: “One of the sweet ladies I was with was a highlight because her son, who supports her, was overseas for the military so he's not around to take her grocery shopping, etc - she teared up when we were praying for his safe return it honestly made me tear up, too!!!”

Marisa Boras: “My personal highlight was talking to a woman while I was pushing her cart - she was shy at first but opened up and told me that "you have no idea how much this helps" and seeing the look on her face when she was handed a rose at the end of the line. She nearly had tears in her eyes and it was so emotional to see the impact that such a small gesture had on her!”

After seeing what a difference 1GenAway has made in the lives of families, we wanted to continue to stay involved. As a company, we pledged to donate $5 a month for each of the 24 employee that volunteered that day.. If you are not familiar with 1GenAway and their amazing efforts, they are a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing emergency food service to those in need via mobile pantries, as well as through partnerships with hospitals, social workers, schools, law enforcement, churches, civic groups, and many others who want to wipe hunger off the face of America. 1GenAway was founded in Franklin, TN with the dream to eliminate poverty, racism, and denominationalism in our lifetime. It is easy #jointhemovement by volunteering at one of the many food distribution events they hold throughout the year.

It Was A Paw-ty Participating In The First-Ever Muttnation Walk!

Caitlin Davis

CMA Fest is always a crazy, busy time for Marbaloo, especially the press team. We are in and out of the office running here and there for interviews with our artists. It’s a blast, but can make it hard to fit anything else in our schedules. However, when Miranda Lambert’s team reached out to us about participating in the first-ever Muttnation walk on Thursday of CMA Fest, we jumped at the opportunity (especially me, since I’m a dog mom to two crazy boys - a Husky mutt named Astro and an Alaskan malamute named Noah.)

Muttnation Foundation, founded by Miranda and her mom, Bev, in 2009, is a donation-supported organization with the mission to end animal cruelty, neglect and homelessness. I’ve always had a heart for dogs, especially rescue shelter dogs. A little backstory on my two boys. Astro was one year old when I got him from the Williamson County Animal Shelter. I don’t know his backstory but if he had a rough start in life, you’d never know it because he is one of the happiest little boogers. He jumped from the backseat into my lap before I even pulled out of the animal shelter parking lot on his adoption day. :) Over the last three years, he has kept me laughing, given me a heart attack or two from his escape artist abilities and become one of my best little buddies. I’m pretty sure God chuckled the day he made Astro man.

I rescued Noah (or as I say, Nodie), who unfortunately had been abused as a puppy, when he was two. I wanted little Astro to have buddy to play with and luckily they took to each other right away. Mr. Nodie Nodes is a full-on D-I-V-A! He is all about the theatrics from his howling to his paw gestures and he has no problem giving me sass or back-talking. I’m also pretty sure he has no idea just how big he is - 110 LBS! His favorite thing is to destroy squeaky toys in record time. When my mom gave him a toy for Christmas with 13 squeakers in it, he had killed every one of them in under five minutes. Needless to say, he was proud of himself. I feel lucky to get to be his momma because he is such a sweet, goofy boy!

After agreeing to participate in the  Muttnation Walk, I had to decide if one or both was going to go. Last Fall, I learned the hard way that I can’t exactly walk both dogs at the same time, so I had to figure out what I was going to do. I ultimately chose to take Astro because I knew the heat would be way too much for Noah and he’d be miserable.

So, I loaded up Astro man on that Thursday and headed to Nissan Stadium in East Nashville to meet my fellow Marbalooers  and their pups for the walk. There was a great turn out of humans and their pups all ready to raise awareness about shelter dogs. Astro was SO excited to meet the other dogs he could barely contain himself. After the kick-off speech outside the stadium, Miranda led the pack with boyfriend, Anderson East, Nashville Mayor Megan Berry, and radio host, Storme Warren.  

As we made our way toward the Pedestrian Bridge, Little Astro decided he was not going to get lost in the pack, so we cut to the outside and stayed in front. I think he thought he was in a race and he wasn’t going to lose. When we reached the Chevy Park Stage, Miranda stepped on stage and talked about how important Muttnation is to her and what the walk meant to her. She talk about her seven rescue dogs and how one Christmas she took all of them to her mom’s, who has four of her own, house and the celebration ended up being more about dog treats than human presents. She also explained there were 70 dogs who participated in the walk that would be up for adoption during her adoption drive at Music City Center during CMA Fest. Miranda expressed her gratitude for all the participates in this Instagram post.

Overall, the event was such a blast and I’m already looking forward to it next year! Not only was it great to participate in a cause near and dear to my heart, but it was great to be able to do it as a company and share the experience with Astro man. (Don’t worry about Mr. Nodie - he got lots of hugs, kisses & treats when I got home!)

To check out more about Muttnation or to donate, click here.

HRC Gala

David Goldhahn

I had the pleasure of representing the Marbaloo team at the Human Rights Campaign Nashville Equality Dinner in March 2017. The yearly event brings together supporters of the LBGTQ community to celebrate the successes of the past year and build motivation for the upcoming year. The event included a silent auction, dinner and award ceremony. Our client and current country music sweetheart Kelsea Ballerini was kind enough to donate 2 concert tickets and meet & greet passes which were bid upon at the silent auction.

The event was unbelievably hopeful and inspiring with speeches from Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, HRC President Chad Griffin, and several others. The night ended with country singer and LGBTQ ally LeAnn Rimes receiving the Ally for Equality Award followed by a brief performance from her, which included her inclusive anthem “Love Is Love Is Love.” It’s comforting to work for a company that truly supports and proudly celebrates equality on every level. 

Sports, Catfish, and Country Music

Zach Jones

As Nashville prepares to host its first major sports championship event ever, we know two things: 1) the national sports and sports business audience will set eyes on a galvanized Nashville fan base for the first time and 2) someone is going to throw a catfish on the ice during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in Bridgestone Arena. Mark it down.

At first, you may not understand the combined power of those certainties but it’s huge for Nashville. The city already has the Preds and Titans, Memphis has the Grizzlies but Tennessee doesn’t have an MLB or MLS team. Both leagues are currently considering expansion. Without getting into the details of landing an MLB or MLS team, note that the attention surrounding the Stanley Cup gives the city a chance to show sports business brass that it can support more professional clubs.

The Country Music Capital of the World is all-in on the Preds and country music stars singing the national anthem before games has become an expectation, along with throwing catfish on the ice. Here’s a look at the history of the catfish tradition dating back to 2002. Overall, it’s pretty similar to the Detroit Red Wings’ “Legend of the Octopus” but it will be interesting to see how the NHL handles it. In 1996, they refused to broadcast Detroit fans throwing octopi on the ice. Will it be different in Nashville? It should be. If there’s one thing Nashville knows how to do, it is entertain, a component crucial to sporting events trying to attract spectators in a world where it’s easier for fans to tune in from home.

Just look at the other big event coming to Nashville next week, CMA Fest. The country stars performing at the festival are the same ones bringing extra entertainment value to the Preds’ playoff games by singing the national anthem, not to mention getting fans in the door on time so they spend longer in-venue, leading to increased merchandise and concession revenue.

Meanwhile, First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds, is set to host their inaugural concert on September 29, 2017. The Kings of Leon show will provide the stadium execs a firsthand look at the atmosphere and musical sound quality the park can offer. If it goes well, it won’t be long before the ballpark starts booking acts with eyes on joining Ascend Amphitheater as one of the premiere outdoor music venues in Nashville.

So how does that impact Marbaloo and me?

Let’s bring it back to the catfish angle here. After Game 1, a media storm rolled in around the tradition, the guy who threw it aka Catfish Jake, and if country music superstar Carrie Underwood might throw the next one during Game 2 in Pittsburgh. In fact, local sports media figure and Catfish Jake’s pro bono legal defense Clay Travis offered up $10K to charity if Carrie made it happen. ORCA Coolers, Logo Brands, PGA Tour Pro Brandt Snedeker, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, Bobby Bones, and the NBA’s Brandan Wright all got in on the act via Twitter. They each matched Clay’s offer of $10K to charity if the woman married to the Preds’ captain threw a catfish onto the ice in Pittsburgh. What a great way to organically engage with your market! That’s smart, creative activation. How many other companies miss opportunities like this because they just don’t see them? ORCA Coolers’ tweet received 200 more “likes” than anything they’ve posted in two months; their next most popular tweet also involved the Preds.

What I’m getting at is that the general sports audience is one that overlaps with country music artists and fans. The opportunities that arise for artists and brands through sponsorship, creative activation, television, radio, and press surrounding sports are abundant and even more are on the horizon. Sports teams and organizations continue to focus on improving the live experience for fans to compete with at-home viewing options. Marbaloo has worked hard to get our clients involved in the action surrounding the Nashville Predators’ run at the Stanley Cup and find other sport and lifestyle angles outside of standard music coverage. It’s something we emphasize and it helps create extra looks for our clients that theywouldn’t get otherwise, helping them build their brand.

I’m looking forward to finding more opportunities to connect these dots to music and our clients through the Predators, Nashville Sounds and First Tennessee Park, and many others. My only other two hopes in the near future are for are a Mike Fisher/Carrie Underwood national anthem duet and four wins from my hometown team. Go Preds!

How 3 Women Made Their First Million

Fewer than 2% of women-owned businesses ever reach the $1 million revenue mark; compared to about 6.2% of their male-run counterparts, according to Inc.. However, female-led enterprises are increasing: in the past decade, the number of women-owned companies increased by 42%.

To address how to break the $1 million revenue milestone, we spoke with three women currently running multi-million dollar companies to give their best advice for entrepreneurs.

Ohio native Faithe Dillman Parker founded Marbaloo Marketing, a Nashville-based creative and marketing agency, in 2010. Seven years later, Marbaloo Marketing has grown to include four companies and 40 employees. They oversee digital marketing for some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Miranda Lambert and Tim McGraw.

SF: Faithe, you’re a fourth-generation entrepreneur. What lessons did you witness growing up that stick with you today?

Faithe: Always do what you say you will do regardless of the consequence, was — and still is for my father — a non-negotiable personal and professional mantra that I have watched him live out since I was playing with highlighters under his desk. If you give someone your word — client, employee, friend — no matter the cost to you financially, physically, emotionally — you follow through.

SF: Crossing the $1 million revenue mark is a milestone. What was one of the earliest obstacles you encountered?

Faithe: As a marketing executive who became an entrepreneur, scaling our operational staff was the biggest challenge I came up against. Finding the right finance staff, recruiting resources, HR softwares, CRM vendors, benefits providers, etc. was difficult because I hadn’t done it before, but also because it wasn’t my passion place.

SF: Now that you’ve got a team of 40 employees, how do you prioritize to make sure your most important tasks get done each day?

Faithe: I touch base with my leadership team daily, but I trust them to prioritize their needs, their staff’s needs, and the client needs. Hiring great people and trusting them to communicate and prioritize appropriately is the only way at our size and with our growth trajectory for us all to keep sane.

Read the full article here

The Wild World of Facebook Live

Anthony Langone

Social editorial is still a fairly new idea for publicists. The fact that the outlets we’ve been working with for years are hiring editorial editors to curate social content represents a shift that changes the course of publicity as we know it.

It’s the new Wild West and Facebook Live is leading the charge. 

I won’t discuss the benefits of Facebook Live on a personal page because frankly, that doesn’t appeal to me. What excites me is the ability to turn a media outlet into a broadcast show. Turning a magazine into a concert venue. For the first time, musicians truly have a mass audience at their disposal with the click of a button. 

After a year plus of working with numerous of Facebook live teams in media, there are three major benefits that I’m thankful for.

+Playing for a Mass Audience: It takes years for most artists to play for a crowd of 20,000 - Facebook Live allows it to happen anytime,anywhere. This is why it's essential for up and coming artists to book as many sessions as possible. It's truly the most engaging way to get you music in front of new listeners.

It's Inescapable: Never before has a release week felt so full than now. Facebook Live's help even out the gray space, and ensure that Facebook feeds are non-stop artist advertisements when multiple Facebook lives are booked. More face time = more sales. Who doesn't like that? 

We're Writing the Rules: There is no "expected procedure" here. Outlets and publicists alike are trying new tactics everyday and that allow space for creativity. 

Change in media is a good thing. Social editorial benefits us all. You just need the time and determination to figure it out and wrangle in each win. 



Cole Swindell // Stage Right Secrets

Hunter Airheart   

On March 17, 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to Madison, WI, to photograph Cole Swindell at his concert in the Orpheum Theater. These photos were for Stage Right Secrets (, an online magazine that features several artists across all genres with hopes to connect the fan to artists on a more personal level. Below I share my experience from start to finish of this trip!

I flew out of Nashville the afternoon of the 17th and with only a few minor roadblocks along the way...five o’clock traffic, forgetting my luggage at security, and being in a full out “Home Alone” sprint through the airport...I arrived in Madison roughly 4 hours before show time. It is always an unique experience working with different artists, particularly if I have never worked with them before. When I approach a new job or client, I do my best to discern the mood and vibe of the setting and artist. Imagine having some random guy who you have never met before be in your face trying to take photos of you before a show...very few people naturally are comfortable with that. In addition, every artist is surrounded by a team of people who not only play crucial roles in their career, but also develop relationships that become familial. They travel, eat, and sleep together months on end throughout the year. As an outsider coming into that family, I want to honor that artist’s space while also working to gain the trust of that person/family. It is an interesting line to maintain, one that I have had to learn and grow in, however Cole and his crew very quickly broke down that barrier.

Prior to any show, my goal is to collect as much behind the scenes content as I can. I walk around the venue, go in all of the green rooms and behind the production table, and even walk through the crowds of people. I am always looking to capture moments that most fans would never have the chance to see unless they were the artist. If I am able to bring people into a room or a moment where they feel as if they are there, a setting that most never know exists unless they see my photo, then I have done my job. Cole’s show was no different. I spent a good bit of time walking around the venue, which was absolutely beautiful, talking with some of his band on the tour bus, and capturing moments where Cole interacted with his fans.

After a few hours of documenting the atmosphere of the venue and the excitement of the fans, it was time for the show to start. I always position myself in a spot where I can capture the moments before an artist goes on stage. Everyone has a different preparation and feels different emotions before going out, which is a cool moment that I get to witness. It’s easy to forget that these “superstars,” as we see them, still get nervous and put so much into each and every show. It looks so easy and effortless when they are on stage, which is what makes them great...particularly with Cole. As he went on stage, I circled around backstage to go into the crowd to photograph the moment he came on. The first note hit...hands going up everywhere and cheers echoing throughout the theater. Cole’s ability to work the crowd, to take them on a journey with him, get loud and crazy, and then the very next song being able to hear a pin drop in the is an art, and when the audience and artist are going through the performance together, it makes for amazing moments to photograph.

Being a photographer in today’s digital age, where everyone has a camera, I challenge myself to push what can be done and how my images are composed. As I said above, my main purpose of photographing these shows, aside from providing content to outlets or social media profiles, is to give fans the opportunity to not only see what the show is like, but also feel as if they are at the show, screaming at the top of their lungs with a cold beer lifted above their heads. Cole’s show was no different. I wanted to give perspectives from as many viewpoints as I could...behind the stage, front of stage, in the balcony, at the sound board, side stage etc. I also love taking the time to photograph the fans as well. Their reactions, singing, dancing, and outfits often prove to provide some of the best shots.

When the show ended, I began to pack up my gear and look through some of the shots I had taken. This concert felt to be one of the best I had ever done, and the images proved that. Check out the article about Cole from Stage Right Secrets ( and enjoy some of my favorite shots from this concert.