The CL Interview: Michael Kitchen

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Presenting the first in a series of weekly interviews with Charlotte-based movers, shakers, tastemakers, activists and other notables. This week, we talk to local music promoter Michael Kitchen.

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Charlotte’s dealing with a recession and financial crisis like the rest of the nation. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, Michael Kitchen -- owner of the Sol Kitchen, a music promotion company -- says you can still party. And he’s even trying to help make sure your dollars are well spent, especially when you come to a Sol Kitchen event.

Last weekend, he brought former Tony!Toni! Tone! frontman Raphael Saadiq to town. And this week, Kitchen is behind singer Eric Benet’s NoDa performance. But with dollars short and people worrying about their jobs, how can a promoter make some cash?

Creative Loafing: How do your shows fare in tough economic times?

Michael Kitchen: I have to think about the artist that I’m [bringing to town]. Who I think will attract more people. I also have to look at my overall budget: what I’m charging people to get in, how much I’m paying the artist. It’s been crazy in the South. Gas is crazy, and with Wachovia, no one knows what’s going to happen to their jobs. I have to really get into the mind of the consumer. Would I pay this much to see this person?

What changes have you seen in the Charlotte entertainment landscape in the last five years?

I still think there is a market for live music here. It’s still slowly building. There’s not a lot of diversity in entertainment here. Things seem to be stagnant with no creativity. The only thing I see is that you have somebody redoing things that have already been done. It doesn’t have any creativity or something that says I really need to go to that. Then you have the issue of trying to get these people that have moved here and are used to going out every night and going to live music and different events; a lot of them are still hard to reach.

What does Charlotte need to do to make its nightlife exciting?

Support. That can be branched off into buying advanced tickets, just supporting the live music scene and entertainment period. People here are finicky. If they don’t know that artist, they feel like they shouldn’t go. The problem here is that people don’t look at it as good music [if they’re not familiar with the artist]. But you can go to any other city, people just go and listen to it.

And while Kitchen is known as a soul music promoter, expect to see him branch out into alternative music soon. He says there are a lot of rock bands on the horizon that he’d like to bring to the Queen City. He’s also planning to throw theme parties in the future are well to add some flavor to the vanilla nightlife in Charlotte.

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