Turning Charlotte into a music city

Plus: Wells Fargo 'restructuring' could mean layoffs; BofA's Moynihan chats up Erica; ABC store campout in south Charlotte

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A vision for Charlotte to make beautiful music — if local venues and musicians can pull together

Charlotte has a long economic-development wish list: more corporate headquarters, medical research, tech companies, a law school. Now, Charlotte wants to add something that’s a little more fun: a thriving music industry.

Local musicians and other music-industry folks gathered Tuesday night at the Neighborhood Theatre in NoDa to start a conversation on how to make Charlotte a more musical city. Last month, Charlotte Center City Partners released a study that examined the local demand for music and recommended ways to improve the music scene here.

Until now, many of those in attendance Tuesday said, local musicians and venues have had no overarching organization or marketing strategy, instead preferring to work on their own individual priorities. It’s time to get them, uh, reading off the same sheet of music.

And the local music scene has been stung in the last few years by the closing of the Double Door Inn and Tremont Music Hall.

Speakers included two City Council members, the city’s planning director and a representative from Charlotte Center City Partners, but they made it clear that top-down organizing goes only so far. The local music community will have to come together and do the bulk of the work if it wants music in Charlotte to flourish.

Quote: “We need a little more support from the community,” said Amanda Caines, 38, who sings in a Charlotte metal band called Venus Invictus. She’d like to see more advertising.

Quote: “I’m interested in seeing more venues where you have room enough to dance,” said Glenn McLeroy, a retired software worker. “Charlotte has forgotten how to dance. They just stand around with a beer in their hand tapping their feet.” He says he likes zydeco and country-western music and that other cities have more of a dancing culture.

Nobody is expecting Charlotte to turn into Nashville or Austin overnight. But the study offered some small steps that could help the local music industry become a more visible force:

  • a local music-awareness campaign

  • a live music-venue summit

  • forming a music-venue alliance

  • suggesting updates to Charlotte’s noise ordinance

  • hosting a regional music-industry conference

  • supporting local music journalism

  • supporting more live music at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport

  • developing music exchanges with nearby music cities

  • helping the city endorse local music providers to the business community

Charlotte rap duo GameBreax performs at the annual BOOM festival in Plaza-Midwood in April.

Strengthening the local music industry is “just as important as attracting the next Honeywell or the next Lowe’s,” city councilman Tariq Bokhari said.

Planning Director Taiwo Jaiyeoba said he was recently in Aspen and that “even though there were a lot of wealthy people there, you could also find all kinds of music.” In what sounded like support for easing zoning and noise-ordinance restrictions, he said, “Poorly thought-out regulations sometimes stifle vision” and that “noise is part of the fabric of a vibrant community.”

News tidbit: Bokhari revealed that permits are in place for a “multi-day, multi-genre musical festival” in May 2020 that would be one of the biggest in the Southeast — although the plans aren’t finalized yet.

Even if you live outside the city center and have no desire to go to clubs, having a robust music scene is a plus for a city. Music gives cities a vibe, some character and distinct personality. Charlotte could use more of that.


BofA’s Moynihan has huge crush on Erica

In an interview Tuesday with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, BofA CEO Brian Moynihan sang the praises of Erica, the year-old digital assistant who interacts with customers on the bank’s app — like an Alexa or Siri of banking. The AI built into Erica is improving productivity by cutting down on phone calls, Moynihan said, according to a transcript Fox provided to the Ledger.

He also dropped that the bank gets 6 million calls a year from millennials who don’t know what a routing number is:

If you open your Bank of America mobile app, which all of you should have, and you talk to Erica, you can say to Erica, “Erica, find all my recurring payments.” 

Now, you’re going to say that.  You could be in a room that has background noise.  You could have a connection that’s — where I live at home, the cell service doesn’t work that well.  So it’s choppy.  You can have all these things.  But Erica will come back and tell you all your recurring payments. 

It’s a combination of all the technology, first, voice recognition.  We had to go out and create a new language for financial services.  So we have 7 million people on this now, 50 million customer interactions. …

There’s a thing called a routing number on your check.  Looking at the age of the crowd, they probably know what a routing number is, because they had [written] checks and knew it was on the bottom of every check.  There’s a different cohort of age that has no idea.  And so we get 6 million calls a year asking, “What’s my routing number?”

So now if you’ve ever asked that question, Erica comes up and says “Do you need to know your routing number?”  And that cuts off hundreds and thousands of calls.  …

Now you go to the commercial side, you have the same things.  We have 27.5 million mobile customers as of last Friday.  We have 37 [million] digital customers.  On the commercial side, we have about 500,000 commercial customers fully on CashPro.  One of them sent a $1 billion payment on a mobile device last year.

And you’d say “Holy crap,” but at the end of the day it’s just as secure.  It might not be what I would — you would do.  But it’s just as secure, and it’s pretty fantastic.

Yeah, aren’t we all a little nervous about using mobile for those billion-dollar payments?

In other comments, Moynihan said he doubts the Fed will cut interest rates this year and said he worries about leveraged loans. A video of most of the interview is here.


Twitter suspension update

Following last week’s report that Twitter suspended the wife of Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith, you might be wondering if she’s back. The answer is no, and Cassi Mitchell Smith — a.k.a. @Gassigirl88 — lingers in Twitter purgatory after apparently posting copyrighted music:


South Charlotte hobby: liquor-store campout

Besides a new Chick-fil-A, where else will people of south Charlotte camp out? We now have an answer: at a new ABC store.

Unpretentious Palate (paywall) reports that about a dozen people were already in line by 6 a.m. for the opening of the latest ABC store, in the Waverly development at Providence Road and I-485. It opened late last month. You might think they were some serious alcoholics, but it turns out they were probably just bourbon collectors (who could also be serious alcoholics):

Bourbon collectors lined up for a chance to buy rare bourbons, which are often on shelves to celebrate Meck ABC openings. About a dozen folks were already lined up at 6 a.m. Thursday morning, but mostly got bottles that are easily available in other states, like Angels Envy Rye, Henry McKenna, Blanton’s, and E.H. Taylor Small Batch. There were a few bottles of Blade & Bow 22 year available to the first in line.

For those who missed out, the next ABC store is scheduled to open in late July on Independence Boulevard in Matthews.


Hot new NASCAR trend: infield glamping

Forget those old RVs. NASCAR is going upscale, with the announcement Tuesday that races at the Kentucky Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway this year will feature luxury tents in the infield, to be called the “M&M Glampground.”

According to Fox News, the cost is $500:

That buys a tent for two with either a queen or two single beds with access to private showers that can be occupied starting on Tuesday, and includes all meals on the weekend, pit passes, visits with team drivers — including current NASCAR Cup series points leader Kyle Busch — and other amenities. …

The races take place on July 13 and August 17. A Kentucky Motor Speedway representative told Fox News Autos that there will be a total of 30 tents available at the track, with the caveat that campers are only allowed to carry in one 24-pack of beer for each one.

That restriction might sound like a deal-killer, but the tents in Kentucky sold out within hours of the announcement.


In brief

  • Wells Fargo “restructuring” commercial bank: “The restructure could mean layoffs locally in the short term,” a commercial banking exec tells the Business Journal’s Caroline Hudson. Consolidating units will be more efficient and less risky, the bank said.

  • Siskey accountant settles: Rick Siskey’s longtime accountant, Richard N. Dawson, has agreed to pay $32,000 to the trustee administering Siskey’s bankruptcy cases, according to court documents. Siskey was a Charlotte businessman accused of running a Ponzi scheme before killing himself in 2016. Dawson provided accounting and tax services to Siskey for years before the Ponzi scheme was discovered.

  • Affordable housing donations: Atrium Health and Fifth-Third Bank each pledged $10M to help affordable housing in Charlotte. The contributions bring the housing fund to $44M, just shy of the $50M goal. (WFAE)

  • New Fortnite drop zone: Detroit. Cary-based Epic Games, the creator of hit video game Fortnite, plans to open an office in Detroit that works with automakers on vehicle development. (WRAL TechWire)

  • Apple updates: iPhones add dark mode. Apps get overhauls. Apple Watch adds menstrual-cycle tracker and stylish watch faces. Apple TV gets game-controller support. AirPods can have Siri read your messages. And more, from a series of Apple announcements Monday. (Business Insider)


Off the Clock

Low-key ideas for the weekend

Movies opening in Charlotte this weekend:
  • The Secret Life of Pets 2 (PG) (61% on Rotten Tomatoes): More animated pet hijinks

  • Dark Phoenix (PG-13) (18%): X-men face former friend

Highly rated movies now playing:
  • Booksmart (R) (97%)

  • Avengers: Endgame (PG-13) (94%)

  • Rocketman (R) (91%)

  • John Wick 3 (R) (90%)

  • Pokemon Detective Pikachu (PG) (66%)

Big sports on TV:
  • Today: Game 3 NBA finals, 9 p.m.

  • Friday: Game 4 NBA finals, 9 p.m.

Cheap getaways from CLT:
  • Charlotte to Baltimore, $126 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), June 27-30.

  • Charlotte to Orlando, $111 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), July 26-29

  • Charlotte to Newark, $80 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), Sept. 19-23 and other dates in September/October.

  • Charlotte to Bogota, Colombia, $328 round-trip on Spirit (one-stop), Sept. 23-Oct. 2.

  • Charlotte to Milan, $519 round-trip on United (one-stop), Oct. 28-Nov. 5.

Source: Google Flights. Fares retrieved Wednesday morning. They might have changed by the time you read this.


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The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.