The Music Biz: New owners see a strong future for 12th and Porter

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 2:38am

As the former booking agent for the Nashville club mainstay 12th & Porter, Justin Roddick’s philosophy was to present a wide-ranging and engaging group of performers, most of them with Nashville ties.

But after serving in that role for two and a half years, an unexpected opportunity occurred in December, one that’s changed his life in a most positive fashion.

“The previous people who had the lease went bankrupt and the owner of the building gave us [his business partner is Daniel Slezinger] the opportunity to become 12th and Porter’s new owners,” Roddick said. “I grew up in Nashville, attended Belmont University, went through the music business program and really understand what 12th and Porter has meant to Nashville for the past 24 years.”

Since taking over in November, Roddick and Slezinger have bankrolled a complete physical renovation of 12th and Porter, 114 12th Ave. N. on the corner of (what else) Porter Avenue one block north of Broadway. This has included everything from the bathrooms to repainting the inside, refurbishing the electrical structure, and making other improvements to the club’s look and décor.

“The next item on our agenda includes revamping the restaurant,” Roddick said. “We hope to have that back up and running by the fall. These are things we’ve done ourselves, and we moved on them as soon as possible. It was important to us that the place not only be a major music venue, but also that the fans feel at home, comfortable and enjoy coming back. We’re pleased at what’s been done so far, but we have more things to do before we’re completely satisfied.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is the heavy emphasis on music presentation. While DJs and canned music have become the norm in many clubs across the country, 12th and Porter offers live music six nights a week (it’s closed on Sundays).

“We’re open to any type of music at the club,” Roddick said. “We want to be the place where Music City bands come to play for Nashville listeners, and there’s absolutely no kind of music that we wouldn’t consider. We’re not a country bar or a rock bar, we’re a music venue.”

Last week 12th and Porter featured such performers as Julie Roberts, Terry McBride with Billy Burnette, Eddy Raven and Butterfly Boucher during shows that were part of Tin Pan South. They’ll also have some spotlight concerts during the 2008 CMA Music Festival June 5-8.

But perhaps their biggest news on the presentation front at the club involves the launch of John Rich’s new Get Rich Talent Search. Some 10 acts will compete for prize money coming straight from Rich. For judges, he’s assembled a stellar group of top executives which includes Bill Bennett, head of Warner Bros. Nashville; Scott Hendricks, producer for Chris Cagle; and Vicky McGehee, writer of “Hicktown” and “When I Think About Cheatin’.” This event will be held the last Monday of every month.

“That’s a huge thing for the club, and also something that gives people the opportunity to perform in front of professionals and get accurate and objective appraisals of their talent,” Roddick said.

It’s also a reminder of the club’s pivotal role in helping other previously unheralded or unnoticed acts get recognized through performances there, most recently CMA-award winners Sugarland. A dynamic 200312th and Porter performance helped land them a recording contract.

Roddick and Slezinger also operate the video production company Autumn Addict, and utilize12th and Porter’s facilities for music and concert video footage.

“We’re doing plenty of video recording and partnering with Music Row and indie rock acts for everything from live DVDs to EPK’s (Electronic Press Kits), interviews and material for websites,” Roddick said. “We’ve done things with MySpace and other online sites, and the place is now well suited for any type of video shoot or anything else anyone needs. We’re also interested in being very diverse in this enterprise as well.”

Some of their recent clients include area rockers Ligion, James Otto, Rich and Emmylou Harris. While acknowledging that there’s a nice tie-in between the music video operation and the club, Roddick emphasizes that the two are separate entities, and that 12th and Porter’s primary mission remains live music presentation.

“We view 12th and Porter always as a primary live venue and destination site for Nashville musicians,” Roddick said. “Being a club owner is really something that I never ever considered, and now I consider myself extremely fortunate to be in this position. We’re also proud to be part of 12th and Porter’s long tradition in Nashville, and we have some exciting plans for next year, when we’ll be celebrating the 25th anniversary.

Filed under: City Business