A new age of marketing transparency
Tim White has some big plans for selling Wausau and Marathon County, and he's already rebuilt lost trust with municipalities
Tim White stops in the middle of a sentence often during a recent interview at Whitewater Music Hall. “Oh that’s a great band, I saw them live,” he’ll comment, before continuing his thoughts.
White is the new director of the Central Wisconsin Convention and Visitors Bureau. He’s been charged with turning around the organization after a major fallout involving the previous director. It’s no easy task.
Or is it? New contracts are being put in place, the books have been opened, so to speak, information once held under lock and key suddenly seems forthcoming and municipal leaders suddenly seem bullish on an organization they’d bristled at only months ago.
A recent meeting of the Room Tax Commission might have given viewers a hint as to why. White laid out his plans for Wausau, and one thing was immediately apparent: White is on another level. His plans are something totally new to the Wausau area, and he’s bringing a different mentality to the organization as it rebuilds. And rebuild he must, as the organization was left in pretty rough shape.
White’s love of music is apparent as we talk from the couches at Whitewater Music Hall; and it’s immediately apparent that this isn’t your typical CVB director. I comment that their music selection could easily be my own Spotify playlist, and he says “Yeah me too.” “Pretty in Pink” comes on and he mentioned that the soundtrack songs are hardly the Psychedelic Furs’ best.
It turns out White spent time in the music industry in the 1990s. He managed artists for and later owned Chicagoland label Fundamental Records, a label that included Henry Rollins and Black Flag amongst its stable of artists. (The label also had Butthole Surfers I found out later — a band I haven’t thought about probably since the 90s.)
As part of the label he made annual trips to South by Southwest and signed plenty of artists out of that venue, before it got too corporate. “When Billy Idol played there and called it folk music, I knew that was the death knell,” White says.
There’s more than a cool factor there. White says he learned how to connect an artist with an audience, and dove into the tech side of the industry. He put together a cloud-based tool to help artists keep track of their shows and appearances which made booking much simpler. They also built speciality stores for artists to sell to their fans; the way White describes it, it comes across like an early version of Patreon. He describes an artist who writes 60 songs a year. “Most of those won’t make an album, but there is a rabid fan base that wanted everything he did.”
He also ran a media school in Chicago, and was a pastor long before that. He has done work. His LinkedIn profile goes on and on - as in, you’ll get sick of clicking the “show more experiences” after awhile. In case it needs repeating: this is not your typical CVB director.
White came here originally to do business coaching through the Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce. But when a recruiter for the CVB director position saw his resume, White thought “what the heck?”
It turned into a months-long process, and sometimes a confusing one. The fact that the CVB bought a new building for a new location didn’t come up until White’s first day. The organization bought the old Shakey’s building in Rib Mountain, which is full of asbestos and mold. Whether it can be renovated or will just be a complete rebuild is yet to be determined, White tells me.
(Side note: Shakey’s happens to be where I learned of Kurt Cobain’s passing, something that had a profound effect on me. Felt it needed to be included, with all the music talk.)
Calming the storm
That White has turned around the opinions of municipal leaders so quickly is no small feat. Relations were bad.
The previous director Richard Barrett seemed no stranger to controversy, usually of his own making. A year or so prior to the Expedia incident I will explain below, Barrett attempted to move the organization’s pond hockey tournament from Marathon Park to the Wausau Airport. But there was a problem, a harbinger of bigger ones to come.
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