Meetings Today: 15 Music Attractions That Double As Remarkable Off-Site Venues
By Marlene Goldman
Confucius once said, “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” In that spirit, music-inspired experiences and venues can add life to any meeting or event.
Following is just a small sampling of music venues worldwide that can cater to groups.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville
Since its inception in 1961, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has endured a relocation and flood, but it still stands as an invaluable piece of Nashville history.
“When you visit our acclaimed museum galleries, you’ll begin to understand the universal appeal of country music,” said Nando Rodriguez, senior director of events, entertainment and culinary at the museum. “We are the keeper of countless American treasures, and our self-guided tour is a walk through history, one that leads you from the earliest folk traditions to the music that thrills millions of fans today.”
Many of the venues can be used for off-site events, according to Rodriguez.
“The 10,000-square-foot Event Hall, with soaring 40-foot glass windows overlooking downtown, provides an unforgettable view of the Nashville skyline,” he said. “This venue with a view offers an awe-inspiring space for receptions, dinners, general sessions, tradeshows and exhibits.”
The 800-seat CMA Theater also features versatile space for groups, whether used for a general session or for entertainment, replete with live music.
According to Rodriguez, clients can opt to upgrade their experience with docent-led tours, scavenger hunts and other interactive options. The tours end in the Hall of Fame Rotunda, home of its inductees.
In addition to touring the museum, groups can utilize the Historic RCA Studio B recording studio, where more than 35,000 songs, including over 200 Elvis Presley tracks, were recorded. Private event experiences range from guided tours to songwriter sessions.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
Making its ceremonious debut in 1995, Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a treasure for music buffs, chronicling the history of rock within its seven floors. Three out of the seven levels offer event space, as does its 65,000-square-foot outdoor plaza.
“Groups can do everything in the museum, including buyouts, lunches and meetings in a conference room,” said Mike Detling, manager of sales at the venue. “We can host up to 2,000 and down to six in a meeting room.”
The museum hosted 40 events in four days during the Republican National Convention in 2016, including breakfasts, panels, buyouts and cocktail receptions, and had a 700-person tent in the exterior plaza.
Just a few highlight exhibits include the Legends of Rock and Roll, focusing on everyone from Elvis to Blondie. Docents can lead private gallery talks about specific bands and musicians. Another exhibit running at least through next spring, Part of the Machine: Rock & Pinball, showcases rock-themed, playable pinball machines.
The Arcade can serve as a nontraditional conference space with couches, lounge chairs and pinball machines, while larger groups can use on-site auditoriums. Also, the Hall of Fame annex, which includes behind-the-scenes looks into past induction footage, can host groups. Other options include the Level 0 atrium, featuring views of Lake Erie, and the Beer Garden, which can host up to 125 attendees.
Groups can also spend the entire day at the museum, according to Detling, starting with breakfast and including a teambuilding scavenger hunt or a competition in the pinball exhibit.
Paisley Park, Chanhassen, Minn.
When the world lost Prince in 2016, he left behind enough unreleased music to release a new album every year for the next century. He also left his private estate and production complex Paisley Park, located just outside Minneapolis, filled with memorabilia and other remnants of his musical legacy.
The compound is where he recorded many of his albums, including Lovesexy, Batman, Diamonds & Pearls and Sign O’ The Times, and Prince would often open Paisley Park’s doors for spontaneous performance events, inviting the public into the Sound Stage or NPG Music Club rooms for hours-long sets of live music.
Today, Paisley Park offers a wide array of uses for groups, according to Karen White, sales manager for Paisley Park, everything from group tours to private events in the Sound Stage, which features two of his cars, different wardrobes from over the years and his piano from his last performance, and the NPG Music Club Room.
The NPG Music Club can hold 200 people, while the Sound Stage can hold 700. Prince theme parties are possible, according to White, and house DJs are available as is vegetarian catering.
American Jazz Museum, Kansas City, Mo.
Credited as the birthplace of the bebop style of jazz, Kansas City stands as one of the most influential cities for the musical genre. In the ’20s and ’30s, what became known as the Kansas City Jazz style moved away from its blues music tradition, partly thanks to legend Count Basie, who joined Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra in 1929, and native Charlie Parker, who helped spark the transition in the ’40s.
Naturally, the city is host to the American Jazz Museum, which showcases the sights and sounds of jazz through interactive exhibits and films, and is home to the Changing Gallery exhibit space, Horace M. Peterson III Visitors Center, Blue Room jazz club and Gem Theater.
“The uniqueness of the American Jazz Museum is there is always something interesting and informative that is going on each day we are open,” said Jayne McShann Lewis, collections assistant for the museum.
“The American Jazz museum consists of various areas for meetings, conferences and family events,” she added. “The atrium is our larger area, but meetings can also be held in the Blue Room, which is used primarily as our entertainment listing room. The Changing Gallery is open during business hours and can also be included for private events held after business hours.”
The permanent exhibition is also accessible for private viewing during closed hours, according to McShann Lewis. Also, the Gem Theater, which seats 500 people, can be utilized for presentations, live entertainment or education purposes.
ABBA The Museum, Stockholm, Sweden
ABBA The Museum celebrates the music of the ’70s-era Swedish sensation and is promoted as the most interactive music museum in the world.
“We decided back in 2009 that the museum should work as a walk through the life of ABBA,” said Ingmarie Halling, creative director/curator for the museum. “This means you will walk through different sets—the record company office, the recording studio, the dressing room on tour, the little summerhouse where the guys were doing new songs. In every setting there are original items. The gold room with all the flashy costumes and the hologram stage where you can appear and sing with ABBA, mix music, be in an ABBA video, etc.”
Other highlights of the museum, which opened in 2013, include the new Glass House, which was unveiled earlier this year and houses an exhibition depicting everything that happened after the band members years in ABBA. It offers a long bar, a stage and options to show films.
“The Glass House works really well for all kinds of functions both summer and heavy winter,” Halling said.
ABBA The Museum is also part of Pop House Hotel, which features its own bar and restaurant.
“From the start, we didn’t think so much about hosting conferences or groups, but suddenly there were many requests for that,” Halling added. “We are really good at coming up with personalized settings for our customers depending on what they are looking for, and together with our little boutique hotel with 49 rooms in the same house makes us unique.”
The museum accommodates group of up to 100.
Former home of the “King of Rock and Roll,” Graceland has been a magnet for Elvis fans since it opened to the public in 1982. Today it is also a draw for groups. While the Graceland Mansion is only open for tours, there are a variety of venues that can cater to off-site functions.
“Hosting an event at Graceland is one of the most unique opportunities in the country,” said Ashleigh Gallant, public relations specialist for Elvis Presley Enterprises, Graceland. “There are options for hosting after-hours events in all of the exhibit spaces, including exclusive nighttime touring of Elvis’ Graceland estate.”
Gallant also noted that Graceland’s recently opened complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, which debuted in 2016, can be rented for functions. The 200,000-square-foot entertainment and exhibition space houses four permanent exhibits featuring artifacts from Elvis’ life and career and eight rotating exhibits. In addition, the space is home to the Graceland Soundstage, 17,000 square feet of flexible space that can host concerts, tradeshows and meetings.
The complex is suitable for a progressive cocktail reception or dinner. Bars and food stations can be located throughout the spaces, which include the Presley Motors Car Museum & Presley Cycles, where groups can have dinner with his iconic pink Cadillac.
In addition, Graceland recently opened The Guest House at Graceland, a 450- room AAA Four Diamond property that includes over 25,000 square feet of event space, a 464- seat theater and more than 17,000 square feet of traditional meeting space.
House of Blues, New Orleans
Located in the French Quarter, House of Blues New Orleans is one of the city’s premier live-music venues.
“House of Blues is a great asset to the city and has been so since 1992 when we opened our doors in the historic French Quarter,” said Anna Sumas, director of sales, House of Blues New Orleans. “The venue offers six different spaces with an ambiance of an old Southern Delta juke joint.”
Spaces include the Music Hall for up to 800, the Parish Room for 250, the restaurant and bar for 250 and the Voodoo Garden for 150.
“All spaces have individual personalities that can be used independently or for one full buyout,” Sumas said. “We feature Southern-style cuisines, half-a-million-dollars in sound, lights and production assets to accommodate talent and a priceless collection of folk art that features over 200 pieces.”
Sumas said the artwork, which was also displayed at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in 2013, can be used for backdrops for events. There are other options for theme parties, and the club can help set up private concerts for different events.
Tower Theatre, Oklahoma City
Tower Theatre stands as one of Oklahoma City’s most historic venues. After its debut in 1937, it operated as one of the city’s premier movie houses for almost 40 years before falling into disrepair and even briefly resorted to showing adult movies. Tower closed its doors in the ’80s, until a brief revival as a music venue in 1999. Following an ownership change, the theater is now home to top-billing music acts.
“The historic Tower Theatre is a great place for groups of any size,” said Ashley Rose, event manager at the venue. “We love expanding our horizons and opening our doors for conferences, general meetings and even birthday parties. The aesthetic of Tower is something you won’t get anywhere else. The rich history and convenient placement offers something for everyone.”
The interior features a large lobby that can cater to groups, as well as an auditorium with a full-service bar, separate seated balcony and second-floor studio space. The exterior includes the ticket booth and the neon marquee, which can be used by groups for event branding and promotion.
Universal CityWalk, Universal Orlando Resort
Of the Orlando area’s myriad event spaces, Universal CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort features after-hours entertainment, including The Groove nightclub, Rising Star bar and karaoke club, and replica of Bob Marley’s home at Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom.
At The Groove, groups can design a club experience using the its open floor plan, built-in video capabilities, lighting and audio. It can host DJs, live bands, dance parties, receptions and ’70s- or ’80s- themed events.
Rising Star lets groups dabble in karaoke as well as singing with help from backup singers and a live band. Meanwhile, Bob Marley, A Tribute to Freedom, is a replica of Marley’s home in Kingston, Jamaica, including artifacts, photos and video clips from his performances. Groups can taste local Jamaican cuisine there as well.
Groups can use one venue or combine several for a CityWalk Block Party, according to Christina Heflin, public relations representative, Universal Orlando Resort.
The music-themed Hard Rock Hotel is also one of six hotels at Universal Orlando. The 650-room property offers 10,000 square feet of total outdoor space, the 3,000-square-foot Avalon Ballroom and two meeting rooms. Groups can organize a private concert in the lobby surrounded by music memorabilia.
Universal CityWalk is also home to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, which is open to groups. In 2019, Margaritaville Resort Orlando will debut in nearby Kissimmee with the 7,000-square-foot Compass Rose Ballroom, the 777-square-foot Hemisphere Dancer boardroom and an entertainment boardwalk.
Thalia Hall, Chicago
History runs deep at Chicago’s Thalia Hall, originally built in 1892 as a Czech meeting hall modeled after the Prague State Opera House. The building received landmark status in 1985, though it sat vacant for decades. In 2013, it reopened as a town hall replete with a tavern, Dusek’s Board & Beer; two bars, Punch House and Tack Room; private dining in The Beer Cellar; and the performance space itself.
“Thalia Hall, Tack Room and The Beer Cellar are unique options for off-site corporate meetings and networking cocktail parties,” said Emma Winter, director of private events at 16” on Center, the hospitality collective that owns and operates Thalia Hall. “Appealing to architectural geeks and music fans, the private event spaces within Thalia Hall allow for a behind-the-scenes peek into a landmark building that’s been re-established with the music, food and drink culture that 16” on Center is known for throughout the city.”
Clients in the past have enjoyed band meet and greets, meet the makers sessions with local distilleries and breweries, and live music during dinners, according to Winter.
The Majestic Theatre Center, Detroit
Heralded as Detroit’s premier independent concert House, The Majestic Theatre dates back to 1915 when the venue opened as a movie theater. Fast forward 70 years, and The Majestic has transformed into one of the Motor City’s most popular live-music venues, showcasing everyone from The Black Keys to the Black Eyed Peas.
The theater features a stage, two full-service bars and two dressing rooms. The lobby area is being renovated and later this year will be available as a pre-concert area for receptions and other events, according to Brian Gach, events manager at The Majestic Theatre Center. There is space for 450 seated and 1,000 for receptions.
The center is also home to The Magic Stick, a former bowling alley turned rock music venue. Groups can host 650 for receptions and 200 seated. Other venues in the complex include The Garden Bowl bowling galley and The Alley Deck rooftop bar, which can accommodate 200 and features zip-down walls for winter.
Sydney Opera House, Australia
The iconic Sydney Opera House, Australia’s No. 1 tourist destination and its busiest performing arts center, hosts some 1,800 performances annually and more than 8.2 million visitors a year. Its eggshell shape with the backdrop of Sydney Harbour makes it an unmistakable lure.
“The Sydney Opera House is a unique venue, and the experiences available to groups reflect the breadth of what we offer here,” said Jayne Blackwell, the venue’s hire manager. “Groups can tour the building to learn about its dramatic history and breathtaking architecture, attend a performance, hear a private opera recital or, when in season, take a sunrise yoga class on the Monumental Steps.”
The Opera House offers several function and event spaces, according to Blackwell, from its glass Northern Foyers to its intimate Utzon Room. Groups will also have access to its soon-to-be-completed Function Centre with views of Sydney Harbour.
“Our resident companies such as the Sydney Symphony Orchestra or Opera Australia can arrange private performances for incentive programs and groups,” Blackwell said. “Our caterer, Trippas White Group, offers carefully curated menus coupled with seamless service, while our on-site restaurants, Bennelong, Portside Sydney, Opera Bar and Opera Kitchen, offer the finest Australian produce in their signature style.”
Royal Albert Hall, London
When London’s Royal Albert Hall first opened in 1871, the venue staged 36 shows. Today, that number reaches almost 400, ranging from performances by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to Dave Chappelle. Approaching its 150th anniversary in 2021, the venue is excavating a two-story basement to provide more space for artists and crew, and add public spaces as well.
The hall, encircled by its famed 800-foot-long mosaic frieze celebrating the advancement of arts and sciences, can host up to 5,000 for events, including a three-course meal for 2,000 in the auditorium. Other venues include the Gallery, which can host receptions for 500 and sit-down dinners for 300. The Elgar Room offers conference and reception space for up to 250. Smaller spaces include the Prince of Wales room for up to 40 and the Henry Cole Room for 30 guests, and views of Hyde Park.
Lincoln Center, New York
New York’s Lincoln Center campus, which spans 16.3-acres, is home to 11 resident arts organizations, including the world-renowned New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera.
According to Mary Caraccioli, Lincoln Center spokesperson, the center opens its varied venues to a range of functions, including meetings, receptions and award ceremonies, among others.
“Our venues are typically the sites for world-class performances,” she said. “They make for very special and unique settings for non-performance gatherings.”
Receptions can be held on the glamorous Grand Promenade of David Geffen Hall, overlooking the iconic Lincoln Center fountain, and in the lobbies of Alice Tully Hall, at the David Rubenstein Atrium or the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. Groups can also host events inside Alice Tully Hall’s Starr Theater, with a capacity for 1,085 people.
“Performances across the performing arts are at your fingertips at Lincoln Center, so it’s easy to pair a top-notch performance with your private event,” Caraccioli said. “We also offer unique backstage tours of the Lincoln Center campus.”
The Music Center, Los Angeles
Billed as one of the largest performing arts centers in the U.S., Los Angeles’ Music Center is home to the Center Theatre Group, LA Master Chorale, LA Opera and LA Philharmonic, and features a variety of theaters and event spaces, including the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatre.
“The Music Center offers groups and organizations a variety of meeting and banquet spaces that create a dramatic backdrop for any special event,” said Howard Sherman, The Music Center’s COO. “At The Music Center, groups can find themselves inspired while meeting in a performance rehearsal space, enjoying a meal in an exclusive members-only dining room, or toasting to their organization’s future under Bavarian crystal chandeliers.”