It’s only hours to a major “fest” at Smirnoff Music Centre and John Ciulla is asking himself a million questions. Did the ads yield the ticket sales we hoped? Are the multiple stages timed so when one band finishes, another begins? Did every piece of equipment arrive yet? It’s all in a typical 20-hour day’s work for the General Manager of Smirnoff.
While the challenges are nonstop, the varied music and performers are constantly rewarding for John Ciulla. His 25+ years in the music business have created a consummate venue management pro, ready for anything the fast-moving and often temperamental industry can dish out. “I’ve learned how to manage artists, cater to their needs, and create an enjoyable experience for our patrons. But you never stop learning and adapting to any aspect of the process.”
John came on board last year as Marketing Director of Smirnoff and then became GM in early 2005. Since Smirnoff is owned and operated by House of Blues and he’d managed another HOB-owned venue in Cleveland, Ciulla was a sound choice.
He’s got the music in him.
Ciulla was also born in Cleveland, a major music center and home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum. “Bands were in my blood,” he recalls. “In the 80’s, my brothers and I operated three arenas in Cleveland, 600 to 1,000 seat places that brought acts like George Clinton and, later, Nirvana to town. Reggae, jazz, rock, we booked them all.”
Then John went into radio for several years and learned the ropes before becoming Marketing Director for six seasons at Blossom Music Center in Cleveland, a 20,000-seat outdoor amphitheatre.
Every music pro must have that L.A. experience. For John, it was joining his brothers’ artist management company. “We managed Marilyn Manson, among others,” says John. “He’s really a genuinely nice guy.”
On to big-time concerts in Big D.
Now John loves Dallas, and all it has to offer. “ Dallas is extremely welcoming with many similarities to cities I’ve worked in…plenty of entertainment spots and restaurants. Fair Park has been very good for Smirnoff. It’s secure and strengthens our position because a lot of people know Fair Park and spend time before concerts there. We even have promotions that offer discount tickets with a stub from the State Fair of Texas.”
When he’s not putting in endless hours, you’ll find John checking out other venues, scouting talent, seeing movies or actually relaxing at a lake.
Having met everyone from Rod Stewart to Ozzy Osbourne, does John have any favorite artists or music genres? “Not really,” he reflects. “I’ve come to enjoy anything that’s done well or has a unique style.”
It’s almost showtime at Smirnoff and there are still so many details…And the beat goes on for John Ciulla.