A new business has opened on a second floor walk up at 34 Market Square, Suite 202. ProMotion, LLC offers audio visual production, artist development, booking and event planning, social media and marketing development. Billing itself as a company built by musicians, for musicians, the face out front is co-owner James Gilley, who sat down to talk about the company, its roots and where he’d like to see it develop.
ProMotion is a family owned business, including James, his father Jim Gilley and his mother Libby Gilley. James grew up attending Church Street United Methodist Church downtown, attended Farragut High School and graduated from Maryville College with a degree in business management in 2017. Now 28-years-old, he said he’s been a drummer since he was seven-years-old. By high school he had bands of his own and studied under 10 Years founding drummer, Brian Vodinh. He played in The Ville and Erroneous Jones and he continues to play live shows.
Like his father, James sold insurance for about six months after graduation. He wasn’t particularly inspired by the career and when he took a personality test as part of an application for an insurance job in Nashville, the test showed a strong bent for entrepreneurship and making things happen. The person doing the hiring, a family friend in the business, suggested he follow his passion. He called his father from Nashville and told him that’s what he needed to do.
For a number of years, James wanted to have a studio and to help book bands. As he started to pursue those goals, he realized the critical elements of video and marketing should be added, and ProMotion was born. “Exposure is the key to success in this industry.” In 2018, three months after that conversation in Nashville, the company was born in a home studio in his parent’s garage.
His passion for the music industry led him to begin assisting with social media accounts, booking and artist development. The business began to take form. He could offer a range of professional services to artists at much lower prices than they’d find in Nashville, while giving them the same quality service. As he put it, “So much talent doesn’t get discovered in our area.”
His connections as a long-term working musician in the area paid off as he began networking. He’d learned a lot about the business end from Brian. He also had a manager for his bands, Jill Pavel, who founded Publicity Nation and the two formed partner businesses. In January, he opened an office on Music Row and that began opening doors.
He said the business has been slammed during the pandemic because artists and bands want to have everything they need for promotion ready to go as soon as restrictions are released and performing becomes easier.
The Market Square location is now the heart of the company and offers “one of the only companies east of Nashville providing artist development at this level.” The move from the garage to Market Square came about when he realized he’d need a bigger and more permanent location for the business.
He said he and his family were looking for a space and saw the new location come available in mid-July when they were scrolling through listings. The idea of a Market Square location was very appealing. They saw the listing on Sunday, arranged a viewing on Tuesday, signed a contract on Wednesday and were in the space beginning work on Friday. It took eight weeks to build the studio.
Clients are offered a range of services which can cost from $150 a month to $1800 a month, depending on their needs. At its core is a live session audio and video recording of four songs and an interview they can then use on social media and to attract bookings. The studio is on Market Square in the space previously occupied by Red Door Photography, and Doug Wilhite was recording on the day of my interview. The group offers social media support, photography, EPK, music video, single track recording, live tracking, merchandise, website development, graphic work and more.
While “every contract is different,” James has formed partnerships with venues and radio stations to help promote the artists with whom he works. He’s a co-host on a live-streaming show (youtube, FB and roku) on Mountain Fun Life, called Entertainment in the Smokies. That has opened the door to bookings and to artists. He said the goal throughout is to build the artist’s brand and make them stand out. He’s also started working with bars, offering to completely handle their booking and develop their marketing and social media.
He’s booking for a number of area bars, including Shulz Brau, near downtown. He says that booking the right bands has helped bars dramatically increase sales. He also measures success with the bands in dramatic increases in their following on social media, taking some artists from 200 to 5,000 FB followers in six months.
The company currently includes Josh Martin (graphic design, social media, video), Nate Wiles (graphic design, video), Craig Jones (audio producer/engineer), Clay Defoor (photography, video), Matt Munsey (Grammy nominated producer – audio), Jill Pavel (website development, PR, social media) and Richie Brannon (live audio). James’ mom, Libby, does the finances, his father is involved in budgeting and operations and James is the President and CEO and does sales and booking.
The company intends to expand. “I want to grow a large business. I’ve been blessed to get here and to have my parent’s help. People look up to me for a paycheck. I never thought I’d be on Market Square.” The company has signed a three-year lease and hopes to be there much longer. James says he’d like to eventually expand to 50 to 100 employees.
He wanted to bring something different to Knoxville and feels he has done that. He also hopes to begin live-streaming from the studio in a format similar to the one he co-hosts in Gatlinburg, interviewing artists and others. He also hopes to host live-streaming, ticketed events from the venue.
As we ended our interview, he said he has a more personal reason for his drive to do this work. When he was 21-years-old, his best friend, Matthew Bates killed himself. Later another friend died of an overdose. “Life is too short not to chase your dream. I do it for them.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held for the new location a week from today.