Q&A with Dave Rose, CEO of Deep South Entertainment

Today we chat with Dave Rose, President and CEO of Deep South Entertainment.

This Q&A is a part of our series called interviews with locals where we interview local Raleigh thought leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners to share their story with our community.

A man in glasses looking at the camera
Dave Rose

Where did you grow up and go to high school? How long have you lived in Raleigh?

I grew up in a wonderful small town in Eastern North Carolina on the Pamlico River. Washington, NC to be exact.

Upon graduation I moved a short 2 hours west to Raleigh to attend and graduate from NC State with a degree in Economics. And for obvious reasons – I never left. Well, maybe not so obvious given that I chose to be in music, but more on that later.

Give us your 30 second elevator pitch for your company?

Dave Rose with Parmalee
Dave Rose with Parmalee

Our company, Deep South Entertainment, is primarily two divisions. 

In the Raleigh area we are best known as concert producers. Our website appropriately says we can handle everything from Porta Johns to Elton John. We produce the music for the North Carolina State Fair, Out!Raleigh, Cuegrass, some of the events at Dix Park, Fayetteville’s Alive After Five, The Farm in Selma, the North Carolina Governor’s Inaugural Ball (with the Jr. League of Raleigh), and a long list of other great events.

The other division is artist management. We manage international touring and recording artists and have had the pleasure of working with some of the most talented names in the business, like Little Feat, Bruce Hornsby, Stryper, Parmalee, Lit, Marcy Playground and a long list of others.

How did you get into the industry you are in now?

Dave Rose First Concert _ Stryper (Michael Sweet) circa 1986
Dave Rose First Concert _ Stryper (Michael Sweet) circa 1986

The “bug” to get in this business started for me when I went to my first concert in the ‘80s to see the band Stryper. For those that don’t know, they are the godfathers of Christian Rock – the first to take music of faith to the mainstream on radio and MTV. After that concert I knew I needed to be in music. I didn’t know how or what my role would be, but I wanted to be a part of THAT.

I was a broke college student at the time, so I didn’t even have money for tickets. I asked my dad for the money, and like any good dad he didn’t give it to me, but he did tell me that if I’d clean the garage, I could have an old stereo that was in there. So, I cleaned the garage and immediately marched that stereo down to a pawn shop and sold it for $25. 

That was enough money for a ticket to the show and some gas money (it was a 5-hour drive to the show). Worth noting, I was also too broke to get a motel room so after the show I drove 5 hours home too!

Fast forward 35 years later and a lot of steps in-between and I’ve been Stryper’s manager now for almost 20 years.

Dave Rose with Stryper circa 2019
Dave Rose with Stryper circa 2019

Not long after that concert I learned to play bass guitar and started by playing in bands in Raleigh in the late ‘80s. We toured the South East in an old Chevy van and I learned the music business through the school of hard knox on the road. In Raleigh we played places like The Brewery, The Switch, Snookers (Mission Valley), etc. That lasted until the mid ‘90s when I co-founded Deep South Records (as it was called then….We changed it to Deep South Entertainment a couple of years later).

It was around that time I realized I was better at selling music than making it, haha, so I made the move to the business side of things. 

Dave Rose the Musician '90s
Dave Rose the Musician ’90s

Although, to be fair, making music was never really my passion. What fascinated me was the actual marriage of the music with commerce.  While my band mates would be woodshedding, I’d usually spend my time making flyers, calling clubs, calling radio stations, etc.

I still remember vividly the very first show I played. My band had recorded a few songs, a demo as it’s called, and we made a cassette tape with copy-machine cassette sleeves (printed at the old Kinkos on Hillsborough Street, if anyone remembers that), and made about 50 of them available for sale after the show.

I still remember that first person who came up to me after the show and handed me $5 and said “Y’all were pretty good. Could I get one of those cassettes?” All I could think was “Wow! 6 months ago, these songs were just thoughts in our head. Just thoughts. Now they’ve become music. And they are on a product, a cassette tape, that can turn those thoughts into money.”  

That process of turning art into income just fascinated me. Still does. 

It’s just rare for art and commerce to intersect in a natural way – but when they do, it’s magic… at least to me it is. And that in a nutshell is what I do as a company – I marry art and commerce.

When we were starting Deep South, I only knew one or two people in the music business. They worked at different major record labels. I asked their advice and both of them said the same thing “Whatever you do, you’ve got to get out of Raleigh. I don’t care if it’s LA, New York, or Nashville, maybe Atlanta – but you can’t do this in Raleigh.”

I didn’t like that answer and decided I’d try to prove them wrong. I liked Raleigh and didn’t want to move to LA or New York. Nashville maybe, but still, I felt my home was here and I wanted to try to build something in Raleigh.

I’ll admit – RDU Airport has made it easier to stay. Directs to every major music city from Raleigh help a lot.

Favorite local musicians to come out of the Raleigh area?

That’s a super hard question. I’ll name a few off the top of my head and cringe later when I realize I left off a few of my favorites. A complete list of favorites is nearly impossible.

Cry of Love, The Backsliders, Whiskeytown, DAG, Six String Drag, I Was Totally Destroying It, Superchunk, Dillon Fence, Collapsis, Corrosion of Conformity, American Aquarium, The Connells, Delta Rae…. Sheesh, stop me. I could keep going and going.

Favorite places to see live music in Raleigh?

Another tough one: Dix Park, Fayetteville Street during festivals, Lincoln Theatre, Red Hat Amphitheater, Booth Amphitheatre, Cat’s Cradle, Pour House, C. Grace.

Best thing about living in Raleigh?

I’ll put this area up against any in the country as far as creativity goes. I love our diversity, both in general – largely due to our incredible colleges and universities nearby – but I love that Raleigh doesn’t have a music identity.

Remember back in the 90s when Seattle was the home of grunge? Imagine trying to be a country or hip-hop artist coming up through the ranks in Seattle during that time. Someone asked me long ago if I thought Raleigh / Chapel Hill would become the next Seattle and I said “I hope not”, for that very reason. (Nothing against Seattle of course. I love that city.) But when you come to Raleigh on any given night you might hear Indie Rock, Hip Hop, Bluegrass…the musical diversity and creativity is incredible here.

Think about our 3 biggest festivals in this area right now…Hopscotch, World of Bluegrass, and Dreamville. That’s amazing when you really look at what that means and says about our music community. Those are 3 world renown festivals about as diverse as it gets musically. That is the Raleigh music market and what I love about it.

Why are we the most diverse and creative? 

I really attribute that in part to our college system as well as the industries that have put down roots here. When you think about it – people move here from all over the world to go to the colleges here. They also move here for some of the great tech and medical opportunities. Those are very creative people moving here. Some of them are going to play an instrument, start a band, and become part of this music culture.

Least favorite thing about living in Raleigh? 

It’s not 10 minutes from an ocean. I love the beach, so thankfully we’re at least a short drive from there.

If you had a friend visiting from out of town, where in Raleigh would you take them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? 

Can’t miss festival or event in Raleigh? 

Deep South team at the NC State Fair Dorton Arena
Deep South team at the NC State Fair Dorton Arena

See above. The North Carolina State Fair, Hopscotch, World of Bluegrass, and Dreamville. I’ll add to that Artsplosure, The NC Chinese Lantern Festival, The Raleigh Christmas Parade, Out! Raleigh Pride, Cuegrass…and again, I’ll cringe later when I realize the ones that I failed to mention.

There’s just so many in this area. You could really attend a great event or festival in Raleigh almost every weekend.

What excites you the most about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10 years?

All the new bands that’ll form, the new festivals that will be created, and the new places that will be carved out to hold those festivals.

I should also note a building that often gets overlooked as vital part to the Raleigh culture. The Raleigh Convention Center. That building is such an economic driver for this community that it really helps nurture a lot of this creativity I speak of in this market. It was a smart decision on the part of many different leaders to make sure we had a world-class Convention Center in the downtown area, as well as hotels and businesses to support it.

The RCC, believe it or not, really played the instrumental role in making Downtown Raleigh what it is today. So in that sense, it excites me to do business in a City with a Convention Center like ours.

What concerns you the most about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10  years?

Nothing really. It’s interesting – as I’ve traveled a lot for music, I’ve become surprised as to how many people don’t really love their hometown. When I go to a new city I’ll say to a local “I really love this city. It seems to have a lot to offer” and many times they will respond with “Really?” as to be surprised. Maybe even going further to criticize their hometown. Not all, but more that I suspected. 

I guess since I actually love Raleigh so much I just assume others love their hometown as well – but that’s really not the case, at least in my findings.

What I’ve come to realize is that all cities have their problems. All cities have their challenges. And that it’s easy for their citizens to forget just how great their city is sometimes. They see and hear about the challenges and problems on the news and often don’t take a moment to appreciate their community.

What I like about Raleigh is that we are a caring community. We care about each other. And when that is at the forefront of our culture, I’m not really concerned about what the future holds. We’ll figure it out!

Which local Raleigh entrepreneur inspires you to do better?

The Rose Family
The Rose Family

Impossible to pick just one: My wife Melanie – CEO of the Rose Family, Amy Cox (Deep South), Danny Rosin (Brand Fuel), Kevin Frazier (Sir Walter Coffee), Philip Isley (Attorney), Michael Winger (ArtistManagers.io), Ashley Christensen (AC Restaurants), Bob Reidlinger (Live!), Sharat Nagaraj (Celito), Jon Seelbinder (Local Icon Hospitality Group), Suzanne Golden (Golden Relations).

What is your favorite thing about running your business?

Someone once asked my wife if I am the type of guy who would say the glass is half empty or half full. She responded, probably accurately, that I would say: “Who cares? Let’s figure out how to fill it up and maybe even make it profitable.”

I like being able to get an idea and develop it, then move on that idea quickly – without having to ask permission. It’s not a control thing – I just love the thought of going from idea to implementation without a lot of red tape that sometimes goes along with corporate America.

Drink of choice? Which bar, brewery, or coffee shop in Raleigh do you get it at?

Sir Walter Coffee for their Walter Raleigh Cold Brew. As for drinks, I’m a fan of speakeasys. I like The Green Light, Watts & Ward, and The Foundation. I’m looking forward to trying The Merchant.

Favorite getaway spot in North Carolina?

I love anywhere on the Outer Banks, or really any of the beaches of North Carolina.  

When you hear the words “THIS IS RALEIGH” what comes to mind?

The first word that comes to mind is “Home”. No matter where the music business may take me in my travels, Raleigh is home. It’s where I met my wife Melanie, and I’m proud that our sons, Elvis and Bjorn, get to grow up in such a fine city.

But also – I think, The Cherry Bounce. It’s the drink that made Raleigh, Raleigh. I wrote an article on the history of it once for Walter Magazine.

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