When Colbie Caillat performed recently at Ruth Eckerd Hall, some Tampa fans couldn't make it to Clearwater for the concert. So they did the next best thing: They saw her sing in the brand-new performance space at Clear Channel's radio headquarters in Tampa.
The space at Clear Channel's Gandy Boulevard office (home to 93.3 FLZ, Mix 100.7, 95.7 the Beat and 98 Rock, among other stations) was built to offer fans another way to get up close and personal with their favorite artists. It's not entirely finished, but to date, Caillat, Lifehouse, We the Kings and the Maine have performed there, recording acoustic sets for the stations and their websites.
"It was important to us that when artists come through and are giving with their time, that we put them in a good environment," said 93.3-FLZ program director Tommy Chuck.
Clear Channel worked with Best Buy to create a quality acoustic environment, with speakers, a soundboard and echo-absorbing materials in the wall. Clear Channel is planning to add curtains and a new, permanent backdrop to the stage, which is large enough for a full band. Once everything is up and running, they hope to bring in more artists for these so-called "secret shows."
More radio stations are building spaces like this. New York's Clear Channel offices, located in TriBeCa, is home to the P.C. Richard & Son Theater, a 5,500-square-foot venue that has hosted artists like Green Day, Justin Bieber and Kelly Clarkson.
The Tampa studio is nothing like that — it looks a bit like a converted conference room, with seating for about 50 — but the cozy setting can be an advantage when you're talking about an artist like Caillat, a two-time Grammy winner who later that night would be performing in a 2,180-seat concert hall.
Backed by a three-piece band, Caillat delivered a short but sweet acoustic set for a group of about 50 fans, contest winners and station employees. Fans sat 10 feet away as she sang hits like Bubbly and Fallin' For You, and she signed autographs and posed for photos afterward.
"It's an intimate, up-close experience with the artist," Chuck said. "That's not the kind of thing you can do if you go to a show at the St. Pete Times Forum."