"I always say, with any job you're in there's that one question that you have to answer," explains Chris McDonald, Marketing Manager for the Granada Theater, as he chips crumbs off of an oversized chocolate chip cookie at the front table of Society Bakery on Greenville Avenue.
"Like their main question is," he says, motioning to the gleaming pastry case at the back, "'Alright, so how are we gonna sell cookies today? How are we gonna sell cakes?' or whatever. And ours is, 'How are we gonna sell tickets to Panda Bear?'"
McDonald has always had an eye for creative flair, being at the helm of promotions and marketing for one of the most established and invigorating live music venues in Dallas, which this month is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
"My dad's worked in entertainment," remarks McDonald. "And you know, ever since I've never wanted to have like a normal job really, I've always wanted to be involved in creating something."
McDonald, a Dallas resident since the age of five, has a long-standing relationship within the music world. He's been with the Granada for around seven years now, and before he was dreaming up inventive ticket give-away contests, he was working with the Gypsy Tea Room in Deep Ellum before it closed its doors. Even before his Dallas music venue days, McDonald booked shows at the church he attended.
Some of his more creative exploits involve everything from a Dr. Dog ticket contest, wherein contestants photographed their canines adorned in doctor attire, to a "Summer Mockbusters" film series he worked on with fellow promoter Joe Overman, in which such infamously horrid '90s blockbusters as "Armageddon" and "Con Air" were screened with a live Tweet screen.
"People would tweet their commentary during the movie, and so it was real cool," says McDonald. "We partnered with the Dallas Comedy House and also the Dallas Observer, so we had 'featured tweeters' so the comedians came in."
Few have the knack for off-the-wall promotional ideas that McDonald has, but being humorous isn't his sole focus. On on particular occasion, he hosted a homemade get-well-soon card contest for a laryngitis-stricken Alexis Kraus, vocalist for indie noise duo Sleigh Bells.
"So we got like all these entries, 15 entries or so," McDonald recalls. "And so that was great because then we went to Alexis, the lead singer before the show, and we said, 'Hey, so we did a contest on our Facebook page for get-well-soon cards. We heard that you had laryngitis or whatever, and here's all the get-well-soon cards that they made for you.' And she like, started crying, she was so happy."
McDonald is a familiar face within the pastel-colored, sweetly fragrant walls of this quaint little bakery that sits just down the block from the Granada. The staff knows him by name, and he appears as though he's the friendly regular. After a near-death experience involving a rogue chocolate chip lodged in his throat, McDonald is greeted with a cup of water, and returns to the table to go over his creative process.
"A lot of it is surrounding yourself with creative people," he explains. "We have an awesome staff, you know, like Ryan [Henry] that books the shows, we're great friends, and Joe, just you know, having creative friends, you think about things as a kid that you wanted to do."
Henry, the Talent Buyer with the Granada, has worked alongside McDonald for nearly five years. "I've seen him create really fun, successful events and marketing strategies from the ground up," says Henry. "He's willing to do everything from putting together very detailed advertising campaigns to dressing up in a bunny costume, all to promote a show or event that the Granada has coming up."
McDonald sets his cookie aside and ponders my question, what his job would've been like 20 years ago, without the ease of social media promotions.
"I'd be posting on Geocities. Bulletins. We would have an AOL chatroom," he says, spitballing ideas. Then, pausing, he admits, "Man, I don't know how they did it back in the day. I'd probably still want to do creative things and have...fun ideas. But like just getting the word out, that would be different. It's a lot easier now, it's not too difficult to do something on Instagram or a Tweet or a Facebook post."
Then, finding his bearings again, McDonald launches into his typical stream of ideas: "I would like to do a flyer bomb or something, just drop tons of flyers on Deep Ellum out of a plane," he enthuses. "'Hey, come see Sonic Youth.' Something like that."
It is Friday, and McDonald is in for a busy night, as their fourth installment of the Gorilla Vs. Bear showcase will be in full swing. The time and preparation for each show is an endless and challenging hurdle, and it happens on a weekly basis.
"You have to make sure you don't focus all your energy on one [show], and to still keep in mind the other shows that are coming up that may not be the kind of music that you like, but we still need to have people coming in the doors too," says McDonald.
In this case, however, McDonald has been preparing for the Gorilla Vs. Bear show for nearly three months.
"And now we get to enjoy it and have fun, and get to make new friends and see old friends. So it's a rewarding job," he says. "And so for my future, yeah, I'll be involved for as long as I can, until I'm old and totally out of touch -- 20 years from now when we have Washed Out, and it's a 50 year old man up there."