Arts Talk


Bob Roets is Wooden Nickel

and he holds the reins for promoting local music

By Bonnie Blackburn
Get Bob Roets of Wooden Nickel Music talking about local musical talent, and he might not stop. He’s hosted literally hundreds of in-store live performances by regional bands at his three record shops in Fort Wayne.

The bulk of those shows have been at the North Anthony store, where there’s a stage and full sound system. Roets said he began offering bands a venue to promote their CDs soon after he opened his first store on Clinton Street 30 years ago this month.

“When we first opened, record companies would send their retail reps out and they would bring in bands for in-store shows,” Roets said. “That’s how I got involved.”

The most well-known national band that played at the North Anthony store was the band They Might Be Giants in 1995. But the advent of illegal downloading of music and the extreme costs of putting on the kind of concerts bands wanted spelled the end of in-store appearances, at least in Fort Wayne.

Undaunted, Roets opened the door to local bands seeking a chance to perform and sell locally produced albums. These days, more than 50 times a year, a band will be performing at one of the Wooden Nickel stores in town.

“Nobody wanted to take the reins on promoting local artists,” he said. “We’d carry their CDs and then we started having the bands come and play. Then it developed into monthly, then bimonthly, then weekly!”

The biggest day for in-store performances is the annual Record Store Day held each April. Wooden Nickel has gotten such a good reputation for taking a chance on bands that it was voted the best acoustic venue by readers of the Fort Wayne Newspapers.

“It seems like we’re doing something right,” he said. “We’ve done everything from hip hop to Americana.”

Roets began the in-store performances as a way to generate traffic and sales, to be sure. But it’s evolved into more.

“For a lot of these guys, this is maybe the first time they’ve played live,” he said. “The young guys come in, they’re full of questions. I have been assisting bands from (coming in with) a tape to actually having a retail product,” advising them on the best ways to record and promote their material.

Roets also oversees the annual Battle of the Bands, hosted by Columbia Street West.

“I get to see all the fresh, young talent,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but I see the bands and watch them grow.”

“I’ve always loved music,” the Madison, Wisc., native said. “I’ve been working in the store, what, 30 years now. I don’t get excited about the day to day. (Battle of the Bands) has empowered me to do something new and creative that’s also directly related to my business.”

Posted: Thu, 06/14/2012 - 1:31 pm
Last updated: Fri, 07/13/2012 - 2:33 pm