Winter Jam has been a staple in the Christian concert scene for fans across the country for years, but it hasn’t always been the mega tour it is today. Part of the team behind Winter Jam for two decades, Shannon Habas shares how it grew from a small tour in a few civic centers into the bicoastal, best-selling, 60-city arena tour that just wrapped for 2017. In her own words, Habas gives us a glimpse of where it all began and what her team has learned along the way.
Winter Jam has a threefold mission: evangelism, entertainment and good value. Eddie Carswell, founder of [contemporary Christian music group] NewSong, saw a need to bring wholesome entertainment to people at an affordable price, so the idea for Winter Jam was born. He recognized there’s a community that can’t afford high-dollar shows, but he didn’t want to skimp on production for them. He wanted to give thrift store prices but not a thrift store show, so he decided to take up $10 donations at a door to avoid the fees that often come with selling tickets. Plus, when ticket prices go up, you eliminate part of your audience, and Eddie wanted to bring forth evangelism. Our hope is, thanks to the minimal cost, people will bring their non-Christian neighbors too.
Winter Jam is not for a specific demographic, which is why it’s been so wide-sweeping. It’s a come- together moment for everyone, from children to grandparents. The shows have all genres of music, from contemporary Christian to rap to heavy metal. We bring in top-selling artists across the board. It’s a $10 donation for 10 artists in a four-hour show, so there’s something everyone will like.
Each city has a volunteer street team of 200 with a leader who spends several hours a week year- round on volunteer recruitment and marketing. Volunteers make calls and go to high school Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, Baptist Student Fellowship gatherings, college events and area churches, inviting people to come to Winter Jam. They also distribute fliers in retailers like Family Christian and Chick-fil-A, and at Christian concerts in the months leading up to Winter Jam. On event day, our volunteers are at the venue for nearly 24 hours. We couldn’t do it without them.
We don’t have a huge marketing budget. Contemporary Christian radio stations and some mainstream stations work with us financially. We also do some print media, occasional billboards in big markets like Atlanta and a lot of social media. We come up with contests on social media to engage the audience, like asking followers to send us a selfie from Winter Jam last year. Some Chick-fil-A and Bojangles’ restaurants will put fliers in takeout bags for us. Chick-fil-A also partners with us to cater food backstage, and we, in turn, allow them to bring a cow to the show for kids. Volunteers are a huge part of marketing too.