Not Your Father’s First Avenue
As rock-club operators go, 34-year-old former TV exec Dayna Frank isn’t typical. And neither are the changes she’s making to Minneapolis’s most iconic music venue.
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When Dayna isn’t in Minneapolis clocking on-the-ground hours at First Ave., she’s working remotely from her home in Los Angeles, where she lives with her wife and their 15-month-old son.
Starting a family led her to boldly state the business’s position on the same-sex marriage issue. During the last election cycle, she purchased a downtown Minneapolis billboard ad that read, “Don’t limit the freedom to marry. First Avenue supports same-sex marriage and equality for all people.”
Would the old First Ave. have put money from its coffers toward such a personal political issue? “Some things are more important than business, to be honest,” Dayna reflects. “It feels like music is always the progenitor of social change, and we really consider ourselves a cultural hotbed of what the emotions are in the Twin Cities. So it felt like an issue where, if our staff cared about it and our customers cared about it, then [the business] should care about it also.”
With the help of Kranz and Grover, Dayna is shaping First Avenue into a more collaborative, inclusive, transparent, and innovative business. Her success as an entertainment entrepreneur recently earned her a panel seat at UCLA’s well-respected Women in Business Leadership Conference, alongside high-powered corporate executives from the likes of CBS, Taco Bell, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“There are very few women who manage to stay independent and really carve their own path—it’s a lot riskier,” says Dayna. “But when you have this chance to go on your own and really take a risk and do something that you feel is truly meaningful, both for your family and your community—it seems too good to even imagine.”
Andrea Swensson is a music reporter at Minnesota Public Radio’s 89.3 the Current and the voice of the Local Current Blog.
10 Things You Might Not Know About First Avenue
★ 500,000 people visit First Ave. each year.
★ You get in free on your birthday, regardless of whether the show is sold out. Plus, they even toss in a drink coupon good for a free bottle of champagne.
★ First Ave.’s beloved stage manager, Conrad Sverkerson, is celebrating his 25th anniversary with the club this summer.
★ Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was so invested in the club’s future that he did a stage dive when First Ave. reopened in 2004, something he repeats from time to time.
★ The Record Room (formerly the VIP Room) was remodeled in 2010. It got its new name from the club’s actual record room—a closet that was used to store the deejay’s vinyl records and turntables back before everyone had laptops.
★ Roughly 10 percent of the stars on the outside wall are left blank, for the staff to add to as they see fit. The newest addition was Macklemore.
★ Speaking of the stars, they are repainted every 10 years, most recently in 2010.
★ The stars weren’t on the building when Purple Rain was filmed, nor were they there between 1997 and 2000, when the owner didn’t have the cash to cover the paint job.
★ The club’s staff designed its own system of “trouble lights” to alert security about problems in the crowd. When a particular light on the ceiling flashes, staff know to run to the corresponding space to address the emergency.
★ 200 employees are on the payroll at First Ave., and at least 50 are working at any given show.