(l to r) Greg Bostrom, Director, Firefly; Ashley Capps, President, AC Entertainment; Dave Frey, Partner, Lockn’ Festival; Charlie Jones, Partner, C3 Presents; Adam Lynn, Managing Partner, Prime Social Group; Jordan Wolowitz, Partner, Founders Entertainment; Moderator Andrew Dreskin, Founder & CEO , Ticketfly NEW YORK, NY—Underlining festivals’ continued growth and importance in the concert marketplace, Wednesday, November 13 saw the 2013 Billboard Touring Conference and Awards hold an informational panel titled “Building the Perfect Beast: The Keys to a Festival That Lasts,” which addressed everything from preparing for bad weather, to stage set up, to safety, and to the popularity of the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) genre at these festivals. “The rave has gone mainstream,” moderator Andrew Dreskin, Founder & CEO of Ticketfly, said during the event.
The panel consisted some of the top festival producers in the business, including Greg Bostrom, director of the Firefly festival; Ashley Capps, president of AC Entertainment, which produces Bonnaroo; Dave Frey, partner, Lockin’ Festival; Charlie Jones, partner, C3 Presents, which produces Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits Music Festival; Adam Lynn, managing partner, Prime Social Group; and Jordan Wolowitz, partner, Founders Entertainment.
Before jumping into the details of what goes into producing a good music festival, Dreskin gave the panelists all the things you need to have the ‘full festival experience’: a trash bag to protect you from the rain, a Coors Light beer (each panelist had to pay $10 for the beer), and a blinking light necklace for the EDM stage.
Joking aside, Dreskin mentioned that bad weather is a factor that all festivals will see at some point, and must prepare for. However, preparing for bad weather doesn’t just mean handing out ponchos and herding the audience under tents—weather can also affect the stages and the safety of the crew, the musicians and the fans.
In recent years, high wind gusts have caused stages to collapse, forcing the touring industry to take a closer look at how to assemble stages to make them stronger, and how to set up a strategic plan to make sure everyone is safe.
“We use very reputable staging vendors,” said Jones. “What shed the most light on this was at State Fair when that collapsed. [A wind gust caused a stage to collapse at the Indiana State Fair in 2011 during a Sugarland concert, killing seven and injuring 58- Ed.] To some degree, you can’t do anything about it. But what you can do is prevent injuries and deaths, and the promoter is the one making ultimate decision to stop a concert in the case of bad weather.”
“I think there’s a lot of situations where perhaps there are others doing festivals, trying to get the cheapest services, which is not always the best,” said Oswald. “I think the key thing is going forward and working towards this safer environment for everybody. You don’t want to kill the band or anyone at the show, and you really have act together with your insurance guy. That’s what it comes down to— there’s so much at stake.”
Preparedness also pertains to the other big challenge these festivals promoters face—with the growing popularity of EDM, producers are also facing the use of the rave drug “Molly,” which caused numerous deaths at festivals this past summer. The question Dreskin proposed, was how these promoters can keep their attendees safe.
“A lot of it is educating people,” Wolowitz said. “We can provide as much staff and services as possible, but how can you find one little pill on these kids? People are going to unfortunately make their own mistakes.”
Lynn said another big factor is keeping attendees hydrated, because one of the biggest heath risks with users of the drug is dehydration. “Water used to be a big revenue source, but now you need to provide free water,” he said.
Jones said he hires medical staff that are aware of the symptoms of ‘Molly,’ and has them patrol the crowds to look for symptoms so they can provide these users with the proper medical attention before it gets worse.
“They’re not looking to arrest people, just looking for symptoms. If they see symptoms, they will quietly pull aside the person and give them water and the necessary stuff to get better,” Jones said.
“We really encourage fans to communicate with us. If people are pushing themselves beyond the limit of safety, you can’t do too much. But we can educate people and ask everybody to keep their eyes open if anyone getting themselves into trouble,” added Capps.
Dreskin also asked if any of the festival producers have gotten offers to be bought out, but the consensus with the panelists was that they are too dedicated to their festivals to want to put it into the hands of another company.
“We’re very passionate on what we do,” said Capps. “Speaking for myself, I’m not looking for a way out. I’m interested in possible strategic partners or ideas on how we can improve, but long-term commitment is crucial to success.”