Festivals are unique events in that they create temporary communities. They bring together artists, crews and thousands of music fans to briefly celebrate together and then everyone disperses, heading off in their own directions. Pro audio providers have always played a primary role in producing festivals and forging the connection between acts and audiences. In recent times, however, pro audio manufacturers have also been increasingly attracted to festivals and the temporary communities they create, as they provide singularly exclusive opportunities to ingratiate their brands with sound professionals—and often artists as well—before they all go their separate ways.
As a key example, just look at Milwuakee, WI’s eternally popular Summerfest, billed as The World’s Largest Music Festival. Hitting its 50th anniversary next year, the event stretches over 11 days, serving up more than 800 acts on 12 stages as it provides more than 1,000 performances that are enjoyed by nearly 900,000 people every year. The kinds of acts vary greatly across all genres, but also all levels of success; headliners this year at the Marcos Amphitheater included Paul McCartney, Sting & Peter Gabriel, Luke Bryan, Pitbull, Selena Gomez and Weezer, among others.
Here, too, the opportunity presented itself for pro audio companies to get involved, noticeably Full Compass, national retailer of pro audio, pro video, AV, lighting and MI gear, based in nearby Madison, WI.
“This year, we were dual sponsors,” enthused Fran Greenman-Schmitz, vice president of Marketing for Full Compass. “We were the backline sponsor for all stages except the Marcus Amphitheater, so there were 12 stages in total and we backlined 11 of them. We provided drums, guitar amps, cases, accessories, stands, cables and all the stuff that goes along with them.
“We also sponsored the Emerging Artist series which was a showcase and competition for up-and-coming bands that don’t have sponsorship yet or management,” said Greenman-Schmitz. “That was a great way for us to get an audience with some of these rising bands and help them learn about some of the gear options that they have and how we can help them make themselves sound better.”
Full Compass first began planning the massive backline effort back at this year’s NAMM Show in January, and ultimately provided Pearl drums and Zildjian cymbals; a variety of guitar amps from Orange, Fender, Vox, Blackstar; and SKB and Gator cases to every stage, among other gear. With the massive undertaking now over, the retailer is selling the stage-used gear on its website.
Summerfest also provided an opportunity for Full Compass to get its own brand in front of pros at every stage, too. “We had signage backstage, we had all our equipment labeled and such, so there was some brand recognition, plus we also gave swag bags out to all the bands and their crews,” Greenman-Schmitz recounted. The result was that “these bands and crew people know what we did, and that as a company, we’re not far from the festival. We had a brochure in the bags that gave people a little background on the company, and there were t-shirts in there. The last few days of Summerfest, I started seeing people wearing them, so that was great.”
Another pro audio presence at Summerfest was VUE Audiotechnik, which teamed with Wisconsin-based sound company Clearwing to use a variety of VUE’s loudspeakers at the 8,000-seat Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard Stage. As a result, the likes of Gavin Degraw, Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Ben Folds, Matisyahu, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Kool and the Gang, OAR and others performed through an al-12 scalable ‘Acoustic Linearity’ line array for the crowds and guests of VUE who wanted to hear the system. Bolstering the new PA, too, were VUE’s al-8 as down fills and brand-new, dual 21-inch hs-221 self-powered subwoofers.