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Evan Harrison Is New CEO of Huka Entertainment, Producer of Pemberton & Tortuga Festivals
The AOL and Univision veteran says Huka has five festival projects in development, including "one or two new ones in '16."
Music industry veteran Evan Harrison has been named CEO of Huka Entertainment, producer of destination site festivals like Pemberton Music Festival in British Columbia, and Tortuga Music Festival in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
The move is geared to allow A.J. Niland, Huka's founder and previous CEO, to focus on "creating new, one-of-a-kind festival experiences for music fans around the world." Niland's new title will be Chairman and Chief Experience Officer at Huka.
In addition to Pemberton, situated at the base of Mt. Currie in British Columbia (110,066 attendance in 2015), and the Tortuga on the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., (70,295 attendance in 2015), Huka has a growing touring division which promotes concerts across North America annually. Harrison will oversee the day-to-day operations of the company and lead Huka into what its principles expect to be "unprecedented" growth. Based in New Orleans, Huka also co-produces the Buku Music + Arts Project in New Orleans, which drew 29,000 in 2015.
Harrison has a lengthy history in the digital music space. He was the first head of digital marketing for BMG, leaving the label group in 2001 to join AOL, where he went on to become head of music and radio. In 2004, Harrison joined Clear Channel as president of digital, where he played a critical role in creating the company's multi-platform strategy, and ultimately, iHeartRadio. In 2012 Evan created a similar strategy for Univision, overseeing the company's approach to music on radio, television, online and in the live sector.
Harrison says he "caught the live music bug" during the festival boom and met Niland, "this young guy with a vision to do things a little different in the live event space," he says. "He locked in on the idea of developing festivals at destination locations where the destination is really the star of the event, and building a community around that backdrop. I fell in love with the vision, we built a special team, it seemed like an exciting time and place to make an impact on the music community."
According to Harrison, Huka has five festival projects in development, and is "likely to roll out one or two new ones in '16," he says. "We're continuing to look for sites that fit our criteria in being destination locations that are underserved from a music experience perspective. We're looking for like-minded partners, and that cuts across digital companies, to other promoters and really across the board."
Huka's concert division, which has sold 61,756 tickets this year, has relationships with some 50 venues and is "absolutely a focal point of our growth," Harrison says. Among the acts booked by Huka across the Southeast in the past year are Chris Stapleton, Bassnectar, Ray LaMontagne, Brett Eldredge, Sam Hunt, Slightly Stoopid and Grace Potter.
As corporate promoters including Live Nation and AEG Live build their portfolios in the uber-competitive festival space, Huka has found "a nice little niche" by focusing on destination sites, Harrison believes. "Our play is less of a mass volume play and more about having a real relationship with the fans that leads up to anticipation of the event, and then looking back at the great memories of the event," he says.
Harrison adds that Huka is also talking to potential investors and partners. "We have so many concepts and opportunities in our pipeline, we're just trying to constantly align with the right partners for each," he says.