The first Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., in 2000 sold out 70,000 tickets in 11 days over the Internet. The success heralded a lot of things, including the arrival of Jonathan Mayers, 38, as a major player in the live entertainment business.
Back in '02, Superfly was a New Orleans-based boutique management and promotion firm active in the jam scene, and AC Entertainment, Superfly's sturdy Bonnaroo partner, was a Knoxville, Tenn.-based regional promoter. Today, Bonnaroo is a fixture on the global music map and is largely credited with jump-starting the North American music festival scene. In retrospect, it seems a risky move for Bonnaroo financial backer Coran Capshaw, founder of Red Light Management, to place such faith in Mayers, AC Entertainment president Ashley Capps and their crew. But Bonnaroo has since evolved to become arguably the most diverse music festival of all, booking talent that reflects the eclectic iPods of music fans.
Mayers has not rested on his laurels. In the past 12 months, Superfly launched the GoogaMooga Festival, an innovative food- and drink-centric event in Brooklyn that struggled but will return in 2013; launched the Bonnaroo 365 YouTube channel; produced, with Another Planet Entertainment, the fifth Outside Lands festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in August; and teed up a third edition of the Life Is Good Festival in Boston for September. Additionally, Superfly Marketing Group is entrenched in strategic branding initiatives for such companies as Intel, JetBlue and Adult Swim. And Bonnaroo in 2012 sold out again.
The philosophy of melding art and commerce is simple. "Creative drives everything," Mayers says. "It's why we do it. Commerce gives us the fuel to take it to new heights."