The Great GoogaMooga is back for seconds.
Superfly Present’s food-and-music festival is returning to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park tonight after an inaugural year that made more headlines for its problems than its successes—namely, bringing together several acts big and small, dozens of acclaimed New York restaurants and 40,000 hungry foodies and music fans. But Superfly has made several changes to the festival to address last year’s problems in hopes of improving attendees’ experiences and, presumably, its own bottom line.
GoogaMooga 2012 was beset by logistical issues: intolerably long lines for food, major food and water supply problems, poor cellphone coverage. Jon Mayers, cofounder of Superfly, which also runs Bonnaroo and San Francisco’s Outside Lands, promises a litany of improvements that should make the main focus of the festival—eating and drinking—much more enjoyable. “Our biggest issue last year was the volume,” he tells Billboard. “We looked at our experiences from other past events, and we made certain projections about what we thought people would eat. And obviously, it really blew that away. Which is a good problem, but it’s a problem. This year we’ll have better projections going in, and we’ve built up our team.”
Another solution? More participating restaurants—85 of them, to be exact. “There will be more points of sale,” Mayers says. “But we also simplified the process. Every vendor is only selling one option rather than multiple options, which should make things move faster and less chaotically. With that said, it’s still restaurants serving a mass of people, so there will be lines, but it should be much, much improved from last year.”
However, the most obvious change is GoogaMooga’s addition of tonight’s paid-admission concert, headlined by the Flaming Lips and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; last year’s edition consisted of two free-admission days. Ticket buyers for tonight are guaranteed admission to the festival on either Saturday or Sunday, when Kool & the Gang, De La Soul, Matt & Kim and others will be performing; the other tickets to the free days were distributed via online raffle.
The paid-admission expansion opens up a brand-new revenue stream for Superfly, which last year relied on pricey VIP packages (as well as sponsors, of course). “The business model made sense to extend to three days,” Mayers says. “The ticket price for Friday is very reasonable. $54.50 for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Flaming Lips? Arguably either one of those could command that price. It’s at a special venue—Prospect Park—and you also get entrance to Sunday and Saturday. It’s a good value, and that’s something we try to be very, very conscious about.”
A second, smaller stage—curated by Manhattan venue Joe’s Pub, known for its extremely diverse bookings—will feature bhangra-jazz fusion band Red Baraat, Afro-Colombian eight-piece M.A.K.U. Soundsystem, and other mainly New York-based upstart acts. “We wanted diversity with a local focus,” says Shanta Thake, director of Joe’s Pub. “When you have an outdoor festival that’s free in Brooklyn, you want to make sure that everyone feels they have a place there, that’s it’s not just for this young, white community. You want to make sure it reaches out to people that live in the surrounding neighborhoods. We want people of all ages and all ethnic backgrounds, people with families, to feel that this is speaking to them.”
Superfly also made major adjustments to the festival’s VIP packages. Last year, the $250 “ExtraMooga” package promised more food without the lines, but failed to deliver on both counts. (There were even online reports about fistfights over scarce pieces of fried chicken.) In the end, Superfly refunded all premium ticketholders. “Last year, we looked at what was out there in the market, and there were a lot of things priced in that range,” Mayers says. “But we realized that wasn’t right for GoogaMooga. This year we’re focusing on the cocktail experience.” For $79.50, VIP ticketholders will receive five drink tickets and access to two separate venues—one with a better main-stage view—with different bars and mixology seminars. “It’s gotten a great reception; we sold out both Saturday and Sunday very quickly,” Mayers adds.
Another revenue replacement for last year’s expensive VIP tickets are quirky, concept-heavy “pop-up” restaurants, including a renaissance mini-fair thrown by noted Bushwick pizzeria Roberta’s. Patrons will pay $20 for a full meal with s DJs and other exclusive entertainment. “With all of our events we look for other ways to create revenue that work within the event and hopefully give value to festival goers,” Mayers says. “We wanted to do that in a creative, immersive way that shows off the restaurants’ personalities.”
Sponsors, including Jet Blue and Blackberry, are naturally an important part of the equation as well, but GoogaMooga has made a point of incorporating them in unorthodox, unobtrusive ways, Mayers says. Lexus, for example, is sponsoring sports-style, giveaway trading cards that feature individual chefs, beer makers and wine makers. “Our in-house marketing group does all our sponsorships and we’ve done it that way from the beginning—because no one can sell against our property better that we can,” Mayers says. “It’s all about doing things creatively. The reading cards are an example of that. It’s kind of like the cool concert poster. They help build a brand that people care about.”
With the improvements, Mayers hopes that GoogaMooga can put a chaotic 2012 in the past and keep expanding in the years to come—perhaps even beyond its current three-day format. “The idea of celebrating restaurants, community, and local businesses and aggregating them all together, there’s a lot of potential with that concept,” Mayers says. “There’s definitely no lack of amazing restaurants in New York, so there’s plenty to build off of. I hope we’ll continue to grow.”