Stagecoach Driver: Stacy Vee Talks Landing Garth Brooks, Amplifying Women in Country and Goldenvoice Life
An expanding portfolio of events hasn’t stopped the AEG veteran from finding new ways of promoting artists all around the country.
Each day, Stacy Vee steps off the elevator onto the fifth floor of AEG Presents and Goldenvoice's office in downtown Los Angeles and walks past a 40-foot tile mosaic of the Coachella Valley, home to Coachella and Stagecoach, the marquee festivals in the Goldenvoice portfolio. The new offices -- Goldenvoice left Wilshire Courtyard (also home to Billboard's L.A. office) in 2015 -- are chock-full of relics from past festivals, including a giant robot and a light-up sign that declares "Above and Beyond," parent company AEG Presents' ethos-driven tagline. Chairman/CEO Jay Marciano jokes that the offices should be called downtown LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) because of their extensive collection of festival artifacts.
"All the art in this office inspires me, but the thing that inspires me most is the staff," says Vee, who got her start working for Concerts West co-founder Paul Gongaware and later Paul Tollett, one of the early founders of Coachella. A native of St. Michael, Minn., Vee rose from Tollett's assistant to a newly created position as Goldenvoice's director of festival talent in 2015, taking over booking for the annual country music-driven Stagecoach Festival in Indio, Calif., and creating a Stagecoach Spotlight club tour for emerging artists like singer-songwriter Nikki Lane and Lukas Nelson, booked to play the three-day festival in April 2018 with Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban and Garth Brooks.
The thoughtfully reserved executive has seen Stagecoach grow from a 55,000-capacity show in 2007 with $5 million in ticket sales to an attendance of 72,000 10 years later, with ticket sales increasing five-fold to $25.4 million in 2016, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Besides Stagecoach, Vee, 41, oversees talent-buying for 13 AEG festivals, guiding the company's talent buyers through the maze of agents and managers to book events like New York's Panorama; Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Ala.; and the new Arroyo Seco festival in Pasadena, Calif. Billboard sat down with Vee to discuss her career, landing Brooks as a Stagecoach headliner and why she loves working with emerging artists.
What is your role as Goldenvoice's first director of festival talent?
I work with all the talent buyers for all of the festivals we have across the country. I organize everyone and strategize. Once a year we bring in all our AEG festival buyers and invite every single agency to pitch their clients to all the festivals at the same time. It's sort of like speed dating. An agent can come to these meetings and be like, "Whoa, I had face-to-face meetings and pitched my clients to 12 festivals today," which is an amazing opportunity for all the agencies, and for us, too.
What inspired you to create the Stagecoach Spotlight tour?
I wanted to continue the relationship with country music artists after Stagecoach. It was really sad for me to have Nikki Lane at Stagecoach and then say, "Bye! See you in four years." I bond with these people and I wanted to find a way to continue the relationship. And the Stagecoach database and mailing list is extensive, so why not use it to help promote artists across the country? We've done Old Dominion, Lane, Jamey Johnson and Margo Price. We're currently supporting Lukas Nelson.
What does having Garth Brooks mean for Stagecoach?
It's something that we've wanted since we started Stagecoach, something that we have dreamed about, but it just seemed like it was too big to ever happen. The timing just worked out this year. Garth wants to do everything once. He's big on firsts, and Sunday just seemed to be the day that worked for him. The way the lineup flows this year is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
When did you first start working on the festival?
I was Paul Tollett's assistant when we started Stagecoach in 2007. Paul was booking it and I was sending all the offers and supporting him. In 2007, Coachella was only one weekend. We've grown so much as a company since then, and Paul and I have so much more on our plates; I started taking over more and more. Eventually I saw it was time to take it off his plate so he could focus on other things.
What risks do you take in booking the Stagecoach lineup?
The risky decisions are booking a headliner that maybe doesn't strike a chord with the core audience. I have a good feel for who the Stagecoach audience is and what they're looking for -- I don't know that I would make a big misstep right now. The pool of people who can headline a country festival isn't huge and my pickings might be a little slim. That's why I work so far ahead of time.
Do you think women are well-represented in country music?
I can say that I am very pro-women in music. It's a priority to me. I always make sure that the ladies are well-represented at Stagecoach. Behind the scenes, the booking and marketing of Stagecoach is an entirely female team.
What about for artists?
I don't know that there's such a clear-cut answer. Maren Morris is an incredible artist and it doesn't seem to add up to me [why she's not bigger]. If you look at Kelsea Ballerini or Kacey Musgraves or Maren, they're all doing it their own way. They're not trying to be one of the boys, just like I'm not trying to be one of the boys. It's OK to be colorful and kind and funny and be a woman. That's an asset. I don't think that the women right now are necessarily trying to go head-to-head with the guys, I think they're just choosing their own path and going for it.
What about at Goldenvoice?
It's not everywhere that somebody can move up from an assistant to the level I'm at, because some companies would always see you [in] an administrative role. This company values you, and they promote from within. They believe in you and support you and give you a chance to grow.
What's it like working in this office?
In some ways there's a certain minimalism to it, very clean and artistic. There's also a kind of museum quality to it. It's a mix of both. When you have a clean template, then the personality pieces do all the talking. You can decide what the story is. It's not the building or the office or the walls.
What kind of person excels at Goldenvoice?
You have to care so much about Goldenvoice, Coachella and what you're working on and be really dependable. Beyond that, there's room for every kind of personality. That's our strength.
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
If you don't know the answer to something, it's OK to ask rather than pretend you know. How else are you going to learn? Even when I was Paul's assistant, in meetings, everybody had a voice. No matter your role, we're all working together. The Goldenvoice culture is incredible.