Another Planet's Special Events Guru Danielle Madeira on Indie Mojo and Her 'See If It Sticks' Strategy: Q&A
The vp of strategic alliances and events for the biggest indie promoter in the U.S. talks catering to techies and "collecting people."
Outside Lands, which kicks off in San Francisco on Aug. 10, is an increasingly rare species for a major music festival: It isn't owned by concert promotion giant Live Nation or rival Anschutz Entertainment Group.
Danielle Madeira, 42, plays a key role in helping the 11-year-old festival's promoter, Another Planet Entertainment, thrive independently as the third-biggest promoter in the United States, with 650 events per year. The high-energy mother of two launched and now spearheads the Bay Area-based company's fast-growing private event business, which generates what she describes as "significant" revenue in its own right, but also helps secure partnerships for Another Planet's public shows.
At the venues the promoter operates -- such as San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium; the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys; the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, Calif.; and the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif. -- she has hosted evenings for deep-pocketed tech companies like Dropbox and SalesForce, securing talent such as Kelly Clarkson to Chromeo. Special occasions have included product launches for Apple, film-premiere parties for Pixar's Inside Out and Cars 2 and Genentech employee-appreciation events, including a four-hour private concert in 2016 that featured OneRepublic, The Killers, P!nk and Justin Timberlake. The biotech behemoth's gathering in 2018 featured performances from Ziggy Marley, The Steve Miller Band and Christina Aguilera.
"San Francisco is a persnickety market. We're very spoiled by the curation of food, music, even innovation and tech. It is a community that expects a lot," says Madeira, speaking from her office at Another Planet's expanding swath of office space in Berkeley's trendy Fourth Street shopping district. "You can't just throw an artist on a stage who sells millions of albums and assume it is going to do well with our audience," she adds. "You have to know the culture."
Madeira grew up in Oklahoma, moving to Los Angeles to intern for Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment before relocating to Northern California and becoming Zappos' eighth employee, and joined Another Planet's marketing team in 2003. In 2009, growing corporate demand prompted the promoter to start a special-events division and put Madeira in charge.
"My bosses realized that I enjoyed it, and a lot of the clients I kept as friends," says Madeira, who used her Zappos connection to help the shoe company's founder, Tony Hsieh, launch the Life Is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas. "My mom said, 'Some people collect stamps. Some people collect coins. You, in your life, have collected people.'" One job bonus: early access to the latest Pixar movies. "It takes that kind of client to make me look good to my kids," she jokes.
I am a very excitable person, but I am not a very salesy person. Part of my job is to reach out to a lot of corporate clients and personal clients. I like to do this in a more relaxed setting, because I don't think my attention span is great on the phone. So I go and have a lunch. If you're lucky and you don't have much going on afterward, you throw in a bottle of rosé, and we're all leaving pretty happy whether or not a deal was done. The best way to know if there is going to be a fit to work with a group is to sit down and eat with them, break bread.
Are there still benefits to being independent with giants like Live Nation competing in your market?
Hell yes. The benefit for me is having a boss like [Another Planet co-founder/CEO and former Bill Graham Presents president] Gregg Perloff, and [Another Planet co-founder/president] Sherry Wasserman is amazing as well. Once Gregg noticed how I built relationships he encouraged me, and there was no ceiling. For an independent, you can throw something at a wall and see if it sticks. My throwing at the wall was using the relationships that we have with bands to book these private corporate gigs that they make more money on because they are one-offs. I was able to create my own space because Gregg said, "Try it. See what happens."
With Live Nation and AEG steadily acquiring independent promoters and festivals, are there downsides to being the holdouts?
It does affect us. When bands get to a certain stature, it becomes a Live Nation or AEG tour. It simplifies things for artists. I get that. But it is still beautiful in our space that we can help grow bands. There aren't that many companies in the live space that still can. It usually starts with our 500-capacity club [The Independent in San Francisco] and goes to 8,500 at the Greek Theatre or Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Then it goes to one of our music festivals. You don't usually see a band built by a corporation.
Has the festival scene been damaged by high-profile disasters like 2017's Fyre Festival or Northern California's XO Fest, which promised extravagant events but couldn't deliver?
Anybody that comes in and tries to do what XO did -- which was clearly something that wasn't possible with what they were selling -- makes everybody in the music industry look bad. It can make people pensive about trying a new music festival, whether the organizers are skilled at it or not. It hurts, but it also helps the festivals that are already out. It makes us look better for the fact that we have been able to execute really well thus far.
Your special events include benefit concerts like Band Together Bay Area, which raised $23 million for those affected by California's North Bay Fire in 2017. Why do you think that event was so successful?
Rabbi [Ryan] Bauer of Congregation Emanu-El brought together San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer, SalesForce CEO Mark Benioff and Daniel Lurie, who is head of the nonprofit Tipping Point. They wanted all hands on deck. It was about putting away egos and having Another Planet working with Live Nation because it was for the betterment of the community. It was all these people getting together that never get together. It was amazing, and when it was over we had raised a lot of money. The next thing we know, Mark was able to book another one, and it was round two.
How do you balance working with the seemingly opposite worlds of corporate and creative?
Part of it is that these events are hugely important to the clients. To disregard that in any sort of way is to miss the whole point of what I am doing. If you treat them like it is just one of your other shows, then you miss the energy that you should be giving these people who have waited the whole year to have this celebration. To downplay a person's experience is unacceptable. I see that and I try to translate that to all the people involved.
What are corporate clients looking for?
You have to provide entertainment that speaks to everybody. They aren't asking to discover new bands. They want to dance and drink. It becomes how to make something special, have somebody familiar onstage and have them get excited.