From rock and wine in California to country in Michigan, first-time festivals aim to find their place
Inaugural festivals like BottleRock Napa Valley in California (May 9-12), Boston Calling (May 25-26) and Faster Horses Festival in Brooklyn, Mich. (July 19-21) will attempt to establish themselves among hundreds of other large-scale music events in the 2013 festival season. In addition to the financial and logistical obstacles that go into launching a new multiple-day music event, perhaps an even bigger challenge is establishing credibility with artist representatives who control whether an act will commit to performing.
"There's no history to fall back on," says BottleRock co-founder Gabriel Meyers, whose Will Power Entertainment-promoted festival encompasses music, comedy, wine and food, and boasts a packed lineup consisting of Kings of Leon, the Black Keys and Zac Brown Band, among others. "Everyone wants to know who we are and what we're doing."
To help cast away doubt about BottleRock, Will Power tapped the services of veteran audio/lighting/video company Delicate Productions. Red Frog Events took a similar approach prior to launching last summer's inaugural three-day Firefly Music Festival in Delaware, which drew about 30,000 per day with performances by the Killers, the Black Keys and Jack White.
"We partnered with Lambda Productions, which does a lot of production across the U.S., and they helped us learn how to put on a world-class stage show," Firefly director Greg Bostrom says. "We also partnered with talent buyer Integrity Events to help us contract with bigger agencies and artists."
Boston Calling producer Crash Line Productions went a step further by forging partnerships with trusted New York-based promoter the Bowery Presents and the National's Aaron Dessner (whose band is headlining the festival) to help curate the lineup.
"We got the National to commit early, and from that came phone calls from [Dessner] to specific bands, which gave us a lot of credibility right out of the gate," Crash Line co-founder Brian Appel says, noting that the Bowery Presents' involvement carried weight as well. "If we didn't have Bowery, we wouldn't have a festival." The Memorial Day weekend event will also include performances by fun., the Shins and Of Monsters and Men.
Meanwhile, even established concert promoters face challenges. The inaugural Live Nation-produced Faster Horses Festival may have confirmed performances from top country acts like Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan, but there's still the matter of letting the public know the festival exists.
"That is the single biggest challenge," Live Nation Nashville president Brian O'Connell says, adding that there's no secret to spreading the word. "You have to spend all day, every day with every single email, tweet and Facebook post explaining what you're talking about."