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Head in the Clouds Founder on Jackson Wang’s ‘Magic Man,’ Fest Expansion

88rising founder Sean Miyashiro lays out the next steps for his growing festival brand ahead of this weekend's L.A. showcase.

Head in the Clouds festival is returning to Los Angeles for its fourth iteration this weekend (Aug. 20-21) with headlining performances from Jackson Wang and Rich Brian at Brookside at the Rose Bowl. NIKI was scheduled to perform, but had to pull out due to COVID-19. The boutique festival, put on by label and media company 88rising, expanded the event’s capacity this year following a triumphant stage takeover at Coachella earlier this year.

Head in the Clouds partnered with Coachella promoter Goldenvoice last year and has only seen its cultural imprint grow each year. “The festival is one of the most anticipated things that we do and it keeps getting bigger and better,” says 88rising founder Sean Miyashiro, who adds that the first couple of years the company had to push to get people’s attention. “Now, after we’ve done it a couple of times, the experience is really dope for people. And people talk about it, which does a lot of the work for us. We want to make sure that we put the pressure on ourselves to continually outdo what we did last time.”

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In a year where ticket sales at festivals have slowed down, especially in saturated markets like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Head in the Clouds continues to not only sell out but expand its capacity to accommodate demand. And this December, the signature festival that showcases Asian music across a wide range of genres, is heading to Jakarta in Indonesia (Dec. 3-4) and Manila in the Philippines (Dec. 9-10).

Billboard sat down with Miyashiro to discuss what fans can expect this weekend, the expansion festivals and where Head in the Clouds is headed in 2023.

What are you excited about at this weekend’s festival in LA?

I am excited for Jackson [Wang], who crushed it at Coachella. His eight minutes on stage was a big highlight for the whole weekend. For him to be able to premiere MAGIC MAN — his next album — on our stage…they’ve been rehearsing for like two and a half months.

How are you going to outdo yourself this weekend?

The festival is actually bigger this year. We expanded the capacity by like 10,000 people. It was already quite big last time with 25,000 people a day and now it is going up to 37,500. It is utilizing the space and the grounds for other things that you can experience that are more than just watching an act. We’ve done a lot of food programming and some artist experiences. We are partnering with artists who are playing the festival to build out unique experiences that extend their artistry. There are definitely a couple of other surprises. I’m pretty pumped about it.

Why did you decide to expand to another 12,000 people?

We sold out of our original allocation and we decided to expand it a little bit because there is so much room. Paul [Tollett] and I got together, he’s the founder of Coachella, and he’s done a lot of events at that venue. He provided a lot of their learnings about how to utilize the space. Paul was like, “Dude, your festival, it’s different.” He was saying with especially how many tickets we sold without announcing a lineup, “This is something really special.”

NIKI
NIKI Nat Lim

Is Goldenvoice involved in these expansion events?

No, but we are talking to them as a potential partner for some dates in the future. It all depends on where it is.

You are expanding in L.A., but you are also expanding in 2022 to Jakarta and Manila.

The response when we announced [Jakarta and Manila] was pretty insane. I don’t know. We’re just excited. Hopefully next year we can do a couple more. I don’t think we want to do too many. We want to gradually grow within our means and whatever we can meaningfully execute. Every market is super different. You’ve got to deal with different elements like different ticketing and marketing. We want to make sure we do everything at the highest quality.

Why Jakarta and Manila?

In Indonesia, the live space is incredibly supportive and super engaged. 88rising is quite big there. We were supposed to do Jakarta right when the pandemic started and we had to cancel it. So, this is two years in the making. If you look at our streaming, Indonesia rivals the U.S. in streaming for us. So, we wanted to show some love. Manila, same thing. It’s a super supportive market for us. We’re gonna start here but we’re going to go into some other places next year.

Where are you headed next year?

We’re probably expanding to two more places. So next year we’ll have five [festivals]. We’re still determining exactly where we might go. We might do another one in the U.S. Who knows?