“You’ve looking at a bunch of type-A women. We’re organized. We want to get all our ducks in a row,” said Stacy Vee, talent buyer at the all-women panel for “The Mane Attraction: An Insider’s Guide To Stagecoach” at the 2019 Billboard Live Music Summit. Vee was talking about why the lineup for Stagecoach — the world’s biggest country musical festival, held each year at the Empire Polo Fields in Coachella Valley — was announced in October, so far in advance of its April 24-26, 2020, dates. The long lead time not only gives Stagecoach attendees time to organize their families and friends and fully plan their Stagecoach experience, she explained, but also gives the festival some extra time in the spotlight ahead of other music festivals.
The panel was moderated by Billboard executive editor (West coast and Nashville) Melinda Newman and also included AEG vp global partnerships Caroline Burruss, CAA agent Meredith Jones, AEG Presents senior digital project manager of festivals Lindsay Lyons, Goldenvoice director of festival marketing Mapi Maron and country music artist Nikki Lane, who curates Stagecoach’s Stage Stop Marketplace.
One key topic of discussion was how the perception of country music has changed over the years. Newman noted there’s been a shift in country music, which — partly due to Stagecoach — is now considered to be cool. Reflecting the shift, Vee pointed to Lane as an example of this — an independent country music artist known for her edge and vintage style. She said that the country music genre, in general, is widely expanding. “Even Post Malone is a tiny bit country music,” said Vee. Referring to Diplo, who played Stagecoach last year and will play again in 2020, Vee said, “Diplo’s definitely not country music, but it’s just country enough.”
Lindsay Lyons admitted when she first started working the Stagecoach festival her response to country music was tepid: “Oh no, we have to work a country music festival.” She said she would have paid someone to have done her job, but now she would happily work three Stagecoach festivals a year if she could. She agreed that country music has expanded beyond its initially narrow confines, saying artists are “not just staying in the country music lane” anymore, citing previous Stagecoach performer Kacey Musgraves as an example of a country act who has crossed into pop music.
Another hot topic was Stagecoach promotion. From partnering with brands (15 of whom had already signed up before tickets went on sale) to having Stagecoach performers help with each year’s launch, to the Stagecoach Spotlight tour leading up to the main event, they’re looking for every way they can to boost the event. Still, some surprise promotional boosts happen by chance along the way as evidenced by the former Bachelor contestants who attended Stagecoach as part of an influencer strategy. Stagecoach became an integral storyline in Bachelor in Paradise, a reality TV show for former The Bachelor contestants, when contestant Blake Horstmann had romantic Stagecoach dalliances with two Bachelor in Paradise contestants, while at the festival. Drama ensued. Lyons said Stagecoach was mentioned on almost every episode, which resulted in a significant amount of Stagecoach travel packages sold during the airing of the television show in addition to a large uptick in social media followers. She hopes it will result in ABC partnering with Stagecoach. “I even joked that if they want me to go on the next season, I would probably consider it.”
Another happy promotional accident happened last year when actor Tom Hanks, whose wife Rita Wilson was performing at Stagecoach, didn’t have a 21-and-older wristband and was denied a beer. He then relayed the story with accompanying photos during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“We were all over the news in July when normally we are really quiet, so between Tom Hanks and Bachelor in Paradise, we’ve had a busy summer. We didn’t have to do anything and it was great,” said Lyons.
While upcoming Stagecoach headliners Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood and Eric Church have legions of fans, Vee talked about the importance of discovering artists, relying on streaming radio, playlists and her staff to bring new and lesser known artists to light. “My eyes and ears are always open…. Anytime I’m listening to the radio, I’m thinking, ‘Would this work at Stagecoach?'” She points to the all-female panel saying she has made it a priority to find women performers in addition to making sure to include a few wild cards to keep things outside of the box and exciting, like 2020 Stagecoach performers Bryan Adams, ZZ Top and Tom Jones.
Having Nikki Lane — who has previously played Stagecoach and who will be performing again in 2020 — as part of the Stagecoach team has been a boon for Vee. Not only does Lane help discover Stagecoach artists but also, as a vintage shop owner (she owns vintage boutique High Class Hillbilly in Nashville), she runs Stage Stop Marketplace where Stagecoach festival-goers can buy new and vintage clothes, drink a cocktail and watch lesser-known artists performing on the Horseshoe Stage. “It’s cool to watch it grow organically,” said Lane, who noted initially she was begging performers to fly out to perform at her marketplace but now has to tell them to wait patiently for her to put up her sign-up sheet in order to secure a performance slot.
Though Stagecoach has had wildly famous headliners, including Garth Brooks, Shania Twain and Tim McGraw since launching in 2007, there’s one performer the Stagecoach team is still dying to secure: “I hope we get Dolly [Parton] out there sometime,” said Lyons.
“We try every year,” added Vee.