Front Gate Tickets’ Brandon Lavoie leads the panel “The Festival Promoter: Past, Present and Future” with SGE’s John Reese, Rich Best of Live Nation, Country Nation’s Julie Matway and Prime Social’s Adam Lynn.
Could Route 91 be making a return?
The four time Las Vegas country music festival was the site of one of the country’s deadliest mass shootings in 2017 when a gunman opened fire on more than 20,000 people, killing 59. Organizer Live Nation opted not to hold the event in 2018, but now a representative of Live Nation’s country festival division says organizers are working hard to bring the event back in 2019.
“Route 91 Harvest here in Las Vegas is one of my kids,” says Julie Matway, COO of Country Nation, the festival division led by Live Nation’s president of country touring Brian O’Connell. Matway was asked during “The Festival Promoter: Past, Present and Future” panel moderated by Front Gate Tickets’ Brandon Lavoie which festival Matway was most looking forward to next year when she addressed Route 91.
“I am looking forward to how and when we are going to bring that back. We are working hard on that. Hopefully we will get it online for 2019,” said Matway to a round of applause.
Amplify reached out to O’Connell, who confirmed that an effort was underway to return the festival next year, with more details to come in the future, including a plan to honor those who died or were injured in the shooting attack.
The Route 91 news capped off a lively 35-minute discussion on the health of the festival business and the growing presence of artist-curated festivals and why they have been so successful, especially in recent years.
“The artist curation model, that is truly where my passions lie,” said president of booking for Live Nation Los Angeles Rich Best. “As artists are looking to find new ways to brand themselves to generate additional revenue streams this is becoming a pretty important and emerging facet of the festival business.”
Best, who has a storied career with ties to Seattle’s 90s music scene, has worked on Ohana Music Festival with Eddie Vedder and Cal Jam with Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters amongst other artist curated events.
According to panelist and SGE owner John Reese, these events are doing so well in a saturated market because the artists are truly engaged in these projects and putting in the creative effort.
“Part of how we did Knotfest was we engaged the artist (Slipknot). With a piece of the backend, they are engaged essentially as an owner and as a brand,” said Reese, who currently works on 30 artist curated events. “The artist becomes a part of it. He wants to be engaged in it and he also wants to create an immersive environment.”
Reese explained that artists are able to deliver special moments for fans that an average promoter couldn’t do or would have to shell out a ton of money to get. He explained that Eddie Vedder will play with the first band at 1:30pm for Ohana fest, engaging the crowd from the moment the gates open.
“My recent vessel that we just did last year was called Seven Peaks in Colorado. Dierks Bentley is our partner,” added Matway. “He curated more than just the talent. He ended up bringing Trombone Shorty who is his buddy. I didn’t pay him. He did a whole collaboration on the stage with him and Elle King.”
The panel also echoed the idea that artists already have fanbases that they can directly market to with social media.
“We just announced Musink Fest this morning (Dec. 10) with Travis Barker. Travis Barker has eight million Instagram followers. I spend a lot less money on advertising because he pushes the hell out of it,” added Reese.
Panelist and founder of Prime Social Adam Lynn questioned the group on whether working with an artist can create additional stress since they are visionaries, not necessarily producers with a hard grasp on costs and other tedious workings of an event.
“I have talked to Excision at four in the morning,” said Reese. “The horrors stories are that there aren’t any because the artists are so engaged and they are so passionate. That passion sees it way through from the moment you put pen to paper with the idea all the way through the midnight on the Sunday night when the festival is over.”
The late night calls and extravagant requests are part of the job, the panel explained the audience.
“Being a producer, you are a gigger. You are someone who wants to be at a gig for 12 to 16 to sometimes 24 hours,” said Matway who says she splits her time between Detroit, Nashville and the road.
Matway continued: “If you are in the business as a producer, you should make sure you are a producer and that that is what you want to do. There are people who come through the team that think it is sexy and that get in there, we’re all standing in the rain and we have to shovel mulch because we had a catastrophe with a manlift.”
“You have to love the job because the hours are absolutely crazy,” said Lynn. “I think everyone up here has moved a bike rack, picked up garbage at the end of the night, first one there last one out type deal. You really need to love your craft because this is a tough lifestyle.”