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OfflinemotamanM
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Profits beaucoup at Bonnaroo
    #2274436 - 01/26/04 12:45 PM (13 years, 4 months ago)

http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~28704~1908614,00.html

Article Published: Sunday, January 25, 2004
Profits beaucoup at Bonnaroo
While the music industry is reeling from financial woes, an unknown jam-band festival in Manchester, Tenn., has sold 70,000-plus tickets two years running - without spending a dime on marketing. Its success has become the envy of the live-music world.

By Ricardo Baca
Denver Post Popular Music Writer

With promoters sometimes spending hundreds of thousands of dollars just to advertise a single concert or music event, it's worth noting what Superfly Productions paid to market its first Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2002.

Nothing.

Organizers were prepping for a massive ad buy to promote the brand-new jam-band-centric festival, which would take over 600 acres of farmland in Manchester, Tenn., 60 miles southeast of Nashville.

But they stalled upon noticing that tickets were already selling better than they had expected. And these weren't your ordinary Ticketmaster-variety tickets, either. These buys came straight off Superfly's website, sans a Ticketmaster fee and generated by 100 percent Internet-generated hype.

In the course of three weeks, during which more than 70,000 tickets were sold, Bonnaroo helped legitimize the jam-band scene in the mainstream's eyes and became the most envied live-music model in the entire U.S. concert industry.

A year later, Bonnaroo 2003 sold all its 80,000-plus tickets in less than two weeks using the same methods. Superfly is prepping in the next few weeks to announce the lineup and on-sale date for Bonnaroo 2004, which will descend on Manchester June 11-13.

"We knew it was going to be successful, just not as successful as it was," said Superfly's Rick Farman of that first year. "We would have been satisfied selling 40,000 or 50,000, or less than that even. But instead we sold 70,000 tickets with no advertising - all through our website. We planned to use Ticketmaster, but we never got the chance to."

A few months ago at the Aspen Artist Development Conference, music industry leaders - including Farman - debated the music world's woes against the scenic backdrop of Aspen Mountain. They gave kudos where they were due, but amid such tumultuous times, the bad outnumbered the good.

The good buzz included 50 Cent, iTunes, Hillary Duff and Bonnaroo - a fact that puts the Southern festival in a fortunate but curious light.

Whereas the world at large is all too familiar with 50 Cent's grizzled baritone, the iPod's sleek packaging and Duff's vibrant mug, their Bonnaroo knowledge resembles the festival's advertising budget.

Nothing.

"It's one of the largest festivals in the country, and it's totally under the radar," said Al Schnier, vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist for the New York jam band moe., which has played Bonnaroo's first two years and is negotiating for a possible third appearance. "(The festival) certainly helped to put this scene on the map, or at least it acted as a huge road sign.

"It really should be some sort of sign to the music industry that there is a huge scene like this, despite the fact that it's more or less underground, that exists and thrives on its own completely ignoring the mainstream," he said.

And why shouldn't it ignore the mainstream when the mainstream ignores it?

Jeff Raines, the guitarist for the New Orleans-based jam/funk band Galactic, was more than surprised to walk into the media tent at the first Bonnaroo and see MTV and CNN covering the scene.

"Bonnaroo took to the mainstream media like nothing had before," Raines said.

It doesn't help that many people reading this article are unfamiliar with moe. or Galactic. Both play Denver's 3,600-capacity Fillmore Auditorium on Feb. 13-14. And they are an integral part of the jam-band scene created by the Grateful Dead and nurtured since by Phish, Widespread Panic and many others.

"Most people haven't heard about moe. or Galactic, which is unusual considering that both of them have very solid followings and have been around for a while," said Casey Richardson, a Bonnaroo vet and a publicist with the Denver-based promotion and distribution company INDIEgo. "But there's a lot of music that goes unnoticed in the mainstream, and you have to be the kind of person who will seek it out on your own."

Mike McGuirk has made a living out of tracking down obscure music while researching his book "The Music Festival Guide: For Music Lovers and Musicians," which hits stores Feb. 1 via Chicago Review Press. He's no jam-band fan but admires their open-mindedness.

"The jam-rock folks, say what you want, but they're certainly always looking for something new," McGuirk said.

Exposing jam-band fans to new music is an essential part of Bonnaroo, according to Superfly's Farman. It's why his company books acts like Neil Young, the Flaming Lips and Jurassic 5 into the mix with the String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic and Galactic.

"All the genres seem to be included," said Galactic's Raines. "They do a lot of eclectic acts. Norah Jones was there, and so were the great bluegrass bands. The DJs provided an interesting mix."

The festival's enormous stature - both in fans and bands - is what separates Bonnaroo from other U.S. festivals, according to the String Cheese Incident's Billy Nershi.

"None of the big record label bands are there or the radio-hit bands - it was all bands that had built up their fan bases by touring," said Nershi, the guitarist for the Boulder-based String Cheese Incident, which played the first Bonnaroo. "Although all the bands were very different from each other, that was the thing they had in common. They didn't get their fans by radio hits or record label pushes.

It was by hard work out on the road."

And in the course of putting on a good show, the festival brought the scene to the forefront for many.

"The impact of this music on the (industry) really manifested itself in Bonnaroo," said Ray Waddell, a Nashville-based senior writer for Billboard magazine. "(The festival) legitimized this movement because these jam bands and their popularity have gone under the radar, even though Widespread Panic, Gov't Mule, Phish and Dave Matthews have been going out and doing strong business over the years."

Promoting jam-band music hasn't ever been a walk in the park for the Boulder-based Madison House Publicity, which handles the String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams, the Steve Kimock Band and Garage A Trois.

"For so long press and radio and the industry at large have ignored this growing group of fans that buy multiple tickets to multiple shows and multiple albums," said Carrie Lombardi, a publicist with Madison House. "It's an easy community to ignore from a mainstream perspective, because, quite frankly, they don't know what to do with them.

"Jam bands aren't as sexy as the media need its artists to be. They're musicians not performers," she said. "They don't want to be told to lose weight or cut their hair. They won't want to be molded into the next Britney Spears."

But who needs the media when you have Internet-savvy fans and fanatically detail-oriented websites that keep the masses more than informed?

"There's a real coconut telegraph among these fans," said Billboard's Waddell. " And there's half your battle won already, because they're doing a lot of the legwork for you. It all goes back to the Grateful Dead and their legacy."

Brian Schwartz works out of Boulder with veterans (Widespread Panic) and rookies (Rosehill Drive), but what he's most impressed about is how Bonnaroo sells its tickets.

"It sells out very quickly, and it's all through word of mouth," said Schwartz, who hit the first Bonnaroo because he was handling Panic's books at the time.

Madison House's Lombardi doesn't see the Bonnaroo business model applying to any other music genre because jam-band fans are so unusually supportive, interconnected via the Internet and willing to travel.

And travel they must, when it comes to Bonnaroo.

Manchester isn't exactly a metropolis and because of limited infrastructure and hordes of people, a drive that typically takes a couple hours turns into a 12-hour journey. The String Cheese Incident's Nershi, with whom Lombardi works closely, remembered his 10-hour, stop-and-go trek into the farmlands.

"We were lucky enough to be in a tour bus, and we were just jumping out walking down the road and talking to people," Nershi said. "Everybody was just hanging out partying. We'd find some people to hang out with, and then 15 minutes later, the bus would come by and we'd get in."

Festivalgoers now come prepared for the trek by nominating a designated driver and packing mad amounts of alcoholic and sometimes hallucinogenic supplies.

"Down South people know how to party," Nershi said. "That's one of the main objectives, to blow it out a little bit."


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Offlinekosmic_charlie
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Re: Profits beaucoup at Bonnaroo [Re: motaman]
    #2275279 - 01/26/04 06:40 PM (13 years, 4 months ago)

Good article.  :thumbup:


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OfflineHarvestTheBrain
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Re: Profits beaucoup at Bonnaroo [Re: kosmic_charlie]
    #2291480 - 02/01/04 12:11 PM (13 years, 4 months ago)

cant wait to go again this year!


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InvisibleKrishna
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Re: Profits beaucoup at Bonnaroo [Re: motaman]
    #2376685 - 02/25/04 06:12 PM (13 years, 4 months ago)

I was at the last bonnaroo, and if I remember correctly, only 2 people were arrested during the whole thing... both were drunk people who tried to start fights. Lots of VERY open "vending" going on... lots of VERY open smoking going on... only got searched while entering "Centerroo" (the place where the stages were), and that was only to make sure people weren't bringing alcohol in. Actually had one of the people searching me find a bag of boomers, chuckle a bit, and toss it back in my backpack. I'd say be careful... but the scene seemed quite laid back to me (except for all the geezers out there selling fake acid and the like... damn profit-driven bastards!)

Krishna


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Offlinedebianlinux
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Re: Profits beaucoup at Bonnaroo [Re: Krishna]
    #2391739 - 03/01/04 05:21 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

well damnit! i wanna meet some of you fockers!
chincat... you were there?
i can understand not advertising on this board that your going tho... i guess.

damn good article about a damn good event. makes me proud to be tennessean (tho i'm proud regardless).

the only person i saw get popped by the cops was this dumbass who saw that they were bag checking at centeroo and he dumped his bag on the ground and started running. i was of the understanding that the fact that the event took place on private property was precisely the reason the cops turned a blind eye. the cops were there to protect and to serve.... imagine that.

if anybody is going and they don't wanna publicly announce that drop me a PM 'cuz I'd love to meetcha just to shake your hand and maybe pass a toke. I've yet to meet a shroomerite but i got a feeling that this year at Bonnaroo is going to change that.


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