We sat down with 542 Entertainment President, Billie Jo Aasen to chat about her plans for the new year, and biggest challenges and developments playing out thus far. With over a decade of experience in producing live music events, Billie Jo Aasen is the Founder and Creative Director of 542 Entertainment (Inc.). Established in 2013, 542 Entertainment is a boutique Talent Buying and Turnkey Festival Events Company that offers a unique hands-on approach to creating and managing festivals. For the same fee a typical agency charges for booking talent, 542 Entertainment will assign a representative to consult on all aspects of an event, including booking talent, doing site visits and even managing backstage.
1. Tell us a little about 542 Entertainment and some of your latest initiatives : 542 Entertainment is a hands-on, boutique talent buying and festival production company, which I started almost 4 years ago.
I originally had created 542 because I saw a gap in the talent buying world that needed to be filled and it quickly became so much more. In year one we got our name out there and brought on amazing clients to work with. Year two we were fully producing festivals across North America and by year three we owned our own festival. We understand the risks associated with a festival and therefore have a better understanding of our clients concerns and needs. We are very hands on with all of our events because we know how fortunate we are to wake up and do this everyday. For 2017 our main initiatives are: Expanding further across the US, marketing our 542 brand as everything to date has been word of mouth, adopting cutting edge technologies to make our processes stronger and focusing in on the benevolence side of the company with each of our festivals- something we are very passionate and proud of. From our team members to our clients, we are all like a big family and are in it together to build the best events possible; that is my favorite part.
Merritt Mountain Music festival in British Columbia, Canada was my first music festival. I remember how excited everyone was about this event. Stores in surrounding areas would shut down and everyone would gather at the festival site. Once you were on site, you could see people literally building mini cities within the campgrounds and reuniting with friends they had met the year before. At that time, it was a very large festival. I knew from my first time attending that show, I wanted to be a part of that energy and creating that experience. It's funny because those feelings still stick with me we are working on a new festival, or cleaning up an existing one. If you can get you festival experience to the point where you are selling-out before you announce a line up - that's a true success in my mind, because people now are not buying just for the headliner, they're buying the experience.
What were the most memorable events you attended last year, and what made them exceptional from your point of view?
There are two shows that come to mind.1) Voodoo Fest - This show is held over Halloween in New Orleans. The best part about this festival is the costumes! People put a lot of detail into their costumes and its amazing to just feel the energy of the people. 2) Tall Tree Music Festival - This is a very small festival, nestled in the hills of Port Renfrew British Columbia, overlooking the ocean. I honestly don't think I have seen a prettier spot. The cool thing about this festival is that people can actually build wooden bars, huts, chairs and tables and leave them there for the following year. Another thing that I find is unique, is that there is no cell service. Where some people may not like this, I really felt it was a great way to disconnect and get to really know people. The vibe of this festival is truly magical in my mind.
4. How are emerging technologies impacting how your organization approaches the market?
I feel like there is something new to learn everyday. There are so many great tools to use that make our buying decisions better, our production practices more efficient and our overall communication stronger. That being said, it's hard to keep up but we do our best. The music Industry is in a very interesting time that comes with some tough learning curves but we intend to learn and grow as much as we can.
5. What do you view to be the most exciting experiences at your event that sets you apart from others?
All of our events are very fan focused and experience based. We always try to strive to have something unique and different to do, apart from the great music, that really engages the fans. We have a contest with our Mudfest (which is very unique on its own) that actually gives a fan and a friend a chance to spend a weekend at NASCAR in Vegas with our headliner and our team. It's a once in a life time experience that is unique to our fans that gets everyone very engaged and excited.
6. What role do you think marketing and content has in the overall production of the event?
It's huge. Marketing is so important and the content will help define who you are as a festival and what your brand personality is. After you have your marketing and brand strategy in place, that's where it is so important to match your onsite show production to live up to or exceed expectations that your brand and marketing has created prior to show day.
7. Looking back on your career in the industry, what has been the biggest learning experience for you personally?
I think the biggest learning experience for me was learning to adapt to so many different personalities and to not take everything personally. You put your blood, sweat and tears into projects and spend a lot of time away from your family and friends. This makes it hard to not take the smallest of things personally, because to me, it's all personal. It might be a good thing, it might be a bad thing, but this career is my dream, it's my hobby, and it's a huge part of who I have become. Because of this industry and this career, I have learned how to manage expectations, including my own, and how to truly look at scenarios from the other person™s point of view. Most people are trying to get to the same end goal and I feel fortunate that I am able to understand that and I do my best help us all get there.
8. What do you see for the future of 542 Entertainment on an industry level?
We are truly a family at 542. We work together from a place of passion, understanding and dedication to making the project great; I believe that shines through in everything we do. Because of this, our future looks bright. We are going to keep growing show by show, client by client, taking strategic risks and going that extra mile to build the experience for our fans and our clients. It™s a lot of really smart small moves within a company that elevate you into one big great company. We're fortunate to have such great clients, alliances and colleagues and will continue to grow step by step, to get us to where we inevitably want to be - To be the best in our field on an international level.
9. If you weren't involved in the festival industry, what job or field would you attempt?
I would always want work in music. There really hasn't been a plan B which I feel has made me work that much harder. I haven't really considered anything else.