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The State of the Festival Industry with Governors Ball Co-Founder Tom Russell

If you were giving The Festival Industry State of The Union, what would be in your address?

Our friends over at  Lennd sat down with Billboards 30 under 30 member, and co-founder of Governors Ball NYC, Tom Russell to chat about the developments in the festival production industry.

What does it take to produce a successful festival in a major city like New York?

First and arguably most importantly, is the talent, because New York City has so many different entertainment options every night of the week. You have to make sure that what you're offering is something that people won't say no to. With festivals being expensive, you have to make sure that the package of talent that you're offering just stands out and people would choose that over a concert or a club or a theater or a basketball game or a baseball game.

Second, you have to make sure that the venue, and the site that you build, is properly acquired and permitted. Also one where the promoter can have X amount of people and do it in a safe and fun way and really create a vibe that's unlike any other.

If you were giving The Festival Industry State of The Union, what would be in your address?


I would say that we're in a very interesting time. The industry is consolidating. It's becoming very competitive amongst the big guys out there. There are more and more events each year, but for a good reason: people want music festivals. People want unique experiences. People want to go to festivals. I think it's on every event promoter and producer to create their vision and make sure they do so in a unique way. It's on each of us to make our events stand out from one another, whether it's with the venue, the talent line up, the offering, the market or the vibe. These events have to differentiate from one another. That's what's going to make a festival successful what will make the industry grow even more.

With more and more festivals creating culinary experiences, how would you rank the reasons for investing more into that?

1. It drives repeat attendees

2. It drives new attendees

3. It increases revenue per attendee

First: I would say revenue per attendee. If you have a great culinary line-up you will make more money selling food. There's no doubt about that.

Second, would be driving repeat attendees. If you have a great culinary line-up people will want to come back.

And third, new attendees. If you have a great culinary line-up you're going to attract some people that wouldn't normally come to a festival. A lot of that is from word of mouth.

I'd put it in that order. The fact of the matter is is that food culture is the norm these days. People seek out really delicious eats, whether it's vegetarian or sushi or what have you.

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