On this week's episode of The What Podcast, hosts Brad, Barry, and Lord Taco chat with Tom Russell, founder of Governors Ball and Sound on Sound, about the ins and outs of starting a festival. Russell shares what he learned while interning at Superfly (the team behind Bonnaroo) and how those lessons ultimately led him to start festivals of his own.
This week also kicks off The What Podcast's 2023 Bonnaroo ticket giveaway. The gang has two general admission wristbands and a car camping pass up for grabs. All you need to do is call (423) 667-7877 (that's HAD-MOR-RUSS) and leave a voicemail about why you love Bonnaroo, any standout stories, or why you want to go this year. The best voicemails will be played on the show, and one winner will take home the grand prize. For more details, visit thewhat.co/win
You can also watch the full discussion via YouTube. Also, remember to like, review, and subscribe to The What wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow the Consequence Podcast Network for updates on all our shows, and snag our "Radiate Positivity" T-shirt on the Consequence Shop.
Guest: Tom Russell
What podcast returns today, Barry Courter, Lord Taco, Brad Steiner diving in to GovBall.
We talked to the founder of GovBall and Sound on Sound, Tom Russell.
Also part of the beginnings of Bonnaroo.
Year by year, step by step, we dive into it and more today on the What Podcast.
It starts right now.
Barry Taco, welcome back in.
Nice to see you guys.
How are you?
Bundle of energy.
These guys, I mean, exploding through the screen.
I don't know how we keep you, I don't know how we keep you settled.
Really, to be honest with you.
Man, we survived.
What do we survive this time, Taco?
More tornadoes and wind activity.
Yeah, supposedly we had more weather activity last night, a tornado or something.
What the hell happened?
Just, yeah, I mean, I slept through it and my wife woke up and was driving to work.
She said it looks like a war zone downtown.
Taco, it's amazing that Barry didn't wake up.
He lives in a basement.
So he's constantly safe at all times.
Why would he ever know?
When they tell you go to the basement, he's already there.
So a couple of things to do today.
We'll talk to Tom Russell from Govball.
Really interesting movement with Govball.
It's gone through a world of, you know, they had their stumbles.
Some completely not their fault, but they've found some really solid footing, a really
nice space for it to grow and mature.
So we'll talk to Tom Russell, the founder of Govball and Sound on Sound today.
But also he was part of the original Superfly group who began Bonnaroo with AC Entertainment.
We'll talk about that as well.
But I want to start today, gentlemen, with tickets to Bonnaroo.
We've been teasing this for weeks, mainly because we had no idea what we were going
Now we finally come up with an idea and it's very original.
Take it away, guys.
What do we have?
As usual, once the deadline sort of hit upon us, it was like, we probably ought to figure
Yeah, we let it fly right by.
We'll figure out in two weeks.
I think we have a good idea, though.
I think what we want to do is have people either email, right?
Do we agree on that or we change our minds?
No, we didn't agree on that.
We've already changed our minds.
I guess we go back to the drawing board now.
All right, talk to you in two weeks.
All right, so we're going to go with the voicemail only.
I'm going voicemail, yeah, because we want to play the audio back on the show.
Okay, I like that.
Okay, so leave us a voicemail at a number that we have set up.
And that number, of course, because Taku started is 420-6969.
You're not too far off.
But if you want to win, I'll give you the actual number.
Okay, let's do the actual number.
Don't you hate when people give you numbers like that?
Here's the number.
All right, hope you win.
And the number is 423-667-7877.
Does that spell like a fun word?
Can we get, is it vinchmup?
What is our word that we spelled?
It spells R-U-S-S.
Blue haired mom, that's what it spells.
It spells R-U-S-S?
6-6-7 is, what is 6-6-7 then?
6-6-7, I don't know.
Is, oh my god, it spells more-rus.
I love it.
Or it could be nop-rus.
It could be.
I love this.
Spell the mad taco.
We need to make it the mad taco.
It can't be mad, it could be...
It could be...
Oh my god.
It could be mop.
It could be mop.
It spells entirely had-more-rus.
Give us a call at had-more-rus.
Have you had more-rus?
Well, you're going to today.
Will it hold all these calls?
So what we're looking for in these voicemails is tell us just a fun Bonnaroo story of yours
and we'll play them back on the show.
Some of the ones that we like we'll play back on the show and, you know, we want to hear
your voice, we want to hear your stories.
Even if we've talked to you before, do it again.
Even if we've heard the story before, I bet I don't remember.
So I'd like to hear it again just in case.
Yeah, or if you've never been, tell us why you want to go.
I like that too.
Why do you want to go?
Yeah, this is open to everyone.
Yeah, this is...
Well, anyone with a phone.
Yeah, you have to have a phone.
This antiquated technology of calling human beings.
I like it.
So just call had-more-rus today.
Yeah, you guys didn't like my suggestion of a fax contest.
No, no, that went away.
It was a good idea.
I mean, if you'd like to fax Taco, you're more than welcome to.
He has a fax...
You have a whole fax show.
You're like the only guy doing fax shows these days.
Like a call-in-request TRL, but with faxes.
But with faxes.
Kids are really getting into faxes.
They're really getting into facsimiles.
I got your post the other day about your gaming thing, and I have no clue what the heck it's
called, but it showed up.
And somebody gave you a star and it killed you or something.
I mean, it was like 20 minutes.
I couldn't stop watching.
Barry, we have gone around and around and around with Taco about this gaming thing,
and he refuses to give us anything on this.
I am so confused on it.
And every time we ask him a question, he looks at us like, what?
Why don't you get it?
Why don't you get it?
It's just me getting drunk.
The guy gave me a star and I died.
I know that, but it's so confusing watching what's happening on the screen.
And like, you just assume that we know what we're watching.
I don't even know what I'm watching.
I have no control over what's happening.
Well that's part of the entry.
How did that happen?
How do other people get to take control of this?
That's part of the fun of it.
That's a feature.
He was having this entire conversation with like people with half names.
Thank you, it, for sending me a star.
And now I'm dead, it.
What's going on?
It's so confusing.
We've tried so hard.
We have dedicated hours of this podcast to try and get him to tell us what in the world
this Twitch game that is played plays on a regular basis.
We still don't have any information.
Well, look at some of these faxes I got.
I think this is Amelia Estevez.
It's a lot of ducks.
A lot of ducks.
Are you framing any of these and hanging them on the walls?
Yeah, I'm going to wallpaper my whole room in.
I've got so many of these.
And what the...
See, if only I could explain to you what in the world is going on, I don't even know.
If someone's listening to this, they're like, what in the shit are these kids talking about?
I don't know.
I thought this was a Bonnaroo podcast.
What's going on?
I don't know.
We're doing antiquated technology these days.
Rotary phone is next.
I can't wait to tell you about a rotary phone.
Have you guys ever been down to a Nickelodeon?
We're going to do 30 minutes of just beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.
We do antiquated technology.
The RooHamms do mid and vibes.
Oh, I did.
Since our last podcast, I looked it up, stan.
That's the word I had to look up.
What the hell is a stan?
I had to look it up.
Barry had no idea what a stan is.
That's a super fan.
That's a super fan.
I know now, but I even forgot.
Wait a second.
It's from an Eminem song.
It's the Eminem song.
Wait a second, Barry, I told you what this meant and you still didn't believe me.
You had to go look it up.
I believed you.
I just didn't know it had become like actual part of the nomenclature.
So I had to look it up.
There goes the old man with his nomenclature word.
The kids these days call it clature.
It's part of the noms.
The old man and his noms.
Barry, I'll fax you some nomenclature here in a little bit, okay?
I'll send over some literature for you to look at.
Yeah, fax it over.
I'll send you my digits.
Oh, the old man with his noms.
Got some cray noms.
Cray noms are coming in on the old faxing.
Cray noms are coming in on the faxing.
Make sure you light them up.
Screw you, screw you, Parker and Ham too.
We've got our own nommies.
We don't need your nami.
Yeah, check back in here weekly for the noms.
Are we going to find?
Somebody come get the noms.
Yo, it's more Russ here with your weekly noms.
That is so stupid.
Uh huh, yeah.
That is so stupid.
I was really hoping, I was looking at my phone begging that instead of 667 spelling more,
it spelled nom.
Oh god, that would have been so poetic.
God, how I wish it said nom.
Alright, well, sorry Tom.
If anyone is actually listening to this for something of interest, I am so sorry.
Sorry you had to get this one.
Alright, so that's the giveaway.
I don't know why you, hashtag nommies.
Yeah, send us your noms.
Send us your noms.
Just all the noms.
You know what, this is what we're going to do.
We're going to take a break here and we're going to come back and explain to you today's
guest on the What Podcast, hang tight.
Welcome back into the What Podcast, hashtag nommies.
We've got a very good guest, a very exciting guest today.
I sort of, I don't know Barry, when you said who we had, nothing was connecting with me
until we started talking about it in depth.
What Tom has been a part of was originally Superfly, which is one half of the organizational
body that brought us Bonnaroo, Superfly and AC Entertainment.
He was part of that original group and then broke off to start his own shop and now he
is the founder of Govball and Sound on Sound.
Now Govball has had their stumbles over there, even through 16 years, what, 15, 16 years
they've been doing Govball, but yet they still have, they keep running into things like bad
weather or location problems.
Now they finally have their in the ground location, they're set in a really good spot
in Queens and we sort of dive into that with Tom, start with the history of Bonnaroo and
go from there.
I'm fascinated by this.
I'm glad you brought that up.
I had sort of focused on the fact, because my takeaway after talking to him was sort
of how confident he was.
You know, he, like you said, he didn't, he wasn't originally with Superfly.
He came in a couple of years later, but he was there.
I know, I keep saying that, don't I?
Yeah, but he was there pretty close to the beginning.
No, no, it's fine.
He was there early enough to learn a lot and what I was fascinated with was, fascinated
by was this sort of confidence that he had.
Like yeah, you know, I learned enough and I'm going to go to New York.
I'm going to go to New York of all places and I'm going to start a festival.
And he's done it and he never, I mean, you kind of hear it in his voice, in my opinion.
He's never wavered from that in addition to what you mentioned.
And I had sort of forgotten all of that.
He's dealt with weather, pandemics, location.
I mean, pretty much everything you can think of to throw at somebody.
He's had to deal with it and he doesn't seem at all fazed by it.
He's a man that he built a strong brand and he really believes in it.
And I love that.
I love the audacity of the whole thing.
And like you said, the confidence that he has and not just his abilities, but his team's
abilities, his brand's abilities.
And the other part that is so interesting about Govball, I mean, Govball is a powerhouse.
You know, they've had their location struggles, but now that they've got that set and ready
to go, they're doing all of this on their own.
You know, they're not like used, they're not bought by Live Nation and they're not owned
by one of the big ones.
It's just, they just have one guy essentially booking the whole thing.
That is still to me very impressive.
But I'll ask both of you, what's been the key?
I mean, I think we hit it at the end and it's that user experience that, I mean, we hit
that right at the end, toward the end.
He mentions, you got to approach it like, what would you want if you were the ticket
It seems to be the key, right?
That's what we've talked about the entire time we've been doing this show.
And I'll say the chats that we think have been the best, the ones that we keep coming
back to are the ones like this, where, you know, talking to Ashley Capps and talking
to lawyers and giving you how these things are built and pulling the curtain back so
that you can understand what goes into these kinds of experiences.
And this is as broad and as wide ranging of a conversation as we've had with somebody
on his level, which I found to be so fantastic.
We could have just kept going.
He was tremendous with his time.
I even had to duck out for a second and come back and we were still talking.
That just goes to show you, I mean, not only is this a good dude, but he's got a fantastic
He knows what he's doing with it and knows his stuff.
So before we get to it, is there anything else we need to?
No, I think those are the three.
I think that was it.
His confidence, the things he's had to overcome and the reasons why I think it works, which
is basically make sure the fan is happy, you know, the fan and the musician.
So that's what we've been preaching this whole time.
So can't wait to hear it.
Let's do it.
Tom Russell on the What Podcast.
Welcome in, Tom.
How are you, buddy?
Thanks for having me.
How about that fish sweatshirt you're wearing?
Are you a fish head?
Are you a fisherman?
Why don't they call their people fishermen?
Yeah, I was about to say, do they say that?
It's too biblical.
That and the, you know, the Grateful Dead, Deadhead, it's just the parallels are two.
Are you a big fish guy?
I am a big fish guy.
I love Ari from SiriusXM.
I don't know if you know him.
He runs sort of the fish channel and sort of the Dave Matthews channel.
And I swear to God, I've never really been into that sort of realm until I met Ari, who
this guy, Barry, loves this so much and has dedicated his entire life and career to this.
And he's made it.
He's literally runs these channels for SiriusXM.
He almost has willed me to like these things.
I have almost been sold because of his just over the top love for it.
There's not much in between, is there?
You're either all in or you're not.
Yeah, we did.
We had Bob Weir here a couple of weeks ago and I went and that crowd obviously is very
Some girl sat next to me and she said, are you a dead fan?
And I was like, and she looked at me like, you know, I had horns growing out of it.
I said, I respect it.
I appreciate the history.
I'm loving the show, but I'm not that guy that's going to, you know, sell everything
and go on the road for three months and follow them.
I hate to make this about what all we are wearing, but Barry, I appreciate you looking
like sprockets today.
This is me.
This is as hip as I get, man.
Tom Howes Life.
It feels like you've got history surrounding you at all times.
You got a pretty rich history around you, don't you?
Look at those things on the wall.
Those are, you get a whole museum of life.
I got a bunch of Govball posters, obviously, because I'm the Govball guy.
And then I kind of cut my teeth in this industry working for Superfly back in the day on Bonnaroo.
So Bonnaroo 2006 was my first real year as a full time Superflyer.
So that's why I have that one behind me.
And then 2007 is my second.
Those also just happened to be my favorite Bonnaroo posters.
So I put them up here in the office and, you know, just brings me back to the good old
When you were at Superfly at that time, were you in New Orleans or were you here?
So I started interning for Superfly while I was a college student at Tulane.
And my college senior year got cut short by Katrina.
So Katrina happened.
City shut down.
I came back to New York City where I'm born and raised.
And everybody at Superfly pretty much evacuated to New York.
So I was interning for them at that time.
I kept interning for them in New York and then they offered me a job.
But they didn't realize that I still had a semester of college left.
So I had to make a choice then.
Do I not finish up college, not finish my last semester and join Superfly, the company
I always wanted to work for?
Or do I say, hold on a sec, Superfly, I'll come back to you after I finish college.
And Superfly won out, much to my parents' chagrin.
And I started working from them full time from that point on.
I did the exact same thing with radio, man.
As soon as I got the radio job, I looked at college like, why am I going to school for
this job that I just got?
Can I bring this kind of around circle because I want to, I think this is so fascinating
because Tom, my daughter got an internship with AC in, what would it have been?
15, 14, whatever.
She was a freshman in Knoxville.
And she said, I'm going to get that internship.
And I said, no, you won't, but good luck, go try.
I mean, that's for seniors, juniors and seniors, but she got it and got hired.
And unlike you, she did her four and a half years and realized they don't pay much.
Unless you're the top dog, they don't pay much.
And so she ended up moving on and doing very well, but she loves all those guys and they
were great to her.
But you took that internship, turned it into a job and then created your own festival,
which we're going to get into.
But I just want to let everybody kind of know the, you know, the, I don't know, the backstory
and all of this.
It can go a whole lot of different ways.
It certainly can.
And I was always candid with those guys that, you know, as a New Yorker born and raised,
I always wanted to, I always wondered why New York City didn't have a festival of its
Of course, at that time, that's when the festival culture was really starting to build and grow.
And when I was at Superfly, it was when they started Outside Lands.
So I was involved in that process.
But I really learned everything I could about how to produce music festivals from point
A to point Z.
And once I got to a point where I felt like I knew everything, or I knew most things,
and once I got to a point where I wasn't involved with those closed door conversations that
I felt like I should have been, because I was so intimately involved with the planning,
but I wasn't involved with budget decisions or, you know, whatever goes on in closed door
partner conversations, I decided, you know what, I'm 26 years old.
Maybe now is the time to strike out or to start out on my own and try my own thing.
If I fail, I could probably get a job with Superfly again.
And if it works, then, you know, it works and off we go.
Tom, the beauty of being 26.
I mean, that's what 26 is for.
It's to make decisions like that that could really go one way or the other.
What I love about that, though, is you were probably like a sponge taking in every possible
thing that you could get from that experience.
I wonder if there was one part of it in particular that you liked specifically that you're like,
whoa, I think this is the thing for me.
Is there one thing in particular that sent you over?
It's a good question.
And again, I mean, jump on Brad's question, because that was the thing that my daughter,
again, being able to go to shows, being able to go to festivals, it's, you know, it's the
same thing with me in my gig.
And I think Brad in radio and and Russ, I don't know what drew you to this podcasting
stuff besides Brad's hair.
But you know, it's taken this long.
We've been 10 minutes in.
I haven't gotten a hair reference.
I'm really pretty upset about that.
But yeah, it's a great question because it's it's an allure, right?
You get to hang out, you get to go to shows and all that.
So let me go ahead and let you answer Brad's question.
But it is part of the part of the draw to a lot of people.
Totally get it.
And look, I went to the first Bonnaroo as a fan.
I was there.
I saw the magic and the energy.
It was such an unbelievable, unforgettable experience.
And at that moment, I decided that I need to do this for my career.
Obviously, you know, I want to be successful, I want to make money, but I want to love what
And when I went to that first Bonnaroo, I said, this is it for me.
I got to go into this industry.
And then it just so happened that I was going to college in the same city as the producers
And when you are on the planning side and you work all year round on creating a unique
experience that will truly never be replicated again, and then you see it all come together
and you see it in real life and you see that that magic and that energy that you were fully
a part of creating, there's nothing quite like that.
And the events industry is unbelievable for that reason.
You work so hard on this event and it comes to life and you're just taking it back.
When you're 26, to Barry's point, you can get lost in sort of the magic and the fun
part of it.
But, you know, it takes somebody to run the books and it takes somebody to organize the
guys laying the wire and building the stage.
What part of it did you like the most at 26?
So at Superfly, I was working with Rick Farman and Steve Feener.
So Rick was one of the partners at Superfly.
He oversaw operations, project management, and Feener was the festival director kind
of overseeing the whole thing.
For me, my favorite part of, you know, working on Bonnaroo and working on GovBall at 26 was
just having your hands on everything, right?
Being able to look at the entire budget and know exactly what was happening with each
and every line item and knowing how the decisions that were being made were impacting the overall
show and experience.
So to be able to sit on that, you know, thousand foot level and really understand all the different
pieces and how they all come together and to be a part of the evolution and creation
of a brand new experience, a brand new brand in your hometown, right, to be a part of that
creative process was super special to me because when I joined Superfly, they had already created
That magic was already there and they were just growing it and enhancing it.
And you know, for me, when I started founders and GovBall, everything was just brand, brand
And how do you create something super unique and influential in a market that is just so
tough where so many festivals have come and not been able to make it and in a market where
people just have so much to choose from?
So that was just such a special experience that keeps me going to this day.
So I love the idea of because I feel like we have weirdly and have so much in common.
This is exactly what gets me going is the second that I get to create something and
then watch it birth and then grow.
But what you did was something that was probably filled with a tremendous amount of fear, too,
because like you just alluded to, so many the graveyard of festivals that came through
this city in this state very long.
So how did you like overcome that level of, I don't know, discomfort?
Well, I can tell you that as a promoter, you will always have that fear and that discomfort
in the back of your head because with live events, you just never know what's going to
happen, whether that's ticket sales or weather or what have you.
How did I overcome it?
I think it was just a driver for me.
Nothing inspires and gets people to move more than fear.
I think it was Machiavelli who said that in The Prince.
It was that fear that if I strike out and this thing fails, then I'll be in a bunch
of debt and maybe my reputation will be damaged and what am I going to go from there?
So I made it a mission that I could not fail.
How much of that?
I made it a mission that I had to do it.
How much of that was your own personality and who you are versus the fact that you got
to watch this particular event?
I mean, Bonnaroo has become one of, if not the biggest festival in the country.
Did you leave them thinking, I know how to do the biggest festival in the country.
I've been inside many of those meetings and I feel confident.
It's hard to ask somebody to go back and look at their own life, but you were 26, which
as Brad said, whether you know it or not, you're full of naivete and chutzpah and all
So it was just your own personal chutzpah versus you felt like you trained under a pretty
I think it was a mixture of both.
What I saw at Superfly was that every festival and event and market is different.
While I was at Superfly, we had started outside lands.
We were working on Bonnaroo.
There was Vegas that came and went.
I remember Vegas.
I totally forgot about Vegas.
There was a number of other projects that never came to fruition for whatever reason.
Ticket sales or market just couldn't come together.
Every market was just different and had its own set of challenges.
For me as a New Yorker, it just didn't make sense to me.
Why doesn't New York City, the best city in the world, in my opinion, and the entertainment
capital of the world, why doesn't that have a major music festival that New Yorkers could
call their own that had a brand that was all about the city and had an art program, a food
and beverage program, a talent lineup that really spoke to the taste of New Yorkers?
It just didn't make sense to me.
So I said, you know what, let's see if this can work.
I think that fear of failure just drove us to make the decisions.
It was a good time to do it too, the timing really lined up for us.
As in this has nothing to do with anything, but I will say my bet, the little small part
of reason why they didn't have one or New York didn't have one is and as a radio guy
who came to work and run partly Howard Stern's old rock station, the reason why I moved here
was there was never a real powerhouse rock station in the city that was outside of Howard
It was a big problem, especially for city festivals.
So when you birthed GovBall, what was it then as opposed to how it is now?
When you write out the mission statement then, is it still true to this day?
I think it is.
The idea behind GovBall was a multi-stage, multi-genre music and arts festival that was
such a unique, good experience that New Yorkers couldn't really say no to it.
There was nothing else quite like it out there.
I think as years have gone by, there have certainly been other events that have popped
up that are somewhat similar in nature, but the GovBall experience and vibe is truly unlike
anything else out there.
Obviously the music and the entertainment and the festival culture has evolved.
There's more festivals out there than ever.
There's a lot more genre-focused events, but I just think that when you look at the long-term,
it's these contemporary multi-genre events that will forever live on because not every
person only likes one genre.
You look at the vast majority of people on their phone, they have so many different types
of music on their phone.
Our primary demo is 18 to 35 and the taste really spans, whether you like pop or hip
hop or rock or Americana, EDM or everything in between.
I think it's the same as it was then.
I think our challenge over the years has been finding a venue that can really let the festival
come to life because we started on a small island and then moved to a bigger island and
then moved to a parking lot.
Now finally, we are in a proper city park that the festival can really come to life
And explain Flushing Meadows Park for those who don't know.
So Flushing Meadows Corona Park is one of the biggest parks in all of New York City.
It was created many, many decades ago by a guy by the name of Franklin Olmsted.
Also did Central Park and by the way, City Park in New Orleans.
There you go.
And by the way, Prospect Park too, right near my house.
The chances of him designing the parks that you know of in your head.
He was very in demand at that time.
You could name a park and he probably did it.
Yes, you're probably right.
He was very, very in demand at that time.
So he created this park.
This park was created with events in mind and it really came together because of the
It was the location of the World's Fair twice and they designed this park with getting a
crap load of people there easily and getting them out easily.
And that's why you see that it's located right next to the Long Island Railroad and the 7
It has just an amazing amount of facilities there and areas that you can really bring
to life with events.
But the city of New York hasn't really been open to doing private events there.
I think people are hesitant to privatize public parks and this is something you see across
So we've been trying for a really, really long time to get into a park period, right?
We tried for Prospect Park.
We tried for Central Park.
We tried for Van Cortland Park.
We tried really hard for Van Cortland Park.
And then we came back to Flushing Meadows because we were across the street basically
at City Field and we just kept trying and eventually there was some turnover in city
We had a new mayor and some other people in offices that weren't before and it seemed
like there was a general appetite to start doing bigger, more trustworthy events in the
park because the park needs money, right?
And the area could use the economic impact and the stars kind of aligned and because
we have such a great relationship with the city and it built up a good reputation, they
trusted us to really bring the first big event there since the Rolls-Faire.
I have a follow-up to this in a second mainly just because I know the area so much because
I love, I'm a giant Mets fan, but do you, I'm assuming this is your forever home.
This has been the biggest challenge that you guys have faced.
You want a space that you can probably live, grow and thrive in.
This feels like it, right?
We're going into this year as the first year of many with Flushing Meadows as our home.
It is so easy to get 50,000 people there and so easy to get 50,000 people out.
It's such a unique layout and setup and it's truly, it's a park that's not really surrounded
by a lot of residential, right?
The area that the festival being within the park is not surrounded by residential at all
and it's just, in that sense, it's perfect because you look at Prospect Park, Central
Park, it's all surrounded by residential, mind you, very wealthy residential and this
one's just different.
So it's truly the only park in the city that was perfect for events from an egress, ingress,
safety perspective and there's just no negative impact to people that live around there.
So it just makes sense and we truly look at it as our long-term home and our psych to
make it work in year one.
And the reason, sorry Barry, I hate to interrupt, but the reason my follow-up is, the reason
why I ask how comfortable you are of being your festival or your forever home is because
just north of you, I mean maybe, I don't know, a five, 10 minute walk is Citi Field and if
Steve Cohen, the new owner of the Mets, has his way, that entire area of Queens is going
to explode because before it was just a bunch of tire shops and Steve, who is just, I mean
the guy's just got just beaucoups of money.
So he's trying to gobble up all that space and turn it into what the Braves have down
the battery in Atlanta and if that happens, the spillover happens into the park very,
very easily because it's a very short distance away.
No, I'm a massive Mets fan so I will never talk badly about our Lord and Savior right
All praise Steve Cohen, yes.
I think what he's doing out there is amazing and here's why.
There's a lot of people in the city of New York and in Westchester who don't know Flushing
Meadows Grown-A-Park and who don't really know Queens.
They know Queens is where the Mets play and the US opens there and that's it.
Nobody's going to that part of Queens for anything other than City Field or the US Open
and then the people that use the park are predominantly people that, or the airport,
The people that use the park and I think it's a heavily underutilized park are like neighborhood
So I think what he's doing is great because it's going to draw a lot more attention to
the area and people become more familiar with the park and the area and that's what you
If GovBall was in Central Park every year, I think we'd sell out immediately on the on
sale because it's such a well-known incredible venue that people have just become familiar
with for so long.
And with Flushing Meadows, people are still learning about it and getting to know it and
with what he's doing, driving more businesses out there and more entertainment, more residential,
I think it's just going to heighten the spotlight on Queens and Flushing Meadows, which is only
good for events that take place there.
I just take you back a little bit and it all ties into the same thing.
We've had Rick on the show, we've had Ashley, we've had Jeff Cuellar, we've had Ken Weinstein,
these are all people who really helped Bonnaroo.
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
You, we just had Lindsay from Murlfest and the one thing that ties these people together
to me and I'm going to ask you, I mean, there's obviously the business part of putting on
something like this.
There's the logistics part of it.
But the thing that seems to work and Brad and Russ, tell me if you disagree, but the
thing that seems to tie the ones together that last is that the people putting it on
have a passion, not just for making money or putting on a great lineup.
They have a passion for asking the hard question, which is if I was the ticket buyer, what would
You know, you're obviously passionate about putting it on in New York and in this particular
Am I missing that?
I mean, is that something you learned from working with Superfly and Bonnaroo?
Because in my mind, that's something that we've talked about for six years.
I've said for years, I never felt like Bonnaroo had their hand in my wallet until maybe a
couple years ago, maybe.
You know, and that's a big thing.
That's a very unique thing and it's hard to do, in my opinion.
Is that something that you learned or discovered or observed watching that?
I mean, back when in my Superfly days, everybody during all of our planning meetings, which
was Rick and Ashley and the Superfly and AC Entertainment camps, I mean, everybody just
had such an incredible passion for the Bonnaroo brand and the Bonnaroo experience and the
magic that's created there.
I mean, everything was so personal to everyone and in a good way and everybody rallied around
That really brought people together and that's why those folks really were, you know, it
was really like a family.
And that was so inspiring to me and to be able to see that passion and how it resulted
in successful events, not just financially, but just operationally and really experientially
was just a model that I knew we had to follow.
So I agree with you that event producers have to be absolutely passionate about the product
that they're selling and they have to believe in it and they have to put themselves in the
consumers' shoes, which is hard to do when consumers change over time, right?
I mean, you look at Bonnaroo, that's really evolved over the years and that's, you know,
it's been challenging to evolve with the consumers and how things have changed and for GovBall,
it's no different.
So it basically starts for me brand values into brand identity than into user experience.
How difficult have those things been for you to hit since you've had to rearrange the location
so often in the last few years?
Do you feel like you've hit those marks even through the difficulties?
It is hard.
It's been hard.
We've had a ridiculous run of bad luck over the 12 years that we've had, right?
Our first big year for All Intents and Purposes is 2013, where we had an incredible lineup
with Kanye West was the headliner and he's, you know, he's a much different performer
in person back than he is now, but, you know, we had Kings of Leon, Guns N' Roses, Kanye
West, Kendrick Lamar, the XX.
I mean, it was a banging lineup and the first day of that year, we got a tropical storm
and then the rest of the weekend was just, it was just mud everywhere.
They called it mud ball and, you know, fast forward to 2016, we had a lightning storm
that made us cancel one of the days.
Fast forward to 2019, we had to delay gates and then evacuate because of weather.
Then we had the pandemic and we had to move venues.
So we certainly are not shy or not unfamiliar with bobbing and weaving with punches.
And I think how we come out of that is a testament to just our passion for what we do.
The biggest challenge has always been weather and the venue, right?
Because how weather impacts the venue and the experience is, that's just such a key
part of the whole thing.
And I think this year being in a venue, in a park that can deal with weather easily and
can really enhance the experience, we'll be able to show folks really the magic, the true
magic of what GovBall is.
Well that's where I was going to go.
I imagine that the second that you find this home that you've been needing for so long,
it allows you to finally expand your wings and utilize those user experience tools that
you haven't been able to play with the last couple of years, I imagine.
I mean, that's, you can't create a magical experience in a parking lot.
You can't create a magical experience on an island that is really only accessible by one
road and also has a waste treatment plant on it.
You can't have a magical, huge multi-stage festival on an island that's only accessible
But you can do, you can have this magical, amazing experience in a large park that is
serviced by public transportation.
And that's what we have now.
I mean, you sound buoyed by all this.
You sound like you've got a second life.
You talked earlier about birthing a brand and then seeing it to its fruition.
It sounds like it's starting, it's a whole birthing process over again.
I think the changes and the improvements to the experience are only just beginning.
We're only just going to scratch the surface this year as we start to understand the park
and how we can play off of the park and all of its cool intricacies and quirkiness to
make that experience just unforgettable.
So it's a super exciting time to be on this side.
I'm sorry for interrupting you.
Along those lines, I'm guessing with your connections, actually that reminds me of another
question I'll come back to, but I'm guessing you still talk to the folks that run all these
We were just saying off the air before you came on that last year and the years prior,
of course, with the pandemic felt like, in fact, on our show last year, I said it felt
like a transition year.
And this year feels like festivals sort of got back on the track, if that's fair.
The two or three that are here locally in Chattanooga are selling very, very well.
The lineups are great.
They seem focused.
Seems like they got a handle.
Bonnaroo is just up the road, so that would be four in our area.
Sounds like you guys are happy where you are.
Do you have sort of an industry observation?
Does it feel like what I'm saying that people running these events got a better handle on
their mission, why they're doing it, how they're doing it, all of that?
Or does it just seem like dumb luck that last year was weird and now this year seems to
I think the talent pool that was available this year is a huge part of it.
I mean, it was a common conversation last year that the talent pool available to these
festivals were just not as desirable as the promoters and talent buyers wanted them to
You look at all these festivals this year and the lineups are all awesome, but they
also have headliners that are awesome and are touring and available for festivals.
You have artists that are on the second, third, fourth, fifth line that just weren't available
last year and I think that's why you see a bunch of these events doing well.
I also think you see a little bit of a resurgence of some Americana and Folkiax that are just
doing really, really good numbers.
I think it really just comes down to the talent pool being available for these events and
just being just better.
On those lines, I got to ask, did you try to get Wayne Newton and if not, how come?
We've never tried to get Wayne Newton, unfortunately.
My head spun around when I saw that Bebberman and Beyond line.
I can't believe it.
I hate to do this to you guys, but I've got to take a phone call.
Let me step away for two minutes and I'll be right back.
I'm so sorry.
It's an emergency, but I've really got to take this.
Mary, go ahead.
That's all right.
I forgot where I was getting my other question, but it had to do with lineups, I'm sure.
You answered it.
I'm curious about that.
We like to think both as a fan, I mean, we do this show as a fan, but we also like to
do the inside baseball stuff.
Part of us likes to think you guys are geniuses and know exactly what you're doing and then
part of us after talking to a lot of people say, like you said, it has to do with timing.
It has to do with so many different things that as a non-inside person, as a fan, you
just think, why don't they put together this list of 100 people on the lineup and it'll
They don't understand all the different things that go into it.
You mentioned some of that earlier with things like weather.
You can't, there's nothing you can do about that.
But as we learned and Russ and I, especially with our festival last year, Moon River, the
second day got rained out.
How you react to that goes a long way with building that trust with your fans, right?
How you respond to those shitty situations is how you build those long-term ambassadors,
whether that's just clear and concise communication or approaching a unique emergency or unique
situation in the right way.
That really will make you stand out to people because people just want the information and
they want it quickly and they want to be safe.
How you interact with your consumers is just one of the most important things about what
Going back to what you said on talent, I think what makes GovBall rather unique and I think
it's harder for us than it is for maybe anyone in the country is that we are in New York
We are in every single band's best, most important market.
I didn't think about that.
They're playing there all the time.
They're playing here all the time and it's a big deal for people, right?
People want their own spotlight and headline at The Garden or Barclays or Webster Hall
or Terminal 5 or Irving Paz or wherever.
For them to forego those plays, to play a festival, you have to pay up, number one.
Number two, you really have to nail it on timing and to sell it as a great opportunity
It's every band's best market.
As a result, they're more expensive for us than they would be for others.
Our budget is very, very high.
We also know that in a city like New York, you have to offer people something that they
purely can't say no to.
The result is just a high talent budget.
When things come together, it's always a relief.
That reminds me of the question I was going to ask.
You're coming out of Bonnaroo Superfly where you've interned and worked.
I assume you've made some connections through that job.
People know who you are.
Otherwise, they wouldn't have taken your phone call.
How did that work?
How did that transition go?
How were you able to convince people in New York, which as you just said is a tough, tough,
tough market where people have tried to put on festivals before?
How do you make that?
What's that 60-second elevator conversation that you were able to... I assume they'll
pick up the phone because you were with Superfly and they know who you are, but you've still
got to convince... I don't remember.
Who was it you signed first?
Year one, the first act that we locked was Pretty Lights.
My company is myself and my business partner, Jordan.
Now, Jordan is the talent buyer and I oversee production operations and everything else.
So Jordan, prior to starting Founders, he worked at Paradigm, which is now called Wasserman,
and he worked at ICM.
So he had name recognition in his side of the industry with agents, and he knew who
the people were to call for certain acts.
So when he was picking up the phone and calling people, they took the call because they knew
They'd gotten to know him over the previous few years.
And the folks asked, well, who's doing production?
Who's doing operations?
Oh, Tom, who was with Superfly, doing Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, et cetera.
So that gave them the comfort, the familiarity of, if not just our names, the places that
we were working.
And at the time, there was nothing else out there quite like it.
And look, I definitely leveraged my experience in Superfly and Bonnaroo and Outside Lands
and others to convince the people in the city of New York to give us a permit in year one
and also in year two because we moved venues.
And over time, you just build up those relationships directly with folks, and it just comes together.
But at the start, it's all about leveraging the relationships and reputations that you
have to get whatever you can.
How hard was that?
Or was it not?
I mean, because going back to what you just said, I mean, you're calling pretty lights
and you're trying to convince them to not only agree, and then once you get one, hopefully
you get two, and maybe through your relationship with their management, maybe they offer two,
three, four more people, right?
I mean, I get how that kind of works.
But you've got to sort of get them to say, okay, we'll give you this date and we'll not
do these other dates in the area, right?
I mean, so it's a domino complicated type of thing, right?
I mean, super complicated.
It's a real challenge.
And those first few years, it was super hard to convince people to give us the look, right?
Yeah, that's what I'm asking.
Why they should play GovBall over Terminal 5 or over Central Park Summer Stage.
In a few cases, we had to pay more money to get them.
In other cases, it was just the uniqueness of the play.
Because at that time, there was nothing else quite like this in the market.
And we were really, at least the first two years, we were capitalizing on indie electronic
music, because there was a little bit of a void with electronic music where you had the
kind of hardcore electronic music that was covered by EDC New York and clubs like Pasha
But for folks that liked the LCD sound systems of the world, the Rattatats, the Pretty Lights,
the Girl Talks, the kind of fun party electronic music, as I call it, in hip hop, there was
nothing out there, nothing else out there quite like it.
So it was just the uniqueness and the pitch and a lot of perseverance.
Was there a moment, a day, a band, an agent?
Was there a tipping point where you were banging your head against the wall and can't get
this or that and then suddenly you got this and it went that way?
Or did it go kind of steadily up the hill?
I assume it wasn't a downhill thing ever.
Was there a moment?
I think the moment that things really took off was in 2013 when we booked Kanye West,
I mean, that was the first act that we booked in that lineup and we kind of just threw it
out thinking that he would say no, but his camp came back right away and thought it was
super interesting and different and unique.
And once we got that one, then we got Kings of Leon.
Then we got the XX, then we got Kendrick Lamar, then we got Alt J, then we got all these other
And it just kind of fell.
It just came together.
But it just started with that massive whale.
And then in 2014, the second year of our major music festival format, we got Outkast.
And that was the big one where that's how we got Outkast and then we booked Vampire
Weekend and then we booked The Strokes, who hadn't played the market in so, so long as
New York City idols.
So it really took off in 2013 with that first big booking of Kanye.
And then it's certainly been easier to pitch people just because folks have come to the
event, they see what it is, they see how unique it is.
Because there's really nothing else like that in New York City to this day for folks to
play in front of 50,000 people, 50,000 people who love multiple genres.
And it's a unique outdoor format because bands, they come back in town.
You can come back every year and play The Garden.
You can come back every year and play Webster Hall.
But to be able to play GovBall in the summer, early summer, and then come back in the fall
and play in a arena or a club, you're just setting yourself up for success because you've
gotten new fans from the festival play and you have the buzz from the festival play.
And that just leads into typically a really, really strong on sale for bands in the fall.
Yeah, I mean, we've talked about it on here.
There's something different about a band at a festival.
It can be the same set, same band.
Some of them change a little bit, but maybe not really.
But there's just something different about a festival, right?
There's nothing quite like the energy of a festival crowd.
There's nothing like it, period.
And to be able to see the different kinds of energy across different genres at an event
and to see people from all walks of life come together, there's nothing quite like it.
I think it's a big reason why festivals have been so successful, just because it's an
energy that cannot be matched.
I know Brad just got back and I'll let him ask, but I wanted to make sure you just announced
another festival you're involved with, Sound on Sound, right?
Just announced that lineup, what, yesterday?
Yeah, we announced it on Tuesday.
That's an exciting one for us because it's a newer one for our portfolio.
That one has the Chili Peppers, Alanis Morissette, John Mayer, Trey Anastasio, the Chin Blossoms,
Lord Huron, Mount Joy, a slew of others.
You definitely have your bookers working in specific areas, that's for sure.
I saw this lineup come out and the first thing that I said, Josh is playing, Cautious Clay's
He's one of my favorite artists of the last few years.
This is a really well, well done lineup.
I don't know much about Bridgeport, Connecticut.
I don't know how to get there, but I am going to get a ride with Evan Bonnaroo so that I
can get up to Sound on Sound just so I can see Cautious Clay again.
Well, Cautious Clay is amazing.
That one was really born out of the pandemic because what happened during the pandemic,
people left New York City and they either went north, upstate New York, or they went
east and went out to Connecticut.
Is that a camping festival or is that more of a city hotel based?
No, Sound on Sound is a non-camping festival.
People just come for the day and park and it's really servicing the Fairfield County,
Westchester area, which just exploded during the pandemic when people moved out there for
more space or other reasons.
You have bands that go on tour and they play in New York and Massachusetts.
They don't stop at Connecticut.
You have a lot of people that live in Connecticut.
We identified a void in the market and that was the reason why we launched that one.
You see a rise of these tertiary market festivals all over the country, whether that's a moon
river or a Sea Here Now or an Ocean's Calling or what have you.
There's a demand for these things because there's a lot of people that live around there
that people don't want to travel to the city if you live in Connecticut to see a show in
It's an hour plus.
Why not bring the music to them?
And brass tacks.
I think the price is competitive and pretty good for the space.
When I think Bridgeport, Connecticut, I'm thinking that you're going to have a $400 price point,
to be honest with you.
The fact that a regular GA is $180 is pretty impressive.
I'm sorry we just had a catastrophe at the station.
I wanted to ask one thing finally about GovBall because being in this world that Barry and
I are in, GovBall has always been one of these things that has lived in the ether.
I just have never actually gone and I apologize.
I did not go last year.
Every intention of going this year, no doubt, because my girl Lizzo is playing and Arena
Saliyama had one of my favorite albums of last year.
But when you have as much change and turnover as you did this year from going into a forever
space, what kind of pressure do you put on your people or feel yourself to put a certain
lineup out or a certain user experience out?
I think the pressure is on in terms of the experience because we are defining the new
GovBall experience this year.
Nobody knows what events are like in this park because there has not been a major event
in this park before, at least in this format.
So we are defining it and setting the stage and setting the tone really on day one.
So there's a tremendous amount of pressure.
But look, as I said earlier, it's something that we've been looking to do and wanting
to do really since we started.
We're festival nerds too.
We travel around the country.
We still go to outside lands.
We go to Bourbon and beyond.
We go to Jazz Fest and we see what all of these awesome events can do in these great
So to be able to now be in a city park and set that tone and show people really what
we've been missing for a while is super exciting.
And the stakes are high for sure because a lot of people, you've got to prove it to them
right at the start.
And if you don't, then you lose them.
And we do want more retention.
We want people to be coming back more.
And we want the venue to be a real selling point.
I think the venue has been a detractor for GovBall.
We've done great business over the years, but that's just with strong lineups and big
But to not have the venue be a selling point like it is for Golden Gate Park and Outland
Lands, Grand Park and Lollapalooza, it's hard.
So we're trying to be there.
I think that all we have ever asked of festivals, and I think the best ones, Barry alluded to
it earlier, the best ones not only ask themselves, and you said that you guys do this too, ask
themselves first, what is the user experience like?
And then secondly, how can we get better?
And the way that you are very self aware about that, I think bodes very, very well for GovBall.
And I'm very excited about not just the lineup that you guys have this year, but I'm really
sort of intrigued as to how this comes to be at Flushing Meadows because I love that
part of the city and holds a special place in my heart.
And I'm excited for it.
Come on out.
I'd love to have you.
I have every intention, believe me.
I've talked on this show before.
I mean, I'll never forget, was it whatever five or six years ago, walking into the Bonnaroo
grounds and on the Wednesday night, I guess, and Brad really, he got really excited.
He's like, look, they put lights in the trees.
A little thing like that was such a great thing.
It was cool.
Just the colored lights up into the trees at night made such a difference.
But we've also talked to, like I mentioned, Jeff Quay earlier, things like did the phone
get answered when I tried to buy a ticket?
Did it go through or did I have a hassle?
It starts then.
My user experience starts with that first contact and then it goes all the way through.
So it's things like that that I think we're talking about.
All that makes a difference.
From point A to point B, and we're just excited for people to see it and honestly, to bring
some people back.
So there are some folks that probably went last year, the year before and said, I don't
want to come back to GovBall.
I don't want to be in a parking lot.
Now that we're not there and we're in the super cool venue, we want people to see it
and to experience it because it's truly going to be unlike anything we've had and offered
And look, the lineup this year really came together nicely because the talent pools,
it was so great this year.
We added it to the budget to make sure that the talent was really strong to show off the
specialness of this park.
And we're just excited to be there and get people there and show them an unforgettable
time that just is the start of many great GovBalls in the park to come.
And the last thing, because you just reminded me, who is actually part of your booking team?
Are you in those meetings?
Are you making those calls?
My company is myself and my business partner, Jordan Wallowitz.
And Jordan is the booker.
He books, he carries the whole lineup and books everything.
He's the guy that came from ICM and Paradigm and has been booking GovBall since its creation.
There you go.
And same for Sound on Sound too.
Same for Sound on Sound.
I keep telling him in the book, less than Jake, because that's one of my all time favorite
He keeps ignoring me, but whatever.
We all have that band, don't we?
Wayne Newton's on his list for next year.
All right, Wayne Newton.
Tom, thank you so much for your time.
I mean, you've been very gracious and I can't wait to see how these festivals go for you
Congratulations on the new venue.
Appreciate it very much.
Nice chatting with you guys.
Thanks for your time.
See you buddy.
There you go.
A wide ranging conversation with the founder of GovBall and Sound on Sound.
The Sound on Sound actually sounds fantastic, Barry.
In Connecticut this year, the lineup is right, right in the pocket of something that I would
imagine on a countryside in Connecticut.
Why does that sound funny?
I don't know.
If I think about a festival in Connecticut, this is about the kind of no countryside festival
I mean, like maybe countryside is not the word because it's right there next to the
Check your nomenclature there.
I mean, I think, wait a second, hang on a second.
You don't think of like why some sort of wide open spaces when you think of Connecticut?
I don't know what I think of.
I've never been.
I don't know.
I think like Rocky Coast.
That's all I think of when I think of Connecticut.
I think I think of me, myself and Irene.
Where was that movie placed?
Do you remember like me, myself and Irene, where like Jim Carrey and he's got this house
on the side of the coast and that feels like that feels I guess countryside is not the
That's a much much sweaters.
You know, khaki pants.
Like a sweater vest and the red hot chili peppers and John Baron.
Wearing nothing but a sweater fest.
I would go.
I'm excited about Govball, too.
The space that they've chosen.
And I said it in chat with Tom, but just south of Queen or just south of Citi Field where
the world champion New York Mets for twenty twenty three play.
They they're rehabbing that entire area.
So in a couple of years, Steve Cohen is going to make that into a major, major part of the
city that if city if Govball can stay there for a while, they're going to be in a really,
really good spot.
So there you go.
Anything else had more Russ four to three, six, six, seven, seven, eight, seven, seven,
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May I say one thing about consequence that I read this morning?
This is it's on the weekend.
So it if you're listening to this later in the week, I apologize.
But they did a great write up of the new or the Depeche Mode show.
So Depeche Mode hasn't done a show since twenty eighteen is the first one they've done without
And they did an entire front to back review on the two hours of the first show at Sacramento.
And I thought the consequence people did a fantastic job with that article, mainly because
I think I'm so enamored with going to a Depeche Mode show on this tour.
But either way, that was a really, really good job.
Check out that article if you can on consequence.
Anything else before we go?
That it, Russ?
I think we covered everything.
I think we we hit all the highlights.
Send us your noms.
Hot dashboard noms out there.
Send us your noms.
And yeah, call the number.
Leave us a voicemail.
And if we like your story, you might get picked to win some tickets.
And yeah, what tickets are we giving away?
It's GA, right?
Or well, tickets to Bonnaroo.
With to Bonnaroo.
Tickets and then just a general camping pass.
But I think the reviews are in.
I just got this text message from Parker and him too.
This episode was mid.
I'm going to Google as soon as we hear that.
Next week, Barry learns what mid means.
He'll be showing up just as a mid drift.
Showing off the mid drift.
He thinks that's what it is.
We'll already be so passed by that.
All right, guys.
We made it.
We made it.
We'll talk to you next week.