Brad & Barry are back! To start season 2 we pull the curtain back with one of the top guys at AC Entertainment to explain some of the missing pieces of the 2019 Bonnaroo puzzle...Jeff Cuellar, The VP of Strategic Operations for AC Entertainment. We talk lineup, infrastructure, secrets of the trade and so much more. It truly was one of the most enlightening conversations about Bonnaroo-life we have had and full of so many nuggets. Also, join us at www.thewhatpodcast.com and drop us a line...if so, we will enter you for a pair of tickets to ROO 19!
Guest: Jeff Cuellar
Hey, hey, hey, hey. How y'all feeling? Journey through the stories that define the artists playing Bungaroo. Who are they? What are they? What will you see? The what? Which bands? This year's show is about the What are they? This year, that matter with Brad Steiner and Barry Courter. Wide awake and ready for season two of the What Podcast. The What Podcast, a podcast for Bonnaroovians by Bonnaroovians. It's Barry Courter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. I'm Brad Steiner from HIT 96 WDOD Radio in Chattanooga, 20 weeks away from Bonnaroo, which means 20 shows for you, give or take. I don't know, 15 or so. Just depending on how much energy we have. Exactly. How wide awake are we going to be for season two? Will we stay woke? I think so. Yeah, definitely. I'm feeling woke. You feel woke? I feel woke. Man, for an old man like you to be woke, you're really an inspiration, man. Well, you kids keep me young. Do I? Do we? That's very nice. Speaking of kids, we've got a young one on today, a Bonnaroo newbie on the show today to start season two, we thought that we would open the floor to somebody who's never really been to Bonnaroo before. Oh yeah? I'm kidding. I thought so. Yeah. That was sarcasm. I thought so. Apparently, I'm not as woke as I thought I was. We thought that the best way to start season two is to, before we got into the artist, before we got into what this year 2019 has to offer for us, we thought that we'd get a behind the scenes view of it, take of it, and what the thought process of putting this festival on for what year, 2016, 2017? Yeah, since 2002. Last year we had Ashley Caps on to fill that role, and this year I think we got someone just as knowledgeable and just as much information, maybe not as Ashley since he's the co-founder. Yeah, his name is on the thing. Jeff Cuellar is who we're talking about. Jeff is vice president of, what would we call it? Trick Operations, I think is what the title was. It's a big long title and he talks about that, but it was really interesting talking to him and hearing some of the behind the scenes stuff. He says a lot of the things that we have said now for going on year two, what makes Bonnaroo a different festival, but to hear it from his perspective, I thought was really good. If you are a Bonnaroo junkie and not so much a junkie about the artists and the playlists and stuff like that, if you're really into the minutiae of how this thing is put together, if you're one of those guys on InfoRoo trying to figure out what exactly this machine is and how it's put together, I thought this conversation was phenomenal. He gave us so many Easter eggs and so many bits of information that sort of put the whole thing together. There's all these puzzle pieces missing. If you really listen to his conversation and listen to things that he says, he drops a lot of information on you if you're one of these guys that tries to figure out the mechanics of all of this. We've talked about that. We've paid attention to that. You and I are both veterans from almost the beginning. While it seems on the one hand that everything is very planned and that they've had this long term plan, which they have adapted over time. You remember he talks about, as we all saw three, four years ago when the numbers started dropping, he talks about why. The fact that there were so many new festivals and people had choices and they needed to adapt. They needed to figure out how to do that. He talks about the infrastructure. You'll hear we laugh about planting grass, planting trees and things like that that I don't think, especially first timers, why would you? You would never think about that. But for those of us that remember the Dust Bowl days, the grass is a huge thing. Man, I'll never forget standing, I was on the bleachers and the bleachers were, they used to have bleachers. They had last year, but they used to have bleachers right in front of the witch stage. They still do. They do. Okay. I was standing at the very top level of those bleachers for iron and wine and I looked back and I saw that year the dust that was just covering. I couldn't see 20 feet in front of me. Unbelievable how far it's come from those days just as an infrastructure project. That was about my second or third year and they used to have a parade on Saturday evening. Everyone would kind of go back to their camp, shower, regroup, do whatever and then the evening would start. It was myself and our photographer at the time, we did just that. We followed the parade and walked into Centaroo and I thought, wow, this is really big time. They've set off smoke. They've got smoke machines to have this parade and then we realized it was dust. People were in bandanas around their noses. No, Barry, it might've been smoke. No, it was the dust and I remember thinking I've got Legionnaire's disease. I'm going home with Legionnaire's. It was bad. So to reset a little bit, this is a podcast mostly about Bonnaroo, the what. If you just found us or if you've been around forever, thank you very much. I'm Brad, that's Barry. We're just some Bonnaroo vets who like talking about Bonnaroo and if this is your first time joining us, we hope to meet you at Bonnaroo. Hope that you can reach out to us at the whatpodcast.com or at the what underscore podcast on Twitter. We love communicating with you and if you drop us a line on our website, we'll enter you in for a tickets and yes, we do have tickets to give away this year again, just like last season. Just as a couple of housekeeping matters before we get into our chat with Jeff Cuellar, which by the way, I am consistently blown away with how free people are with their time when it comes to talking to us. Jeff Cuellar gave us 50 minutes, man. This is a busy dude to spend 50 minutes on the phone with anybody. I don't remember the last time I did that. So for him to do it is an enormous task. So all gratitude to him. Secondly, this year on the show, because we have 20 weeks to cover, we were thinking about opening it up a little bit. We want to open it up to some other festivals and some other experiences that we like and that might be able to shine some light on the festival experience in general. So in the upcoming weeks, I hope that we can start to dive into some other experiences, some other shows, some other festivals, start talking about some other artists that may be playing some other festivals and maybe even get some people on the phone that organize and run some of these festivals. I think it's a great idea. We talked Jeff, you'll hear we talk a little bit about Moon River, which is a festival that AC runs that is here in Chattanooga as one comparison. But there are a lot of others and I don't know that we, I don't think we want to compare while we're doing these shows. It's just more of a, like you said, these are different ways that different festivals operate and then different experiences. They all have a specific reason to exist, right? And to be able to differentiate that over and over and over makes you understand it a lot easier, I think. So I'd like to do that this year. If we can maybe pick off a couple of weeks here and there to talk about some other festivals, that'd be nice. But of course, our focus is going to be, of course, with Manchester and Bonnaroo. And again, if you want to reach out and give us any suggestions or you want to talk about any artists, hit us up the what underscore podcast on Twitter or at the whatpodcast.com. All right. So let's get into Jeff Cuellar and see how this festival has gotten so big and so important over its almost two decades of bringing us magic to Manchester. The excitement on the answer has just gotten me amped up. Oh my goodness. Boy. I was coming in a little spot, but he just hit me with straight fire right there. And I'm like, let's do this. Man, I threw it. I came in a little hot, huh? Came in a little hot. You came in extremely hot, but I love it. My energy was starting to deplete now. I feel like a mile. Believe me, after I have to explain your enormous title at AC Entertainment, I'm going to be spent. I will be gassed. And undone. Once I say the vice president of strategic partnerships from AC Entertainment, Jeff Cuellar. Hello, sir. You used to be with that. That's my better title. Is it really? What does that mean, actually, by the way? It's for giggles. It's all smoke and mirrors. I don't like to tell anybody. Right. If I tell you, then we've got problems. The best job title is one that has just been created on the fly. Those are really the most ideal work situations. Where my title comes into it, it's quite funny. We don't have one for Bono because I'm the product of having been there for so long that I've accumulated work versus what I do for AC Entertainment specifically as I handle all of our revenue generating streams outside of ticket sales and merch. Gotcha. So that's where strategic partnerships comes in. So it can be sponsorship. It can be our partnership in terms of correlations with the city. It can be enhanced experience like VIP, platinum, that type of stuff, concessions, those other types of things. But with Bono specifically, I mean, I do so many damn weird positions. I mean, I used to oversee catering, somehow vehicle operations are still in my purview. So you're the guy we call for the golf cart, huh? So Jeff, your title is Get Jeff to Do It. Yeah. That's, you know, we joked in Bono Land from the very beginning. When you came up with a great idea, you just gave yourself more work. Yeah. Thanks for calling, Jeff. That was your idea, then way to go. Nashville shuttle, that was my idea and I'm still running it to this day. Let's be honest, I don't do shuttle programs for any of other festivals. I mean, last year I would have came up with a job title for myself and said, Artist Relations for Nothing but Dua Lipa. Whatever she needs, I'm going to have, you know what? I guess I can take this job. I can do Dua Lipa if I need to. Okay, that sounds good. Let me say, Jeff, thanks for doing this. But this is important because this is why we're talking to you is because you do wear a lot of hats up there. So you're going to be able to answer a lot of the questions that we're going to have. So all of my questions, I'll be answering in the form of a question. I'll be prepared for that. You're very good at this, so I'm ready for it. Well, first off, congratulations on the rollout. You guys have to be extremely pleased at the reaction because when I look around at some of the headlines, aside from just like, here's who's playing Bonnaroo, but some of the headlines are some that I haven't seen in a couple of years. Most popular Bonnaroo lineup in years, weirdest in years, and that's in a good way. Bonnaroo is back. Line after headline, the press back to you guys got to be, I guess, heart thawing. It is. I mean, and I probably would love to quote though, you know, what Prince, when he was asked at time, you know, how do you feel about Justin Timberlake bringing sexy back? And his response was, it never left. Kind of quoting himself. And you know, I would say Bonnaroo never left. You know, we went down some paths and have been doing some things. But what I feel, what I'm really excited about this year, probably more than anything, is the lineup takes you on a path. So whether you're a fish fan, a childish fan, an Odessa fan, a national, whoever it may be, Post Malone, Lumineers, you have a path for you throughout the festival. And then hopefully you're going to deviate from that path and challenge yourself with things that you may not have been expecting and come out with a greater appreciation for live music and what these amazing artists are out there doing. But even outside of the lineup, there are a lot of phenomenal festivals out there. And what I think Bonnaroo is different is the experience. I mean, how many festivals do you not leave once you get there? You're sleeping there. And if you want to party till the sun rises in the same place that you were at two o'clock in the afternoon, you can do that. If you want to jump campsites and hang out with people that are from Spain, you can do that. It's all of that together. And the things we're doing out at the campgrounds and some of those incremental things we've been doing throughout the years, I think there is this recognition finally like, wow, there is a lot here. And if I'm comparing where I'm going to spend my discretionary income, again, not that any of those other festivals are bad. I'm going to go to Mecca. I'm going to go to the place where it is special and I can really disconnect for the next five days. Jeff, talk about that transition because you and I have been talking since the beginning, basically. And I'm one of those guys that is asked, how about the people complaining that it's not jam band anymore? How about people that the numbers are down? All those sort of things that the journalists have been asking. This year, and I would say Brad and I fall into this, and sorry for using the word camp, but we've been there being critical and we've been there loving it. And what last year came to the realization that the experience is as much a part of it as the lineup. From an insider's point, you guys have been saying that forever. What does it feel like to now basically have the rest of us get it, if that's the right way to put it? It feels great. We kind of said about time. I feel that that feeling was always there, but what we kind of had is one, I don't want to say explosion within the festival space, but there definitely was a little more options on the table. I mean, from your Okeechobees to Electric Forest to Fireflies, and all the Coachella's and Lala's and you name it. The options are out there. I mean, heck, you can start getting on the smaller stuff like your high waters, your moon rivers and things along those lines. There are plenty of options out there. And I think what we never did a great job at doing is talking about why Bonnaroo is different and how that festival experience differentiates from everybody else. And I think once we started having a lot of that competition come to the table, for us it was, we always felt like our lineup and what we were able to produce there was enough. We focused on the experience and did a lot there, but we were pulling things off like the police. We were getting Paul McCartney out there. I think you had some of the competitors catch up. And so why we've always had this amazing diverse lineup. You can go back to the very beginning and you look at, yeah, we had Jam Band, but we also had Jurassic Five. We also had Reggae and Toots in the Maytals and things along those lines. James Brown in year two. Exactly. James Brown. It's always been the focus from our standpoint is amazing live music. And every performance has graced our stages, has gone and has been noted as being able to put on a hell of a show, a live show. And I think it's rooted in good music, good live music. We can debate some of the intricacies of it, but I think that's always been the foundation. And we rooted ourselves in that, but never had to really talk about the experience and the campgrounds and plazas and all of those different things that make it change. That's where we can talk about it and others can't. That has been kind of a focus for us is saying, okay, if everyone has the ability to get some of these artists that are out for the festival and we all know that pool is only so big, then how can we continue to be Bonnaroo and lead? And I think that's it. It's really kind of showcasing what we can do experience wise, how that's different, why you should be a part of that, why camping is an amazing thing versus something that should make you think differently. Let's think differently in a good way. The philanthropic side of it, the planet Roo, how we give back to the local community, all of those things that kind of are intertwined into the Bonnaroovian spirit and soul. I think we've just now done a better job at really talking about it. Instead of just saying, you know, line up, line up, line up, it's now been more, hey, let's talk about all these other things that true Bonnaroovians know. I think that has been the biggest shift is that the camp, the discussion about camping went from it's so hot, it's a negative to this is where it's so much fun. Yeah, it's a great point. How can you survive camp was the conversation. Now it's why would I be at camp? Why would I leave camp? There's so many things to do. Who's camp am I going to? It's a little bit different. That's it. And it's a great point that you make about being a slave to whatever artists pool that you have to jump in because look, everybody's drawing from the same group and you can get lost and we have, everybody has, everybody that follows this has gotten lost in the year to year insider baseball about who's going to be where, who's playing what and why didn't they come here. But what you guys, I guess, saw more than we did because I don't know, it's your business too. You guys did have a plan five years ago, seven years ago, you guys were thinking so much differently than where we were because we were wrapped up in why aren't we getting this blankety blank like we used to? Why aren't we doing that? We were lost a little bit of the focus and you guys dead on the tracks and stayed consistent and didn't really worry too much about the noise. But it's funny, I think you're exactly right. When it does come to the lineup though, you said something very interesting to me a few minutes ago. When you start creating lanes to the headliner, when you guys put together the lineup and I had somebody from AC tell me this a couple of years ago and I guess I understood it, but to put a finer point on it, when you guys put together a headlining bill of Post Malone, Fish, Childish Gambino, National, you then also tried to find corresponding artists that can layer within that sort of artist lane. You try to find corresponding artists that can support those types of headliners. Exactly. Okay, so it's not normally a correction. It's kind of the way it has to be. Yeah, so if you're a Fish fan and you're arriving on Thursday or Wednesday when the campground opens, this is there for you. So let's think about the path for a Fish fan and the kind of, I don't want to call me it, but what would a typical fan like to see throughout those days to know that, okay, my Fish dollars, this is where I want to go see Fish because it's not the only place they have to go see it. If I'm a Childish Gambino fan, what is my path Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday? If I'm a Cardi B fan, what's my path? If I'm an Odessa fan, what is my path? And thinking about those top couple lines as the path. And what I think our booking team does better than anybody is think about if you're here, even more than a city festival, if you're going to be on our property for four to five days, then that path is critical for success. Being able to look at that and analyze, okay, what do we have here and how does that go about? And occasionally they let me sit in on the booking media. That's probably the one thing I don't do with the festivals. I don't book. I don't book the talent. But I do get asked some questions just because I am a music fan and it's talking about, okay, if this is who I'm going to see, what else do you have for me? And being able to say, okay, here's everything for you in that bucket. Here's everything for you in this bucket. And again, I think our true Bonnarubians, they look at that path and then they're immediately looking off to the tangential stuff. And it's like, where can I deviate that from that path? And then what we found through data, which has been hilarious, is you look at the way people schedule their lineup. Like, what are they going to go see? So you take pre-festival, what are they saying they're going to go see? And then what did they go see? And it just shows you where the influencers of your friends and the people you're camping with and the people you meet help you deviate from that. Whereas, you know, they may go, you're talking with someone that's like, hey, you don't know about Ducky, we need to go see Ducky. And that may interrupt something else you were going to go see. And now you've discovered someone else that you may not be ready for. I think that was one of my favorite parts about talking to Ashley, Ashley Capps last year, the AC and AC Entertainment was, we asked, I think Brad asked, do you make a list like the rest of us? And the answer was yes. And how often do you stick to it? And he said, never, no one ever does. It never works that way. But that's phenomenal that you guys actually have the physical data that can that can reinforce that feeling or that thought that, yeah, we went we were going to go see the Avett brothers, but we found ourselves at Girl Talk. It's phenomenal that you guys are actually tracking that and what you guys would then use for next year. Did you use some of that data to plan for this year? It helps. But I think the another challenge that I guess you can look at, you know, based from, you know, where we started to where we're at now, technology has disrupted all of it. You know, I mean, back when Bonnaroo started, it was still your email list. It's still, you know, fans and some of the jam bands sitting around those tapes. You know, we didn't have Spotify and that type of stuff now. So how fast an artist can explode from nobody knowing about them and, you know, not even having a full album out to to gaining a spot on a festival bill. Well, and then what happened even from when they announced to when they actually play? I mean, easy examples that come off the top of my head, even back when we had Mumford the first time and when we had Phoenix, when we booked them to where they were at the festival, I mean, there were questions about what stage we were putting them on because their popularity exploded between now and that time. And that's kind of the fun. But it's also the challenge of it because we didn't have to worry about that as much as you do now. I mean, some of these some of these artists are just in weeks going from, you know, club acts to, you know, potentially amphitheaters or something along those lines. And guess what? And guess what? And guess what? Your Saturday headliner is the quintessential Where did he come from? Post Malone's last 12 months have been unbelievable. And you may not be a Post Malone fan, but you can't deny this kid was playing a five hundred seat theater 12 months ago, 13 months ago. And now he is doing the what stage Saturday night at Bonnaroo. That is a phenomenal, phenomenal story. I think that I know this for sure. The only artist to ever have a number one single while they were also playing Bonnaroo was a late ad that you guys added might have been 2009 or fun. You guys added fun at the last minute. And when they stepped on stage at this, it was on that when they stepped on stage that they had a number one single. That was the first time that ever happened. And you might be able to say that for the second time coming up this year. I didn't know that. Fun fact. Yes. Educating me there. Yeah, that those kind of stories are exactly what Bonnaroo is about. We're going to jump back into the conversation with Jeff Quaggar here in a second. Some phenomenal information that he is dropping some nuggets of brilliance that I never knew about Bonnaroo in the way that they at least organized the lineup. That I mean, that kind of stuff is phenomenal to me. We'll talk to him a little more here in a second. But just real quickly, if you haven't rated or reviewed the podcast, I know in this first season we didn't bring this up at all. We didn't necessarily have much of a direction or know exactly where we were going with this. But it turns out that's sort of important. So we didn't ask anything of you last year. We didn't ask you or beg or plead for you to rate or review it. But if you haven't, that would be very, very nice of you. Now we're begging. Yeah, now I've gotten to the point where it's begging time. It's come to this. Well, it's because we had such a bizarrely and I'll be honest, a bizarrely huge reaction to the show the first season. So I never really thought it would get there. I never thought we would even need to be rated or reviewed. Now it seems like we do. And the reason why it's important is that the more rates and more ratings and reviews that you get, the higher you get up on the store level thing. So the closer you get to the top and we want to make it as easy as possible for you and your friends to listen. So if you've got friends that are tinkering with the idea of Bonnaroo or tinkering with the idea of festivals in general, or maybe like some of the artists that we talk about, then share it with them. The more people that listen, the easier it's going to be for not only you to find us, but get bigger artists on the show and more access that we can get then to share with you. It makes everything a lot easier. Exactly. And I'm finding people seem to like it and it helps foster the whole Bonnaroo community, which is what we've discovered. I think that this is what this is all about. That's right. And the more people that we can tie into this little podcast, the better. The Roobuses of the world, the Bonnaroosters, the Festival Owls, anybody that is in our hemisphere we want to bring in as well because the more people that we have talking about Bonnaroo, the better. Because if there's anything that we learned about this show is that boy, we really, really like talking Bonnaroo. We like talking and I think we are surprised at how much we discover that we didn't know. Like the general admission camping area, the GA camping, the group camping, we do nothing about until we talk to Ru-Tang, those guys, and the Roobus. There's just so much more to Bonnaroo going and sitting in a field and watching an act. Right. And there's more to Bonnaroo than just the acts. Roobus, Rooshoot, Ru-Tang Clan, on and on and on, those are almost as big as the acts themselves for me. Exactly. You know? Like those guys do something out there that's so special that I want to be a part of. Yeah. And also that it's a lot more year round than we ever would have considered. Ever would have imagined. Never. I mean we're here at the end of January saying, all right, it's time to start talking Bonnaroo. I know. We never stopped. That's the weirdest thing. We never really stopped. Our guest today, Jeff Cuellar, starting season number two. Jeff Cuellar from AC Entertainment. Jeff, I keep thinking about a couple of things you've said to me over the years and talking about being on site and how that makes a difference. Brad and I were both in Louisville at Forecastle when that storm hit. Came across the river and I can still see you running down the sidewalk trying to clear the place. Sam Smith here. Yeah. Sam Smith. Yeah, that poor guy had the fireworks going on. It was not going to happen for Sam. But then I was... I was literally, and now here's Sam Smith. Three, two, one. Good night everybody. Run for your lives. But I don't know if it was the next year or the one after at Bonnaroo where the storm came in late and you had to clear the site and everything was back up and running within an hour and a half. That was during Macklemore. Yeah. You said to me either that night or the first thing next morning is who else can take an hour and a half hit like that, clear the site and be back on total schedule 90 minutes later. And I think we talk about the fact that you're on the farm, there's nowhere else to go. You might as well go see music, but it's also that, right? You're there, it's contained, it can go around the clock. That makes it a different animal. I think you're exactly right. I mean, it really does make it a different kind of animal. I mean, we look at ourselves as a city. We go from farmland to a full city over the course of our build and then go right back to farmland again. But the fact that we're able to kind of create there and think about it from that standpoint, that we're the seventh largest city in Tennessee for that five day period, I think is an accomplishment. And it shows that yes, you do have all of these other experiences out there, but no other festival becomes a city like this and then dissipates back to farmland. And then they come back to you. I think it's part of that overall magic that makes Bonnaroo Bonnaroo. You mentioned the experiences and that's what I think we want to get into next. It appears from, again, this sort of regular outsider that there have been a lot of phases. The early phases were getting the roads graded, the landscape graded so that the rain ran off the way it needed to, planting some trees, planting the grass that could withstand that type of thing. Building that bridge from the what to the right. Yeah. The bridge saving the world, saving my life with that bridge. The bridge. The bathrooms. The bathrooms and then it seemed like it was the efforts were sort of into the VIP experiences in the last two, maybe three years have been the general admission camp. The plazas. The plazas. I mean, is that a fair assessment? Was it planned that way? I wouldn't say it was completely planned that way. I mean, the infrastructure pieces were more from the standpoint of to make the site a better overall experience. No one's sitting there asking for what fescue, I think it's fescue. I'm hoping I'm quoting that right. Fescue grass in Central Roo and the main venue where the headline stage is at. I know. I write about it every year, Jeff, and I think, I can't believe I'm writing about grass at a music festival. Yeah. But it's a big, it's key. You're not buying a ticket for the fact that we got fescue out there. Right. And when you have fescue, you've got a grass that is more resilient, that soaks up water better and just makes your experience that much better without you even thinking about it. You don't have dust going into your lungs. Plus my putting game is a lot better on fescue. I hate to say. So I think we purposely did those things in terms of capex improvements on our site and we call it the capital improvements on the festival site. And they weren't, they weren't from a standpoint of like, this is going to sell us more tickets. It was, this is going to help improve the overall experience. And though no one may talk about the grass, no one may even talk about the bathrooms for that matter. It's the things that we have to do from a property standpoint to remain competitive. And so we had to invest in some of that stuff. Some of it was like a desperate need. Other, you know, other was because, you know, just infrastructure to the land and just, if we want to do more events on great stage park to, if we do it, you know, have weather and those types of those types of things. And boy, did you hit it and boy, did you hit a home run putting the lights in the trees at night. Boy, oh boy, did that just change the entire feel, the entire feel of, of, of Bonnaroo. Yeah, those are great. I tell you, it gives me joy to hear you say that. That's a, that was one of those, as you can imagine, that's not a cheap decision. Oh my God. The first night we walked around the, on Wednesday night when we got there, I looked around at Barry, we were walking through and the lights were moving. I'm like, Oh my God, this is so expensive. Yeah. These are, you didn't go get the $30 string over at the box store. For people who haven't seen it, they're awesome. They really do change the whole. Yeah. It's a good move. Yeah. We, we, we, we bought everything at a Costco that was there. By the way that I hate to tell the infaroos of the world, but that's probably the cost of a headliner. I hate to tell you that's your headliners lights one year. Okay. Enjoy it. It's funny that you kind of said, because that's some of the decision making that we're having to task ourselves. Yeah. You spend more than that on talent and you know, nine times out of 10, any fan wants they've put it on talent, but the feeling you get, the, the, how you are transported to another world, that's one of those immeasurable thing or immeasurable thing is that you can't put a price on. And in our, in our feeling was if we truly feel like Bonnaroo is this other universe, when you, when you step into it, it's this magical place that it has to have that feeling and it has to have that ambiance to, to, to really, you know, catapult that. It was one of those decisions we're making and we're, you know, plazas are another one, you know, in, in terms of how do we maintain that vibe and really look at the experience and I think as long as we have maintained that competitive lineup and still continue to do crazy and awesome things like the grand old Opry that, you know, in my opinion, other festivals can't touch just because, you know, of where we're at, we have to continue to push ourselves with, with opportunities like lights, with opportunities like programming plazas and really making them a space. I mean, for the longest time, I want to say for over a decade now, we have done plazas and the original start of what we call pods was really centered around the point of still building that community, but we recognize when you came into the grounds driving and you're parking into your campsite, the big thing is like, where am I? You know, what part of the fall am I on right now? So being able to launch those balloons in the air and have one of our pod ambassadors come out to say, Hey, look up your plaza nine, this is where you're living the next few days. Remember this attention to it. Yeah. Cause it's going to look differently at two in the morning. Security lost and found all of this type of stuff. And so it was for us, it was more informational and safety of why we started it. And it was always like a mini art project that we'd have going on out there. But once we started looking at RFID data and seeing when people were inside center room versus staying out in the campground, we started to realize our missed opportunity and where we have, uh, you know, where we can over deliver here or start to step it up is the campground. So before it was always that push up. What else can we put in center route? What else, you know, what other feature can we add? It's going to get people excited. And uh, you know, it was really kind of looking at that data and saying, wait a minute, maybe we stop putting some stuff in center room and let's bring experiences to the people out in the campground and give them an opportunity to explore their land and really check things out. And if we do things that are fun and inviting, um, and exciting all throughout the plaza, now people can not only play in center room in the main venue, but they can go say, okay, what's happening at the Ville over a plaza seven, what's going on at, at the house of the house, what's happening, you know, last year when you were with Matt Schultz and his, and his fun adventure, uh, out of Plaza nine, you know, being able to check out these things as new and different experiences. And it's something that I think that we, we are constantly developing and I think, you know, now we're having some fun, even more fun with it. And it's a matter, I think the biggest question we have, what comes back and what do we reinvent every year? It's almost like it's a, it becomes a new lineup to saying, we want people guessing what experience is going to be a Plaza five this year. Last year was this, what's it going to be this year? Right. Like a random KT Elephant show out of nowhere. How about that? Exactly. Exactly. That's a great point about those chips on the, on the wristbands that, that, and being able to use that data. I didn't really think about you guys being able to fine tune it like that. Um, what was the number you told me last year, uh, percentage wise of people who are coming for the first time or versus like every year? My marketing team would probably get mad at me if I, if I try to quote, I try to quote this because I know I'm going to misquote it. I want to say we have about 50%, 50 to 60% are returning Bonaruvians. Now that can be, they came last year or at some other point. So I mean, we always say once a Bonaruvian, once a Bonaruvian, always a Bonaruvian. So it could have been, you know, they came in 2002 and took some years off. So we have about 50 to 60, they're coming back every year. And then about 40 to 50 can be brand new, brand new, a brand new audience that's coming in and that numbers fluctuate. I mean, you know, every year is a little bit different depending upon the lineup and what's going on. That would probably be an average. I watched for the, uh, and I'm sure we're going to talk about this a lot over the next couple of months, but I watched the fire documentary on Netflix and being in the industry that I'm in, I knew exactly what was going on. I knew it while it was happening. Before it happened, I had a buddy of mine who works at XM radio, literally sending me text message updates as he was sitting on the side of the road waiting for a car and watching it back. I was, I was just sad and felt lonely and dirty. You know, it goes to show you that this kind of work is really, really hard. Like you said earlier, there are some festivals that do it really well and there are some festivals that, you know, they're, they're, they're just a music festival and they put together a lineup. You guys have got to be pretty proud of not only the, the tenure that you have amassed, but to be able to really honestly say to somebody, we're going to be here for the next 10, 20 some odd years. Look at what we have built. Look at the things that we have already laid a foundation for. And we've thought about every little experience that you can have going from your car to your camp back to center. And we're trying to make this the best experience possible. Just so it's a market difference from something like, I'm not going to just keep beating up on fire festival, but somebody like that who thinks they can just whip up a music festival or a music festival that just sort of puts together a lineup and says, here's some artists, give us some money. Now we'll talk to you next year. And you know, I mean, that's the difference of working with professionals that have been doing this for, you know, for, for years. And it kind of specialized and I would, we all make mistakes, but I think it's kind of that understanding, you know, what you're good at. You know, no one's, no one's calling me up and asking me to, you know, to, to rewire their house. Why? Because it's not what I do. And having that would be, you know, having asking me to do that would be, you know, not smart. I hated kind of seeing it happen as well. Cause I think it's a, it gives our industry a bad look. Well, yeah, especially when you see as many, especially when you see as many festivals as we see shutting down these days. There's too many going to the quote unquote graveyard that are good experiences that are ran by pretty good people, but they just can't survive in this climate. It's difficult. I mean, it really is. It's, it's challenging. I think there's the fun thing. Like if you ever think about producing a festival, go light a million dollars on fire in your backyard. If that, if that didn't turn you away, go let another million dollars on fire. And if you're still feeling okay about this, then, then we can start talking, but we're probably going to light a couple more million. Then go open a restaurant. Exactly. Let's hire Ja Rule. He's available. And not just, have you guys thought about every step that the Bonaruvian takes while they're on the property? Being the guy who is in charge of strategic partnerships and thinking about the revenue side of it, it's something that we'd have never actually talked about on this, on this show. I've been to a lot of music festivals, man. And some of my biggest complaints are, I feel like it's totally over commercialized. I feel like every time I turn around, I'm getting hit in the face with some sort of ad. Or their hands in your pocket. Yeah. Somebody's grabbing at my wallet every time I look around. The thing that I've always appreciated about Bonaruvian is that Bonaruvian never has felt too overly commercialized. Of course we all understand you're there to make a business out of this, make a profit, make some money. Why are you? Yeah. You don't just, you're not just doing it for goodwill, but you don't beat us up with trying to, it doesn't ever feel like it's overly commercialized and thrown in my face. Is that something that you guys pay specific attention to? As you say, I really appreciate hearing that comment. I mean, that goes for all the festivals we produce. We believe each brand and of course Bonaruvian, there's a soul. And so when we do our partnerships, it's got to match with that soul. And so obviously, it's an easy match. Like, of course, that works really well. And then some are a little bit more challenging. But if the brand is willing to come in and help enhance the experience. So even if it's something you're just like, wow, that came out of left field. I didn't see how that matched in, you know, with the festival experience, but they're able to make it work. Then I think we have an opportunity there. It's the conversations that you can't have when a brand or a partner is like, this is our vision. This is what we want to do. We can't, you know, we're not changing. Then it's like, well, then we don't have a partnership. So to have the partnership, we have to have that give and take because we have fans and an audience that is coming for a specific reason. And if you can't, if you're not a part of that reason, then we're going to have a real challenge here. And it's not going to be worth it at the end of the day for either one of us. We're going to make our fans angry and you're going to be unhappy with the results. So it's taking time to build trust with both from our fans and, you know, with the brands and the partners that we work with. And that brand partnership goes more than just, you know, your simple consumer packaged goods or something along those lines. This goes with the community. This goes with government. This goes with all of the, you know, the various partners, because that's how we look at it. Anybody who is working with us to produce this event, they're a potential partner. We have to approach it that way. And I think we have, sometimes it's been difficult. You know, all of us here, you know, we are a for-profit business, so we are trying to make money. And sometimes we've had to say, okay, doing it this way would make us more money in the short term. But we've always felt like in the long term, that's going to cost us fans. It's going to cost us the trust that we've built and could cost us other potential partners that would see that as a deviation from who we are. And have we made mistakes over the years? Of course we have. You know, we're human. We've taken some chances on things that, you know, we thought would work and, you know, some things didn't. And then we've taken chances on things that, you know, worked beyond our wildest dream and I think really were, you know, successful. And I think one of our more recent partnerships that kind of comes to the top of my head is the one we had with LG doing the laundromat. You know, that was something that was completely different, but it hit a pain point for fans. You know, you're out on the farm for several days and it's hot. You may have gotten wet, you may have gotten dusty and, you know, maybe you need your clothes washed. Yeah. And as a marketing, let me just cut straight to the chase. Do they come to you with that idea or do you guys have this idea and then you sort of try to find the right partner for it? There are various ways these things come about. Sometimes it is from like, we've got an idea for an activation or, you know, something and then we'll start going to talk to brands that we've got relationships with or partners that we have relationships with. And then I'd say vice versa. We know who's out there and they're coming to us saying, hey, we'd love to get in the experiential world and want to talk about, you know, creating custom opportunities. So it comes from both sides. And so the best relationship is when we know they want to play in the experiential space and we get to work together in determining what their goals and objectives are, what ours are and how we can align those two to be successful in a festival environment. And that's, you know, I think that's a proof in case of the LG example. It was aligning both of those and then being able to come up with a really cool idea. That's a really good idea. That satisfies across the board. So Jeff, I keep thinking of some something that sort of ties a lot of this together. We see your relationship with Manchester and Coffee County and how that has worked working with the government, working with Rhodes Electric. I mean, all of that on a smaller scale, though, you guys brought Moon River here to Chattanooga this past fall. And we saw a lot of that, a lot of work. A lot of work with our government, our street, our public works. And just one of the examples that I could think of is you put the same or similar lighting into the trees over there. And the day before I happened to be there when somebody said, wouldn't it be cool if the aquarium could use the same light scheme that we're putting in the trees and a phone call was made and then the aquarium had the same, I think it was blue and red light colors over the weekend. Just those kind of examples is one of those things that in the grand scheme is probably not huge. It's not the lineup, like we said, but it's the kind of thing that just adds to the whole experience that as Brad was saying, some people book a lineup, they rent a field or they get a farm and they put stages up and there's your festival. You guys go a little bit beyond that. And that is the example that keeps running through my head as you were talking about matching those lights is a small thing at the end of the day, but it was a big thing because it was so cool. You're right. And it goes back to, I love to state that part of our role as a festival is to provide a positive lasting experience in the community that we're doing business. Knowing that we have the ability to make that positive impact and have it reverberate for years to come. So whether it's a one year one off festival or it's a place that we're trying to build an annual event, laying that groundwork and working with the community from as high level as the governor all the way down to local residents is critical and understanding and hearing what pain points they may have. But when we're able to do awesome things like your example there, I think it helps to align that community investment. So even though we're not doing something directly with the aquarium, it's the aquarium's recognition of there's something successful going on there. We're now kind of invested in it and it's a better thing for our community. You know, there's going to be tax revenue, there's going to be heads in bed, there's going to be all of those things, people that are coming to Chattanooga that have never been to Chattanooga before and now may say, hey, maybe I should move here. Maybe I should open a business here. And you know, we kind of circling back even Manchester. I want to say that off the top of my head, I know at least three businesses that have opened up in Manchester because of the festival industry and the music of what we created there that never would have been there beforehand. So it's that company relocating, having jobs for people and giving back to the local economy. You know, producing festivals provides that. I mean, you know, that's even stepping away from like the economic impact, the heads in bed, you know, the local restaurants and even, you know, the package stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot that are that are, you know, receiving impact from sales and things along those lines. It's all a part of it. And I think there is a sense of community pride when they see a successful event happen, even if it has even if it disrupts their daily life when it comes to traffic or whatever it may be. The fact of, wow, this is a good thing for my community and because I want to see my community grow and prosper and maybe I don't want taxes to go up. I want things like this to happen. Well, yeah, I mean, look at the Bonnaroo Works Fund. I mean, look at the things you guys have created with that in Manchester. Manchester is quite happy that you guys are there. You guys do a lot for that community. We've got a great partnership with Manchester, Coffey County and the entire state, you know, for that matter. It's been it's an absolute pleasure working with with, like I said, everyone from from the governor's office down to down to our local residents. Man, Jeff, we can't say how much we appreciate you sticking with us this long. It's been a phenomenal chat. I just have a couple of odds and ends to wrap us up. Go for it. These are really easy, quick ones. The lineup came out day by day this year. There's got to be a specific reason why. For us, I think how are we able to tell the story in terms of what our lineup look like? And we've had the same challenges I think everyone else had is like you've got your larger font, your top lines and then kind of everything else below it. And it's before it's been a challenge of being able to do something like that day, being able to show who's playing what day just because some of those pieces are still moving around. And we've been fortunate enough that as festivals are the landscape has changed. A lot of this stuff is more, I would say, hammered out before before we even got to the point a lot about. We actually had the opportunity to do it this year. But this actually came from our designers and our marketing team saying, hey, let's take a look at it like this. We've seen this before and we think it's a more powerful story. And then once they laid it out, it was like, oh my God, this is how we have to. We know that people are going to ask about this. And I think part of our from a marketing standpoint, we've said you've got your lineup and then you've made a tent pole moment out of telling people what day artists are playing on and another tent pole moment of the exact schedule. And so part of our thought process was, you know, let's get this information out sooner. I think it'll help in the decision making process. And then, you know, specifically how we had, you know, fish coming across multiple days doing multiple sets. It helps tell a story in a different way. Well, I'm glad you brought up fish because that's my second odds and end. Between the difference between fishes set from 2009 to what they're expected to do this year, because the wording is different. And I've been having these arguments with people that something about this year's specific fish doing two different days seems different than what was put on in 2009. Am I wrong about that? I'll say in true fish fashion, expect your mind to be blown. I mean, these guys are amazing, talented artists. That does not win me an argument, Jeff. That does not do anything for me winning an argument. The reason I, the reason I ask. I can't tell you all the secrets. Okay. Well, the reason I ask is because the way the 2009 was set up is they did a late night set on Friday up until like three o'clock in the morning. And then they did two sets on Sunday night. So the way that it was set in 2009, the wording was insert thing here. But in this, in this lineup, Sunday says two sets when it was never billed as two sets in 2009, even though they played two sets. Yeah. You see what I have to put up with Jeff. I know I'm getting the weeds here, but I'm wondering if that's, there's a specific reason why the language is different this year than it was in 2009. I mean, specifically on the two set side, I think that means something to fish fans. Okay. So I mean, you go, you go back and kind of say what, you know, what that entails. They, they know, you know, as fish fans, I think if it were to be one set, it would mean something different than two sets. Okay. Then the Friday. Now, my, my thought was Friday may be a fish sort of super jam. Friday may be one of those moments where they start bringing a bunch of people on stage. I don't know. I bet one of them will be. Yeah. I bet one of them will be. You'll have to, you'll have to come to see. Well, you don't have to worry about that. And then the final, final question for you, Final Odds and Ends, any picks for your weekend other than like the stuff that we know? Is there anything that jumped out at you in the lineup? I mean, there's one big one. I'm really excited to see what we're going to do with the Grand Ole Opry this year. Me too. I really like that. I thought that was a stroke of genius, by the way, putting that on Thursday. Yeah. Yeah. That was a, I think that's going to be a great, a great, a great setup and having on Thursday is a special place for them to be. I have not seen Saba live. So to see that one, I'm kind of excited about. I'm a huge Childish Gambino fan. I went and saw him in Atlanta when he opened up for his tour. And I mean, I think he quoted, we're saying, you know, get ready cause I'm taking you guys to church. And it was, it was just a spectacular show. And I've seen him a couple of times at the farm and now to have him back on the main stage. That's probably the show I'm most excited to see. Girl Talk. I mean, I can't remember the last time Girl Talk played, but every time it is, it is a party. And I look forward to those types of parties. Even the older that I get. Lonely Island, you know, really, really excited about that one. Jim James always been a huge jacket fan and just what Jim is doing. Maren Morris, what she's doing right now is fantastic. Oh man. Her new single is great. Yeah. Toki Amata. Excited about that one. This is a good list. This is a good group. How about Johnson and the Love Makers? That's one of those that's kind of caught on quickly. I'm intrigued by it. It's just, it's not something I'm kind of used to. So I'm, I'm more or less really intrigued. And then I think probably my last one that really caught me is Princess. I really like that play. I think Princess is a really fun poll. Really out of, really out of their box, I think. Finally, to your point about Childish Gambino, what I love about Bonnaroo and what we've talked about a lot is how they take artists that they really believe in and no matter where they are in their career, they sort of put them under their wing and then they carry them for as long as they need to. Childish Gambino, I don't care what anybody says, Childish Gambino is a Bonnaroo artist. He can go to any festival he wants to, but he's Bonnaroo's. I love that. Thank you. I remember seeing him in a tent the first year and it was funny. Like I had listened to him before, but I had for some reason no idea it was Donald Glover. And I walked into the tent, I'm like, what's Donald Glover doing on stage? And I'm like, that's Childish. Like it just kind of like connected for me at that point in time. And after that, I was even more of a super fan than I'm already, I already am. Hey Jeff, I thought we would spend a lot of time talking about the experiences and this has been so interesting. We haven't really, wonder if maybe as it gets closer to festival, we might have you back on and we can talk about some of not just what's going to happen, but how people might look at experiencing it and all that. I'd love to. Yeah, there's some good stuff that we're kind of in the process of kind of dotting our eyes and crossing our T's to get it nailed down. It's going to be exciting even from the details surrounding the veil coming back this year. There's just some really creative things happening. I'm probably, I don't want to say more giddy about that, but some of the ideas that are currently happening and if they come to fruition this year are going to be awesome. I would love to dive deeper into them as we get closer, mainly because me and Barry for the first time in probably 12, 13 years went out to GA and GA camping and experience what you guys were selling and we loved it. Absolutely loved it. It's so well done. It was to be avoided at all costs prior. Oh my God. Now I got back to the camp at one night and I was like, I sort of just want to go back out to GA. I was like, well, why am I back here with you losers? But yeah, it's a really, really well done thing and once you guys have it all set and ready to go, well, I'd love to deep dive into that again. Let's do it. Jeff. Thank you so much. We'll talk soon. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you. My pleasure. A lot of fun. Thanks Jeff. All right. There you go. Jeff from AC Entertainment could not have been nicer and more courteous with his time. Endless amount of gratitude for him spending as much time as he did with us today. Yeah, that was terrific. I've gotten to know Jeff over the years because he's sort of the media go-to person on site anyway and another person that I talked to for my job with the paper. But what he gave us today with this is, like you said, absolutely tremendous and very entertaining and I think he had a lot of fun as well, which makes it even better. They don't always have fun with us. No. Not everybody has fun with us. We make it hard on people. Yeah, very difficult. Hey, we'd love to get your feedback, the whatpodcast.com or the what underscore podcast on Twitter. Of course, it's the same place you can enter for tickets to Bonner. They've been gracious enough to give us a pair to give away to you, the whatpodcast listener. You can also give us a comment on our website, the whatpodcast.com, rate, review, share it, and hopefully we'll see you again next week on the what. See you then. Thanks, guys. Journey through the stories that define the artists playing by the rules. Who are they? What are they? What will you see? The what? Which bands? This year? That matter? With Brad Steiner and Barry Courter.