How do bands get booked at major festivals like Bonnaroo? Brad, Barry, and Lord Taco traveled to Knoxville in 2020 to talk to the guys that actually put together the lineups to find out.
In this High Five Clip from The What Podcast, hear AC Entertainment's Lead Booker Bryan Benson and Vice-President of Booking Stephen Greene discuss how Roo comes together. They also discuss what happens when they book a band, like say Mumford & Sons, to a smaller stage, and they suddenly blow up.
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Hey everybody. Welcome back to the What Podcast. I'm Barry Courter. That's Lord Taco. You'll notice Brad is not with us, which for our, you know, for Russ and I are Lord Taco and I, that's always a good thing. So we'll manage, we'll manage to. He's back on his hunger strike, isn't he? Exactly. Yeah. We haven't had that announcement yet, have we? Yeah. His demands are still out there. That's right. Speaking of, yeah, his demands are lineup related and that's what this episode, this newest high five clip is all about. These are short clips that we have gone back into the vast archive from our almost five year run now and Lord Taco, this is one of my favorites and it seems completely timely and relevant to the next, what's happening in the next couple of weeks, right? Oh, me too. It's one of my favorites and I still can't believe we got to go down to Knoxville and do this. The timing was a little off as we come to find out because this was talking about the 2020 lineup, which of course got scrapped. Yeah. The one everyone agrees was the greatest lineup ever. Yeah. Objectively the best one ever that everyone loves and everyone was excited about and it just, it'll never line up to be that good again. Or maybe it will. We'll see. So to give everybody some perspective, we reached out, I reached out, I guess to Ted Heineg, the new president at that time, I think he'd become president or maybe he wasn't, but he was about to become interim. I think he was about to be named. Yeah. Yeah. Ashley Caps was, we knew he was going to retire and Ted Heineg was going to take over and we wanted to talk to him and he said, you don't want to talk to me. How about we talk, you come up and you talk to the two guys who actually booked the festival and I was like, no, that sounds horrible. Why would we want to do that? And yeah, no, we. Mistake. Yeah. And we said, Oh my, yeah, absolutely. And then we thought about it for a day or two and said, well, we're so close. What if we drive up there? And he said, come on. So we, you, me and Brad drove to Knoxville one morning and sat in their boardroom with Ted and Steven and Brian and for what? Three hours, two and a half hours. It was all afternoon. They were so generous with their time answering our questions and yeah, nothing off the table, right? And we tried to get, you know, some, some information out of them and you know, being the, the, the hard driving journalists that we are, you know, we wanted to know why Dolly hadn't been booked and you know, that's it. Yeah. Which speaking of, it turns out she would love to play Bonner. I know article that come out in the Tennessee. Yeah. Yeah. Not at all surprised. She didn't commit to it and good for them for asking and running, running, running it. So we'll see. We'll see what happens, but this is a short clip that we, I think Brad asked Brian. There's a bunch. Let me say this. All of the idea behind these clips is to give you, you know, a little bit of interest, hopefully a hook to go back and maybe listen to the full episodes. This one ended up being two episodes. And like I said, it's really inside baseball on, yes, on how they, not just this festival, but any event, uh, you know, what's, but how long, how long it takes them when they start, um, how important the relationships are, uh, how important, uh, you know, being on top of things are how important being able to try to predict, you know, who's good now and who will be in two years. You know, exactly. Yeah. And I think, you know, Brad Parker from C three, he said it on our last episode with, uh, when they had them on, he said, you know, people think it's easy. Like you want to get the rolling stones. You just go book the rolling stones. Yeah. And it is not that easy. And yeah, it's surprising how far in advance they have to time all this to get it, you know, in the works. And so yeah, it's a little prediction. It's a little going with your gut and, um, you know, a lot of luck. Yeah. You don't, uh, you don't just go to a website and see a big roster and say, I'll take one of those and two of those and six of those, you know, yeah, it's not a, Not Amazon. Yeah. There's a lot of timing involved in negotiating. And like I said, just trying to plan ahead. And you'll hear in this clip in particular, um, and I think Brad Steiner asked the question, uh, you know, have you ever booked a band that suddenly blew up? You know, what does that do? And I thought that interesting was really fascinating. Um, again, you think that sounds easy and obvious, right? It's not, it's a, it's a big puzzle. So um, obviously there's other news. Black Friday happened. Presale tickets went on sale, appeared to go very well from what I could see. Yeah, seems to be. I've seen a lot of people, uh, bought tickets immediately. And um, it looks like the area nine three one, which is our firmware camp, sold out instantly. I don't know who we really messed up. We should have been complaining. We should have been bitching and moaning for the last 10 years. Lesson learned. I hope you enjoy it back there with all the ticks and the fleas and the, oh, it's awful. Just terrible, terrible. Enjoy being next to the porta potties. Um, but like I said, all that news has happened and we will get into that, but we want to wait till it's a full episode and we've reached out to some more people and gotten, uh, you know, legitimate information, um, not just us speculating on it. And so we're going to wait on that. But uh, without further ado, here's another high five clip with Stephen and Brian. We booked the best acts available and, um, first email headliner. Sure. Um, first attempt at a female headliner. Definitely not, you know? And so, um, I think that, you know, it's, you know, obviously booking a festival is like we kind of alluded to at the beginning. It's, it's a process. It's, it's, it's literally, it's, it's putting together a big puzzle and there are lots of reasons that acts do or do not end up on the bill. And, and, um, and this is, uh, you know, this is the first time that that happened. So when it comes to where, uh, artists are put on the lineup, do you guys specifically know where they're going to fit, what slot they're going to, uh, be on the poster slash the schedule? Uh, when you say, yeah, Lizzo could definitely be a headliner, but so could Miley. Was there a conversation of, well, let's flip those? Or did you know all the time, the whole time that this certain artist was going to fit this certain slot? Yes. Yes, we know, we know that's how we, that, and that's how we booked it. That's how we booked the festival. Um, and that's an interesting question. And you know, we, we, we, we slot artists as we booked the event. Um, and we do it that way because we are very sensitive to conflict in the schedule and we do everything we can to limit those as much as possible. Whenever you have a festival that has multiple stages that are running, uh, congruently or up against one another, especially the size of Bonnaroo where you have five, six, seven, eight stages going at once, um, there's gonna be conflicts. There's conflicts that we don't think are conflicts that then the fans tell us are conflicts. And then we're like, oh, that was going to be a conflict. But you know, and you know, a conflict could be, you know, 10 people just happened to like these two bands that are way different, or it could be like, oh, we really blew that one. But yes, we, we slot artists as we book, um, in, yeah. How much wiggle room do you have when it comes to, if you already booked with the schedule in mind, how much wiggle room do you have either with the artist or with your own sort of, cause I can, I can understand if somebody all of a sudden blows up in a way that you don't, didn't really see it and all of a sudden you're like, oh, we got them on this tent in a time that's really not very comfortable for us. Well those conversations happen. Um, you know, they're rare, but they do happen. We've, we've run into that in the past. Um, I think the first time we ever booked Mumford, I remember, um, it was kind of this thing that just kind of happened over. I mean, they exploded so quickly and the, you know, we had them on Bonnaroo that year. And when we, when we confirmed them to when the festival actually happened, it was a rocket ship. And I remember having to make some adjustments there. Um, and those are tough conversations because you, you know, every artist is slotted at this point. And so to have to make adjustments on the fly because of an artist, uh, getting a lot bigger, um, you know, then you have to go have some tough conversations with some of the other artists, but we work through it. And during the, I mean, and that's now, but the process is fluid, like while we're booking it because things Ebb and Flow, artists that we thought we're going to have, um, fall out, um, artists that we didn't think we were going to have rear their heads and we're like, oh, we really want that. So, you know, we may have something slotted in a particular place in October and then it makes more sense or it's more exciting or whatever to move it to a different place by November. And we do that and it's, it's a constant conversation with the artists and their camps. Um, and most of the time they're okay with it. I mean, most of the time, but we rarely are doing something that's going to have a negative effect on any of the artists. All right. So there you go. Like I said, uh, that's a short clip, but, uh, it's an interesting answer. Uh, you know, what do you do when you hire a Mumford and sons who people have kind of heard of when you sign the paperwork and you put them on a small stage and then you wake up the next day almost and wow. Yeah. Suddenly they're a household name. Yeah, they're a little bigger and, uh, it's not just moving them. You got to move. Who was that in that other spot? And yeah, somebody's got to get bumped. You know, somebody's got to move. So, uh, that was fascinating. I, there were so many clips that I could have picked, uh, taco. Yeah. The whole episode was gold. So definitely go back, listen, it's a two parter. Um, or you can go on YouTube. The entire video is on YouTube because this was really when we started doing YouTube. Uh, we, we actually filmed this one. I think that's just, you know, wow, that's right. An experiment and it worked out well. So you can listen to it on, uh, your podcast app, or you can go to YouTube and just watch it. And like I, like you said, this was 2020 so it's, it's old, but I don't think it's dated. And I think it's timely because that's what we're all going to be doing for the next, uh, what six, eight weeks. Yep. And yep, it's old, but you know, they're still doing it. It's Brian and Steve are still doing it. And it's the exact same process. Yeah. Nothing has changed in that regard. Uh, and I can't, one of the things that I want to talk about when we get back with Brad is, and we've said this on our show is that we feel like they need to come strong with this lineup and reading some of the Reddit and our discord posts and, and stuff like that. I'm kind of curious as to what you two think that actually means, you know, uh, I mean, is that, you know, you gotta have the who and the stones or do you have to have the stones? You know what I mean? Seriously, how strong is strong? I know you gotta, yeah, I think we all pretty much agree that this is their shot at, uh, really coming back from the last couple of years and if they could hit a home run with the lineup, everything else sounds like it's in the works to be a great festival. I mean, I'm glad to hear you use those words could be in shot. I've seen some folks say that it's a must and I probably said that, you know, back after the festival ended and I'm not sure it's a must, must. It needs to be good, but I'm not sure it's make or break. I think they've done enough, enough with the changes and, and everything else. Yeah. And I don't know about you personally. I don't, for me, I don't really care about the lineup as much. I, yeah, I do want it to be good, but you know, it's, it's definitely not a make or break, but I think if they're, if they want to, if they want to sell out or even sell a lot, it's got to be lineup driven is what's going to, is what's going to get people back. I totally agree. It's the difference between that last 20,000 people and along those lines too, I keep thinking, I don't really want it to be a sellout. I like, I like a little space. Yeah. You know what? This, this year was perfect. There was no lines to anything. It felt very spacious, very easy to get around. So yeah, I don't know. It's not a bad thing with hindsight. Yeah. It, uh, being able to move around and, and, uh, you know, getting to places that you couldn't normally get because quite honestly, security was a little lax was not a bad thing. Yeah. Yeah. So I don't know that I want, I don't know that I want McCartney level crowds and that kind of security again. So that's just being selfish. So all right. Um, thank you guys for checking in. We'll be back. Not sure if it'll be next week or the after or after, but it will be very, very soon. And Russ, the year, man, it's, it's just screaming by. I can't believe it's almost over here. So it's going to be January, uh, tomorrow. It feels like, you know, and, um, then the lineup proper will come out. We're going to get some more root clues in between now and then. That's right. That's right. And you know, next thing you know, we're going to be looking at a lineup. I know, I know. So that's what I mean. It's a, it got serious already with the, uh, um, pre sale. So it feels like it's on. So yup. All right, Russ, thanks guys. Thank you. And thanks everybody for listening and, uh, please subscribe and hit that bell and do all the other things you, we ask you to do. And, uh, yes, it really helps. It does. And you know, share it. If you know somebody that's going to Bonnaroo for the first time or maybe. Yeah. Or is on the fence. Not sure. I mean, I like to think our, with all the information that we have either from us or from people that have been guests that, uh, it can help you make that decision. So I think so. All right. All right. See you guys later.