The New York City music festival has been attempted multiple times but it’s difficult to pull off. One day events have found a place in the New York City summer music scene, but large-scale, multiple day festivals, really have not been pulled off successful. One reason is spacing. Music festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella have actually purchased the land involved in their festival. It shouldn’t surprise you then that Bonnaroo is held in the middle of Tennessee and Coachella is in the desert of Southern California.
That being said, Governors Ball has worked. Now in it’s third year, the festival has grown from humble beginnings to become the “must see” music festival. I will actually be attending Governors Ball on behalf of #5Takeaways. As such, this week I’ll be writing a feature about the music festival. Today I’m going to talk about why the festival works as opposed to other festival’s failing.
1. Think Big, Act Small
I feel like this is a common business adage, but it cannot be overstated. If you have big plans, implement the plans in small steps. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Governors Ball. The festival was first held in 2010 on one Saturday(!). The festival boasted a smallish lineup headlined by Girl Talk, and also featured Mac Miller, Reptar, Empire of the Sun, Big Boi, Pretty Lights and Passion Pit (DJ Set) among others. They then expanded the next year to a two day festival headlined by Beck, Modest Mouse and Passion Pit.
The lesson here is not to overwhelm yourself by starting a three day festival first off. There was obviously issues during the year of the festival, but because organizers didn’t have a three day festival, they could improve upon these mistakes. As a comparison, the Catalpa Festival was a two day festival held last summer in New York City. It’s headliners were Snoop Dogg and The Black Keys. Unsurprisingly, the festival was a one year deal. There are no plans for a repeat.
2. Limited Overlapping Sets!
One of the biggest pet peeves for any festival goer is trying to figure out which artist to see. Festivals can give you the unique chance to see many of your favorite artists, but if they are playing during the same time, you cannot do what you want. Festivals have been grappling with the issues for years now. One option has been pairing artists together that may not have an overlap in fans. For example, maybe a promoter would schedule Kendrick Lamar, alt-J and the Avett Brothers during the same time. Scheduling conflicts may be unlikely, because of the disparate nature in each artist’s fan. However, now people enjoy such diverse music that you can bet their would Kendrick Lamar fans at the Avett Brothers set and vice-versa.
Governors Ball has taken the challenge head on. In the 2011, there were NO overlapping sets. This meant you could see every artist at the festival if that was your prerogative. In 2012, there were also no overlapping sets. They have expanded so much in 2013 that there has to be overlapping sets, but at one time their will be no more than two artists playing at once. There are still difficult decision to make like Kanye West vs. The Avett Brothers or Pretty Lights vs. Kings of Leon.
3. It’s More Than Just Music
One thing that makes Bonnaroo really unique is that none of the stages are sponsored like at most other festivals. Instead of sponsoring stages, companies can sponsor “exhibitions.” For example, MLB has batting cages, XBox has a free video game arcade. It allows these companies to be creative, while the festival itself doesn’t seem overwhelmed with sponsorships. Even though the Governors Ball has a Honda Stage, they have borrowed a few strategies from Bonnaroo.
Instead of just having music, Governors Ball has a Silent Disco, Photo/Gif Booths, Lawn Games (sounds like college graduation), Ping Pong and even warm up yoga. There is also a crazy amount of indie foodmakers coming to the festivals. The food options will not be your typical corn dog and funnel cake fare. Think GoogaMooga but on a smaller scale.
4. Cater To Your Audience
The logistics of a New York City festival may be the most difficult in terms of planning. Parking is crazy, your festivalgoers can’t really campout as opposed to Coachella, Bonnaroo, Camp Bisco or Firefly. Even though Governors Ball doesn’t include hotel accommodations, it does help in other area. It provides shuttles (for a price of course) and ferries (for a price of course) so festivalgoers can get to Randall’s Island. They also provide free water. It’s hot in New York City in the summer. Whereas some festivals charge a TON for water, you are allowed to bring two water bottles that can be refilled.
5. The Fun Doesn’t End After The Headliners
One issue that arises from having a festival on city property is that the festival needs to close at a reasonable time. Since Coachella and Bonnaroo own their land, they are allowed to go all night. That’s why you see Bonnaroo performances going to 4 am. At the Governors Ball, the festivities on Randall’s Island ends at 11 pm, but there are a lot of after shows. Of course you need to pay extra, but if you do, you can see a really unique show. Dinosaur Jr., Policia, Haim, Griz, The Revivalists, Solid Gold and Japandroids are ALL doing after shows.