Define Your Unique Brand: Insights From Sunset Music Festival’s Organizer

There’s no doubt that electronic music has become of the fastest growing genres out there, and over the years we’ve seen the rise of EDM in festival circuits. Now in its sixth consecutive year, Sunset Music Festival has witnessed explosive growth to firmly position itself as one of the largest electronic music festivals in the United States. The 2016 edition housed 60,000 dance fans for a raucous Memorial Day weekend celebration, and this year they’re opening up a 45-minute time slot to one lucky ReverbNation artist. We spoke to festival organizer and Vice President of Donnie Disco Presents, Evan Bailey, to get an inside look at Sunset Festival. Keep on reading to find out what sets Sunset Festival apart, their booking process, and what you can do to become part of the festival movement.  

Hi Evan thanks for taking some time to chat with us. We’re so excited to have ReverbNation join forces with Sunset Music Festival! Can you tell us a little about the history and team behind Sunset Music Festival? What’s the ethos behind the festival and why Tampa, FL?

Sunset Music Festival (SMF) was the product of our fantastic long-time partnership with Tampa’s Sunset Events. Together with John Santoro (of Sunset), we’ve produced hundreds of shows in the Tampa market for about 15 years, so the genesis of SMF was a natural extension of our knowledge of, and love for, the Tampa market. John had originally produced Sunset Music Festival twice in 2006 and 2007, but together we partnered on the event in 2012 and have run it continuously since. Overall, we felt the central Florida market deserved and was ready for a solid regional festival and Raymond James Stadium provided a perfect location to grow the event in the long-run.

What would you say is the one defining characteristic that makes Sunset Music Festival stand out from other festivals?

SMF is a bit different from other festivals in the sense that our talent buyers place an emphasis on thoughtful curation informed not only by regional tastes but also with an ear towards being at the vanguard of presenting the sounds of tomorrow. In other words, the SMF lineup features larger artists Tampa’s fans love, but our talent curators have a solid track record of introducing artists to the region, who within a year of two have much, much larger followings. We’ve also placed an emphasis on production being part of the crowd, as well as higher-end VIP experiences.

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You’re also the Vice President for Disco Donnie Presents, an award-winning and recognized leader in electronic dance music event production. Can you tell us about some of the events you’ve been involved in?

Disco Donnie Presents produces approximately 800 club shows in and around the U.S., as well as five major festivals, annually. In total, we sell about one million tickets a year across all of our events. Our festivals include UME (South Padre Island), Something Wonderful (Dallas), Sunset Music Festival (Tampa), Sun City Music Festival (El Paso), and Something Wicked (Houston).

What are some highlights we can expect this year?

SMF has grown quickly over the past seven years and we’re finally expanding the site footprint for the festival in 2017. Besides the larger location, we’re working closely with our partners Bud Light Lime to build out the festival space in interesting new ways regarding shade, water, art and other activities. Last year we brought the festival production out into the crowd in various ways, and it’s a theme we’re planning on expanding upon in 2017, too.

What is your booking process like?

Our talent curators start months in advance of the festival and look for a variety of artists in different stages in their careers to build out the full lineup. Often we start with headliners who act as central pins for the lineup, then complement those with artists who have solid ticket history in the market, and then round things out with unique and compelling additions to make things musically diverse and interesting.

Now in its sixth consecutive year, Sunset Music Festival has witnessed explosive growth to firmly position itself as one of the largest electronic music festivals in the United States. How has the festival evolved since its inception?

The event started very modestly on a single small “Stageline” stage with a couple of scrims on either side, coupled with a small side stage of local artists, if I recall. As I flip back through the fliers or photos it’s really incredible to watch the development of the other stages and their production, as well as the associated crowd sizes. We’ve done a lot of work adding improvements to the site plan between years, such as expanded stage production, cool down mazes, photobooths, vendors, and larger and improved VIP areas.

What would be your advice for up-and-coming artists, especially those who want to be part of the festival circuit?

Regardless of the style of music you love, it’s important to have a defined sound and strive to be an innovator. Although that’s easier said than done — too often, young artists imitate what they hear working elsewhere. Although inspiration is part of any artist’s work, it’s important to really develop your own sound, look, etc. On the business side, it helps promoters when artists have a defined and unique brands, too.

Lastly, any tips for festival go’ers on how to survive two full days of non-stop electronic music?

Above all, focus on taking care of yourself: Stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, eat plenty of food. Take breaks and don’t push yourself too hard. Your safety is more important than anything.

 

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