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On the edge of culture and creativity: Superfly Q&A

Superfly, the company behind festivals such as Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, has been making major moves in the experiential space.

Founded in 1996 by Rick Farman, Jonathan Mayers, Rich Goodstone and Kerry Black, Superfly has a history of exploring different kinds of immersive, live events from comedy festival Clusterfest to music and arts festival Bonnaroo.

More recently, the company has invested in businesses including sensory experience specialist Listen, immersive entertainment hot spot Two Bit Circus and event technology company LiveStyled, part of its commitment to marrying music with technology.

IQ catches up with Superfly co-founder and music-tech specialist Rick Farman to find out more about the paradoxical relationship between new technology and live events and the potential for music in the virtual events space.


Superfly has invested greatly in the immersive entertainment space recently, why?
There are certainly a few aspects to this. Due to Superfly’s background, we have a great vantage point for the entertainment and experiential industries at large, so we can identify companies with great potential for growth that we can have a very meaningful impact on.

With these investments, we are trying to find crossover with other companies. We have seen over the years on both sides of our business – be it as an event creator and operator, or as a brand agency business and service provider – that there’s a lot of scope for this.

At the same time, we are not a typical music company or promoter – the core of what Superfly does is create experiences that impact people in positive ways with a high level of creativity. We are interested in all different kinds of artists and art forms – anything that helps people find where their passions lie. So, as we grow our business, we are seeking to explore all different types of entertainment and create more diversification across the board.

“The core of what Superfly does is create experiences that impact people in positive ways with a high level of creativity”

How does this translate into your festival business?
We build festivals by trying to replicate that big experience on stage. It’s about performance, but with heightened participation. Outside Lands, for example, does this primarily through food and drink: people learn about wine from the region, talk to those who make it, do wine tastings etc.

What was really brand new and cutting edge for Outside Lands this year, was that we had sales and consumption of cannabis on-site. Globally, no other major festival has done this. Other events have concessions, but we built out a whole different experience from it for people to learn about cannabis – there was a smell wall, information on how it’s made, and we worked with leading brands in the cannabis eco systems. It’s all about bringing that immersive quality and tying it into that culture – that’s the general way we approach that kind of thing at festivals.

It’s like what we’re doing with the Friends and the Seinfeld experiences, too. The idea came out of our comedy festival, Clusterfest, to present immersive experiences with leading media IP from TV shows. We created the format and exported the Clusterfest ideas into standalone installations. The Friends Experience sold out in New York when it launched and recently opened in Boston too.

“It’s an interesting paradox in a way – live music is growing both because of and in spite of that innovation”

The consumer demand for the experiential has increased massively in the past few years, what are the main reasons behind this?
In many ways, there is a direct correlation with the ways in which people experience entertainment at home and the advent of a more digital lifestyle. We have seen this happen before with the explosion of the festival market, especially in the United States, which was driven by advances of technology around digital music. Having access to all that content makes sense when you can then go and see it all at a festival – they’re like mirror experiences.

This is similar to what is happening right now, but with even more interactive digital experiences – people are not just watching but participating in the digital space now, and they are looking for experiences that feed into that real world experience.

For example, visual social platforms like Instagram create a level of needing to get out and experience special events firsthand. All of this increases the desire to go to a festival or event. On the other hand, a festival is an experience that lasts for days, away from screens and technology, so it provides a respite from that digital life.

It’s an interesting paradox in a way – live music is growing both because of and in spite of that innovation. I personally think it’s awesome when these things happen – the convergence of what your experiences are in the digital world with what you’re getting from the live experience.

“Technology can be an amazing tool for artists and Superfly has a real opportunity to play within that overall emerging space”

Could you argue that technology is taking away from the real, lived music experience in any way?
For me, technology only adds to live experiences. The whole artistic universe – streams, merch, live – is being translated to a different context, where a lot of young people interested in entertainment and culture are living, so there is great potential.

The virtual events space is ripe for music to be one of the leading components. There is obviously momentum there already, the watershed moment being the Fortnite x Marshmello concert, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

What is so cool about the gaming format, and what’s developed with streaming platforms like Twitch, is that the level of interactivity that the artists can have with the fan is really incredible. We are now transcending the normal ability for an artist to participate with the audience and having more of a conversation and feedback element. Layer on top of that, all of the magic that can be created in a CGI environment and there’s something really special.

I believe that technology can be a really amazing tool for artists and Superfly as a brand has a real opportunity to play within that overall emerging space.


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Superfly makes moves in experiential space

New York production company Superfly has delved further into the immersive experience side of live entertainment, following the buy-out of its stake in Bonnaroo by Live Nation.

Superfly, the company that co-founded Tennessee-based Bonnaroo in 2002, last week announced the launch of The Seinfeld Experience, a year-long, immersive activation based on hit TV show Seinfeld.

“We’re thrilled to bring The Seinfeld Experience to life in an innovative way, combining nostalgia with immersive entertainment,” says Superfly co-founder Jonathan Mayers.

The production company also recently acquired a majority stake in sensory experience specialist Listen. Founded in 2012, Listen has collaborated with artists including Childish Gambino and Brian Eno, as well as carrying out experiential marketing for brands such as Microsoft, Paypal and Virgin.

“We’re thrilled to bring the Seinfeld Experience to life in an innovative way, combining nostalgia with immersive entertainment”

Superfly has created activations for San Francisco comedy festival Clusterfest, which it co-produces with television channel Comedy Central, since its inauguration in 2017. Installations include replications of sets from TV programmes The Office, Atlanta and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Superfly’s festival portfolio includes Bonnaroo, which it produced for a final time this year in a sell-out edition, and San Francisco’s Outside Lands. The company was the original production partner of Woodstock 50, pulling out after the festival lost its financial backing.

The Seinfeld Experience will open in autumn. Tickets will go on sale in the coming months.


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Vevo’s Stacy Moscatelli joins Superfly

Events and marketing company Superfly, the co-promoter of US festivals including Bonnaroo, Outside Lands and, most recently, Grandoozy, has appointed 20-year marketing veteran Stacy Moscatelli as executive vice-president of brand marketing.

In her new role, Moscatelli (pictured) will oversee all consumer marketing for the Superfly brand, whose corporate clients include Bose, Yahoo!, Samsung, Google, Asus and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

“As we continue to expand our offering and portfolio of experiences, we’re looking for expert talent to support our growth,” says Jonathan Mayers, co-founder of Superfly. “Having worked with Stacy over the years at Adult Swim, we know first hand the ways in which her creative thinking can transform brands and we’re excited to have her joining our leadership team.”

“I’m thrilled to be joining this passionate and creative team”

Moscatelli was most recently head of consumer marketing at music video platform Vevo, while previous career experience includes 13 years at Turner Broadcasting/Cartoon Network.

“As a client, I worked with Superfly for many years and together we brought a number of incredible projects to life,” she comments. “I’ve always been impressed by Superfly’s imaginative approach to creating flawlessly executed experiences.”

“I’m thrilled to be joining this passionate and creative team and look forward to elevating the Superfly brand even further.”


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Snap debuts AI-powered Crowd Surf at Outside Lands

Snapchat developer Snap Inc. used last weekend’s Outside Lands festival in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, as the debut for a new feature for the app: Crowd Surf, which stitches together audience ‘snaps’ to create a multi-angle video account of a concert or live event.

Snap deployed Crowd Surf during Lorde’s performance on Sunday 13 August, synchronising the audio using artificial intelligence from multiple fans filming the New Zealand singer to create an interactive Snapchat ‘story’ in which viewers can cycle between different crowd perspectives using a button on their smartphone screen.

Tech site Mashable has a video demonstrating Crowd Surf during Lorde’s song ‘Green Light’, showing multiple angles, including crowd selfies and the view from stage left.

A Snap spokesperson says Crowd Surf will be available at select events in future.

According to Mashable, with Crowd Surf Snap “hope[s] to bolster its Stories feature so that users submit to them more and also spend more time watching them. That’s good for Snap Inc. The more time users spend with Stories, the more likely they’ll be served an ad, which contributes to the majority of Snap’s revenue.” Snap Inc. posted disappointing financial results in Q2 2017 with a loss of US$443 million, below Wall Street forecasts.

Both Live Nation and AEG Live/Presents have agreed commercial partnerships around their festivals with Snap, with advertisers and sponsors using Snapchat to target festivalgoers. The former has, since last September, also sold tickets on the platform.


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Festival Focus: FIB, Outside Lands, Forbidden Fruit

Jess Glynne, The Coral, Soulwax and The Kills are among the 16 new acts announced earlier today for the 21st Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB).

They join Rat Boy, Dan Deacon, Walking on Cars and Little Simz, local talent Zahara, LoisBaywaves and Aeries and DJs John Talabot, The Magician, Ryan Hemsworth and Mr Oizo (will Flat Eric be there too?) at the Valencian beach festival from 14 to 17 July.

Lana Del Rey, Coachella 2014, Thomas Hawk

Bonnaroo promoter Superfly will this August welcome Radiohead, Lana del Rey, Duran DuranAirBeach House and J. Cole to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco for the ninth Outside Lands.

Also performing will be LCD Soundsystem, who clearly aren’t worried about having any free time this summer, Lionel RichieThe Last Shadow Puppets and, perhaps most excitingly of all, Animal’s band from The Muppets, Dr Teeth and The Electric Mayhem(Lana del Rey photo by Thomas Hawk.)

Here’s the line-up video:

Another band for whom spare time is at a premium, Tame Impala, have also just added another event to their ever-growing list of festival commitments: Project Pabst, in Portland, Oregon. The Australian band will perform at the MusicfestNW spin-off on Sunday 28 August, while Duran Duran and Ice Cube will play the previous day.

T in the Park, whose future is looking rosy after its Scottish government grant was ruled to be legal at the end of March, added 11 new acts to its line-up over the weekend. Lightning SeedsAsh, Augustines, Sunset Sons, Alessia CaraBorns, DMA’s (with booing Noel Gallagher in tow), Vant, The Struts, The Sherlocks and JR Green will play DF Concerts’ long-running festival for its second year at Strathallan Castle in Perthshire from 8 to 10 July. (Lightning Seeds photo by Coventry City Council.)

Ian Broudie, Lightning Seeds, Godiva Festival 2014, Coventry City Council

Also adjusting to life at a new home is eco-friendly French festival We Love Green, which will move to Bois de Vincennes park in Paris this year. PJ HarveyAir, Diplo, James Blake, Hot Chip, SavagesAmon Tobin and – yes – LCD Soundsystem lead its first wave of confirmed acts.

Following the sad decline of Kilimanjaro Live’s Wakestock, there’s only one contender for the title of the UK’s premiere festival of music and watersports, and Boardmasters 2016 has the line-up to prove it: Maxïmo Park, Michael KiwanukaMy Nu Leng and Dread MC and 16 more acts have been added to a bill that already includes Deadmau5, James Bay, Chase & Status, Primal Scream, Mystery Jets, Kaiser Chiefs and Wolf Alice.

Dizzee Rascal, Rock am Ring 2013, Achim Raschka

Back in North America, Pemberton Music Festival has revealed its 2016 line-up. Performing at the HUKA Entertainment-promoted event, which takes place from 14 to 16 July in Pemberton, British Columbia, are Pearl Jam, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, The KillersSnoop Dogg, Ice Cube, FKA Twigs, Mastodon, Billy IdolGirl Talk, Savages and more.

And finally over to Ireland, where Dizzee Rascal, Katy B, Young Fathers, Bodhi, Mmoths, Steve Mason, Klingande, and The Field will play the sixth Bulmers Forbidden Fruit festival in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, in the first weekend of July. (Dizzee Rascal photo by Achim Raschka.)

Plus, in case you missed it earlier this week – or are one of the foolish people not signed up to our essential IQ Index newsletter, which went out to 10,000 lucky subscribers earlier today – Neil Young will be rockin’ in the Nordic world at Roskilde in July