Interview: Superfly’s Jonathan Mayers, Pt. II

We did a jazz club in 2007 and it felt like the Village Vanguard here in New York and it felt authentic and it was just really detail oriented. Seeing young people lined up for jazz was just amazing and it was a big hit.

I don’t know man, I just go back to the basics of why I’m in this. It’s like putting that cool concert poster on your wall, that cool photo on your wall that still is very meaningful to me and just being able to be creative and to try to think about things differently and try to push the envelope.

HT: And getting back to Neil Young, he sort of embraced the Bonnaroo ethos and did something different that wasn’t doing on that tour…

JM: He was on the Greendale tour at the time, but I think that wisely he played at a set that, I don’t want to say the hits, but he was playing to that audience and I think that a lot people get down there and understand that maybe this is an audience of really super-passionate fans. I think that one of the reasons [that] interested Bruce to do it was [that] tons of people are Bruce Springsteen fans. Maybe a lot of people haven’t seen him play, or would go to his show, but in the context of Bonnaroo it works.

Even Metallica when they played, James Hetfield asked how many of you have never been to see Metallica before? I swear man it look like two-thirds of the audience raised their hand. And people were into it and so I think that’s like a band that has been around for what 20, 25 years?

HT: Is there going to be any difference in the Bonnaroo coverage from Fuse and the AT&T Blueroom this year, from last year?

JM: Well, we’re doing both programs again. We’re really looking at different strategies and plans to further extend our content because we have all this amazing footage, user generated content, comedian performances, we have a ton of stuff. We’re really looking at plans and because all of our commerce is being done through our website, we have a great community. We are looking into how we can further extend that. You know some of those performances, those are your best commercial for the festival.

HT: Now that you’ve owned the festival grounds in Manchester for a couple of years, what are the future plans for the site?

JM: We just installed permanent electrical all throughout the site. So we have big plans to build out the infrastructure to hopefully do other events while also helping us to contain our budget and give a better experience for the fans.

HT: Can you tell us a little bit about the greening efforts? That’s obviously a big initiative that you have…

JM: The greening effort, that’s just how people should live their daily life – just not being wasteful. You know, if you are going to make a mess… clean it up. Recycle, be smart about it. And here’s a great platform where everyone comes together, where you can lead and set some good examples. Maybe those [greening efforts] can extend into your daily life and that’s what it’s about, right? Without preaching it to people.

HT: What advice do you have for Bonnaroo first timers, and what surprises do you have for the fans that come back year after year?

JM: Well, I think some things like preparation, you know having all your stuff together like your tent or whatever or however you want to go and just planning it out a bit and then it’s just like rolling with it. Part of the experience is getting dirty and getting into it, diving into it. And also, keeping an open mind – check out bands and artists that maybe you don’t know. Sometimes I like to go to festivals and just not have a schedule and just check it out.

HT: In terms of Outside Lands, will there be anything different this time around?

JM: Well, because it was a first-year event we learned a lot and of course we are looking into how we can do things better. Now, just like with any first-year project, you learn a lot from it. I think a lot of the things that we kind of incubated there we are going to take to the next level – like the wine area and a further integration with the food and wine. We want each one of these events to have their own vibe and brand and spirit to it. So that one is about the Bay Area and San Francisco, so we really want to be more entrenched within the community.

HT: Is there another Vegoose in the works?

JM: We’re really looking at what we can do within that market place. I’m not sure, I don’t think that we got the model down for a variety of reasons. But you’ve got to go out there and try things and they’re not all going to be home runs, but that’s part of the process. So, yeah, we are looking at that and we’re looking at other opportunities – so, we’ll see what happens. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we come back into Vegas and do something. My guess is that it won’t be the same thing that we’ve done in the past.

HT: How does the sad state of the economy affect Bonnaroo and the general landscape of festivals?

JM: Well, my philosophy is this: “What do you do? What am I supposed to do?”. Am I supposed to hole up and suck my thumb? No. You know you got to go out there, this is my job. Half of being successful is survival. I feel like the strong with survive and the ones that have well thought out business plans and the ones that survive really have good products.

The ones that are going to fall off are going to be the ones that are jumping on board and aren’t really paying attention to the details and aren’t about a brand and around thinking about the best value for their fan base and all those other things, those are the ones that are probably going to have a more difficult time. Now is the time not to roll back, now is the time to give the best experience that you can, give the best value to the consumer. But you know, what business plan is done on a one year basis or a two year basis? This is about a long term strategy and making sure that you’re making smart decisions along the way.

With that being said, we have this payment plan. We’re trying to do things to try to address the difficult times that we’re at. Do I think that the next two, three, four years are going to be challenging? Yes I do, but everyone is in the same boat. So you just go to do it and this is what we do right?

HT: What are you looking most forward to at this year’s Bonnaroo Festival?

JM: I’m like really excited to see Bruce, I’m a huge fan. I’m like over the moon about it. I’m really excited about that. I don’t know, for me it’s just a like a little bit different because I almost have more fun the week beforehand being with all my friends and being with my team. We’re really close and just like being down there and having fun. It’s like being at summer camp. You know… like setting off fireworks, changing letters on the hotel marquee and stuff like that. It’s just like having fun in the day to day process, that’s what I get off on.

HT: How much time to get actually get to enjoy Bonnaroo as it’s happening?

JM: I have a great time because most of my work is done beforehand. You know, the advance work. That’s the key for me, that’s the success for me having fun in your day to day. You’ve got to enjoy the moment. Again, it’s all about the team and everyone playing their role.

HT: Where do you see Bonnaroo in five years, ten years, twenty years?

JM: Bankrupt! [laughs] Where do I see it? I mean, where would I like to see it? I would like it to evolve into a bigger brand beyond the physical event, and we’re a media company and we’re not just curating the four days, we’re curating the 365 days through strategic partnerships, you know leveraging all those amazing performance footage, this great community base that we have that’s where I would like to see it go.

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2 Responses

  1. As a five (soon to be six) year veteran Bonnaroonian, I graciously applaud the efforts of Jonathan and the Superfly team. Nowhere on Earth is there a better music weekend, consistently, year after year. Bringing Bruce is a definate coup. Toss in Phish for two sets (Which should have been a given once the first reunion shows were announced) and you have the top four days of the year (plus two for cross country travel)

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