South By So What!? Expands To Add Second, Fall Festival.
The music festival game can be a tricky business. But, listen, if you're drawing crowds of 6,000 out to a minor league baseball park in Grand Prairie for one of these deals, you're probably doing at least some things right.
So, at least, goes the logic of Mike Ziemer, head of Dallas' Third String Productions. Because, after who has been throwing concerts around the region for about a decade now, ever since he was a teenager — says he already has a similar Austin-poaching plan in place for this secondary affair, which is tentatively set to return to QuikTrip Park on October 26.
Still: So many questions.
So, to satiate our curiosities, we reached out to Ziemer to learn a little bit more about his plans.
First things first: Why make this move? Why add a second South by So What!? at all?
South By So What?! has become its own brand that has completely outgrown us as a company with the size of its following and popularity. It's approaching 20,000 likes on Facebook. We sell tickets in almost all 50 states and multiple countries. It's just 'that festival' for so many people. I've seen other festivals and tours do spring and fall versions and, with a merger between us and our longtime competitor, Kevin Dunlap from Greenlight Productions, it makes sense to narrow down to two festivals all year round instead of one in the spring and then our two companies competing over our Unsilent Night festival and his Firefest.
What's the plan, then, with this fall edition?
The fall edition of the festival will be a slightly scaled down version of the spring festival. We're looking to do two stages — or possibly three — as opposed to the four stages that are going all day and having 70 bands [at the spring version]. This will likely have 30 to 40 acts, total. Also, we are replacing our pop stage with a more EDM- and hip-hop-focused stage. We've kind of eased into this with having hip-hop and DJ acts on both Unsilent Night and South By So What?! this year, and we're ready to introduce more of them. With Bamboozle and Warped Tour also going in that direction, it's becoming part of our 'scene,' and we can't ignore it with the overwhelming request for it.
Why still call this South by So What?! if it has nothing to do with the timing of SXSW? It's not like you don't already have successful, non-SBSW-affiliated events like Unsilent Night running throughout the year. So why even bother keeping the name? Why not just come up with another brand name?
South By So What?! has just become such a big brand that we feel there is something meaningful to the attendees in doing it twice a year and introducing this version. We're putting it in the middle of Austin City Limits and Fun Fun Fun Fest, so, once again, it's sort of like Dallas' version of a festival for the people that cannot attend those — just like the people that can't attend SXSW. We had too many issues with the City of Dallas last year with Unsilent Night and with Lights All Night and other festivals in December that haven't been announced yet happening, so it just doesn't make sense to keep doing a December festival. And you can't really call something in October “Unsilent Night.”
So no more Unsilent Night, then.
Where will the fall version of SBSW be held? When will it take place? Who's playing?
Our tentative date is October 26 at QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie. We can't announce anyone yet since a handful of them will be coming through on Warped Tour and we are waiting on permission to announce them. But it will be what the attendees expect from us — a solid mix of bands that are at the top of the scene right now, bands that are coming up in the scene, and an introduction to newer bands. We have some really cool submissions this year, and we are trying to make it all work. Remember the surprise when we booked Riff Raff? Expect some things like that again.
How many festivals is this now for TSPR on an annual basis? You were focusing on touring shows there for a while, but now seem to have returned to the festival model. Is that fair to say?
We still do anywhere from three to 10 shows a month in Denton, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin. We have actually expanded recently to Austin to fill the void left by the old Emo's closing. So we are definitely still doing shows on the regular, but we are very focused on our festivals as well. Our plan is to do South By So What?! in the spring and fall, and then we are working on some festivals that might surprise people for 2014 — things more along the lines of genres that we haven't really had a lot to do with due to the financial restrictions of being an independent promoter. But we've teamed up with some great people and hope to be telling you about those big things soon.
Last question: What does this all mean for TSPR as a whole?
I think this means bigger and better things for the spring 2014 South By So What?! and bigger things for us down the line as a whole. The number of interested bands, agents and sponsors after the success of South By So What?! this year is like a whole new ballgame for us. Bringing out 6,000 people and increasing our attendance year after year has proved more valuable than we expected, and doing this festival in the fall, doing it right and getting the attendance we hope for could be a game-changer for us. I've already stepped down a lot on the one-off booking, local shows and touring shows to let [TSPR talent buyer and marketing coordinator] Orlando [Mendoza] handle that and to dedicate my full focus to our festivals. I think that in itself is going to prove to be the beginning of a lot of new and bigger things for us.