In its second year, a New Year’s Eve festival in Minneapolis has answered the very question it posed as part of a grassroots marketing campaign to get the word out ahead of its inaugural event: “WTF is Snowta.”
Ben Brodsky / Brodsky Productions – Snowta NYE
Snowta rings in the New Year at the Minneapolis Convention Center Dec. 31, right before Excision takes the stage.
After bringing 13,000 EDM and hip-hop fans out of the frozen tundra to see a lineup topped by Excision, Pretty Lights, Gucci Mane and Post Malone Dec. 30-31, Snowta appears to have officially landed. Its fully independent promoters – Zack Chazin and Alex Heiligman — have plans to expand to multiple markets.
“New Year’s Eve is the biggest party day of the year, and also the most competitive as far as booking fees,” Chazin told Pollstar. “It’s pretty mind-boggling that two small indie promoters from Minneapolis are rivaling Decadence, Snow Globe and other large-scale events. I feel that we have accomplished that.”
Snowta put up four stages at the Minneapolis Convention Center, with a main stage that also featured EDM acts including Ganja White Night, OOkay Live, hometown hero rapper Prof, Bear Grillz and Joyryde, as well as a smaller Hideaway room featuring house music and up and coming rappers like Maxo Kream. The daily capacity was 7,000.
instagram @adamdegross – Snowta Partners
Snowta festival partners Andy Warg, Alex Heiligman and Zack Chazin. Snowta sold 13,000 tickets Dec. 30-31 at the Minneapolis Convention Center with a lineup including Excision, Pretty Lights, Post Malone and Gucci Mane.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul market has thriving electronic and hip-hop communities that have traditionally been underserved, according to Heiligman. “They’re both thriving groups here in the city and have very dedicated scenes, but there’s not much crossover as far as people doing events putting them together. We’re trying to connect the dots and do something really unique.
“This is providing something that’s definitely been missing from the market,” Heiligman said, adding that Snowta tickets had been sold in about 45 states. Chazin and Heiligman have each promoted club shows with their own companies as well as New Year’s parties in the market. Chazin helps produce 515 Alive in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Zombie Pub Crawl in Downtown Minneapolis.
To combat the frigid cold that regularly blankets the Midwest at the end of the year (a bone-chilling high of about -8F was observed Dec. 30 in Minneapolis), Snowta has heated, underground parking and offers lockers for partiers to store heavy clothes during the event. The city’s downtown is connected by the Skyway indoor tunnel system that leads right into the venue, and even the line to get tickets and security patdown was fully indoors.
Heiligman said the lineup changed a few times but worked out for the better.
“It’s not as easy as one would think,” Chazin said. “Obviously we go about it how most promoters would go about it, just looking at demographics, streaming, how much of our fanbase listens to the artist, past sales, but it’s also a matter of the right crossover. There could be a rap act that does great here, but you put them on a dance festival with a $200 ticket and it doesn’t translate and it could weird people out,” he said, adding that Gucci Mane and Post Malone are “pop music now, as far as I’m concerned” rather than hip-hop. “It’s party music.”
“The Post booking really came at the correct time,” Heiligman said. “With that type of music, I feel like the hardest part is to get those acts that are really going to pop before they do. In this case we were able to get Post and got a really great deal.” Post Malone was just added to near the top of Coachella’s bill for 2018.
Jay Evans / OffColor Productions – Gucci Mane Snowta
Gucci Mane performs during Snowta at the Minneapolis Convention Center Dec. 30.
There also is some loyalty to be had from artists, including second-night headliner Excision.
“I’ve brought Excision here every year since 2010 – sometimes a couple times,” Heiligman said, adding that he’s known Steve Gordon from Circle Talent Agency, who books Excision, for years. “We’d been talking about him doing New Year’s Eve here for years, it just finally came to fruition.” Excision is headlining a major tour starting in late January with his Paradox production company handling lights and sound, and last year sold 25,000 three-day tickets to his own Lost Lands festival in Ohio.
Excision’s Paradox handled the main stage at Snowta, providing thumping bass and brilliant, near-3D lighting into the crowd. Pretty Lights supplemented its own lighting for its set, with a full six-piece live band closing out the first night, making for a one-of-a-kind performance for the first-night headliner.
For some artists, it was their first or first time in a while to play the market, giving them a good chance to build an audience and come back later.
“Joyryde, this is his debut Minneapolis show,” Chazin said. “It’s OOkay’s second live performance, he just started doing a live show and this is his second. Pretty Lights hasn’t been here in four or five years, and Minneapolis has a huge electronic market.”
OOkay commented after the event that Snowta is “Such a great way to bring in the New Year,” with “great staff, amazing crowd, awesome production.”
Jay Evans / OffColor Productions – Ganja White Night Snowta
Ganja White Night performs during Snowta at the Minneapolis Convention Center Dec. 31.
Adding to the vibe of Snowta are experiential elements, like alien laser tag, an indoor skate park with professionals doing stunts, trampolines and human bowling.
Plans are to take the event to more markets, possibly outside the continental U.S.– with the same Snowta branding.
“Last year was difficult because it was really just a dream basically conceptualized by Alex,” Chazin said. “We just kind of put it down on paper and watched it come to life. After seeing what worked and what didn’t work, we were able to take our expertise in live music and really fine tune it.
“Snowta is here to stay. Our goal for Snowta is to grow this festival into not only a staple in the NYE festival scene, but to make it an annual destination for festivalgoers worldwide.”