How The World’s Loudest Month Is Kicking Ass (And Selling Tickets)
Adam Bielawski – Serving The Underserved
Coheed And Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez raises his voice as the band rocks Rock On The Range May 20, 2017.
What would become The World’s Loudest Month – the U.S. festival series encompassing seven major rock events with more than 300 bands and nearly half a million tickets sold annually – began with a cold call in 2006 from Gary Spivack, Danny Wimmer Presents senior VP of festival talent, to AEG Presents Senior VP Joe Litvag.
“I called [Joe] and I said, ‘My partners and I have an idea.’ And he hooked us up with the Columbus Crew Stadium, which is now the Mapfre Stadium, in Columbus, (Ohio),” Spivack, who was then one of the principals of Right Arm Entertainment, told Pollstar. “We thought at the time it was a fantastic idea to do our first festival in Columbus. There’s all these theater markets around Columbus – Dayton, Toledo, Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Grand Rapids and Detroit – these great rock markets that were underserved. We wanted to serve the underserved. There was a big portion of the music audience that was not being taken care of.”
Produced in partnership between DWP and AEG Presents, Rock On The Range launched in 2007 with a lineup featuring ZZ Top, Evanescence, and Velvet Revolver. After the first year sold out its 26,715 ticket allotment, the festival expanded to two days in 2008 and three days in 2013. The festival has been a three-day, 120,000-plus tickets, sold-out event for the past five years. Last year’s sold-out Rock On The Range ranked No. 20 on Pollstar’s Year End Worldwide Festival grosses chart, with a gross of more than $6.4 million and 135,000 tickets sold.
Rock On The Range led to Monster Energy Carolina Rebellion in Concord, N.C.; Monster Energy Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville, Fla.; Northern Invasion in Somerset, Wis.; and Monster Energy Fort Rock in Sunrise, Fla.
DWP and AEG Presents began using the “World’s Loudest Month” branding in 2014 to promote the festivals, along with the previously existing Rocklahoma Festival in Pryor, Okla., and Rockfest in Kansas City, Mo. Welcome To Rockville is a DWP standalone-promoted festival, while AEG is solely involved with Rockfest and Rocklahoma, and the other events are co-promoted by both.
Litvag explained to Pollstar that the banner of “World’s Loudest Month” – which kicks off the last weekend of April with Fort Rock and Welcome To Rockville and runs through June 2 with Rockfest – simply raises the exposure for all of the festivals that are part of the branding.
“This is a way for us to be able to promote all of the festivals on one platform, to be able to show rock fans across the country, ‘Look what’s happening out there. Take your pick.’ … We’re all in it together because we’re all in the business of promoting rock as a viable genre going forward.
“Each one of these festivals has its own brand and its own identity and its own following, but there is strength in numbers and we think we have a much more compelling story to tell when we bundle all of these festivals. When you look at some of the attendance numbers combined for the World’s Loudest Month festivals, it’s pretty staggering.”
Go ahead, take a look at the numbers. Carolina Rebellion, for example, has grown from its debut as a 30,000-capacity, one-day event in 2011 that grossed nearly $1.57 million to a three-day festival in 2017 that sold 100,875 tickets and grossed more than $5.8 million.
Six of the seven Loudest Month events grossed more than $1 million last year, with Northern Invasion not far behind with a gross of $922,380. The festivals represent a combined gross of nearly $20.7 million, with 433,319 total tickets sold in 2017, according to box office reports submitted to Pollstar.
The success of the festival series is due in large part to the team effort between DWP and AEG Presents. Spivack notes that each promoter has its strengths and brings something unique to the partnership, “but it’s all for the greater good. It’s all about winning and putting on the best rock festival possible.”
The booking process is headed up by Spivack, Litvag and Wimmer, looking toward the next year the day after the last festival wraps up.
“It’s a lot of bouncing ideas off of each other,” Litvag said. “We have some healthy debates when it comes down to selecting artists or selecting sponsors or, selecting colors for the advertising materials and things like that. We do it all for the most part with a smile. And we have great teams that we sort of combine and we all work together. It’s been a really positive experience.”
Sometimes it works to bundle an artist on most of the World’s Loudest Month lineups, whereas other acts may be booked for one or two events.
After playing Northern Invasion and Rockfest in 2017, Godsmack returns to the Loudest Month this year to take the stage at Welcome To Rockville, Fort Rock, Carolina Rebellion, Rock On The Range, and Rocklahoma.
“We’re genuinely excited that Godsmack is headlining these big festivals this year, and the success of these events prove that the rock culture is still alive and kicking!” the band’s longtime manager, Paul Geary of Global Artist Management, said.
The promoters pay a lot of attention to fan feedback and comments on social media and with Carolina Rebellion, they have strived to create a more diverse lineup by booking Muse, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Incubus on Sunday to go along with hard rock acts such as Godsmack, Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown.“We intentionally wanted to push the envelope a little bit in 2018 by going a little bit left and not just [offer a lineup] straight down the middle,” Litvag said.
Litvag brought up that rock has gotten very segmented in the past 10 or 15 years – mainstream rock versus alternative rock versus classic rock, etc.
“We’re of a mind state of we need to help straighten out the rock genre as a whole and convince fans that are into these sub-genres that rock is rock; a good rock band is a good rock band. And I can promise that fans of Godsmack are going to see the show that Muse or Queens Of The Stone Age puts on and they’re going to be blown away and hopefully become fans of those bands if they weren’t before. That’s what we feel is a responsibility that we have, to help these artists create new fanbases.”
Muse’s agent, UTA’s Jbeau Lewis, is definitely on board for the English rock band picking up new fans.
“Three years removed from their last album release, we’re excited that Muse has continued to explore new corners of this continent,” said UTA’s Jbeau Lewis. “Selling out sheds in secondary markets with a compelling package (30 Seconds to Mars and PVRIS) and playing festivals as diverse as Pa’l Norte, Carolina Rebellion and BottleRock, further exemplify the band’s dynamic sound and appeal to a truly broad fanbase.”
While some of the World’s Loudest Month lineups may share artists, what really helps set the festivals apart is the secondary entertainment and attractions, such as the F&B offerings at Carolina Rebellion’s “Pig Out Village” or the comedy tent at Rock On The Range. The venues also have their own appeal – Spivack describes Carolina Rebellion’s Rock City Campground as an open green space that “looks like you’re in some field two hours outside of London” versus the monstrous, ’70s rock stadium feel of Rock On The Range’s Mapfre Stadium.
As for what’s next for World’s Loudest Month, the promoters are considering an additional site and weekend but say it’s premature to discuss. For now, Spivack said, the focus is on making the current festivals the best they can possibly be.
“Less is more. Quality over quantity every time,” Spivack said. “America has gone festival crazy and at the end of the day, only the best ones with the best lineups, the best location, the right ticket price and the best secondary entertainment are the ones that are going to survive.”
He added, “We try to raise our own bar at every festival, every year. … We don’t do the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ rule. We tweak constantly just to make it better and better each and every year.”