Qs With A Pollstar Live! Panelist: CID Entertainment’s Dan Berkowitz on Boutique Festivals and Destination Events

Courtesy of CID Entertainment
– CID Entertainment’s Dan Berkowitz

In recent years, the festival sphere has sometimes felt stagnant. Events have seemingly cropped up in every major market with the similar bills, similar amenities and similar experiences.

With CID Presents, Dan Berkowitz has sought to revamp the sphere. Berkowitz, who has pushed VIP and enhanced concert experiences forward since founding CID Entertainment in 2007, launched CID Presents in 2015 to similarly reinvigorate the festival format.

CID Presents has proven a massive success, staging acclaimed events featuring Dead & Company, Phish, Luke Bryan and more at the Barceló Maya Beach Resort on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

On Feb. 11, Berkowitz will join C3’s Sophie Lobl, UTA’s Steve Gordon and Cheryl Paglierani, Pilgrimage’s Kevin Griffin, X Ambassadors manager Seth Kallen and Synergy’s Heather Vantress for the Pollstar Live! panel “Boutique Festivals & The Rise of Artist Curation.” 

“I can’t see the future,” Berkowitz told Pollstar earlier this month from Mexico, during the brief gap between CID Presents’ Dead & Company and Luke Bryan events. “I know that there’s megafestivals that people enjoy and there’s artist-curated boutique festivals that people enjoy. I’m hopeful that the boutique festivals keep rising, and I’m hopeful that the concept of destination events keeps getting more and more popular, as it seems to be.”

Ahead of the Pollstar Live! boutique festivals panel, Berkowitz connected with Pollstar to discuss destination events, enhanced concert experiences and CID Entertainment’s recent acquisition by On Location Experiences.

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How have you seen the boutique festival sphere evolve in recent years? Do you think boutique fests are a way forward for the festival sphere?
Dan Berkowitz:
Some of the megafestivals will be around forever. Coachella, Jazzfest, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, things like that. But take a festival like Electric Forest [in Rothbury, Mich.], which is still 30,000-some-odd people, but is heavily curated. It is very much about the experience. It ties in the location with the artists that they choose and the natural elements and art. People go to that festival for the experience. The lineup obviously matters, but people trust them to deliver [a quality lineup]. [Those types of] hyperfocused festival lineups are definitely going to grow, whether or not they’re artist curated. It’s just a different experience.

How did you decide to launch CID Presents? How did you decide the boutique festival space was one you wanted to get into?
Well before I started CID, my cousin got married at the Barceló in Riviera Maya, where we do our shows. It’s pretty weird, but I do remember the moment where I saw the beach where we do our shows.

We started [CID] in 2007. Once I decided that [a destination event] was really the direction that we wanted to go, we had now been a company for five, six years, I came back to the Barceló. I saw the beach and it was perfect. There’s a lot of factors that really lined up about this place that made it a perfect host resort. I couldn’t believe that this was actually the place [that would become the festival site], so I went on a whole bunch of different site visits, probably about 30 or 40 different venues between Mexico and Jamaica and the Dominican Republic and even some smaller islands. Nothing, to me, worked as well as this venue. There’s just really something special about it. The chi is just right.

I was talking to a lot [of CID’s clients] about doing [a destination event]. Luke Bryan, who was one of our best partners at the time and still is, miraculously said yes. His agent Jay Williams and his managers Coran Capshaw and Kerry Edwards put a lot of faith in us. Luke himself put a lot of faith in us. [The event has] been called Luke Bryan’s Crash My Playa since the beginning. If we didn’t do a good job we could’ve really, really affected Luke’s trajectory — if this was anything but a great experience for his fans. [2019] is our fifth year now with Crash My Playa. This year, we’ve got six shows. We just did Dead & Company’s Playing in the Sand, we’ve got Luke Bryan’s Crash My Playa, we’ve got Dave [Matthews] and Tim [Reynolds], Phish, Bassnectar and ODESZA.

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Your major events feature country, jam and electronic artists. Why do you think those genres lend themselves to the destination format?
Country and jam bands, they tour a lot. They’re very, very active in the live music world. People don’t go to 15 Luke Bryan shows a year, like they go to 15 Phish shows or Dead shows a year. But [Bryan fans] will fly. They’ll go to their hometown show and then they’ll fly to Soldier Field. They’ll go to another big show and they’ll visit friends. With Phish and the Dead, there’s nothing like the connection between those bands and their fans. All we’re really doing is facilitating the magic between those bands and their fans. We believed it would be successful and we were right.

We do these things called proximity requests. Let’s say you and I were buddies and we booked individual rooms. I could say I want to be near you and you could say you want to be near me and then our team will put us close to each other at our hotel. With Luke Bryan we’ve seen that grow year after year after year after year. Luke’s community is getting more connected. With Phish and the Dead, they came to us very, very, very connected. Then Bassnectar and ODESZA are electronic music acts, but they also have a very, very, very strong community. You’d be hard-pressed to find another act, especially a dance music act, that has people with people more tattoos on them than Bassnectar.

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Reflecting on your career at CID generally, what makes enhanced concert experiences so appealing?
There’s a vast majority of folks that only want a concert ticket, and that’s fine. We do a really good job at making sure that we don’t affect the regular GA ticket buyer or pavilion ticket buyer. We want to make sure that that experience is pure, that that experience is as good as it possibly can be. A small percentage of the folks that are coming to a show just want to engage with the artist more. We give them that opportunity.

On Location Experiences acquired CID in October. How has that impacted CID?
We’re a really, really good match, CID and On Location. They’ve got a lot of experience. So do we. Their experience is in ticketing and sports travel. They’re really good at the guest experience. When we combine our capabilities, what they do with sports and what we do with music, it has given us a lot of scale. We’ve been able to really learn from each other and expand our capabilities.