Festival Experience, PPP Loan Help Make ‘Concerts In Your Car’ A 2020 Highlight

Snoop In Your Car
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images
– Snoop In Your Car
DJ Snoopadelic, aka Snoop Dogg as DJ, was one of the major artists playing the Concerts In Your Car Series this year, one of the first major drive-in concert series to ramp up during the pandemic.

While 2020 has seen many out of work, forced to wait things out or struggling to adapt, the year has seen some busier and more successful than ever – such as CBF Productions’ Vincenzo Giammanco, who normally holds a dozen lifestyle-type festival events in Southern California but this year turned a PPP loan into  a full concert season that is expanding into multiple markets.

“When the pandemic hit we had to furlough our entire staff and it was kind of like ‘what’s next?’” says Giammanco, whose normal year includes the Boots & Brews Country festival among others in Southern California.  After somewhat simply noticing the empty parking lot at the Ventura County Fairgrounds while driving with his wife, he got the idea to try “car concerts” there, and it quickly took off.
“We’ve done 161 shows this year which is far more than our 12 we normally do, so it’s been quite a thing,” Giammanco says. “All our vendors and everyone have teamed up and it’s awesome we’ve created something special.”
With the shock of canceled shows, hoping to still get tours and festivals re-routed for fall and just general uncertainty, it wasn’t easy to get agents and managers on board early.
“The response was rough in the beginning,” says Giammanco who, with business partner Nick Hartley of Steadfast Co., started exploratory talks with agents around May.  “A lot of them were going back to traditional, pre-COVID negotiating. It didn’t work, we went from 10,000 people vs. 700 cars, a dramatically different business model. It was hard to get it off the ground and we didn’t know how it was going to translate – it just doesn’t sound that cool.”
That meant boosting production value and increasing the fan experience to something that resembles a regular outdoor concert but with some added perks in some cases, such as  your own space and the comfort of  your own car. With the stage in the center and good sight lines from anywhere, the first concert would be with Ventura native SuperDuperKyle June 26.
“People loved it, it absolutely translated,” Giammanco says. “It was a completely different experience but one they were enjoying. Once we did one, it started to snowball, and we started getting some really amazing acts.” Those acts, with around 35 actual hard-ticket touring artists, include everyone from Snoop Dogg, to Dirty Heads, Beach Boys, to country acts including Randy Houser, to 2020 drive-in superstar Kaskade, who in 15 minutes sold out the Ventura venue as well as a second one at the Del Mar Fairgrounds near San Diego. “Everybody has the same reaction, they love it. It’s not the same and not going to replace a traditional concert, but it’s playing live music for fans again in a state where live music is kind of banned at the moment. People really appreciate the experience.”
With ticketless entry, app-aided concessions and bathroom lines and heavy sanitation efforts, the Concerts In Your Car Series went from a 2020 longshot to an improvement on 2019 for CBF. 
“Business wise we’re over 30% where we were last year,” Giammanco says. “We’re very grateful we’ve been able to survive and pivot and create something that’s still going. With a staff of 10 of us, this is what we had to do, we had to create something and didn’t have the luxury of sitting this out.”
Projected to do $6 million with the venues they’ve had so far, which also includes a recently added venue in Phoenix, CBF hopes to grow the model and create three to six new markets, able to route talent through as the live business undergoes varying levels of reopening over the coming months.
“We’re just not going to be producing regular festivals next year,” he said in December. “There’s no way it’s going to be like what it was, and we’re not interested in figuring out how to do it 25-50% capacity, it was already hard at 100%. We’re really wanting to figure it out and double down on this model and figure out new revenue streams. Every day is a new challenge. I feel like we’re in a boxing match, going back and forth – we land a couple and then get hit a couple. it’s been fun.”