Rolling Loud-er: Deafening Success As Tastemaking Festival Continues Growth

Rolling Loud
Mickey Pierre-Louis / Rolling Loud
– Rolling Loud
Pollstar Cover

There may be no better poster child than Post Malone when illustrating the growth of Rolling Loud, from niche hip-hop festival to must-play event for some of the biggest stars in music.

“This is so fucking sick, man,” Post Malone said from the stage near the end of his closing set, obviously moved by the sight of about 75,000 fans singing to every word of his numerous hits. The Sunday night headliner and finale to the massive July 23-25 event was a stark contrast from the first time the now-superstar played Rolling Loud.
“The first Rolling Loud, I had no idea who he was,” says Rolling Loud co-founder Tariq Cherif of the one-day, 5,000-attendee event he and partner Matt Zingler threw in a warehouse in 2015. “He came to perform with FatMan Key – another rapper, who just went by Key! at the time – he came and did ‘White Iverson’ during Key’s set. That video ended up going viral. Next thing I know, we’re booking Post Malone for hard-ticket shows in Florida, then Rolling Loud 2017 and, since then, we have great relations with Post, we go see him on tour. He beat me two games in a row on beer pong so I gotta get him back … It’s good to see all the homies winning.”
Rolling Loud-er
Photo by Jason Koerner / Getty Images
– Rolling Loud-er
All The Rage: Lil Baby brought out 42 Dugg and Rylo Rodriguez during his set on Day 1 of Rolling Loud, July 23 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. The event is now attracting 75,000 fans per day.

“Homies’’ may not be an overstatement for Rolling Loud, which has grown hand-in-hand along with some of the biggest stars in music. This includes seemingly perennial arena and festival headliner Travis Scott, who even got his own branded meal at McDonald’s; A$AP Rocky, who has graced the cover of GQ and is the subject of tabloids speculating which superstar he is dating (currently Rihanna). Meanwhile, the fest still brings must-see moments from up-and-comers (Lil Durk) and of-the-moment breaking superstars (Megan Thee Stallion) alike. Not every headline is a positive one, however, such as red-hot rapper DaBaby’s on-stage comments that landed him in hot water to the point of being taken off of a few upcoming major festival slots.
Megan Thee Stallion
Rich Fury / Getty Images
– Megan Thee Stallion
Hot Girl Summer: Megan Thee Stallion had a Rolling Loud moment on day three of the Miami fest, rocking the stage with her live raps and provocative performance.

With this year’s Miami event seeing 75,000 fans per day, Rolling Loud headliners are now topping the mainstream multi-genre music festivals as well, with A$AP Rocky on this year’s Governors Ball, Megan Thee Stallion stunning Lollapalooza last weekend, and Post Malone and Travis Scott putting up their own events multiple years in a row now.  
“It’s so amazing to see an artist grow and the brand grow,” Zingler adds, mentioning Posty’s closing set in particular as a milestone of successfully pulling off this year’s event post-lockdown, as well as realizing how far they’ve come. “It falls back on what we mean to artists and what we provide them, which is an amazing platform. Rolling Loud is one of those places where a lot of artists hit the stage for the first time, and you can kind of use that as chicken scratch on the door, when you’re growing as a kid and once a year put your height.”
More recent growth can be seen in Ghetto Gospel star Rod Wave, who, with his new “Soul Fly” tour, is the first to go out under the Rolling Loud Presents banner.
“I remember the first time I performed at Rolling Loud Miami two years ago,” Rod Wave says via email shortly after this year’s Rolling Loud. “I went on early in the day and not everyone knew who I was. This time was crazy, everyone in the crowd was singing along to all of my music. I know people come to the festival to turn up and dance, but they really relate to the pain in my music and connect with it even though they can’t go crazy the same way they can for other artists.” The “Soul Fly” tour kicks off in Houston Aug. 27 and takes in varied markets and venues through October, such as the Armory in Minneapolis, Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, N.C., Jacobs Pavilion in Cleveland and Hollywood Palladium, along with Rolling Loud California in October and Rolling Loud New York in December.  
“Being from Florida, Rolling Loud is a huge part of the scene,” Rod Wave adds. “Being the first artist to do a tour with them is a full circle moment in my career.”

Tariq Cherif
Leanna Luterio / Rolling Loud
– Tariq Cherif
Rolling Loud co-founder Tariq Cherif says he makes sure to allow time to enjoy a few sets, but during most of the event he’s busy making sure everything is running smoothly.

‘A Ball Of Anxiety’

The Rolling Loud co-founders are somewhat of an anomaly in the concert business – younger, at now just over 30 years old, more outspoken and by all accounts more accessible than just about anyone with their kind of success or clout. The fully tatted, colorful but soft-spoken Zingler counts 1.8 million Instagram followers of his own while father-of-two Cherif on show night shares video of himself raging on stage during Lil Uzi Vert’s set. However, the duo is still mostly business. 
“There’s a few sets throughout the weekend where I try to have a good time, but for the most part I’m walking around backstage with a ball of anxiety in my chest making sure things run smooth, and taking care of things that dont run smooth,” says Cherif, who immediately after Rolling Loud Miami was enjoying some time mostly offline in the North Carolina wilderness with family, shooting target practice with a bow and arrow and looking for crayfish. “But it was a great show, I think it was our best one yet.” 
With last year’s events being postponed and this fest pushed from its usual May to late July, there were more than usual situations to figure out, such as higher-than-expected police and security costs, a screen that collapsed the day before opening night (no one was hurt) and the last-minute cancellation or no-show from an artist or two. 
“We were never sure when it would really happen,” Cherif says of the waiting game leading up to Rolling Loud Miami. “A couple of weeks before the show, the cops weren’t prepared to protect our event, so we had to fix the situation with police. There’s always a curveball, and we never really knew the show was happening until it was happening. So there was a lot of stress there, but at the end of the day we prevailed.”
Cherif gives credit to the full Rolling Loud team, which he says produces the event fully in-house. That includes key execs such as marketing director Kelvin Li, talent buyer and Twitch producer Wilson Zarzuela and business administrator Mack Sullivan. 
Along with the big headlining moments, the event also saw Lil Durk shut down the Audiomack stage, up-and-comer SoFaygo make some noise, and Don Toliver being joined by Kali Uchis for a performance of “Drugs N Hella Melodies” among many other highlights. Rolling Loud has always been about the next big thing, which Zingler says was paramount this year.
“What was great this year was we had later programming, which allowed artists earlier in the day to have a full crowd, and you could see a lot of the artists and fan responses to those newer acts,” says Zingler. “We had great responses from up and coming acts and fans.”
This year also saw the first time the WWE has partnered with a music festival and it did so by airing the popular “Friday Night Smackdown” from the festival’s mainstage. 

Rod Wave
Henry Hwu / Rolling Loud
– Rod Wave
Super Soul Fly: Rod Wave’s Soul Fly Tour, the first to be announced as being produced by Rolling Loud Presents, has the hit-maker performing across the U.S. large theaters and amphitheaters, with many shows sold out.
“In Miami, we had time to really create more experientials for our fans, which really creates that Rolling Loud world,” Zingler says. Some of those experiences included the “Inked Miami” pop-up tattoo shop where fans could get inked onsite, the “Bunny’s Bae Bar” beauty salon located in the VIP section where fans could get their hair and makeup done, the “Loud Charms Cereal Bar” on-site offering Rolling Loud inspired “Loud Charms,” and much more.
A Measure Of Success
Rolling Loud has become a marquee play for many artists, with the event at times playing four corners in the U.S. (this year doing Rolling Loud New York at Citi Field in late October and Rolling Loud California in San Bernardino in December), having taken place in Australia previously and still hoping to make it to Portugal, which has been postponed to ‘22. But, similarly to when Rolling Loud was becoming a player in the greater festival landscape, there’s the special sauce.
“The traditional measuring stick of a festival brand would be the amount of tickets they sell, amount of concerts, etc., and, to a degree, that is a good measurement,” says Cherif. “If you use just that, we stack up pretty high and we do well just on those numbers. But it’s a little more nuanced than that. When it comes down to brand building, it comes down to name recognition and word association. When people think about Rolling Loud, what do they feel? What’s that gut reaction? It’s been about creating that Disneyworld for hip-hop, creating that ideal destination and identity.”
That identity has clearly made an impression on the live entertainment business as a whole.
“There are many festivals but only a few rare ones capture the culture like Rolling Loud has, creating a global brand that represents the best of hip-hop,” Live Nation President and CEO Michael Rapino tells Pollstar via email. “Matt and Tariq are true entrepreneurs with creative and wild aspirations, and we are thrilled to be their partner.”
That brand recognition and taste cachet shows up in a very real way , of course.
“Our Loud Club, our VIP bottle service area at the festival, it’s very expensive for us to produce and in the past hasn’t really profited,” Cherif says. “But this year it crushed. We’re still settling it up, but it looks like it made a very good profit. All our ancillaries are very strong right now, we did over $2 million on merch, multiple millions on sponsorships, a couple million in the Loud Club, so the revenue is real and definitely helpful when you have unforeseen expenses popping up on festivals (laughs). Everything always costs more than we budget, so it’s been great for our ancillaries to become real revenue streams.” The least expensive Loud Club bottle service table started at $7,500, Cherif says, with high rollers like NBA stars James Harden and Tim Hardaway Jr., Rihanna, hip-hop mogul Diddy, and porn star Abella Danger.

Mickey Pierre-Louis / Rolling Loud
Ponytail Slam! Rolling Loud Miami featured WWE’s “Friday Night Smackdown” on the main stage, with Rolling Loud co-founder Matt Zingler saying to expect more major partnerships going forward.

Rolling Loud Presents

With “Rolling Loud Presents” the brand steps into nationwide tours in a big way, announcing a handful of hip-hop tours in a span of a few weeks, with full runs from pandemic breakout star Jack Harlow, a Lil Baby / Lil Durk co-bill that is playing arenas in many markets and Trippie Redd announced in mid-June, along with Rod Wave’s Soul Fly. Cherif and Zingler brush off the notion that this would be a surprise to anyone, but rather a logical next step. 
“That was where we came from, with our DOPE Entertainment booking all the tours in Florida,” Zingler says. For Rolling Loud Presents, the team is sending the nationwide tour offers, handling logistics and routing, busing, production, “the whole 9” according to Zingler, with support from Live Nation. 
“We believe in any artist that plays Rolling Loud, obviously,” says Cherif. “We wouldn’t book them at Rolling Loud if we didn’t. But a lot of artists are perceived as only able to tour regionally and do club dates elsewhere. But we’ve got Rod Wave doing amphitheaters across the country, and many are sold out – even when they’re not, there’s still thousands of tickets sold for someone that, previously when playing that market, would do a 1,000-person nightclub. 
“We’re proving growth and proving that these artists’ fanbases are strong and the scene for the music is strong. If you put together a compelling ticket, people are going to come. We’ve been home for a long time and people want to get back outside. It’s just about proving it.”
Zingler says tapping into Live Nation’s network of venues has been helpful as well, to go along with their own marketing and reach. 
“Being one of the largest hip-hop brands, I would say, we have the marketing ability to ensure that if you are a fan of the artist, you’ll know he’s there and be in attendance,” Zingler says.  
“Instead of us hitting up a million people, Live Nation has empowered us and given us the ability to put holds on their venues across the States, which really simplifies a lot of the lifting. So that was amazing. it’s a great relationship we have with them and we’re excited to continue to grow.”
The relationship with artists is important as well, with many hip-hop artists accustomed to and happy to take festival slots and do regional runs rather than the full headline tour.
“It takes a relationship with artists to want to do this with you,” Zingler adds. “I can offer things all day but if they’re not interested in really pumping it out and working hard, it’s not the same money that a lot of people think they’d make.”
Much like the festival itself, the tour is about more than ticket sales, too. Or, at least, can be.  

A$AP Rocky
Beth Savaro / Rolling Loud
– A$AP Rocky
A$AP Rocky started his set inside the crowd, with fans so surprised it took a while before catching on.
“If you’re an artist and looking to build, it’s really the only way a fan can get the one-on-one experience with you,” Zingler says. ”If I was an artist looking to build my career, I wouldn’t really care how much money I made on the tour. I would look at every person there as someone who is going to buy my merchandise year round and purchase my albums. The future in touring, it’s – ‘Does the artist see the value, and is it possible for them to convert across the board?’ You will see Rolling Loud supporting artists and helping artists grow nationwide for hard tickets.”
That ability to sell hard tickets has transpired to booking the festivals as well, with Cherif saying that from the time the 2020 events were postponed to now, artists that have exploded are raising their fees. 
“We’ve been dealing with that,” Cherif says. “It’s not hard to identify who we want, it’s about balancing the budget and set times. I’m looking forward to ‘22 and starting from scratch. I think our lineups will become a little more refined, maybe a little bit less artists. Actually. I’m not sure.”
To The Moon?
With Cherif saying Rolling Loud California is on par with Miami’s ticket sales, New York not far behind, and Portugal still planned for 2022, the logical question may be what’s next?
“I wanna go to space now,” Zingler says, never disappointing in an interview. “I want to be the first festival in space. That’s my goal. I want to throw a festival in space. See you there.”