Anthony Diaz Reunites With Fellow Sixthman Founder Andy Levine At Topeka

Anthony Diaz (left, seated) & Andy Levine in 2018 (photo courtesy Topeka)

The band is back together.

Anthony Diaz, former CEO at music cruise pioneer Sixthman, has taken a gig as chief operating officer at music destination vacation innovators Topeka, reuniting him with former Sixthman colleague — and old college chum — Andy Levine.

It’s part of a heavy-duty C-suite expansion for Topeka as the company seeks to expand its model and its business beyond its Miramar Beach, Florida, homebase. Also coming from Sixthman is director of operation Rachel Voorhies, who becomes Topeka’s senior operations director. In addition, Nicole Steed has been promoted to Senior Marketing and Community Director.

Diaz, Levine, Voorhies and Steed all worked for (or founded) Sixthman.

Levine stepped down as Sixthman’s in 2016 and began dedicating his time to mentoring social entrepreneurs and “walking alongside families experiencing generational poverty.” In 2019, Levine founded Topeka, but he and Diaz — friends since their days as fraternity brothers at the University of Florida in 1990s — stayed in touch.

“It was right about this time last year and we went for a walk around the park and we were talking about our lives,” Diaz tells Pollstar. “We were both so proud of where Sixthman got to and I was so impressed by what he had built with the music vacation concept in Miramar Beach and and I remember saying I’d love to focus more on music, I’d love to find an opportunity to finally be a partner and I’d love to build something again.”

And Levine spoke those famous words: “Why don’t we get the band back together?”

“I didn’t think he’d ever say that again,” Diaz said.

Levine said he needs his old pal.

“I’m notorious for getting down into the weeds and the bushes and then coming out with something but, knowing, dude we’re never gonna pull this off without some really great people,” he says. “So I say to Anthony, ‘I need help. This has so much potential but if I don’t have you, I’m going to crash it.'”

The pair have the easy rapport of a pair of friends who have lived and worked, succeeded and failed together for nearly three decades. Sixthman is one bright star in a galaxy of affinity cruise companies, and it comes with an early pedigree, growing out of the then-unusual concept in the early 2000s, when Sister Hazel and a few hundred of their most devoted fans went on a cruise. Topeka was a similarly seemingly unlikely success story. The company’s first Moon Crush event in the early stages of the earliest COVID vaccination phases was perceived — sometimes with tentative enthusiasm and sometimes with a more pessimistic gaze — as live’s first toe-dips into the shallowest waters of normality.

The Americana/indie folkish don’t-call-it-a-festival was a success. The slightly-older crowd was more than a little flush with cash and more than likely to already have received the COVID jab. A socially-distanced, largely line-free event in a secluded Florida Panhandle resort, with three nights of music preceded by days of freeform vacationing was just what the doctor ordered — metaphorically (and maybe literally, too).

The events have expanded beyond the one weekend, borrowing some business lessons from Sixthman. Resorts, like cruise lines, are eager to fill their “shoulder” periods, the liminal times between the busy weeks and Topeka’s events are the perfect salve, bringing in 4000+ in otherwise difficult-to-book times.

“Now with the Moon Crush brand, we’re modeling it more like the Iron Man brand where you set you set an expectation of what the experience is going to be and you take it all over the world,” Levine says. “In Miramar Beach we’re in our fourth year and we’ve got a great case study of the number of people we brought and how they’re spending money in the shoulder times and we’re going to this year to start to reach out to other cities and say ‘Hey would you be interested in a three to five year partnership of some sort?”

Topeka’s customer runs older than the typical traditional festivalgoer, but that feeds back into the model of what makes it successful. It’s difficult to replicate the large, traditional festival-in-a-field multiple times a year, but Topeka isn’t trying to do that anyway.

“Our community loves not having to be in a field with 50,000 people, they love having only air conditioned bathrooms. We don’t offer VIP, it’s a 4,400-person VIP section. Everyone comes in the same gate, everyone gets the same great service,” Levine says. “The thing that changed the game for us at Sixthman was we asked are we in the concert business, are in the festival business, are we in the vacation business? No, we’re in the community building business.”