For those of you that are not yet familiar with me, my name is Mike Ziemer and I am a concert promoter. I started promoting concerts when I was a senior in high school and have continued doing so for 12 years now. I am now 30 years old, I put on two festivals in Dallas called So What?! Music Festival (formerly known as South By So What?!) and Unsilent Night Music Festival. On top of that I also run a concert production company called Third String Productions and put on concerts in Arizona, California, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas. I also run a management company and a small independent record label. In April of 2015, I moved to Los Angeles with my best friend to further expand my business. Sounds impressive right? Apparently not.
Despite the fact that 2016 is the 9th year of our flagship festival, So What?! Music Festival, which has grown from drawing 2800 people our first year in a community center in the suburbs to drawing as many as 18,000 people over a weekend inside of a baseball stadium, we are largely underrated and ignored by most major press outlets (even in our own part of the music scene), most sponsors, and even some members of the music industry. Maybe they just don’t “get it” though. Let me correct some common misconceptions…
We often hear from press and brands (potential sponsors) that our event is too regional or too local. Looking over our ticket sales SO FAR for 2016, we have sold tickets in 30+ cities and provinces inside of 10+ different countries that are not The United States. These countries include Australia, Japan, New Zealand, The United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Singapore, and more. Inside of the US, we have sold tickets in ALL 50 states and the territory of Puerto Rico. Not bad right? Seems our small show has become an actual destination event.
We often hear that our demographic is “too young.” This confuses me because as far as I have ALWAYS been taught through marketing, branding, and even school, the most popular and targeted age group is 18-34. The majority of our attendees fall into this category. In fact, in past years, we have sold more alcohol at our event to 21+ attendees than any other event the ball park hosts all year long.
We often hear that we don’t have any “major” headliners. I can agree with that. The bands we have headline our festival usually do tours in rooms from 1500 cap up to 3000 cap. But isn’t that the beauty of it? We draw thousands of people beyond this because of the combination of all the bands we pick. Our mix of young up and coming bands, mid level rising bands, and headliners is what makes it attractive. It’s the same thing with Warped Tour, Bamboozle, Skate & Surf, etc. etc. But even more to my point, we are able to do what we do without any of these major headliners, which is even more of a story to tell.
What people sitting in offices passing on the opportunity to sponsor our event or send someone to do press coverage for it don’t understand is that the hype for our festival is real. At the moment I am writing this, we have had a large enough reach to sell tickets in all of the above mentioned places, and have spent less than $5,000 on marketing so far. Our posts go viral without paying for advertising, our name trends when we do artist takeovers, our computers and phones crashed when Frank Iero did a Twitter takeover for us last year. The reach out our flyer, our posts, anything we do is mind-blowing to me.
I know most of you are sitting here reading this thinking “sweet brag, bro,” but that’s not the point here. The point is that our music community and scene is so strong that somehow we have existed for 9 years as a festival without any major sponsors, any major headliners, and any major press coverage. We have booked artists early on such as G Eazy, RiFF RAFF, A Day To Remember, Bring Me The Horizon, and so many more that have gone on to do massive things and headline major events filled with corporate sponsors and huge national media outlets. If I’m not mistaken, G Eazy will be playing Coachella in April.
Here’s my point… what brought us into music as promoters was music being the biggest part of our lives, and after doing this for 12 years I am proud to say that’s still the motivation. We were the kids in the crowd, we were the crowd surfers, we were the kids that waited in long lines to see bands like Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, Senses Fail, Fall Out Boy, and so many more as they were blowing up. We are the kids that passed out flyers for labels and did everything we could to help the scene before it was all just digital. We were the outcasts at school who only gave a shit about leaving school to go to the next show.
That is what our festival is and always will be, a place for everyone to escape whatever is going on in their lives and come to Dallas and have an amazing weekend with people from all over the world that come together to celebrate the music in our scene. Even if we remain underrated and ignored by the corporations that have the power to help us grow into new markets and the press that could tell our story… so what right? This is your festival, this is our festival, and we are gonna keep doing it bigger and better every year and one day everyone that has ignored this scene wont be able to.
Keep buying concert tickets, keep buying merch, keep pre-ordering albums, keep buying vinyl, keep the scene alive forever.