XLIVE recently caught up with Jeff Cuellar of AC Entertainment, who serves as their VP of Strategic Partnerships. Jeff has an extensive background in live events with helping produce some iconic events such as High Water and Bonnaroo. We had the opportunity to catch up with Jeff and hear more about his perspective on a range of industry issues.
Tell us a little about AC Entertainment and some of your latest initiatives.
At AC Entertainment we specialize in creating , producing, booking, and promoting world-class live entertainment experiences – from camping music festivals to concerts in historic theatres and everything in between. Our current initiatives are revolve around expanded experiences, especially when it comes to our festivals. This could be in form of ancillary experiences, to location and more but how can we continue to elevate and enhance all aspects of each festival we produce.
What AC Entertainment events are you most excited about in the next 12-18 months?
Big Ears (Knoxville, TN 3/22-3/25) and High Water (North Charleston, SC 4/21-4/22) are two that I am really excited about. Big Ears is such a unique event that offers a level of intimacy and unexpectedness that puts it in a class all its own. This will be the second year for High Water and the bar was set extremely high last year (sold out in 10 days) but we will be implementing some new ideas that will keep the fans begging for more. Also I would have to say Bonnaroo (Manchester, TN 6/7-6/10). We are going to be bringing some new experiences to the party that we can’t wait to share.
With the festival market more competitive than ever, are there any industry trends that concern you?
It is an exciting time for the festival business as our pool of consumers appears to be getting bigger so are the number of festivals vying for their attention and money. I think there is room for all of this competition but we need to be making smart decisions and not just throwing talent or money on the new shiny idea to try create differentiation. Bigger is not always better. The focus needs to be on the experience to maintain long term success.
Supporting the local community is critical to the success of any event. Our motto is that we need to create lasting positive impact on every community where we produce an event. This needs to extend far beyond the economic impact of sales taxes, heads in beds, etc. Engaging the local community through non-profit integration, utilizing local talent (labor, vendors, artists, local business, etc), the CVB and government are all a part setting the stage for a successful event. When a community is engaged they feel ownership and want to see the event succeed because of the tangible impact on them and their neighbors. Additionally, every community has quirks, features and a history that make it special and these things are differentiators from other events.
Can you share a current project you’re working on that you’re excited about?
In addition to what I already mentioned above we have a few new events being developed that we are looking to launch in 2018. Can’t go into any detail just yet but definitely stay tuned.
Looking back on your career in the industry, what has been the biggest learning experience for you personally?
Digging in and getting dirty. Seeing how others do their job, why they do what they do. Shadowing others outside of your area. Having a more complete understanding of all of the pieces, how they work together and what it means to make even a small adjustment will allow you to make better decisions. I have been extremely fortunate because I started when we were a small company and it allowed me to step in on roles that today we have specialists for. Those experiences allowed me to be more well rounded. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.
If you weren’t involved in the live event industry, what job or field would you attempt?
I originally set out to be a marine biologist and really fell into the live event industry. After my first event I had this rush that I wanted to feel again. Honestly, I could not imagine doing anything different. There is no better feeling than opening doors and seeing the fans enter or even rush to the stage with their faces beaming with excitement.
If you could perform with any band/group, past or present, who would it be and why?
I guess this assumes that I can play an instrument, perform, dance or contribute in some way. This is a tough one but I think it would be Prince. It is Prince, that is why.
To learn more about Jeff Cuellar and his participation in this years annual conference, click HERE