This week on the XLIVE Interview Series, we sat down with Tucker Gumber AKA The Festival Guy, founder and CEO of FestEvo to talk all things music festivals, his new book, and how FestEvo makes festival-goers better at festival’ing. Here’s what he had to say!
Tell us a little about how you become ‘The Festival Guy.’
After graduating from Colorado State University in 2006 with a degree in Restaurant and Resort Management, I moved to Los Angeles and started a sales job I found on Craigslist. The founders of the company I was hired by encouraged sales reps to read books on the topics of sales and business development for 20 minutes a day to grow their skills and knowledge of the field. I read books like these for five years and, to summarize, most of the texts said that if one finds something they love doing and can commit to doing it for 10,000 hours, they could be considered an expert in their chosen field. I also learned that the most successful businesses have a well defined niche and actively recognize and solve problems for their respective communities. When I went to my first music festival, Snowball Music Festival, in March 2011, I completely fell in love with the experience. The festival brought together everyone I wanted to be friends with and the outdoor music viewing experience felt like everything my life had been missing. In addition to all of the fun I had, I recognized many areas in which I felt the festival could improve the fan experience. For example, something as simple as having lights in the bathrooms! Lessons I had learned from my undergraduate studies aided me in pinpointing areas for improvement at the festival. A month later, I -attended Coachella and hand my mind blown wide open by the art and larger-than-life stages. I couldn’t believe you could have that much fun packed into a weekend. It was then that I recognized that festivals were not just an event you attended for the weekend, it could be a way of life. I knew that I had found my niche and went on to quit my job and spend my entire savings on festival tickets. I traveled from festival to festival learning all of the frustrations and disappointments that FestivalGoers face by my own experience. By the end of the year I had attended 10 festivals, including Burning Man, and decided that it would be useful to the festival community to review the festivals I had attended from a fan’s point of view. Hence, my website, TheFestivalGuy.com was born. I have now spent seven seasons on the road!. (My current count comes to 126 festivals totalling 430 Days).
For those who don’t know, tell us FestEvo’s mission statement and where you fit into the current festival landscape?
On my festival journeys I discovered that festivaling is as much of an outdoor hobby as the established hobbies I grew up doing like fishing, golfing, and skiing/snowboarding. Similar to these hobbies, festivaling brings people together and the more often you participate, the better you become and the more fun you have while doing it. Unlike these other outdoor hobbies, festivaling has never had any established etiquette passed down from veterans to first timers or a company who can provide a resource for festivalgoers to achieve their ultimate success… until now.
Fishermen have Bass Pro Shop.
Golfers have GolfSmith.
FestivalGoers have FestEvo.
FestEvo creates tools FestivalsGoers need to have their best festival.
It is our goal to aid festivals- helping them to sell their events out, to help artists advance their career, and to help FestivalGoers enjoy their experience so thoroughly that they’ll want to keep coming back for years to come.
Rumor on the street is you’ll be releasing a book soon…what can you tell us about this?
True story!. Following up on my first book, The Festival Thrower’s Bible, The FestivalGoer’s Guide was created to establish etiquette that can be passed down from veterans to first timers and to share the tips and tactics FestPROs use to avoid the headaches and frustrations that festivals can throw at you. To bring the book to life I I brought on 12 of the most knowledgeable FestivalGoers I know to share their expertise on their respective knowledge and experience. The book is 164 pages and packed with awesome illustrations and photos that make it a very enjoyable read. Readers will not only learn the proper way to festival but they will also learn how to improve and elevate the festival around them. Being a FestPRO is not just about picking up after yourself, it’s about reminding the people around you to do their part as well. The book will be available for free download so everyone can access this information. The soft cover version is also available for purchase on the FestEvo website or Amazon.
Is ‘festivaling’ officially a verb now?
Festivaling is absolutely a verb. I’ve festivaled like a mad man over the last seven years and can’t wait to festival again in a few weeks. The reason that I think festivaling has never been recognized as a verb before is that no one really considered it to be a skill you could master. Illuminating this fallacy should get event producers really excited. FestivalGoers who truly know how to festival show up earlier in the day (which could lead to increased concessions for venues) to catch the up and coming acts( leading to more exposure for smaller acts), pick up after themselves (decreasing cleaning costs), and actively seek to improve the festival (resulting in more happy customers). The better at festivaling the community becomes, the more successful and profitable the entire industry will be.
You often speak of festivaling better, have you had any festival fails?
Oh man… there are a lot. I’ve come up with all of the ideas on ways festivals can be better because I’ve had to learn the hard way from making every mistake in the book. Here are a few that come to mind:
- Lightning In A Bottle 2011: I lost my wallet TWICE in 24 hours and had it returned both times. Whew!
- Bonnaroo 2011: I didn’t bring any shade and my tent turned into an oven at 7:30am every morning. I barely survived that last day.
- Lollapalooza 2011: I walked away from my brand new $3,500 camera and it was gone the minute later that I realized it.
- Burning Man 2011, 2012, 2013: I always either lost my bike or had my bike stolen. (ALWAYS LOCK YOUR BIKE!!)
- Coachella 2012: I left my tent poles at home.
- Sasquatch 2013: I lost my tent and couldn’t find it until the next morning.
- Electric Forest 2013: I won a branded Electric Forest hammock for coming in second in a contest and had it stolen the same day.
- Wakarusa 2014: I arrived in ARKANSAS only to find out I hadn’t officially been approved for media.
- Hulaween 2015: I lost my audio recorder after shooting all weekend long.
- Coachella 2017: My brand new shoe fell out of my car when we got in the camping line and we drove off without it.
- 2018: I’m sure I’ll come up with something. It’s never too late for a first rodeo.
What was some of the best technology you saw at a festival last year?
I think the most exciting technology that is taking place right now is in the gear section. The festival community FINALLY has some brands making products for our specific needs. Outback Logic and Advanced Shelter Systems (ShiftPod) make tents that are specifically designed to shield the sun so you can get sleep when you want to, Covalence makes really nice water bottle holders so that you can festival hands-free, and Elevate Lyfe came out with a line of high fashion hydration packs. It’s great to see innovation happening in our community.
Many of us have discovered some of our favorite musicians at festivals. You have an app that lets FestivalGoers listen to the festival lineup’s discography. Can you tell us about the FestEvo app and how it enhances the festival experience?
Sure! The first problem I wanted to solve for the community was how difficult it was to listen to all the artists on a festival lineup. When a festival releases their lineup they might as well just say “Google It” because there was no easy way to listen to each artist without doing a lot of work. When I discovered how much great music I had been missing (like GRiZ and Odesza several times before I was aware of those acts) . So I decided to create an app that allows you to listen to every artist on the lineup. It took FOUR YEARS to get it right but now the FestEvo App and website does just that. We built Spotify, SoundCloud, and Youtube into the platform so our users can listen to every artist on the lineup and easily discover new favorites. I’m obviously our biggest ambassador but I can honestly say that I discovered at least 5 of my top 20 musicians through Festevo: Goldfish, The Crystal Fighters, Nombe, Rufus Du Sol, and Caravan Palace. Getting to see these artists while they were still lesser known is something that I cherish and always will
I’m assuming you see some of the same acts at multiple festivals throughout a year. Do you and other festival attendees care about this? Is there a demand for festivals to create different lineups and avoid booking the same touring acts?
FestivalGoers want new music to experience and be excited about. Unfortunately, the current model of the music industry only breaks a handful of new artists that stand out enough for fans to really go out of their way to see them. Apparently, many years of printing the names of the up-and-coming artists in teenie tiny font on the bills has really come back to hurt the industry. I think the way festivals can work to fix this problem is to educate fans on ALL of the artists on the lineup and then supply every artist with the platform to be as creative as possible in making their set unique to that show. If each set feels different from the one before it doesn’t really matter if you’ve seen the artist before because you will be excited to see what the artist does with the tools the festival gives them.
What is some of the FestEvo Gear which you’re most proud of and how can it help you have a better festival?
Keeping true to our mission of making tools FestivalGoers need to have their best festival, FestEvo has an entire line of festival gear coming out in May. My favorites would be
Tent Shield: A reflective tarp that shades your tent from the sun so that you can sleep better during the day. Tent Bling: A solar powered string of LED lights that one can drape over a tent to decorate an area. This way, you can find your home base in a sea of tents. We put together a full gear guide of our products along with the top brands in the community. This might have been the most exciting project I’ve worked on as I’ve always been a real gear head.
What is one thing you wish event producers everywhere would do to make festivals better? Something that has always really bummed me out is the amount of trash that is generated and ends up littered across the venue, leaving the hosts a real mess to clean up and leaving the festival attendees to wade through garbage. This could be minimized world wide if event producers would make it a point to do so. I propose festivals prevent fans from bringing one time use trash, like plastic water bottles, on site. Upon entry the fans should be provided with a white bag for trash and a blue bag for recycling and charged $20. At the end of the festival the fans can return the filled and sorted bags and receive that money back. Inside the venue the festivals should promoto Leave No Trace+1. This simple yet powerful motto states that everyone should pick up after themselves as well as one person who might not be. If half of the crowd followed these simple guidelines, the venue would be clean for everyone.
Here is a logo you are welcome to use on your video screens and anywhere else you‘d like. You can even have stickers made if you want to.
Have a great festival season everyone. Excited to see you out there!