When I spoke with GLOWfest cofounder Jack Shannon I expected an interesting conversation about an electronic dance music (EDM) and hip hop college concert tour that had recently added a tech startup career fair. I did not expect to encounter a much more complex business model that also included an EDM blog ad network, EDM music video production house and EDM artist management accelerator. That may sound farfetched from people you've probably never heard of but that's what can happen when you build a foundation, grow organically and find yourself in the right place at the right time.
GLOWfest began 2 1/2 years ago at Indiana University. Cofounders Jack Shannon and Deuce Thevenow saw an opportunity during IU's Little 500 weekend, the "largest collegiate bike race in the United States," to put on a music festival. From there they've been developing a college tour featuring electronic and hip hop artists. Last summer both cofounders went fulltime and now GLOWfest is based in Venice, CA.
GLOWfest Produced - 2012 Reel
Past concerts featured such artists as deadmau5, Avicii, Pretty Lights and Sebastian Ingrosso. Shannon says they've mixed hip hop and EDM but requests from college activity boards and student groups have focused on EDM so that has become the primary musical identity of GLOWfest. Recently they increased their outreach to tech startups via Sponsorfied to create the "coolest career fair that these kids have ever seen."
Though they've only been working with Sponsorfied for about a week, they've gotten a lot of interest from tech startups who can participate in GLOWfest Village for free. Shannon says they want to keep it free for startups to participate but encourage them to do something special for the event.
GLOWfest participants include a mix of fashion and social entrepreneurs in addition to tech startups. Previous participants included Tastemaker X, Zaarly, Falling Whistle, foursquare, SEA Hats, Capsule, Orbotix, GoSpotCheck, Red Bull and Spirithoods.
Shannon feels Sponsorfied, who launched at SXSW before joining the Y Combinator incubator, is already showing themselves to be a great partner with a broad reach. Currently GLOWfest is anticipating the involvement of both the recently announced DJZ project, who are planning something special, and Soundtracking, who are "giving an internship to a student that they meet along the tour."
In addition, GLOWfest is working with FanFueled, a growing social ticketing and fan engagement platform. He says they've been quite pleased with the results especially when they've been able to use both ticketing and engagement services at venues that are not locked into Ticketmaster.
Shannon seemed quite sincere in stating their goal of creating great opportunities for college students to find out more about tech startups and entrepreneurship along with enjoying music. And if that were the extent of the GLOWfest vision, creating a branded tour like Warped Tour with SXSW's combination of music and tech focused on a college demographic, it would be a solid concept with a lot of growth potential. It's definitely caught the attention of colleges and universities to whom they've been pitching their tour. But Shannon let me in on the fact that this foundation gives them a base to do much more with both entrepreneurship and electronic dance music.
Additional elements include:
Startup Madness - a college student startup competition designed to take the best ideas and help those students "turn their dream jobs into realities by awarding funding and resources to the winning dorm room startups."
Livestreaming GLOWfest - free multiscreen concert streaming that creates additional sponsorship opportunities.
GLOWfest Digital Network - an ad network that gathers together indie EDM blogs to facilitate ad buys for sponsors.
GLOWfest Produced - EDM music video production establishing GLOWfest as an early entrant.
Accelerator-style Artist Management - emergent concept that would take one young artist and feature them on the tour and build their brand.
That's a lot for a small startup to take on but every aspect of this bigger vision has an organic connection to the GLOWfest tour and career fair concept. For example, when sponsors sought suggestions for web advertising GLOWfest directed them to a list of niche blogs. But making a bunch of small ad buys wasn't on sponsors' agenda. So that organically led to the GLOWfest Digital Network faciliating ad buys from sponsors and establishing solid relationships with bloggers at a time when EDM is mainstreaming.
Still in the planning stage, the possibility of GLOWfest artist management for select musicians also builds on the platform they're creating. One scenario involves taking a single musician and featuring them on a season's tour as the opening act. In addition use could be made of such assets as the Digital Network, GLOWfest Produced and the growing number of sponsors with which GLOWfest is building relationships.
In many respects, all these ideas are based on established concepts proven in the past in related settings. Yet GLOWfest is not a copycat company. They're simply taking the starting point of a college music festival and building organically from there. To some degree they've lucked out by establishing themselves just as EDM is going mainstream. But taking advantage of good luck is only possible when one has a solid foundation and an organic vision of growth.
GLOWfest strikes me as a startup who has the ball and it's theirs to drop. Given their strong foundation, organic growth, right place/right time luck, high quality partnerships and solid vision for the future, dropping the ball seems to be the least likely scenario.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) blogs about music crowdfunding at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM). To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.