Live Nation carving higher profile for Bamboozle fest

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Live Nation’s acquisition of a majority stake in Bamboozle, an annual multiday music festival in the New York metropolitan area, represents a critical U.S. property for the company.

Whether festivals continue to be a priority for Live Nation remains to be seen. But what the move does mean is a bigger stage for the self-described “kids from Jersey” who founded Bamboozle five years ago, led by fest creator John D’Esposito.

D’Esposito started Bamboozle in 2003 at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. -- the club known as a launching pad for such artists as Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.

“The first year we weren’t very successful at the Stone Pony, so we decided to change the philosophy and move it to Convention Hall and basically incorporate the town of Asbury with multiple venues,” D’Esposito said. “We outgrew Asbury and had to move to a new venue. We looked at a bunch of options and chose the Meadowlands.”

The 2007 Bamboozle Festival in May 2006 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., featured 187 bands on eight stages, drawing more than 85,000 fans and grossing in excess of $2.6 million. Among the acts were Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance and Lordi.

“We don’t usually go out and get a big headliner,” D’Esposito said “We usually try to develop within as they grow. Fall Out Boy started on the small stage and eventually headlined to over 30,000 people. Same thing with My Chem. Hopefully this year we’ll have another one like Paramore or the Jonas Brothers.”


Live Nation has backed Bamboozle since it moved out of Asbury Park, but now it owns it outright. Why sell a successful property?

“They do this every day, and we’re just some kids from Point Pleasant, N.J.,” D’Esposito said. “We got over our heads. There was a point where as an entrepreneur you have to look at something and say, ‘I can do it myself and fail, or I can go and get somebody with the experience and the resources.’”

In terms of what Live Nation brings to the Bamboozle party, the company’s president, Kevin Morrow, said that most of the impact will be at the “back room” level, including production, marketing clout “and one of the greatest sponsorship teams in the world.”

But Live Nation also has growth plans for the festival, beginning with Bamboozle West in Los Angeles in April at a venue to be announced. “From there we will tour across the country with a property called the Bamboozle Road Show,” D’Esposito said. “We’ll take the best young (acts), put them on a package and tour them from L.A. to New Jersey. We’re also looking at a Bamboozle in London next October.”

Live Nation already produces successful festivals in the United Kingdom and Europe, including such prestigious multiday events as Reading, Leeds and Download in the United Kingdom, Werchter in Belgium and Lowlands in Holland. Given the boom market for festivals in the United States, it’s not surprising that the company would aim to strengthen its position as a fest producer.

Rival international promoter AEG Live subsidiary Goldenvoice produces Coachella in Indio, Calif., and has a producer’s stake in the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which grossed an estimated $20 million this year, as well as Seattle’s Bumbershoot. C3-produced Lollapalooza in Chicago took in nearly $10 million in tickets, and Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., grossed an estimated $17 million in its sixth year. Newer festivals like the Virgin Mobile Festival at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore are also gaining traction; V-Fest grossed $5.4 million from 55,636 paid attendance in August.