Danny Wimmer, founder, and Chamie McCurry, chief marketing officer, discuss the entertainment company’s unique approach to music festivals
DWP’s music festivals are often niche-oriented, such as the whiskey-themed Bourbon & Beyond and tattoo-centric Inkcarceration. Why is this a focus for the company?
Chamie McCurry:We love celebrating the local communities that we’re in. Inkcarceration was rooted in the fact that we have this gorgeous and historic building in the Ohio State Reformatory, and from there, it just kind of took on a life of its own. It all ties back to what that community is best known for … combining the tattoos with the prison was a very easy concept to get behind.
DWP has prided itself since day one on wanting to bring the best and biggest rock festivals to the U.S. So for Inkcarceration, we pride ourselves on delivering exactly what the fans want. They want their rock, and that’s why it has been sold out the last two years. It is nonstop rock. It is right down the middle of rock ‘n’ roll including your favorite bands, the best up-and-coming bands, and we have stayed focused in that genre.
Tell us about Bourbon & Beyond.
McCurry: We had been in Louisville, [Kentucky], for a couple years doing Louder Than Life and had some real success there. The more time we spent in Louisville, the more we got to know the community and the people who make up the city, and really got to know all the bourbon brands. At the time, there wasn’t really any other festival that celebrated bourbon and that community. Bourbon is the No. 1 tourist attraction bringing people to Kentucky year round. We recognized that and because we are so invested and love this community so much, we wanted to put on Bourbon & Beyond and celebrate that. It is the world’s largest bourbon and music festival. We have over 50 brands of bourbon that come in, we have the world’s largest menu of rare bourbons that can be sampled and purchased. We’ve really grown and embraced that urban community and all of our bourbon partners to be able to give the fans an experience where they can drink bourbon and listen to a variety of acts.
How does DWP gauge festival success?
McCurry: Ticket sales are obviously very important, right? But we focus a lot on the fundamentals and how we can produce a safe and affordable festival. We try to check off all those boxes by finding ways to not ignore the increases that are hitting our industry daily. We find ways not to pass it on to the consumer while still producing a top tier festival experience. That’s a win for us. We do fan surveys and make sure that we’re on top of anything that needs to be tweaked or enhanced the next year. We have a lot of growth in the next five years, and we have to take into account things that are happening outside of our world with the cost of goods and inflation. We want to make sure we are providing value back to our fans.
After a decade of curating live entertainment, is there still anything people might not know about DWP?
McCurry: I think a lot of fans out there think that we’re this massive corporation that has thousands of employees. We do have thousands of employees when we get on site, because we are essentially building a city. On a day-to-day basis, though, we’re a small, independent company that really works overtime and goes the extra effort because every single person at the company is driven and fueled by the fan experience. We have less than 50 full-time employees and are able to produce some of the best, most attended and successful festivals in the U.S.
Where would you say the music festival industry is headed?
Danny Wimmer: It’s no doubt the last few years have thrown a lot at our industry, and I believe we have more hurdles coming our way. But concert promoters, in general, are a resilient bunch, and if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that when you focus on the fundamentals and put the fans’ experience at the forefront, you can have a lot of wins.