Since 1993 music industry veteran Danny Wimmer has been producing festivals both large and small. His early year’s included discovering the band Limp Bizkit, starting his own record label and finding success as an A & R rep for Atlantic Records. During this time he met and retained lawyer Danny Hayes, a successful entertainment attorney who’s client based has included Marilyn Manson, Everclear, Tool and Linkin Park. Danny’s smart and savvy negotiating allowed Danny Wimmer to keep his concert business separate as he went on to launch Rock In The Range in Columbus Ohio. The festival grew to be one of the biggest hard rock festivals in the World and which started to overshadow his music label endeavors. Danny Wimmer decided to make producing festivals his main gig and in 2011 formed Danny Wimmer Presents.
He later touted his attorney friend Danny Hayes and convinced him to partner with him and become the CEO. Together both Danny’s found magic as well as chemistry and with their work ethic, that was taken from the Navy Seals book Extreme Ownership and along with an amazing team of music veterans, Danny Wimmer Presents has become the largest Independent festival producer in the United States producing 14 festivals in 13 U.S. cities. A feat that Danny Hayes says would not have happened without their dedication to the artists, their love for music Danny Wimmers endless creative vision and a team culture that is second to none.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with CEO Danny Hayes about how things got started and this year’s Aftershock.
Sason Bishope Parry: How is life treating you?
Danny Hayes: Life is great and business is great. We just added 12 new people to our company about a month ago so we went from 28 to 40 employees.
SBP: You’re an entertainment attorney, is that something you’ve always wanted to do and how did you get into music?
DH: I went to college in Miami and studied music and business there and that’s where it all started for me. I learned about entertainment lawyers and thought that would be an awesome mix of my love for music and business and being able to do both. I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, went to Miami for college and then moved to California and attended USC for laws school knowing at that point that I wanted to become an entertainment lawyer and be in music. California was the right place to network.
SBP: You’ve worked with some pretty big artists as a lawyer like Tool, Linkin Park and Marilyn Manson, tell us a about that and have those relationships helped in having them play Aftershock?
DH: First off no, I’ve never played that card of using past relationships to have them play. As a promoter it’s been amazing, cause I’ve been able to now go from having these artists as clients to actually becoming a fan again which is awesome. I’ve had the great fortune of literally representing some of my all time favorite artists and that was such a blessing for me, but it was hard to just sit there an be a fan when your band is playing and when your business is tied into it. So being a promoter has allowed me to be able to sit back and really enjoy their performances that I maybe I would not have been able to being their lawyer.
SBP: How did you become CEO of Danny Wimmer Presents?
DH: So I stopped practicing law around July of 2014 and became a full time partner of Danny Wimmer presents. We produce 9 festivals around the country and were adding more and more all the time. I was Danny’s lawyer for a lot of years when he was the A&R guy at Atlantic records. Danny started out as a concert promoter in Jacksonville, Florida and he discovered the band Limp Bizkit and came out to California to start a record company called Flawless. They signed bands like Puddle Of Mud and had a lot of great success. When he moved to Atlantic records we excluded from his contract his concert business and kept that separate. He then started Rock On The Range on the side and it quickly became a real big business. I told Danny that this festival business was blowing up and that he should consider doing it full time and to his credit he did. Then a few years later as things were growing he said the festival business is really taking off and he could really use a CEO and convinced me to leave my practice and to become his partner and the rest is history. It was a big move, but I was excited to build something. Rock in the Range grew to be one of the biggest festivals in the World.
SBP: Aftershock has grown from a 1-day rock festival to now 3-days this year, tell us about the journey and was 3 days always the goal?
DH: Yes it was always the vision for Aftershock to go to 3 days and we always felt that Sacramento could be the Rock in The Rangeof the West Coast. Rock in The Range started in 2007 and it grew in a similar path it went from 1 day to 2 days to 3 days and we were able to open several in the market around it. We felt that Sacramento was similar to Columbus and the reasons we picked Columbus. The city and county of Sacramento have been terrific and very supportive. Supervisor Phil Serna has been crucial in helping us grow the business, as has Mike Testa of the Conventions and Visitors bureau they both have been great partners in helping us build.
SBP: Booking artists can be challenging with so much competition, how are you able to book so many great artists each year?
DH: We book earlier and earlier. We used to book 6 o 8 months out and now we book over a year out. Were already booking 2020 for festivals that haven’t even happened yet in 2019. It’s that far out. Luckily and especially for hard rock bands, they want to build their tours around the festivals so were able to have conversations earlier which makes it easier to discuss routing. Danny Wimmer spends a lot of time talking to agents all the time about artist routing and what will work along with our talent buyer. Together they make it happen.
SBP: What’s been your most memorable performance and experience at Aftershock?
DH: I got say it was Nine Inch Nails. We’ve done over 80 or 90 festivals so there are so many performances and if you break that down that’s 2 event days each so over 180 event days. I remember the NIN early days when they were absolutely wild on stage and what I loved about their performance at Aftershock was there was this sense of danger just like their early days and even though there was no real sense of danger, you just felt that energy and it was captivating!
SBP: Who are the amazing people responsible for helping you make a festival of this magnitude possible?
DH: All of them, everybody is amazing, we have an amazing team culture and I love our entire team, they are all special and gifted at what they bring to the table and the work ethic they provide. We are very lucky.
SBP: How many people are you expecting to attend this year’s Aftershock and what can fans expect?
DH: I think this year will be a continuation of last year, which was phenomenal, the weather cooperated, fans were great, and were growing it year after year. Were trying to get to 40,000 a day to get to the size of Rock in the Range, which is the biggest hard rock festival in the United States. The line-up is of course incredible and fans should expect the same but just a bigger experience of what they’ve come to expect. It will definitely be a growth year for us, more performances for fans, so a bigger experience with 3 days to enjoy. Were expecting over 30,000 people a day so our biggest year.
SBP: Monster Energy has been a presenter for years, are they a partner or a sponsor?
DH: Monster continues to be a sponsor and they sponsor virtually every show we’ve ever done which has been amazing. They have been incredible sponsorship partners. They are more of a name partner so it used to be Monster Energy presents but that got a bit confusing where people would think is this a Monster festival, so we wanted to ensure that its clear that Danny Wimmer produces the festival, but that Monster is still an important part of the experience and will continue to be part of the festival as one of our main brand partners. I can’t talk highly enough about how great they’ve been to us, they’ve been there from day one and are always the first ones to show support.
SBP: Are you good friends with Danny Wimmer and what are your different roles in the company?
DH: Yes we’ve been friends a long time, even before partners, you kinda of need that in order to be successful on this level. We divide the company where I run the business and he runs the creative and we like to say we fight everyday on that line where art meets commerce and that’s how we manage the company haha. He’s the creative vision, the one who comes with the festival ideas and the concept and vision and I’m crunching the numbers to make sure we can afford his vision.
SBP: You’ve worn a lot of hats, which one has been the most rewarding?
DH: Its all part of a sequence. I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without working with all the artists as I did early on. I think what gives Danny W and I a competitive advantage is we came from an artist side and now being big promoters and building festivals we are still helping to build their careers. I think that’s important and helps build the relationship and that’s always been our mentality, is how do we help the artists grow their careers as well. I do love being more of a decision maker then being an advisor and being a promoter and running our own business I only need Danny W’s permission and he only needs mine, theirs no corporate chain. We make all the final decisions and can act fast and I think that’s probably the most rewarding. We are spending our own money and one of the reasons we’ve decided for the time being to stay independent so that we can make our own decisions and act quickly, which has been part of our success model.
SBP: What or who inspires you to get out of bed daily?
DH: It’s a couple of things. On a business level it’s the team that we have here at Danny Wimmer. We are blessed to have such an incredible team of people and I love coming to work each day and working with them, all of them are just amazing. I couldn’t call any out cause I would be leaving out the rest, and we really built a solid team culture here. Were big believers in this book written called Extreme Ownership that was written by a few navy seals where they take the principal of navy seals and apply that to business. Danny W and I went to their conference and we work to try to embrace those principles into our business. On a personal level it’s my son, as there is nothing more important then him and he’s the reason I get up everyday.
SBP: What’s next for you and Danny Wimmer Presents?
DH: I think were looking for more opportunities to do more business in Sacramento. We really love the market and were looking to see what other businesses and opportunities exist. Were in the talks to possibly build more festivals in the area and hoping to keep developing our business and grow as we go.
Aftershock Festival takes place October 11, 12 & 13th
at Discovery Park, Sacramento, California
For complete info on Aftershock and to buy tickets go to: www.aftershockfestival.com
For more info on Danny Wimmer Presents go to: www.dannywimmerpresents.com