In a day and age were major music festivals have become a bit oversaturated, popping up everywhere, the competition for market share and talent has become extremely tough and almost impossible for a new festival to break ground. Unless of course, you’re a driven group of dreamers led by its founder billionaire mogul Bryan E. Gordon and with a long-term vision to curate one of the World’s best festival brands. In just a few years KAABOO has broken the mould of traditional music festivals and has gone from a stand-alone in Del Mar (which sold-out in its 3rd year), to branching out to two new markets this year The Caribbean and Texas. Having a background also in the food industry, Gordon saw a niche in the market, where there was room for growth in hospitality as well as offering up additional attractions, beyond music that also focuses on comedy, culinary, art and expanding technology.
Kaaboo is clearly looking to set itself apart from other long-lasting festivals such as Coachella, Lollapalooza and England’s Glastonbury and given its newfound success, the formula seems to be working. What also has led to Kaaboo’s winning formula was the addition of Richard Branson’s “Virgin Produced” partner, marketing expert Jason Felts. Having roots in the Del Mar market, Felt’s attended the festival and later cold-called Gordon and the pair realized they shared a similar vision for festivals and this later led to “Virgin Produced” partnering with Kaaboo and Felt’s being named Kaaboo’s Chief Brand and Marketing Officer. With a great team, a winning formula and multiple markets in the works, it seems like Kaaboo is well on its way to becoming one of the World’s best destination festivals.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Jason Felts about the KAABOO experience, what inspires him and the upcoming debut of KAABOO Texas…
Sason Bishope Parry: How is life treating you?
Jason Felts: Life is great, and we are weeks now from hosting our Kaaboo Texas in Dallas at the ATT stadium and we just completed in February a sold-out Kaaboo Cayman festival. We are also in prep for next steps in disclosing date and location for the very first Virgin festival which will be held next year.
SBP: Tell us a little about where you grew up and how you got into the marketing business?
JF: I grew up in Texas, moved up to California upon graduating and got started in the marketing business by working at a commercial productions company and branded agency after which in 2005, I formed my own company called J2 and then sold that company and founded Virgin Produced in 2009 which is the entertainment production arm of the Virgin brand.
SBP: How did you get into music festivals?
JF: My start came in 2015 when I was invited to come experience the very first ever Kaaboo in Del Mar (San Diego, CA.). Upon enjoying that experience Virgin Produced partnered with the founders of Kaaboo to elevate the music festival experience and provide a level of hospitality through Virgin Produced.
SBP: You’re a partner with the great Sir Richard Bronson, what’s that like?
JF: It’s amazing! Richard is the ultimate mentor and inspiring in every capacity with his focus on people and planet which is a core value that I share. Overlaying another core, shared value of proper live/work balance ensures every day of work is not work. Every day of work is about living the best life and creating products and services that consumers enjoy.
SBP: How did you become Chief Brand & Marketing Officer for KAABOO?
JF: Virgin Produced invested in Kaaboo in 2017 and I took over as Chief Brand & Marketing Officer responsible for all brand and marketing activates and growing the Kaaboo brand alongside the founders
SBP: You have called, KAABOO the anti-festival, what do you mean by that?
JF: We like to joke that KAABOO is the anti-festival festival event. We recognize that not everyone is into the traditional camping festival lifestyle. We provide a break from that by offering elevated amenities – air-conditioned lounges, spa services, poolside cabanas, the works. You won’t find a single sleeper tent or porta-potty on site. Most importantly starting by a level of hospitality and guest services that is unmatched by any other festival in the world.
SBP: KAABOO is now in three markets, how do you handle the big workload?
JF: The growth of Kaaboo is exciting and challenging which makes the journey really fun. We have very consciously worked to ensure that the festivals, although in 3 markets, are spaced out properly throughout the calendar year to allow for proper preparation and operational breaks for our teams. This ensures that we can deliver the same level of experience and guest services and create a level of consistency and continuity across the brand, irrespective of the location.
SBP: What goes into marketing and curating KAABOO and what sets KAABOO apart from other music festivals?
JF: Every Kaaboo event offers a tasting board to hit all 5 of your senses – Music, art, comedy, culinary, and indulgences. Between diverse musical lineups, varying culinary options, and specially designed activations, there’s something for everyone. That’s why we think KAABOO has taken off the way it has – it’s a true exploratory playground for adults
SBP: Founder Bryan Gordon has toted KAABOO as having some of the healthiest food options at festivals, do you agree?
JF: Kaaboo culinary program, palate, delivers a diverse offering to appeal to every guest. We stack our culinary lineups with fresh and local artisanal options.
SBP: Were you in Grand Cayman this first year and how did that go?
JF: Absolutely, I designed the Cayman festival from the ground up and was very involved in the design of the Kaaboo experience in the Cayman Islands. We are proud that the event sold out and that we were able to deliver an amazing Kaaboo weekend in the Caribbean.
SBP: The lineups at KAABOO have been impressive, how hard is it to book artists given so much competition?
JF: Kaaboo’s programming strategy is very different as we curate a combination of nostalgia, bucket list artists and today’s hit mayors so don’t create a carbon copy, cut and paste of other festival lineups. The booking process is more competitive now than it was 6 years ago because of all the new festivals. But we continue to try to create a level of diversity on our lineup which allows us to be creative in how we program the lineup. We don’t just go for the top 40 artists who are more in demand.
SBP: What can fans expect from the 1st year at KAABOO Texas?
JF: We promise first-rate entertainment, unparalleled hospitality, delicious cuisine, and the perfect mix of excitement and relaxation. We can’t wait to bring the magic of KAABOO to the Dallas Fort Worth and Arlington Metroplex.
SBP: What has been your best experience at any KAABOO to date?
JF: Watching my mom sing and dance along to Pink 2 years ago and watching my Dad grin ear to ear when the late Tom Petty took the stage.
SBP: Is KAABOO looking to expand into more markets?
JF: Absolutely. More to come…
SBP: What’s next for KAABOO and Jason Felts?
JF: A continuation of entertaining guests at our 3 events and more featured growth for the Kaaboo brand festivals.
For more info on KAABOO Texas go to: www.kaabootexas.com