Rock and metal is having a moment, and music festival production company Danny Wimmer Presents is at the forefront of it. Wimmer, a former record executive at Flawless/Geffen, Epic and Atlantic, left the label biz in 2011 after having successfully helped launch Rock on the Range, Carolina Rebellion and Epicenter. Since then, Danny Wimmer Presents has continued to add festivals in Sacramento (Aftershock), the Philadelphia area (Rock Allegiance), Wisconsin (Northern Invasion) and more. What’s more, they’ve attracted bands like Rammstein and Tool to play one-off performances at some of the fests. The mainstream media is taking notice as well, with articles from Billboard and Stereogum using Wimmer’s fests as a jumping off point about how healthy the rock scene is. With Tool, Korn, Primus and Meshuggah among the bands announced last week for the Aftershock Festival in October, we asked Wimmer about how he goes about booking bands, plans for the company’s growth, and who his dream booking would be.
This past week you announced that Tool would be headlining the Aftershock Festival. Rammstein is headlining Chicago Open Air. Those are rare festival appearances for both bands. Other than a backing up an armored truck full of money to them, what does it take to get bands like those to commit to playing fests?
As festivals continue to grow, they play an increasingly important role for bands. Many artists use festivals as anchor dates in their tour plans and record releases. So we spend a lot of time coordinating with their agents and managers. At many of our festivals, we have upwards of 50-90 radio stations on site. This has created an incredible platform for bands to get their messages out.
What’s the longest you’ve worked on getting a band to play a fest?
There is one band we’ve been targeting for the past 10 years to play a festival of ours. We are having conversations with them still today. You can do the math.
You keep announcing new festivals. as well as expanding the days of additional ones. Are you always looking to expand, or is there a point where you’ll be happy with the number of the festivals you put on. Do you think there’s going to be a saturation point?
We will continue to grow for as long as the fans keep showing up. What is important is to push to find ways to differentiate our festivals and to expand upon the overall festival experience. Food, spirits and other experiences are becoming increasingly important and provide fuel for our growth.
Many of the same bands play a number of your festivals. Do you think that the festival circuit is a viable alternative to doing a proper tour?
Each needs the other and provides a different experience for the fan. Festivals play an important role in growing an artist’s fan base. Doing a festival run can increase your next headlining run as you return to markets.
How much of your plan is based on the European festival circuit?
Guys like Andy Copping (Download promoter) are true pioneers and I’ve learned a lot from them. I love how European festivals program the talent. Rock Am Ring can have Metallica and Kings Of Leon the same year, and super alt bands along with Slipknot. My focus is to break down genre barriers and walls so we can turn our festivals into ‘music lovers discovering new music,’ cross genres, and to help convert new hard rock and metal fans.
A lot of the same bands tour year after year. What do you do to keep the festivals from becoming stagnant?
That’s a question I ask our team every day. I’m constantly trying to find new things out there that can complement the music and artists we book. From art to unique top notch food, to the craft beer explosion. Every region is different as far as what attendees are looking for. We have seen that bringing in better food, hot restaurants, celebrity chefs and other unique experiences only adds to the unique experience at a DWP festival.
The festival season pretty much runs from late April to early October. Have you done indoor festivals in the winter months?
Interesting you say that. We’ve been looking for different/unique venues and experiences. It’s kind of where our heads are at. Not just winter, but other months too. With weather being unpredictable, we are looking for unique outlets to provide our experiences.
In a Billboard interview, Kevin Lyman said one of the keys to your success was that you put on festivals in markets that have good active rock radio partners. Is that an intentional thing you look for when planning where your festivals are going to be?
There is no question that a great radio partner can make our job a lot easier. I have definitely picked many cities based on the strength of the local radio station. But we’ve also learned to find our fans in other mediums like sports radio, online and national media.
Are there any bands on your bucket list to book?
The Led Zeppelin reunion.