Welcome to Partner Spotlight, our new series getting up close and personal with the people behind your favorite events. We’ll criss-cross the country, putting some of the smartest, most creative, and most successful people in the industry in the hot seat to talk about everything from why they got into the business, to how technology has changed the industry, to the best acts they’ve ever seen.
First up is Kevin Arnold, founding partner of Noise Pop Industries, which has been putting on cultural events in the San Francisco Bay Area for 23 years (which means when he started, this was the #1 song in the country). Noise Pop’s marquee event is the Noise Pop Festival, a one-week celebration of music and independent culture around San Francisco. Noise Pop also co-promotes the Treasure Island Music Festival and 20th Street Block Party, along with some fresh picks joining its roster this year. Watch the video below to find out what inspires Kevin to bring a slice of underground culture to San Francisco year after year, then read the Q&A for more.
What is Noise Pop and how did you come up with the concept?
Our focus has always been to shine a spotlight on the San Francisco underground music scene, but Noise Pop events have grown to encompass a broader spectrum of what we consider independent culture. Our sweet spot is small, intimate events at clubs and theaters like Great American Music Hall, Slim’s, Bimbos, The Chapel and Rickshaw Stop. We started in 1993 as a one-night celebration featuring five bands that I personally loved at the Kennel Club, which is now The Independent. Today, we do a film series across the city and feature shows with more than 100 artists across all genres of music–indie rock at the core, some EDM and electronic music, down to folk or hip hop.
What makes Noise Pop special? What’s the experience you want to create for fans?
Noise Pop isn’t your everyday, average show. What we want to provide to the fan through any Noise Pop event is a unique and memorable experience that they’re going to take home and cherish. I feel like we shine and are really able to connect with the audience when we’re able to provide something they’re not going to see anywhere else. It’s not just about meeting the technical requirements and putting bands on stage. You need to do more these days, because that’s what fans want.
What are the live experiences that blew your mind or changed you?
I always have to go back to reference our first Noise Pop show, which gave me the first taste of having something go way better than expected and made me want to come back and improve upon that. For me, inspiration comes from the artists from my youth that made me pick up a guitar in the first place. From Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould, who’s been a part of the festival many times, to the Flaming Lips, there are so many bands who are super rewarding to work with. It’s an honor to be a part of their overall stories.
You’ve been in the music industry for over 20 years. How has technology changed live events in your opinion?
Technology has opened a whole new world to venues, promoters, and audiences, especially the web and social. An independent artist is now able to record music more cheaply and efficiently than ever before. Venue owners can reach, target, and quantify their marketing efforts. The traditional barriers to distribution and promotion have changed, so you’re no longer limited to trying to get your record onto the shelves of a Tower or Virgin; you can put it out through a platform like Bandcamp. You can build a worldwide fanbase and communicate directly with fans without the barriers of terrestrial radio. It’s a huge challenge for any band to get out there, and today you don’t need to follow those traditional paths to reach fans. At the same time there is more risk. Iterations of success and failure are much more sped up. You can go as quickly as you come. Fundamentally, I think all of that is net-positive in helping artists and indie musicians fulfill their dreams. As the recorded music business changes, and artists tend to earn a lot less money from album sales than they may have in the past, the live experience has become that much more important for artists. Live events are real and irreplaceable.
How is Ticketfly changing the game and improving your life and the experience for fans?
Ticketing has been a really interesting industry from a technology disruption standpoint. Looking at where Andrew and Ticketfly came from with TicketWeb, thinking about that now, that was sort of a 1.0 iteration of this concept of connecting the fan to the ticket and venue via the Internet. Thinking about that now and how that’s evolved, it’s definitely in a 2.0, if not further, space. The web has grown and technology has grown and our behaviors have changed so much, largely influenced by social, that it’s become so much more than a ticket or piece of paper that you put in someone’s hands. It’s a full customer relationship management system that’s integral to how you interact. It’s newsletters, and how you engage with social platforms, and the ability to understand the data, and the interaction. The reach of your efforts is really unparalleled and has become much more than what a lot of people would have expected from ticketing platforms. Not surprisingly, you need people who are innovative and creative to disrupt the status quo and make these things possible. Ticketfly has definitely proven repeatedly that they’re at the bleeding edge of that. It’s cool to be working with people who think like that.