Music Industry Veteran And Co-Founder Of L1NEUP DIGITAL Shares His Experiences In The Business
Updated: Sep 25, 2020
Paul Peck is the Co-Founder of Okeechobee Music Festival, having served as Chief Creative Officer and Head of Programming. A Music Industry Veteran, Paul has an extensive Media Production background as Superfly and Bonnaroo’s Creative Director of Original Media where he was responsible for the Production of Broadcast and Streaming Media Content.
Q. How did you get started in the music industry?
I was living in New Orleans as a college student and I was always a passionate music fan. A couple of my friends from school were in college bands and some started to ask me if I’d be interested in managing their bands. I took the opportunity very seriously where I was trying to communicate with different people in the community and working with different artists to figure out strategic ways to grow those artists’ audience to give them more audience. I also did an internship at my favorite club Tipitinas in New Orleans where I wanted to produce my own projects. At that time I was really vibing out to Stevie Wonder and I wanted to bring this genre of music to life at Tipitinas. I followed my intuition and I vouched this idea at my internship to produce this all-star collaborative Stevie Wonder show. Finally after a lot of hard work at Tipitinas, they gave me a date. I immediately went to all my favorite artists and asked them to be a part of the show. Even with the artists I was managing at that time I was able to grow my reputation and network. The show was a success even though there were some minor setbacks that were overcome before the show. Overall it was a real eye opener for me and a great experience.
Q. Can you run us down your various positions and responsibilities?
I started off with my internship at Tipitinas and managing some college bands from my school. As soon as I graduated, I started working with local producers in New Orleans called Superfly. The next summer we put on Bonnaroo, where I was involved with the programming and I was responsible for SuperJam that first year. I also curated the artists with their songs and organized their slot times strategically so that this signature musical event would grow over the years to come. I eventually started working with artists like Questlove, Chance the Rapper, and Skrillex to produce this high profile show. I started to help produce the festival Outside Lands in San Francisco. After many years of diligent work I decided to start my own music business where I produced Okeechobee Music Festival. My role at Okeechobee was a culmination of all my past roles, but with creative direction. I wanted Okeechobee to have a distinct vision that I had not produced before and offer to the community. I have a clear specific mission statement and that is to provide people opportunity to share these moments of connection. I think that this is really important. Live music is a really special way to share individual moments of time between a group of people and artists that will never be the exact same again. Those moments never happen again; it becomes a unique experience. These are the moments that I’m most focused on in my career.
Q. What was your favorite position and why?
I am most known for working closely with artists and producing these once in a lifetime special collaborative shows that really take these artists out of their comfort zone and give them an opportunity to show a different side to who they are. I enjoy working with artists to create these special shows. I actually did a show that was an all-star celebration of Bob Marley with Stephen Marley and Skip Marley where we put together this incredible band. The band leader was Nikki Glaspie who is an incredible drummer. We also had insane special guests such as Wyclef, Koffee, Melissa Etheridge, so I was able to produce this cross-genre music celebration of Bob Marley in order to carry on the spirit of Bob Marley. This is consistent with exactly what I want to do with my career which is to bring different people from different backgrounds and age together to share special moments of connection.
Q. How did festival culture grow throughout the years?
I think it’s changed a lot. When we first started Bonnaroo almost every festival was very diverse and cross-genre where they were camping festivals. There’s been a real growth in city festivals and genre specific festivals. I think festivals used to be more esoteric and now they’ve become mass produced where many people can have the opportunity to have a festival experience. Operationally festivals have become a lot more organized and streamlined where no matter what kind of music you’re into there will be a festival out there for you to enjoy near you.
Q. Your time at Bonnaroo, how did you get started and what was your position with the festival?
I got started because Superfly was the original producer of the festival with AC Entertainment. Superfly hired me when I graduated from college and I found myself helping produce the first Bonnaroo. We also used to do a lot of concerts around Jazz Fest in New Orleans, which incorporates all kinds of music. I was also in charge of doing night time shows after Jazz Fest at venues in New Orleans. So I had the experience from producing these late night shows around Jazz Fest, and then a few months later I was on site producing for Bonnaroo. My responsibilities at Bonnaroo were to help produce the special events that were artist driven as well as the different parades that would go around the festival. I had to make sure that the parades were meaningful and musically inclined. I also ordered mardi gras necklaces that you can throw from the parade to make it more colorful.
One time I had this parade that the crowd would have to follow to find this secret stage that was putting on a secret performance. These hidden gems within the festival are purely for the people to enjoy. I was in charge of the booking, programming, branding, and original media of the festival. To be more specific about the original media - I had this idea to create a live streamed event that announced the artist lineup of the festival with special guests like Jimmy Fallon, Portugal the Man, Weird Al, Hannibal Buress, The Flaming Lips, and Elton John. This all helped amplify the brands reach year round and gave opportunity for the community to engage. I wanted to think about this brand holistically to make it unique across the festive landscape and authentically gain everyone’s trust to spread good vibes for a positive impact to grow as people.
Q. How does one go about starting a festival?
I’m not going to say that this is easy, it's challenging strategically. There are a lot of personalities and people to manage. It can even be challenging emotionally because the deliverable has to be very special and meaningful. If you’re going to be bringing a lot of people together then it has to have a deeper meaning and a real purpose behind it. What does it all mean? The festival has to have genuine character behind it that can connect the audience. You should have a real vision while being able to get everyone aligned with the vision. You may be working on it for two to three years for an execution of 3 days, which is a lot of responsibility because there is a great financial investment involved. Putting this all together while knowing that there are many outside factors that you cannot control, such as the weather, is the wild spirit of it all. It’s almost like being the snake charmer where it's risky, but it's also very majestic and beautiful.
Logistically, you have to find the best land that is the most opertable and a community that trusts your project. You need community buy-in where you want to do something that enhances the community you’re working in. There needs to be harmony with community effort by having true intentions. You should have a great team that knows what the brand stands for and can convey that in their marketing. Everyone should know the kind of staff they need for each site because every site needs to operate differently. You need a good understanding of the lineup where you can promote it and have sponsorships. It’s such a big project and really intense.
Q. Where did the idea for Okechobee come to be?
The idea for Okechobee came from the site itself. The whole seed for what the vision was largely circumstantial. It was the time of year and the location in Florida that informed the programming. When you walk around the site and look at it from different angles the stroll tells you what the event is going to mean. It felt like a pristine jungle and I saw the trees with grand cloud formations. There was an idea of having a beach and to have a dance experience deep in the jungle. I couldn’t get this idea out of my head. It was like this ritualistic reconnection to the earth. Humans' most essential connection is to each other and to this planet. I started getting this feeling of the classic ancient human ritual of dancing, feet on grass, surrounded by trees, under the stars. That’s an amazing experience to the connection of the Earth.
Typically we look at screens, drive around in cars, and live in concrete, sometimes many floors above the concrete ground. Our ancestors used to live in harmony with the Earth. One of my partners and I came up with this concept where we used to have this magical unspoken bond with the Earth. We depend on the Earth’s trees for oxygen and have a responsibility to protect the land and to treat it with respect, care, love - where that love created magic that we called “Spirits of the Forest”. This was our promotion video to the community in order to introduce the idea of Okeechobee which emphasized that humans have been dormant for a long time now where they have lost their connection to the Earth and how Okeechobee is reawakening them. We really wanted to inspire everyone and gain their trust to deliver our promise for this innate experience.
Q. With live touring revenue being wiped out, how have brands and artists pivoted to support themselves?
Some artists are fine and some artists are struggling. Brands are needing to shift their view on how they can operate and how they can engage with their audience. Some artists have done branded shows where they have gotten paid, and other artists have done benefit events. Some artists have even turned their operation into a PTM model or virtual TikTok model. The vast majority of working artists that are working right now have their own ecosystem of technology crew, band members, and engineers that all need to work together to put their energy into doing something productive. This industry is going through a shift and I want to help this shift to help all these people support themselves.
Q. Besides them being cancelled, how else do you see festivals and the industry being impacted by COVID-19?
Certainly there will be a lot of operational impact where there will need to be new thoughts for safety and security measures. There will need to be an understanding of how to operate the crowd in a different way. This is a little bit of a new reality and I think festival producers will have to start thinking about how to operate their events in a new orientation. There will need to be a discussion on what we will be comfortable with artists and attendees, but the thing is festival operation is always changing for the better at least every five years. This year, we happen to be undergoing a lot more changes faster. Security protocols, staffing protocols, ticketing protocols, hygiene protocols, are always changing and all aspects of the festival business will have a whole new set of considerations across the board that are going to impact almost every phase on how an event is produced.
Q. How do you see the music industry changing in the years to come?
Different types of consumer habits and the expectations fans will have for these events will definitely change years to come where some may still want the virtual option of an event. I’m already working on how to help solve problems that’s productive, and connect people for the near future.
Q. Do you see festival culture growing in the years to come?
I think that coming out of this year, there will overall be less festivals. It will also be imperative for festivals to carve their own distinct identity. The festivals that survive all this will be regulated and the operations will have to evolve. As long as they’re well run they will have a bright future.
Q. What will be the next big thing in the music industry?
The next big thing will be how shows will be coming back and how they will be operated. These shows will be able to open up jobs and new opportunities. These events will have new channels on how they will be quantized and enjoyed through changing consumer habits.
Q. What current or future projects are you working on now (not music festivals)?
I’m working on a bunch of future projects and I’ll discuss what I’m allowed to say at the moment. I’m producing a couple of albums with the publishing company that represents Bob Marley’s catalog. I’m working on scaling L1NEUP DIGITAL - the entertainment digital marketing agency, with my two partners. So there’s a lot going on aside from the festivals.