Coming off the heels of their incredibly successful events this year, Gronk Beach and Shaq’s Fun House, we spoke with Joe and Adam about starting their own company, Medium Rare, marketing strategies with big-name talent, and the benefits they experience from using Tixr to power their events. Check out our interview below, and stay tuned for updates on their upcoming events!
Q: What was your journey into events?
JS: Our backgrounds are similar in that we both started throwing parties in college (University of Pennsylvania for Joe) and (University of Arizona for Adam). I was president of my fraternity and started doing different club events and concerts. I made a bunch of money for my fraternity and realized that this could be a pretty cool business to start. So I started booking different DJs and bringing them to Philadelphia, which was an underserved market at the time. This was during the electronic music and festivals boom, before EDM was even a term. But there was a lot of interest and demand in dance culture and the business started to legitimize. I couldn’t believe this was something I could do as a career.
AR: I threw a festival at a minor league baseball studio in Tucson called “Nine Fest” in 2010. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I thought it was a good idea to sell some beer and tickets to make enough money to cover the artists back. I really took a gamble that became a successful gamble.
Q: How did you two meet?
AR: We were some of the first employees at ID&T North America. Joe and I were responsible for bringing Tomorrowland to the states in 2012-2013. We really connected with each other, being similar ages and the first few hires at SFX (now Livestyle, Inc.). Joe was overseeing marketing for Tomorrowland and I was overseeing business operations for Tomorrowland and Mysteryland. Then Joe went to Live Nation in 2016, I stayed at SFX, and then we decided we should do something on our own.
Q: What made you decide to go out on your own?
Q: How was working for your own company different from working at a larger company?
AR: Any time you have your own money on the line versus some else’s, it’s a gamble.
JS: The company started as a passion project that quickly became a business.
Q: How did you get the name Medium Rare?
AR: We went through a thousand different names and went back and forth. Joe and I both have a love for steak and we were sitting there ordering one night and we both said it at the same time and it clicked.
Q: How did you form a relationship with Shaq?
JS: We worked with Shaquille at Tomorrowworld as an artist and performer; we maintained and cultivated a relationship with him over the years. We started his DJ Diesel brand and his festival touring brand. Adam and I came up with the idea of Shaq’s Fun House because ultimately, we wanted to throw a cool party during Winter Music Conference in Miami and thought there was a great opportunity to do a late night event on Saturday. It was lacking a fun, VIP-style event at WMC.
We thought Shaquille O’Neal is one of the biggest celebrities in the world; he shouldn’t be performing at other people’s events, he should have his own event. We asked ourselves what his event would look and feel like, which is how we came up with it being part festival, part carnival, and part circus. We sat with him for hours to figure it out. We bootstrapped it the first year, put our personal money together and brought in carnival attractions, had guests and performers like Steve Aoki and Diplo, and celebrity guests like Rob Gronkowski and other influencers. We put together an amazing lineup till late in the morning. From there, because of the massive success from the first event and how viral it went when Rob Gronkowski and Shaq had a dance battle, we realized that we had a true business on our hands.
Q: What is your strategy to marketing your events?
JS: Working with such recognizable, global IP has its advantage, but it's about how we get creative in working with them. Whether it’s creating more comedic trailers and leveraging their personalities...there is a true personality and voice behind our events with Rob and Shaquille that you can’t create with other festivals.
AR: This year when we announced Gronk Beach, we said, how are we going to maximize this? There was a big debate for Rob at the time on whether or not he was going to go back and play football. Joe and I came up with this epic piece of content that shows Rob with two jeanie Robs, a devil and an angel, each on one shoulder, debating if he should throw a party, come back and play football, or retire. Obviously, he chose to throw a party. That moment was the largest festival announcement of all time; it generated close to two billion media impressions within 24 hours.
Q: How has Shaq’s Fun House grown since the first event in 2018?
AR: The first one was invite only, it was a super-exclusive late-night party. This year, we sold over 3,000 tickets and 70 tables. We had over 5,000 attendees between all of our invites and comps.
JS: At Medium Rare, we specialize in mid-size, VIP-driven festivals. We’re seeing a trend now in the market moving away from the 100,000 people mega festival to a more tailored experience. So at our more intimate parties, we’re focusing on the food and beverage elements, we’re working with great restaurant partners, and all of our events are open bar. Our events are fueled by a great combination of tickets, tables, VIP tables, and sponsorships.
Q: How do you want fans to feel at your events?
AR: The interesting approach we’ve taken to our events so far is the idea that you can leave your wallet at home. They’ve all been open bar and included unlimited food. There are tons of great giveaways. So once you buy your ticket, it’s all-inclusive. I think people like the boutique festival experience; they don’t want to be one of 50,000 anymore. We’re creating these intimate experiences that have major festival lineups.
JS: We spend all year planning these events, considering every detail. We want people to show up and be shocked by the production - our 100 interactive performers, our 60-foot aerialists, all of the food and beverage, the ferris wheel, and everything else that goes into it.
Following Shaq’s Fun House and Gronk Beach we heard a lot of comments like that, and that’s what drives us.
Q: How has Tixr played a role in helping you throw events and focus on the fan experience?
AR: We looked at a lot of ticketing options but the amount of customization that Tixr allowed us to do, whether it was how we handled tables or the upsell and add-on feature, the payment plans, there was so much more ability to ticket these events in the ways that we needed for them to be successful.
JS: One interesting use case to mention is with Gronk Beach. As seasoned event promoters we were expecting to move 20-30% of the inventory, but after all the media we did the day before the on-sale, we had close to 100,000 visitors at once trying to buy tickets. We used the tiered ticketing approach on Tixr, had all different level tickets and we blew threw all of them within a matter of minutes and made adjustments on the fly with the Tixr team. We were able to sell over 85% of our inventory and adjust pricing within minutes of the on-sale.
Q: Were specific Tixr features more beneficial for Gronk’s Beach versus Shaq’s Fun House?
AR: Right off the bat Gronk had crazy demand and the Tixr Client Success team handled it flawlessly. The ability to react in real time to such a demand by using the tier feature, with different pricing and different quantities was great.
JR: We used the add a t-shirt feature and in five minutes, we sold over 100 t-shirts which brought in serious revenue from those t-shirts alone.
Q: What advice would you give to people wanting to get into the events industry?
JR: Entertainment is an entrepreneurial sector of business. It’s not about the application process, you need to show a track record of hunger and be a go-getter. I got my first job or two with cold calls and emails. Entertainment is such a vast industry with so many different sectors. It’s important to keep an open mind to all different kinds of positions, and you can never get enough experience. Looking back, all the different types of roles Adam and I were involved with has been really beneficial to us now that we have our own business.
Q: With over a decade in the industry, what still makes you excited about throwing events?
AR: All the different curve balls and challenges. No two events are the same. Every event presents a new challenge and none of them are perfect, but it’s how you deal with those challenges that makes it really exciting and fun.
JS: From a more holistic media standpoint, we’re specializing and pioneering in bringing celebrities into live events. Aside from Shaquille and Rob, we’re looking at other notable people we can’t disclose yet, but it’s a new, exciting sector of live business. These are unique platforms for fans and media to connect with the celebrities, and most interestingly, brands are looking for experiential, live opportunities. It’s amazing to see the interest from a sponsorship perspective, and then rolling that into ambassador relationships.