Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ashley Capps of Bonnaroo on Forecastle

As the founder and president of AC Entertainment, Knoxville's Ashley Capps has turned the music world on its head over the past decade. His company also runs other festivals, including Moogfest and Big Ears, and books clubs in several cities in the South. This year, AC has also entered into a partnership with Louisville's Forecastle Festival, a blend that both sides hope will lead to greater success for both companies.
LEO spoke with Ashley Capps about Forecastle in advance of the July 15th min-festival in downtown Louisville.

LEO: What qualities does (Forecastle founder) J.K. McKnight have that made you want to work with him?
AC: I really admired J.K. and was impressed by what he has accomplished with Forecastle. When we finally met, I would have to say that I immediately sensed a kindred spirit. And as I got to know J.K. a bit better, it became clear that his vision, combined with an extraordinary work ethic and commitment to realizing that vision, made him a great fit for our team.

LEO: What have you seen Forecastle accomplish that convinced you that they were both a moneymaker and an aesthetically similar operation?
AC: Well, it's no easy feat pulling off a festival, and it's especially impressive to see one that has been successfully grown over the course of 10 years in the way that Forecastle has. What really has made Forecastle stand apart, however, has been the focus that J.K. and his team have put on the overall festival experience. Again, his vision and his attention to detail in bringing that to fruition are exemplary.

LEO: What can you offer that will improve on what they've already done?
AC: Our whole reason for becoming involved in Forecastle is because we did feel that we could offer some opportunities to help J.K. grow the event and help it to become even more successful. In our early discussions, I think it was clear that we shared a similar sense of aesthetics in imagining what the festival experience can be. I think what AC brings to the table is our experience - our organizational support, our booking and marketing teams - to help take the festival to new heights.

LEO: Some people in Louisville assume that AC has bought FF in order to eliminate a competitor. Did you see them as a threat in any way?
AC: No, that really never crossed our minds, to tell you the truth. It wouldn't really make any sense to do that. In fact, we didn't really "purchase" FF so much as we hired J.K. to work with us on a variety of projects, along with the goal of working together on Forecastle as well. We got involved for two reasons: because we wanted J.K. to be part of our team and because we believe that Forecastle is a festival with a unique and compelling identity and experience of its own.

LEO: Will Forecastle definitely be returning to Louisville in 2012?
AC: That's certainly the plan. It was hard for us to make the decision not to do the full-scale event in 2011, but J.K. wisely felt that we needed more time to create the event that we all want the next Forecastle to be. That was smart. He was absolutely right about that.

LEO: What can AC's booking division potentially offer Louisville's audience? How will they know which acts locals want to see?
AC: We've been somewhat active in Louisville for some time, actually. Back in the 1990s, we presented artists like Alison Krauss & Union Station, John Prine and a number of others at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. And we've done a number of shows at the Palace as well - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Phoenix, Neil Young and others. We're now taking the time to get to know the city and its people better. What's clear is that there's a lot of enthusiasm for music and the arts in Louisville and we're eager to explore the possibilities.

LEO: How much advertising will be done to attract out-of-town attendees?
AC: It depends upon the event. If you are specifically referring to Forecastle, one of our plans is to definitely work with our marketing and publicity teams to continue to elevate its profile as a national, and even international, event. But these days, with the internet and social media and all, this is not so much about how much advertising you do as it is about creating the unique and exciting festival experience that fans want to share with their networks.

LEO: AC's festivals are all located within the same region, and arguably appeal to many of the same fans. Are you worried about having too many similar festivals taking away from each other's bottom line?
AC: Well, I think the key is for each of the festival events to have their own unique character, and I think we've accomplished that with Bonnaroo, as well as with Moogfest in Asheville and with Big Ears in Knoxville. All three of them are quite distinctive and quite unlike one another. Forecastle also has it's own unique identity. But we've actually been involved in events all over the country, including Vegoose in Las Vegas for 3 years, and last year we were involved in SonĂ¥r Chicago as well. And we're currently exploring several other concepts, in other regions of the USA and possibly in other countries as well.

LEO: Have you spent much time in Louisville?
AC: Not nearly enough, though I've visited many times. It's such a great city. I've really fallen in love with Louisville. Every time I visit, I can't wait to come back for more.

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