Q&A: New SunFest Govt Director Dianna Craven

Two weeks in the past, SunFest, the preeminent music pageant of the Palm Seashores, introduced a serious change on the high of its group. With the retirement of Paul Jamieson, the chief director and public face of the pageant for the previous 33 years, SunFest’s board appointed Dianna Craven, its gross sales director for the previous 12 years, and an worker of the pageant since 1996, to take over the reins.

Simply days later, Craven spoke to Boca journal about latest adjustments in SunFest’s construction and programming, her plans for the forthcoming Fortieth-annual pageant subsequent Could, and extra.

How a lot employees does it take to place the pageant on yearly?

We’ve got 4 full-time employees members. We’re a really small group in comparison with our counterparts. … We’re in a position to be small due to the neighborhood help that we now have. In 2023, over 2,100 volunteers labored with us to supply the occasion. There are 19 committees to plan the occasion. It’s an effort by the complete staff and the volunteers, and that’s what has me most excited on this position, is to proceed that legacy. SunFest is really neighborhood.

The pageant made a strategic choice to take away sure parts this yr—to delete a day and ebook fewer acts, however spend more cash on headliners. Did that experiment work to the pageant’s satisfaction?

I might say no, due to the response from our buyer base. We worth the suggestions that we obtain from our prospects. We began in 2022 attempting to supply a pageant post-pandemic. We had been confronted with rising prices throughout all parts of our enterprise construction. And we had been cautious with our spending in 2022, rightfully so, coming off a pandemic and lacking two festivals. And other people from our survey confirmed they needed extra in the best way of music.

So when 2023 was produced, we checked out these surveys and analyzed them to the very best of our skill to what we thought we heard loud and away from what they needed to see on the pageant. And we doubled down extra on the music facet of issues. And to try this, and to maintain the worth at a worth level we thought was palatable to our shopper, we needed to forgo another actions to attempt to drive extra into our music class. And what we heard again is that whereas music is essential to people, they missed a few of the different parts that we had. So we are actually in a discovery section, attempting to say, how can we take a look at these two years—in our thoughts related however very totally different in how we programmed—and are available again in 2024, our Fortieth anniversary yr, and supply a product that may resonate with our followers and our prospects.

Do you anticipate to be doing one thing particular to mark this historic anniversary?

We wish to; that’s our plan. It’s firstly to nail what our technique goes to be for the occasion, and that’s what we’re engaged on proper now. However we need to very a lot incorporate our founding beliefs of how we had been put collectively. For us to look again at our accomplishments over 40 years, and to have a good time these accomplishments with our neighborhood, shall be one thing we’re attempting to tie in.

What are the elements that you simply contemplate if you pursue artists and construct a lineup?

One of many misnomers I feel individuals have is that we will give you names of artists we’d prefer to see on the occasion, and form of go as much as these people. It comes down, No. 1, to who’s obtainable that’s touring at the moment, who’s obtainable within the southeast market at the moment, and even the east coast of america. As a result of if an artist is on the brink of launch a Europe tour, then clearly they might not be obtainable, or in the event that they’re beginning a tour on the west coast, it’s not possible for them to move to Florida and again.

And worth performs an enormous a part of that as nicely—who you may afford, and what expertise is costing on the time. After which we attempt to take a look at style and make-up of who will make the very best program selections for us to suit our demographic. SunFest is historically programmed to a wider style, not being style particular, to enchantment to a bigger neighborhood base. However we attempt to all the time make the very best choice on the time, and the very best mixture of what’s obtainable to us.

Have you ever witnessed the SunFest demographics change, when it comes to the kind of artists that prospects need to see?

Our demographics are pretty constant. Individuals are shocked as a few of the artists have skewed a bit youthful through the years. Individuals who have been coming to SunFest for a few years, I hear feedback that we’ve gotten too younger. However the common age of the SunFest attendee is often anyplace from 37 to 39 years outdated. So whereas we’d have a Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, it’d skew a bit youthful, if you take a look at nearly all of the acts which might be performing on the pageant, they do enchantment to an older demographic than, say, a youthful rap artist would possibly. However we program throughout genres … to make sure that we will promote these tickets. Typically if you happen to focus an excessive amount of on the identical demographic, that very same area of interest of individuals, you’re limiting your base of who would possibly attend. We’ve carried out the very best we will with the expertise obtainable to us to attempt to appease that broader base. We attempt to focus as a lot as we will on the 25-to-54 demographic. You then would possibly skew a bit youthful or older on the outliers, however that’s the goal.

Paul Jamieson lately introduced his retirement from SunFest after 33 years. (Carrie Bradburn/CAPEHART)

Are you continually being bombarded by PR individuals pushing sure bands and artists, or is it extra like, you’re by yourself on the lookout for the expertise?

We companion with AEG Stay, which is likely one of the nationwide reserving firms available in the market. And so they deal instantly with the agent and search for avails, and so they do obtain the calls. When bands want to exit on tour and set their schedules, they may attain out to AEG instantly. Typically we do get some calls internally, however as a result of we’ve had a longstanding relationship with AEG, most of these calls are directed to their workplace. After which we work hand in hand with them on the lineup.

Do you take a look at bands which might be simply now beginning to climb the charts however are nonetheless inexpensive, in order that by the point of the pageant, they’re even greater? Is that one of many methods?

That’s the golden ticket—if in case you have the crystal ball to see who could be common. The distinction now from music 15 years in the past is that stars will climb and drop in a short time typically. However some artists we’ve had up to now 10 years: Lizzo was at SunFest, Ed Sheeren … it’s a venue the place we do attempt to discover these people. We had Ja Rule a few years in the past, and he was a type of lightning-in-a-bottle acts. It was a record-breaking Friday evening; you couldn’t transfer on web site. Nobody actually knew who he was, we booked him for a really low price, and by the point SunFest hit, he was everywhere in the charts, in a matter of 5 months’ time.

Each time the lineup drops, you get passionate responses from either side, from individuals who can’t wait to fly in from different states to see the pageant, and from individuals who say, this lineup is horrible.

Appropriate. Music might be some of the subjective subjects on the market. I feel there’s no approach to make everybody pleased. Everyone knows that individuals these days like to specific their opinions extra so than up to now, with social media. However you attempt to do your finest with what’s obtainable. And we now have to all the time bear in mind what’s obtainable inside a finances. We’ve got to be cautious of our spending to make sure the vitality of the occasion going ahead.

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