SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE
When Stan Dunford, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto-based entertainment company Republic Live, wants to compete, he brings his A game – and some luck. Prior to the first Boots and Hearts Music Festival at the Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in 2012, country music fans in Canada were mostly accustomed to getting their festival-fill south of the border. While Nashville’s best always come to The Great White North – usually when it’s a little more on the green side – during the course of their North American tours, it was rare outside the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta to see more than one big name on the same stage. Now in its sixth year, the Boots and Hearts Music Festival in Medonte, Ontario is Canada’s biggest country music festival and, next to the CMA Music Festival, the second biggest music festival in North America. For five years now the festival has featured the likes of Florida Georgia Line, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, and Luke Bryan. But what a lot of fans of this four- day country music and camping festival probably don’t know is that the three time winner of the Canadian Country Music Association’s ‘Festival of the Year’ Award wasn’t even meant to be what it is today. Mr. Dunford explained to Spotlight on Business Magazine that when he and his wife Eva first imagined a music festival that they had a different direction in mind almost entirely.
JUNE 2017 • SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE
By David MacDonald I t may seem funny but Boots and Hearts happened by accident, to an extent,” Dunford explained. “The show was originally designed to have a different name and was planned as a multi-genre rock show. It was hard to book the calibre of talent for that show, so Republic Live leaned on some relationships in country music and quickly switched to a country format. The first show was rainy, messy and awesome all at once, and every fan left with a smile and a ton of memories that they will never forget. The Boots and Hearts brand grew from the legacy of that crazy first year. We’ve really attracted an amazing, loyal fan base because of the quality of our experience. There is nothing like it in our market.” “Republic Live has a history of reinventing the experience each year.” Going into its sixth year, there really isn’t anything like this four-day country music and camping festival outside of Ontario’s Lake Country – particularly from an advertising and partnership perspective. The Boots and Hearts Music Festival sees 45,000-plus concert-goers over the course of the extended mid-August weekend with attendees coming from every Canadian province and 23 US states. It’s a young crowd, too. Sixty-two percent of ticket holders are between the ages of 18 and 34; 60 percent are female; and less than 2 percent are under 18 years old and less than three percent are over 55. The variety of entertainment – even at genre-specific fes- tivals like Boots and Hearts – available on multiple stages and venues at Republic Live events is a big draw for the youth market. “Republic Live has a history of reinventing the experience each year. For those who come before Thursday night, we feature our Emerging Artist Showcase on the main stage. Over the years, we have discovered hot new talent as part of our Showcase, including 2015 winners, The James Barker Band who couldn’t be more hot right now. In addition to that, we have added the Boots and Hearts Beach Area with volleyball and other surprises to be unveiled at the Festival this August,” Dunford said. “In 2015, we moved to our current location in Oro-Medo- nte, featuring 600-plus acres of custom-designed festival space. We graded the land to form the concert bowls, laid miles and miles of sod, laid gravel on laneways to improve the camping experience, and renovated a vintage 1920s barn to become the centerpiece of our VIP experience. There is a wonderful connection between country music fans and the camping festival experience, and we have provided an unparalleled roster of talent for our fans each year. We are fortunate to have built a loyal base of Boots and Hearts fans, and everything we do to prepare from
one year to the next is designed to cater to the experience for those fans.” There’s even an on-site farmer’s market at Boots and Hearts, he said.
“There is nothing like it in our market.”
The Coors Banquet Kick-Off Party featuring Doc Walker, Vanessa Marie Carter and more takes place on Thursday, August 10 th . Taking the mainstage on Friday, August 11 th is Keith Urban, Dan + Shay, and Kiefer Sutherland – 1mong others – followed by Brantley Gilbert on Saturday the 12 th Luke Bryan on Sunday the 13 th . By the time the final encore is played, a total of 27 headline bands will take the stage at Boots and Hearts. “Top artists are charging more and more for performances and charge their fees in U.S. dollars – even many of the top Canadian acts. There is significant competition for those artists. And, as a camping festival, we build a temporary weekend home for 40,000 people in a small rural community. Add to that the regulations, restrictions, safety considerations and bureaucracy of operating our events, and there is a chal- lenge around every corner. This is a huge planning, coordinat- ing, and execution challenge. We have built a great team of staff and critical vendors to manage the entire process.” Republic Live also produces the WayHome Music & Arts Festival in conjunction with Burl’s Creek Event Grounds Inc. In April, WayHome took home Major Music Festival of the Year Award at the Canadian Music Week Industry Awards in Toronto. “Our business may be the single largest private music investment in Ontario in the last decade, and certainly one of the very largest tourism initiatives funded mainly private money. We believe in the live music business and have been proud supporters. All of our sponsors and vendors are important and each contributes to the success of our events,” Dunford said. “We believe in the live music business and have been proud supporters.” Bootsandhearts.com is worth a visit even if you can’t make it to Ontario’s Lake Country this August. The page has great interviews with headliners like Andrew Hyatt and Midland, camping tips and tricks, and a great article titled Boots 101: How to Pack. “Live music is a tough business, and the festival business is even tougher,” Dunford explained.
“While there will always be options for music fans, nothing can compare to the scope of the Boots and Hearts Music Festival.”
JUNE 2017 • SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE
BOOTS AND HEARTS MUSIC FESTIVAL
180 8th Line South Barrie, Ontario
as spotlighted in the JUNE 2017 issue of SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE
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