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Governors Ball founder speaks out about petition to block new festival

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David McGlynn/Getty Images

When reports surfaced that AEG, the production powerhouse behind festivals like Coachella and Firefly, was planning to bring a new festival to New York in Summer 2016, just two weeks after the city’s annual Governors Ball Festival, the already-existing festival’s producers became concerned.

That concern escalated today when independent production company Founders Entertainment, the team behind Gov Ball, shared a Change.org petition urging fans and supporters to petition Mayor DeBlasio’s office to block AEG’s proposed date.

After the petition was released, EW spoke with the company’s co-founder and partner Jordan Wolowitz about the future of Governors Ball. When asked if AEG lobbied to buy the festival, he had no comment. He also couldn’t speak to if Founders was looking to sell Gov Ball. “The only thing I can say to all of that is that the over-arching theme of all of this is the rapid, over-consolidation of festivals in North America in the last three years. Being in New York City as an independent promoter we had a huge magnifying glass on us.”

Read more from Wolowitz below.

How did you first start hearing about AEG’s plans for a new New York festival?

I started hearing whispers about the festival from agents and managers at Coachella this past year, so the whispers got to my ear.

The news of that festival leaked a couple weeks ago. Where did this petition start?

With the petition, after news leaked about the festival a lot of fans and supporters of Governors Ball — from New York City to, literally, all over the world — were reaching out to us about ways to support us. They were letting us know how wrong they think it is that a corporate company wants to come on top of a local, independent promoter and try to squash us and intimidate us. The petition came from the support and fans of the festival who wanted to let the mayor know they are not in support of this other proposed festival. They want to make sure nothing bad happens to Governors Ball.

I assume you have asks out to acts. Has anyone declined because they have already booked with the other festival?

No, no one that we have confirmed has backed out due to this AEG festival.

I’m interested in your point about being welcome to two festivals in New York, that your team’s complaint is really about the proposed timing of the festival.

Think about how awesome the weather has been this month [in New York], overall. Weather-wise, this is the best time of year. Why not launch a festival for the fall? There’s a lot of acts in the U.S. in the fall. To be honest, we were thinking about launching another New York festival in the fall because so many of the acts are here — that’s been in the back of our head. There is definitely room in the city for another festival, there’s no doubt about that.

The motive for doing it two weeks after us is just very transparent. Their motivation is incredibly transparent. I mean in Los Angeles, they’re both owned by Goldenvoice, you have Coachella in April and FYF in August. It’s a similar thing.

Have you heard anything from city offices or officials?

I can’t comment on the exact nature but yes, we’re in touch.

If this festival happens, would Governors Ball consider moving their date?

No. We have a great date. The reason we chose it years ago is for routing. Bands do [Seattle festival] Sasquatch over Memorial Day, come to us, and then head south to Bonnaroo. We love our time of year, and we have our fan-base. Our immediate concern is having Mayor DeBlasio and his administration stand up for small, independent, local companies like they always preach. And I’m going to continue booking the festival, that’s our standpoint.