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John D. (Skate & Surf) - 05.07.13

Interviewed by: Jake Denning (05/07/13)
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Skate & Surf CEO, John D., who also has an exciting new mobile gaming platform, GameChanger World. If you’re in the New Jersey area, you’d be doing yourself a massive favor by checking out this years Skate & Surf festival, headlined by acts like A Day To Remember, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Fall Out Boy.

We’re extremely proud to be a sponsor on this year’s festival, and I personally would be extremely excited about being able to go, because I feel as if there’s so much to do and see in just two days. If you’re not a fan of the headliners, you might like some of the up and coming artists breaking ground like MOD SUN and I Call Fives. Come out, have a great time, and make some great memories.


First and foremost, let’s talk about Bamboozle. What led to it seemingly going under so quickly?

John D: I don’t think it stopped so quickly, I think it was time for change on our end - we (creative unit, founders, etc.) were fried. There was just a difference of opinion and we’re used to that so we just like to do our own thing. And for us to do our own thing and move forward we had to return to our past

What made you want to specifically bring back Skate & Surf?

John D: For a lot of us, that’s where it all started, that was our first festival and when we were going to make a change rather than start something new, we wanted to return to our roots, which is artist development – which is what Skate & Surf is all about. We also have this new thing called Gamechanger, and that fit really well, something that’s separate that powers cool stuff. It was a good win.

For those who aren’t familiar, can you tell us about GameChanger World a little bit?

John D: Gamechanger is an artist-to-fan mobile gaming platform and basically I try to describe it as a boardwalk of mobile games and they’re either inspired/themed/created by the band that the game is dedicated to, and that’s available 365 days a year, 24/7 for a fan to earn awards in these games by accomplishing tasks in those games, which are all artist driven content.

Right now I have a 9 year old son that doesn’t know what a CD cover is, and it’s not his fault…a lot of kids don’t, these kids don’t understand that experience. Back in the day we used to wait for our mail, and it was those fan clubs, whether it was New Edition or New Kids On The Block , it was important. And with recent digitalization and pirating, the CD covers are extinct.

I seem to recall you working with T.Mills on a game. What did you specifically see in him to have him be one of the first artists included with GameChanger World?

John D: We had discovered T.Mills a few years back at Bamboozle, and we were probably literally one of the first groups to call him, and I think he thought it was a joke at first, and I had to convince him that I was being serious. But from there, we were able to have a pretty good relationship and when you’re going into something so creative and groundbreaking as Gamechanger was a few months back, T.Mills was one of the first artists that I wanted to call and share what I was doing, because I felt like he would fit that model well. I’ve seen him grow from some backpack rapper from Southern California to a potential pop star.

Every game is it’s own app. When a fan wants to play T.Mills game it’s called “Trailin’ Travis”, and they’re going to download that app via the iTunes store or Android market. They’re all free, and have what’s called “in purchase app” abilities, where artists can generate funds by the fans engagement in the game. If the fans are spending money they’re probably powering up, which helps them unlock achievements that unlocks unique content that the artists have inside each game. There’s also a leaderboard and the bands can log onto gamechangerworld.com and see the top fans. The more gamechange you earn, the more prizes can unlock or buy – you cant unlock it with cash, only gamechange, which is only earnable from the games.

So did I hear you correctly when you said that some of the in-app purchases go directly to the artist?

John D: Well, it’s a partnership platform. All the artists involved are partners, as are the developers.

Do you feel like you’re revolutionizing the mobile gaming industry?

John D: I think it’s going to take a lot of plumbers to fix this broken pipe, but I think we’re on the right track to getting a plan in place to do it. Because right now there’s 65-90 Billion dollars of income coming in from mobile devices and the music industry sees under 3%.

Are there any other artists that you’re really eager to work with that you’re not working with already?

John D: My goal would be to make a 30 Seconds To Mars game. I don’t know why, but 30 Seconds To Mars would make a phenomenal game, and maybe Jared will read this and call me.

Yeah, I really enjoy their singles and videos quite a bit. The level of artistry is really up there.

John D: Yeah, and those are the people…we worked with Anthony Green, Andrew W.K., Bayside, Mayday Parade, New Found Glory, those are the guys we went to first, because there’s a lot of experience and credibility and talent inside of that group that could help direct me in what a fan would like from a band. This experience can’t be as terrible as the concert scene is right now, because…we’re dying.

What sort of things need to be put into place in order to fix the concert scene?

John D: More revenue for artist development! Right now we’re over saturated with bands that are pumping so much water on the ship, and the ship is sinking. The ship needs to be able to show off some of it’s beautiful pumps to get the water out, and put these bands on top.

Coming back to the Skate & Surf festival, it’s now being held at Six Flags in New Jersey.

John D: Yeah, who would’ve thought, right? I never thought we’d get to 7500, and now we’re probably going to exceed 10,000, who would’ve thought? When we booked this in October/November, there was people questioning Fall Out Boy – what would the return be like? So if you were to tell me back then that this week Fall Out Boy would have the number one album, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis would have two of the top ten songs on radio, I would’ve told you to get lost because it was impossible…well, not exactly impossible, because it’s happening.

I guess you can’t swear at Six Flags? I read some comments from some concerned fans about that apparent rule.

John D: You know, it’s in the festival grounds at Six Flags, and we’re not in the park for those reasons – we didn’t want to be there, and they didn’t want us there. We were just concerned that our fans have a safe entry at this point. After the situation in Boston there’s a lot of changes of how things are run, especially for a first year event – you have a different level of state and local officials that are required. But when you go to expand, that becomes a logistical problem because of the strain on the parking and the street, so you look to move to an area that can accommodate that change, and one that takes as much pride in safety as they do.

Yeah, I think you really win twice with Six Flags. You’re off the grounds, but you also have the rides available as well.

John D: Yeah, we weren’t going unless that happened. It was honestly a 3 hour phone call to make the switch over because they were so receptive on the other end, and it was the right situation for everybody, provided our fans could get into the park; we needed it for safety, and they wanted it for attendance. Everybody wins as long as it’s a great and safe event, and we accomplish our goal of artist development.

Yeah, and fans are pretty excited to ride some of the rides with particular band members as well.

John D: We asked the bands to do that for charity, whether it’s a dollar or 5 dollars. Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy did some damage and the festival is never going to get directly involved with charity because the money needs to get to them. So we invited a few organizations to come with the bands and see if they could get hats to raise the money, so I think that could be a pretty big win for everyone.

From a personal standpoint, who are you most excited to see, other than Fall Out Boy and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis?

John D: For me, it’s a lot of the managers and the crew that I don’t cross paths with during the year, so it’s a lot like a homecoming. The guys who make Skate & Surf happen aren’t on stage, and that’s what I like to do, thanking them and making sure they’re geared to have a good time with their family at Six Flags.

Coming back to Fall Out Boy, how did you exactly go about getting them to headline?

John D: There’s a lot of history between our two camps, and when we were bringing back the festival, they were one of the first bands we called, because obviously there’s always been a fascination for Midtown – the original goal was to get Fall Out Boy on one night, and Midtown on the other night.

But you also have Glassjaw coming back as well, which is cool.

John D: I think a lot of kids are bumming me out, because they aren’t appreciating how many of the original Skate & Surf artists are on there, compared to the ones that are still actually bands right now.

Yeah, I really wish I could come out to this, because like you mentioned, there’s a real eclectic mixture of older and newer bands and artists playing, like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – those guys are really nice and humble dudes. And then getting to experience veterans like Fall Out Boy play, as well as newer acts like I Call Fives and MOD SUN.

John D: I think we’re going to take it up a notch, because our goal is to bring the MOD SUN’s and the Crown The Empire’s and Breathe Carolina’s directly to their fans in a one on one gamechanger experience. Those games are all coming out during the festival and they’re going to be playing them with their fans directly, whether it takes two hours or four hours, we’re going to try and get every kid in line a chance to meet the band and see the game.

If this year ends up doing well, can you see the festival expanding to three days?

John D: I don’t think so, I think we’re good at two. I think this festival will probably ride on the ability to develop from within, as well as our ability to strengthen the Gamechanger platform, which will finance it.

I know you have Mayday Parade hopping on as a secret guest. How did that exactly come about?

John D: They have a game called “Face Off” coming out on May 16th, and it’s a really cool game, one of the best graphical games that we have. It’s a platform game, meaning that there’s objectives, and I think it’s going to appeal to a very broad band of fans. It’s definitely not your typical mobile game.

What types of difficulties and problems do you encounter when running a festival like this? I know like a few festivals are calling it quits, like Sound & Fury in Santa Barbara, CA, which was a huge disappointment.

John D: For us, I think it’s the environment that we put our fans in. I’m not a huge fan of garbage conditions. I think kids work hard and spend a lot of money, and it’s on us to provide the best entertainment and the best experience that we can. It’s not about how much money we can take from a fan’s pocket in 4-8 hours, but how can we engage them during the other 16 hours?

Yeah, and then they’ll continue to come back year after year

John D: But I also want them to trust us on their mobile phones, I want them to understand what we’re trying to do. I think people are spending a lot of money on mobile gaming and the same entertainment can come from supporting a young band – it’s a revenue stream that they need very badly. Artists don’t have tour support, and they have to go out and believe they’ll go out on tour and have enough support. So if I were to say “Hey, I could give you 30% more of your income”, what do you think they’re going to say to that?

Is there anything else you can tell us about Skate & Surf this year?

I think people are going to be really surprised with the execution and the environment and the surprises that await.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 23.
10:01 AM on 05/07/13
#2
Anton Djamoos
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Any Midtown reference is good for me. Interesting that they would have Midtown headline...do enough people know of them anymore to give them headlining status at a major festival?
10:05 AM on 05/07/13
#3
Jake Denning
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Any Midtown reference is good for me. Interesting that they would have Midtown headline...do enough people know of them anymore to give them headlining status at a major festival?
I think it'd be great to give them a headlining slot on a side stage. I don't think they can draw like some people think, I'm not really sure - I had never heard of them until I had joined the site in 2008. I think someone a bit older like yourself, Drew, or Jason would be able to make that call better than I.
10:21 AM on 05/07/13
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iseejosh
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Any Midtown reference is good for me. Interesting that they would have Midtown headline...do enough people know of them anymore to give them headlining status at a major festival?
As much as I love Midtown, I don't see them at all headlining a 7,500 + festival, second headliner maybe.
11:12 AM on 05/07/13
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Anton Djamoos
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I think it'd be great to give them a headlining slot on a side stage. I don't think they can draw like some people think, I'm not really sure - I had never heard of them until I had joined the site in 2008. I think someone a bit older like yourself, Drew, or Jason would be able to make that call better than I.
The older people like Drew, Jason, and me are not Skate and Surf's target demographic. Does not bode well for Midtown headlining. Probably makes sense to be a second headliner like iseejosh proposed above.
11:14 AM on 05/07/13
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Jake Denning
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The older people like Drew, Jason, and me are not Skate and Surf's target demographic. Does not bode well for Midtown headlining. Probably makes sense to be a second headliner like iseejosh proposed above.
Yeah, it's getting weird knowing that I only have a few years left on Warped before I'm way out of place.
11:25 AM on 05/07/13
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Anton Djamoos
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Yeah, it's getting weird knowing that I only have a few years left on Warped before I'm way out of place.
It's such a sucky feeling when you realize you're no longer part of the community that you used to call your own.
04:21 PM on 05/07/13
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timorous_me
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I think it'd be great to give them a headlining slot on a side stage. I don't think they can draw like some people think, I'm not really sure - I had never heard of them until I had joined the site in 2008. I think someone a bit older like yourself, Drew, or Jason would be able to make that call better than I.

I'm 30 and from what I remember, at the height of their popularity Midtown was still opening for bands like Face to Face, New Found Glory and Reggie and the Full Effect at the House of Blues. I'm not sure if new kids are really discovering them or not. I feel like they were a little less popular in the mainstream than Finch so I'd imagine that a Midtown reunion would draw around the same as Finch or Starting line are drawing now.
08:31 PM on 05/07/13
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Jerzeyboy525
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It's such a sucky feeling when you realize you're no longer part of the community that you used to call your own.

AMEN!!
09:21 PM on 05/07/13
TSTLSOOM
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Saw the Midtown signal up in the sky...
03:30 AM on 05/20/13
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12:52 PM on 06/03/13
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