It sounded like a wacky idea... How can the small, Middle Tennesee town of Manchester draw over 80,000 jam-band concert-goers?

By doing some super marketing, that's how. The overall location of the venue coupled with the power of the Internet and the success of the "jam-band" scene helped Bonnaroo to be labeled the "best outdoor concert event of 2002" by Rolling Stone magazine! Business and Marketing 101, kids.

The site is geographically located on the 600 acre McAllister Farm in Manchester, Tennessee adjacent to Interstate 24. Interestingly, the site is within 500 miles of 80% of the population of the United States. The farm has a cool, earthy appeal: soft grass and rolling hills with a few trees dotting the landscape.

From the get-go the event was marketed through the Internet. No TV, newspaper, radio, or magazine advertising at all. A former concert promoter marketed an event at the same location by using billboards located on major interstates throughout the South. The event, which was called Itchycoo, failed miserably even though there was some heavyweight rock talent on the bill. Most folks in the area don't even remember that one.

Why the Internet? We believe it is because a majority of bands appearing at the concert are marketing and hawking their band and merchandise via the Internet. Anyone with a connection can easily pull up their favorite artists and receive up to date concert information. Bonnaroo had a single, very awesome website entitled http://www.bonnaroo.com/, which sold tickets exclusively on-line.

The "jam-band" scene has become successful for many reasons. Most "jammies" allow their faithful followers to tape all shows. This creates interest in the artist as people tend to trade the bootleg concert CD's -- on the Internet. The quality and ease of recording has skyrocketed in recent years. As an example we recently got a killer recording of The Allman Brothers from a recent show in New York featuring a killer version of Layla. Most "tapers" sit up their recording stations right in front of the house sound booth where it always sounds the best anyway! We own several CDs from last year's show, and by and large the quality of the mix and the CD is usually incredibly good . This helps promote a vibe of coolness, having a laid-back scene...California cool...to the show. We at Guitarattack remember the day when having a recorder at a concert was a good way to get thrown out!

Other reasons for popularity of the jam-band scene is "whats old is new again" with a younger generation. The Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Band, Neil Young, and others on the bill have been making music since the late 60s, and the tie-dye and Birkenstock thing is very happening right now. The new jam bands such as Widespread Panic, Phish,and The String Cheese Incident, have all been influenced by the earlier jam bands of the 60s. Also, the newer bands have paid their dues by playing the college circuit for years and building up a fan base via the Internet. The jam bands all seem to be friends and want to help one another as evidenced by sharing several members of different bands with other members. The alliance of David Schools-bass player for Widespread Panic playing bass with Government Mule's Warren Haynes-guitarist whom also plays guitar with The Allman Brothers is a good example. We believe that this helps broaden the fan base.

At first, we were skeptical of the musicianship of the newer bands; however, folks like Trey Anastasio of Phish, Warren Haynes of Government Mule, David Schools of Widespread Panic, and Jimmy Herring of The Dead have tons of talent! They use a blend of several different types of music from Bluegrass to Blues to Hard Rock, and, unlike the Seattle crowd, love to play solos! Thank goodness.

What does this all mean? It means you don't necessarily need one of the big recording labels to push you or a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign to make it in the music business. Get out and get to work...you could be on the bill at Bonnarroo next year!

Click on the photos below to see full-sized versions
Aerial views of the concert courtesy of the GuitarAttack AirForce.  Wow...

The main stage was huge.  Check out the Godfather of Soul on the Big Screen.

Talk about a great variety of talent...where is the bootleg of James Brown? 

A special shot of Guitarattack's Ken with Mr. Warren Haynes of The Allman Brothers and Government Mule.   Warren is a super guy, always ready to talk to fans.  It is reported that they discussed slide techniques and whether or not Ken was ready to get The Taylor Brothers, a Middle Tennessee jam phenomena, back together.  No word yet on reunion plans.

kenwarren_small.jpg (3857 bytes)

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