An Interview with Right Arm Entertainment’s Gary Spivack
You’re probably saying, “Right Arm Entertainment, Gary Spivack, who are they and why do I care?” Well, I am here to tell you that you may already care and not even know it because Right Arm Entertainment are the people who continue to put together some of THE BEST rock festivals in the United States. I would go as far as saying they re-started the rock festival movement in the US ~ or at least had a major part in reinvigorating it. I was lucky enough to get Gary Spivack, the co-president of Right Arm, to answer a few questions and give Flashwounds’ readers a little insight into his world.
SM: First, I’d like to say thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us today and congratulations on another successful year of Rock on the Range. Was 2013 the most successful ROTR to date? Do you know the attendance numbers?
GS: Yes ~ After 7 years ROTR, has hit its stride. We had over 105,000 Rangers through the gates. The energy was massive!
SM: Stepping back from ROTR, your company Right Arm Entertainment produces and is involved in other festivals like Carolina Rebellion and Epicenter a well as numerous other shows. It seems like you have figured out the Rock Festival formula in the US; what do you think it is that has allowed your company to be successful where others have been much less successful in the US festival market?
GS: We have a model, one which we do our best not to stray from. We go for “ALL KILLER NO FILLER.” Bulk reigns at our shows. We want to give rock fans the biggest bang for their buck.
SM: I agree there isn’t much, if any, filler at your shows ~ but with all successes there is some element of failure, which bring us to the question of what happened with Rock on the Range Canada, which only lasted a few years, and Rock Allegiance, which was held at Hershey Park last year but this year is a small tour rather than a big festival?
GS: If a baseball player hits for a .333 average he makes it to the hall of fame. We want all our shows to be big wins… But it’s a tough biz we are in.
SM: Well I would say you guys are doing better than .333.
I doubt as a child you were thinking that you wanted to grow up and be a rock promoter ~ So what did you want to be when you grew up and how did you end up starting Right Arm with your partners?
GS: Actually ~ that’s kinda not true. 1983, The US Festival. I went with a couple of high school buddies, watched a young band from Ireland called U2 and the rest is history. I worked at record labels for two decades but it was a detour to my true calling.
SM: Cool, I remember seeing video of the US Festival and loved it, I can’t imagine being there.
Of all the shows you’ve been part of is there any band/bands that stand out as being ones that were difficult or that you’d prefer not to work with in the future? Be honest, Gary!
GS: I will say the rock culture may be a tad different from other genres. Rock bands are from the other side of the tracks. They work harder for less pay but the good ones believe in their art, their fans and their mission. When a band doesn’t want it more than their manager, their label or their concert promoter I will be the first one to not invite them back.
SM: Sticking with that theme ~ are there any bands that you have worked with who have been so easy to deal with that it’s a no brainer they would be on any show you can put them on?
GS: Papa Roach and Halestorm are two of the most hard working, passionate, appreciative and dedicated to the cause bands I know, but that’s not fair to the many, many other great bands we work with as well.
SM: With you and your partners being in the music business for a collective 50+ years, is there a greater satisfaction being able to put together a stellar main stage show like getting Alice in Chains and Soundgarden playing back to back or getting fans exposed to newer bands like Gemini Syndrome, American Fangs and Heaven’s Basement?
GS: Both. We love seeing a band like Five Finger Death Punch go from opening the 2nd stage at ROTR to being a top three main stage band or, again, a band like Halestorm who started on the Jager stage then graduated to the 2nd stage and then hit the main stage two years ago. Then yes, watching the 1/2/3 punch of Bush, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden grace the ROTR Sunday main stage will be a hard one to top.
SM: I agree, that one is going to be tough to beat but I am sure you guys will try. What type of music/bands do you listen to in your downtime, while driving, etc? What are a couple of your favorite bands?
GS: Starts with The Beatles and sometimes stops with them but in no particular order: Radiohead, Elliot Smith, Coldplay, Jane’s Addiction, Pink Floyd, The Clash, U2, REM, Bob Marley and even some Coltrane on a Sunday morning. Sorry… I am a music nut.
SM: No apologies needed, I totally get it, have my own good mix and I see you out there on the sides of stages and in the photo pits enjoying the music so I know you’re a fan. So it seems with ROTR and all your festivals you have built a dream team that includes Ashton-Magnuson Media, MSO, AEG, support from nationwide radio stations, Sirius Satellite, tons of media outlets (Flashwounds included) as well as amazing sponsors like Monster, f.y.e, Jagermeister, Pabst Blue Ribbon (added this year) and one of my personal favorites, Badcock Apparel (great name, great products)… Is there anyone or anything that you think you can do to improve the team or make your “product” better?
GS: It takes a village… And that is an understatement. This is a killer team and each person inside the circle has a vital role to play in the success of the festival.
SM: I am curious as to some bands who haven’t played Right Arm festivals that you would like to see in the future? Anyone you’d care to share with us that you’re pursuing for 2014?
GS: Wouldn’t mind grabbing Tool for a show. Rage Against the Machine and the Foos perhaps? But that is not being fair to the amazing and still growing list of awesome rock bands that have graced our stages at one time or another over the last 8 years.
SM: A friend and I have been discussing this for a couple of years: we think the Northeast is in need of a Right Arm festival. You have the Rangers at Rock on the Range, The Rebels at Carolina Rebellion ~ How about the Mountaineers in the Poconos or Catskills; I believe he mentioned this to you, so any thoughts on a Northeast festival?
GS: Can’t give you all my secrets, now can I? Sorry brother, I take the 5th.
SM: Fair enough…and that isn’t a no…So what’s next for Right Arm?
GS: We continue to wave the Rock n Roll Flag 365 days a year. Aftershock/Sacramento and Epicenter, So Cal’s Rock Festival (5th annual this year for Epicenter) are in September and I gotta get back to getting the lineups together for those bad-boyz.
SM: I understand, completely, rock and roll never stops. Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers of Flashwounds?
GS: Thanks for reading and thanks for supporting rock music and I MEAN IT, MAN.
SM: Well Gary, I think it’s obvious, after 7 years, I love your festivals, especially ROTR. Not only are there great bands and great rock fans but it’s a destination where I and many other have created an extended family that we meet up with yearly thanks to you and your partners.. I know I speak for them all when I say we wish you continued success, thank you and thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions.