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Year six of Austin, TX’s Euphoria Festival is now only a few months away, taking place April 6-9th at Carson Creek Ranch. With a stellar line up that includes Alesso, Wiz Khalifa and many more, there’s no denying that Euphoria is well on its way to becoming one of the top festivals on the circuit. mxdwn had the opportunity to chat with the festival’s CEO and Producer, Mitch Morales about its growth throughout the years and its recent expansion into the realms of indie music, hip hop and even, marriage!
mxdwn: How has Euphoria Festival evolved since year one?
Mitch Morales: I think it’s evolved as we’ve evolved. We started five to six years ago with very little experience on the production side. We’d been to a lot of festivals both in our area, across the states and a few all over the world and so we brought that experience, but didn’t really have backgrounds in producing a large-scale event. So I’d say that’s probably the place where it’s changed the most. The improvement, the professionalism that we’ve gained over the years and marrying that with what we feel is somewhat of a unique perspective on how people are supposed to get together and exchange everything from positive energy and vibes to ideas and different ways of looking at things.
mxdwn: It definitely seems to be a comprehensive mixture of festivals I’ve been to, but what exactly was it about music festivals that inspired you to create your own?
MM: I think it’s the energy, what I feel is kind of unique to music festivals. People from different backgrounds coming together and living together as one, more so on the camping festival side. The rest of the world kind of melts away and you’re creating your own little community there for two, three, four or however many days and really what you can take away from that and into your everyday life. That’s what drew us to that and what we seemed to create in Euphoria.
mxdwn: That sense of community does seem to govern the Euphoria Festival. I understand that this year, the festival will be incorporating wedding ceremonies. How did that come about?
MM: I think there are a couple of reasons. We’ve curated an experience that makes sense to us. My longtime girlfriend, Tyler, and I actually got engaged at the festival last year to Above and Beyond, which is one of our favorite artists. And all of her family was there and it was amazing and I guess for that reason, things were a little bit more on the brain than they had been in the past. But, also besides that, we were getting so many inquiries about people who had very similar experiences to us. I think there were at least three other couples who got engaged at that same exact set at the festival last year, as well as a couple of others. For some, this has kind of become, for a lack of a better word, home for a good amount of people and they feel like there is no better place where they can get married than around friends and in an environment that they will get and that really gets them. I think it really speaks to the success in creating that environment versus anything else and that’s what I’m most proud of. We’ve been growing at a really great pace, we are not anywhere near the top festivals, but I think that in what we do, we are one of the best and that’s shown by people’s interest in putting their trust in us for one of the most important days of their lives that we are going to be able to curate that the same way we’ve one with the rest of the event.
mxdwn: Yeah, that’s fantastic! There are a lot of couples that tend to get engaged in music festivals and so having the ceremony at the festival is amazing. I think it’s a great way to build a greater sense of community. You all have also already begun to do this with the concepts of workshops, yoga and camping opportunities. What’s in store on those fronts for this year?
MM: This year, the biggest continuation is the expansion of the programming. We started off more heavily electronic and while we were still fairly diverse within that genre, we’ve always had a heavy live component and we’ve started to mix in a little more indie and hip-hop. I think that our goal there is not “let’s move away from something,” it’s trying to be more inclusive and we feel that we have something really special and we want to share that with the widest range of people possible. For me, it’s always been about different people coming together, sharing different ideas, views, perspectives, backgrounds and creating a melting pot for a long weekend. It’s kind of a risk and it’s kind of scary going outside of our comfort zone and adding in artists like Wiz Khalifa, Bob Moses and Turkuaz. It’s a lot more of the same, but we are trying to make it less about one particular genre or activity and make it more about a well-curated experience. The goal is Euphoria, the goal is to have a good time, the goal is to experience happiness and that’s what we are trying to do with everything that we’ve planned.
mxdwn: A diversified lineup is going to be great for the audience in general, just bringing a bunch of different people together to experience all the music, but how do you foresee the future of Euphoria in terms of the curated music lineups? Do you foresee a more clear diversification in the music or is there no clear plan and you’ll just see how it works out?
MM: Yeah, it’s very much a moving target. That’s one of the nice things about not being in the top. Not with the Lollapaloozas and Coachellas of the world is that we don’t have to curate something that is the top of pop music. We can continue to find hidden gems and I think that makes it a lot more fun honestly. We can take a lot more risks, we can present something that doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter, which is one of the reasons why we got into this. We were very dissatisfied with the mainstream festival culture and where that was going, of looking at a business model that was based on getting the most people in and standardizing the experience. We’re looking to, as much as possible, create that individual experience where you can go and find a little nook or cranny of the festival and have something that only you may be able to experience in that moment and at the same time still be able to find the crowd of people dancing together and still have that too. I think more than anything, as it continues, we’ll focus on ourselves being music fans, festival fans and treating that paramount to anything else. The rest of the programming can change, but that culture that we’re creating, that will stand the test of time.
mxdwn: Yeah and I think that you have an edge in that. I know you’ve mentioned that you didn’t have much experience in booking or production prior to putting this festival together and it’s that varied experience that you have in other realms that give you that new sense of intrigue and insight into producing a festival in that you are more focused on the community and have the ability to try out a bunch of different things to see what works for the festival, what works for you guys and still create a very unique festival. How would you say your prior experience has influenced your approach to a music festival?
MM: This is a business/industry that can definitely freak somebody out. When you’re starting a festival, you are basically asking people to take a chance and buy their tickets well ahead of when the event is and you are having to make a lot of plans based on projections, some of which you have no control over. Like, how a lineup is going to resonate with people versus not. So, I’d say my experience has definitely helped, but it’s a very difficult business. We are now just getting to a point where we have a little more breathing room and we have ways of making more educated guesses of how everything is going to turn out, but I think that that is something that people don’t really realize. You see a lot of festivals get cancelled and I think that people don’t properly mitigate their risks. I think that a lot of people think that you can just throw something together and everything will be okay. I think that would be the biggest thing: being very careful about how we plan the event both from a safety perspective and an insurance perspective that bad things can happen. You know, it can rain and a lot of stuff can go wrong, and that’s been one of my main goals to make sure that everyone is taken care of.
But, it’s still a crazy business and it’s definitely a cool thing to throw a music festival and so I think you have a lot of people like me in the beginning that got into it because they just thought it was gonna be that you put up a website, you book a couple of artists and there’s gonna be tens of thousands of people there automatically. I’d say that overall it helped, but there’s really nothing that could’ve prepared me and our team for some of the ups and downs of the past few years.
mxdwn: I am an avid festival-goer and have also worked in production for several music events and I know that personally going from an attendee to being a little more involved in the nitty-gritty aspects of a festival or a concert has shaped and changed how I experience festivals now. Obviously, I don’t have as much experience as you, but how would you say your perspective has changed from being an attendee to now being the producer of your own festival?
MM: It’s a mixed bag in some aspects. It definitely makes me appreciate it a lot more. The time and effort of the people I see doing really cool things, it makes me understand and appreciate the time that it takes. Not to name drop, but the people like DoLab and Madison House out there could easily throw together a more generic event, but they don’t. They take time and effort and they take risks to do stuff that’s different. As you continue to grow the event, you have to stop looking at what you want specifically, like I have a team now of 20-100s of people with varying levels of influence. I value what they say and their opinion and there are times when I don’t agree, but I trust what that particular person says from, “oh, they want to book this artist or they want to make the poster look this other way,” or whatever. It’s been my baby, but it’s growing up now and the influences are gaining momentum in ways that I can’t really control. I don’t really know if the child metaphor is totally appropriate, but it’s kind of like that. People go off and create these little groups within the festival and these Facebook message boards and you’re kind of like “ah.” Usually it’s positive, but sometimes they say something like, “I wish this was different…” and that’s an interesting thing to see it grow and evolve and I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something that I have to self-evaluate and think, “am I going to be selfish and try to make it one way or am I gonna go with the flow and allow other people to shape it in the same way that I have?.”
mxdwn: From all of your experiences, what advice would you give to those who maybe share your dreams in creating their own music festivals or even just working towards a new idea in music?
MM: I think I’m going to give contradicting advice. I would say that at some point you just have to jump in and do it. You’re going to make a bunch of mistakes and you have to be okay with that. But at the same time, I don’t think there’s ever too much research you can do and I don’t think there’s ever too much analysis you can do. You can’t always have enough time to plan an event. Like, we are working on this festival year round and each year I wish that I would’ve had another year to plan each individual one because it’s growing and there is always going to be something you aren’t prepared for.
So do your homework, but at some time you are just gonna have to jump in with both feet, get the best team you can, have the best support network you can and just do it. It’s not going to be all perfect and rosy, but at the end of the day when you look out at a crowd of 50 or 50,000, you’ve created something from scratch that wasn’t going to be there unless you created it and so bear in mind that that moment is going to be worth it at some level; I mean you could be sitting at a desk job, hating your life, but If this is something you are really passionate about, then go for it!