On spring break in college, my friends and I joked about starting a music festival. Two years later we were threatened with a lawsuit from Woodstock (yes that Woodstock). Here’s the story of my 2nd business. A nonprofit outdoor music festival...
My buddies and I were all passionate about music and live events. We were event-host / party-thrower types. There was SO much talent on campus but very limited exposure for musicians. “What if we threw a HUGE rager with all the student bands playing back to back 👀”
So we started putting out word. Skipped class to pass out flyers. Reviewed 50+ artist applications. UCLA is located in Westwood Village, CA. So we decided to call the event “Westwoodstock”. Pretty sick name.
That first year was a two-day event. 30+ performances, 5min set changes (!!!), 100s of people packed into a frat house, no security, no insurance on any of the equipment. Absolute chaos. Absolute awesomeness.
Of course, disaster struck. The day after the event ended we realized someone had stolen one of our rented speakers ($800 each). We were SO pissed. (But we were also idiots for letting that happen). We notified the police.
Time for hardcore detective mode. We found some witnesses and got some details... We ended up tracking down the thieves - frat bros from down the street. We showed up fists clenched. Got the speakers back. Spared them legal action. It was some real mafia wars sh*t.
“That went smooth, let’s do it again, but BIGGER,” we said, apparently high on crack because it definitely did not go smooth 😂. This time, we wanted to shut the street down for 12 hours. We went to the city council meeting to pitch our event. Time to get political.
We spent the next two months essentially lobbying for our event. We drafted a budget, made mock-ups. We kissed babies and shook hands with the right people. Some people didn’t like us. “Who were these kids coming in here thinking they can pull this off?”
Ended up getting the green light. The city would cover 50% of the budget, we had to raise the other half via sponsorships and donations. We got to work. Assembled a small team of friends to do design, marketing, email sponsors, coordinate with artists.
The day arrived. ✅Road blocked. ✅Equipment drop-off. ✅Booths set up. ✅Volunteers on-site. Early sets were jazz, R&B, folk, alt. Late-night sets were rock, EDM, rap, experimental.
Midnight hit. It’s over. Time to pack up all the equipment and clean the green room. We were so exhausted. But we had pulled it off! This first year out on the street remains one of my proudest accomplishments.
Sh*t hits the fan. A letter arrives in the mail: ATTN: TIM CONNORS. FROM: WOODSTOCK VENTURES. 😶...😐...🙁...😳...🤯
“It has recently come to our attention that you produced a music festival that took place in Los Angeles, CA on June 2, 2018 under the trademark WESTWOODSTOCK.” “We require that you immediately cease all use of WESTWOODSTOCK”
I was frantic. I asked around, consulted with lawyers. Can we fight this? Long story short: we would probably lose that fight. As a nascent music festival, this was a huge blow. We held an emergency team meeting. Alright new name: FAR OUT FEST
T-MINUS 90 days. Another disaster strikes. Local politics took a turn for the worst. A local student-run political party was gaining steam in Westwood. Power was shifting hands. Our agreement with the old council went up in smoke. Had to start lobbying from scratch again.
Took a while but we got approval for the funds from the new council. The day before. Still no funds. “We’re still waiting for approval from blah blah blah” I was beyond stressed. So much on the line.
I honestly didn’t know if the money was going to come. But we had 16 bands expecting to play, 5 corporate sponsors expecting exposure, a 1000 people expecting to attend. I literally put the entire $12,000 budget on my personal credit card and tried not to think about it.
The day came. This time it was even bigger. ✅16 acts from 100+ applicants. ✅1000+ attendees. ✅Free food, bean bag chairs, turf. ✅Little kids blowing bubbles (!!!)
In the middle of it all - the funds come through. I’m not going broke!!! I was so exhausted, literally took a 20 minute power nap in the car during the event. Definitely would have gone insane if it wasn’t for our awesome team. 😭🙏🙏🙏
A few months after that we qualified for nonprofit status with the IRS! Hurray! Then COVID hit 😢 - but we will return when it’s safe!
I still keep the Woodstock cease & desist letter framed on my wall as a reminder of these early entrepreneurial days 😂
Thanks for reading! This journey taught me so much. It was a critical stepping stone towards what I’m building now. If you're looking to follow along with my journey, I'm most active on Twitter.