Matt Medwid was born in September of 1990. This was nine years before Fatboy Slim would release “Praise You”, giving the world a taste of the future of dance music and at least a decade after the death of disco. The biggest songs on the radio in 1990 were by Phil Collins, Michael Bolton and Wilson Phillips. 1990 was also the year of one of the largest benefit concerts ever staged. A few months before Medwid was born, Pink Floyd celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall with a huge benefit concert featuring a live performance of their huge studio album, “The Wall” to fund disaster relief. The event, live from Berlin, featured an incredible group of guest performers, including Sinead O’Connor, Cyndi Lauper, The Scorpions, Bryan Adams, and Van Morrison performing live to a sell out crowd of almost half a million people.
The Wall benefit concert must have been an amazing event and raised a lot of money for a great cause. The event was not a financial success for its producers, however (who counted on doing much better on audio/video sales of the show). Two decades later, Medwid would be able to empathize. Like so many producers, he got into the music business because he loved and valued the many positive things music represents, and bringing joy and once in a lifetime experiences to others.
Medwid, a co-owner of OneEleven Music and one of the founders of Kaleidoscope Music Festival, recently faced a tough decision: should his team postpone Kaleidoscope Music Festival 2014, scheduled for late September at a resort east of Portland. This would be only the second fragile year for the event. The first had been, by and large, a big hit.
The festival was inaugurated in late August in Eugene, Oregon. Patrons from forty-four states and seven countries descended on a beautiful, wooded Eugene park bordered by acres of ripe blackberries for a three-day weekend of incredible music. Like The Wall, Kaleidoscope was not financially successful for Medwid and his team in year one. It often takes 3-5 years to make a music festival financially viable. There were first year problems and logistical quirks, but attendees had a great time and the music was great.
As Kaleidoscope 2014 ticked closer, the new venue secured by Medwid and his team kept changing the plans, altering the capacity and re-drawing the venue map. Medwid loved being in the music business, but his inspiration was always providing a great experience for people. Financial rewards were nice, but the music business is a lot tougher (with lower profit margins) than most people realize, and that was never the motivation for Medwid. As logistical challenges mounted for KMF, Medwid’s team was concerned about profitability, but even more concerned about having enough time to plan a great event. Ultimately, this was about festival patrons’ experience and the key question the OneEleven team obsessed over was: can we make this the best possible music festival we can offer?
Medwid and his team at OneEleven decided, after yet another unexpected round of venue changes to officially cancel the 2014 version of event in late June of this year. While the postponement due to logistical issues was not the outcome Matt and his team had hoped for, it was necessary in order to resolve outstanding planning issues and build the best festival possible. Medwid and OneEleven decided to hold off for 2014 and focus their efforts on creating an even better experience for next summer. An incredibly hardworking team of over 50 people had been working to bring Kaleidoscope to life when it became apparent the venue couldn’t deliver. It was another hurdle for the Medwid and the Kaleidoscope team, who were used to challenges. After all, they created the first major outdoor music festival in Oregon and it wasn’t easy.
Medwid was introduced to dance music and its culture in 2008 when he attended his first show with his best friend, Ian Alvarez. This wasn’t just any local show, though. It was Electric Daisy Carnival, 2008 – and Medwid was instantly in love (he has attended every EDC since). Soon after his first festival experience, Matt enrolled as a freshman at the University of Oregon. He soon got a job as an intern football coach for the University of Oregon football team and loved it, but he soon found himself listening to dance music exclusively and thinking about it when he wasn’t listening. Up to this point, Medwid had pursued a career as a collegiate football coach. By his sophomore year, however, he was spending all of his spare time attending dance music events, and soon his aspirations in life changed.
As it happened, the market for dance music was growing fast with the University of Oregon crowd. Almost out of nowhere, a company called OneEleven Productions was throwing shows featuring some of the biggest electronic acts out there for sold out crowds. This company was not only selling out their shows, but tickets were being resold for close to ten times the regular price in some situations. Medwid realized there was a big opportunity here to translate his love for dance music into a part-time gig. One day, while walking home from class, he turned to his roommate and said, “Why don’t we start booking some of these acts ourselves? We can totally do it.” The idea was met with skepticism and laughter, but Medwid was serious in his intentions.
Medwid realized it was the time to strike and put his coaching aspirations on hold in order to focus on pursuing a career in the dance music industry. He approached his parents, themselves entrepreneurs, and proposed building a music production company. They supported the idea enthusiastically and would become an integral contributor to their son’s startup.
Matt teamed up with Ian Alvarez, and another good friend, Alex Dansky to officially form Chedda Productions in the spring of 2011. Teaming up with OneEleven, Chedda hosted their very first show on April 12th of that year. The headliners were Feed Me and Dillon Francis and the show was a huge success. Even with little time to promote, the show sold out and Chedda was riding high. Medwid and Chedda got along well with their co-producers and realized that OneEleven was growing fast with few serious challengers from other dance music promoters.
OneEleven was impressed with the young team at Chedda and also enjoyed the experience working together. It only took a few more successful co-productions to convince the companies their future was in working together. Chedda merged with OneEleven Productions to create a brand new company. The next months would be busy quickly as Medwid and the new OneEleven team began throwing one show after another, expanding into new venues and new markets. There were wins and losses, but the vast majority of shows were selling well. Even still, Medwid and his team’s ambitions were growing quickly. The large and ever-growing team wanted a big project to work on. OneEleven had been actively planning for when an opportunity would present itself to plan a major music festival in the Oregon market, which was lacking a marquee outdoor festival event. Suddenly, the team was big enough that when an opportunity did pop up to take advantage of a beautiful public park venue, they moved quickly. It was from this opportunity that Kaleidoscope Music Festival was born.
Producing a successful music festival is no easy task. Even many of the most successful franchises out there lost money in their early years. All bases need to be covered in order to make a large event successful. In addition to their ownership team and a great crew of interns, OneEleven had to add significant depth to the team. The team, at that point, included Medwid, who primarily worked with investors and on finance, but was involved with many different parts of the company, such as visual productions and artist relations. It also included Phoenix Vaughn, who led the Marketing Team and Jason Lear who served as Talent Buyer. Vaughn and Lear were in charge of day to day operations. Other key players included Production Director Ian Alvarez, Business Director Alex Dansky, and Creative Director Eric Hersey.
If you know anything about event planning, you know that music festivals normally take years to plan. Kaleidoscope was miraculously planned in just over four months, by an incredibly young team that had never before put together an event targeting so many patrons.
While attending Coachella Music Festival in April 2013, Medwid and his team decided to take a huge risk, sending an offer out to Kaleidoscope’s first headliner, Bassnectar. During his long drive from Eugene to Coachella, Medwid got the call. Bassnectar accepted the offer. The next day, he played a headlining set at Coachella. Medwid describes this as one of the most intensely gratifying moments of his life. To see the act he just booked to headline his own festival brought him tears of joy, and soon his pride subsided and his motivation sky rocketed. With the main headliner act booked, things fell into place quickly for Medwid and his team. The other two main acts, NAS and Empire of the Sun were confirmed shortly thereafter, along with an incredible collection of 90+ other acts. The lineup for KMF 2013 was noteworthy for its diversity and quality, with acts ranging from hip-hop to indie and a healthy serving of dance music. OneEleven was eager to use Kaleidoscope to showcase the diverse types of music they were keen on bringing to the Northwest and take a major evolutionary step beyond being a dance music-centric company. Considering how quickly the first year festival came together, the lineup would be the most important selling point.
The setting and festival – art and costumed performers filling a forest in Eugene, Oregon – were chosen to maintain the Oregon feel, focusing on nature and beauty. Even the name Kaleidoscope is evocative and colorful. KMF was built as an experienced-based event. Medwid has always been an experience creator; his goal is to inspire delight, happiness and community through an immersive experience. Though Medwid is the first to admit he has lived a charmed life, he has witnessed plenty of persons suffering. Providing an opportunity for people to have an incredible, meaningful experience is what has always inspired Medwid. Medwid has always been about changing people’s lives, even in his coaching days, and his events like Kaleidscope offer something unique and positive to festival-goers.
Whether its producing shows with OneEleven, coaching sports or planning festival trips with his friends, Medwid loves planning something and watching it come to life. Though benefit concerts may be out of vogue in 2014, music festivals are helping change the world. Kaleidoscope – and so many other great festivals – emphasizes sustainability, nature, community and positivity. Medwid isn’t out to change the world; he just wants to impact people by bringing them together for a common purpose, and in the end, to bring a smile to their faces.
Music has changed a lot since Medwid was born. The dance music-obsessed teenagers out there probably have never heard of artists like Wilson Phillips that graced the Billboard charts when Medwid was born, but music will always be about giving joy to and helping others. It will always be an incredible force in people’s lives. As music continues to evolve toward what’s next, Medwid and his team hope to continue expanding their brand, promoting new genres and artists and creating experiences that bring people together for a musical purpose. In order to do this, Medwid and his team face significant challenges and obstacles, but by keeping a focus on patrons and the quality of their experience, Medwid is excited about the future.