During his high school years, Bryan Duquette ’96 was known for creating the best mixtapes, full of cutting edge music—not just for his girlfriends, but also for players on the boys and girls lacrosse teams.
And long before he got his driver’s license, he was a fan of live music at regional hotspots like The Boathouse, Peabody’s, and The Abyss; his mother, respecting his passion for music, would wait in the parking lots of music venues, reading a book by flashlight until the concerts ended and he emerged with his friends, elated by the music he had just heard.
Yet, Duquette didn’t imagine that his passion for live music could turn into a career. He graduated from Hampden Sydney with a degree in managerial economics, and tried a more conventional career path in commercial real estate. That was not his calling. By the early 2000s, he had found his way into producing concerts, and his passion became his profession.
Duquette is now vice president for strategy and business development for the Another Planet Entertainment, a concert production company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He visited Norfolk Academy on Tuesday as a part of the Amazing Alumni Speaker Series, making presentations to students in various Upper School classes and talking to alumni, several of whom were in his Academy class, at a luncheon.
Duquette was part of the founding team of Treasure Island Music Festival in 2007 (Oakland), Outside Lands in 2008 (San Francisco), and Life is Beautiful in 2013 (Las Vegas). He has been influential in pushing the company forward in the areas of talent buying, festival development, digital strategy and artist management.
“I didn’t realize I could have a career in music,” he said. “I was always meant to do this, but I didn’t at first know how to get there.”
In his classroom visits, Duquette focused on the many facets of Outside Lands, a festival that attracts 200,000 guests to Golden Gate Park for three days in August. It has annual revenue of $50 million with an estimated economic impact of $85 million to the Bay area. The line-up of artists is designed to attract all ages; this year’s headliners include Paul Simon; Childish Gambino; Twenty One Pilots; The Lumineers; Flume; blink-182; and Kygo—to name just a few of the many, many artists.
As one of the festival producers, Duquette’s chief duties include talent buying, creative identity, digital strategy, and the organization of food, beverage, merchandise, and sustainability. He spoke to the students about the intricate details of pulling off a successful festival—from negotiating the politics of permits with the city councils to meeting the artists’ requirements for specific meals and set-up in their dressing rooms.
A backdrop to his analysis was Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water festival in Virginia Beach later this month. Students, some of whom have purchased tickets, had many questions tied to that event, and Duquette’s replies revealed the significance of attending to even the smallest details, from security to neighbors’ concerns about noise, traffic, or trash. During the days that Outside Lands is underway, a 10-person team monitors a community hotline and responds to any complaints.
Music festivals are high stakes events for communities; a great one can attract tourists and build a sense of community, but blunders can do long-lasting damage to a city’s reputation. Duquette emphasized the importance of cultivating relationships with city officials, neighborhood leaders, and with the artists themselves, even when they are demanding. “We try to be the most artist-friendly, because if we didn’t have the artists, we wouldn’t have anything.”
Duquette encouraged the students to be open to unexpected paths for their professional lives. “People are thinking about the world differently and more globally,” he said. “Not everyone will have a career that is straightforward.”