Originally published May 9, 2018
A quick scroll through Matt Zingler’s Instagram profile reveals a heavily tattooed twenty-something-year-old living like a modern-day rock star. His photos, most of them professionally taken, exude anti-establishment, unapologetic energy. Nearly all of them are colorful glimpses into the life of a millennial who rubs shoulders with rappers - and could possibly be mistaken for one himself.
But Zingler's bio tells a different story: “Owner/Co-Founder @RollingLoud Festival.”
Rolling Loud’s flyer promotes a healthy blend of hip-hop acts, including J. Cole, Future, Lil Wayne, Migos, Wiz Khalifa and 115 of rap’s in-demand performers.
The extensive bill justifies the $300-plus general admission price tag, as well as the need to host the festival in the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, which will hold 40,000 fans over the May 11-13 weekend.
“It’s really just a nightclub, just a little bit bigger,” Zingler said, a former nightclub manager.
Since its 2015 inception in Miami, Rolling Loud has established its property in Los Angeles and San Fransisco, with plans to expand in New York, London, Japan, China, Mexico, Australia, and Croatia.
“I’m trying to create [a] Starbucks,” he said, explaining his goal of franchising the Rolling Loud festival brand.
It’s a tall expectation from a biological science major turned businessman. But Zingler's clout as a concert promoter and festival owner have steadily grown since the birth of his touring company, Dope Entertainment, in 2010.
The company’s first at-bat came in the form of an after-party for Rick Ross in a Tallahassee nightclub. Though the event lost $30,000, Zingler realized the untapped hip-hop market in the area. He soon switched the business model to promoting concerts with hard ticket sales and routed a revenue-generating Florida run with New Orleans rapper Curren$y
Zingler, alongside co-founder Tariq Cherif, debuted Rolling Loud in February 2015. Technical difficulties with ticket scanners, 10 inches of rain causing four-hour delays and a mandatory shut down from the fire department yielded a loss financially. Still, fans concluded it was an event worth attending again.
Since then, each year has increased in occupancy and turned a profit, largely due to Zingler's ability to assess potential ROI:
“Realistically if you have money, you could just leave your money in a bank or put it in a stock market, getting anywhere between 2-8%. So generally speaking, if you were going to do a high-risk investment, you would need to receive more than you would receive in something that’s [low-risk] - such as S&P or leaving your money in a bank. It’s just about scaling, price elasticity and supply and demand. For us as a festival, our ROI ranges between 10-50%. There’s a reason we’re growing at the rate we are.”
As well as his ambitious vision of franchising his festival:
"When you’re franchising your brand, you obviously want to limit your liabilities but at the same time, it’s the long play. Every company is built to sell, so not necessarily are you looking at a return. You say, hey if I can get this thing going and I lose a little bit, break-even, make a little bit, whatever, the value increases because of your data. It’s hard to create new brands. Every brand is just a name initially. After you develop a name and you put value to it with data and a following, any [outside company or brand] can utilize that.”
And his calculated decisions regarding which industries the Rolling Loud brand will dabble in:
"Management, label, merchandising, all under the Rolling Loud brand. The future, in my opinion, is digital. Digital marketing and data and media content. You see everybody fighting over live stream rights. Imagine being able to have a music festival where there’s no such thing as an occupancy anymore because anybody can tune in around the world and pay $20 to watch it."
Though the 29-year-old's acumen to process data, assess risk and plan for the future bode well for the festival's growth, he insists that hospitality shown to artists, managers, and booking agents are the signature ingredient for success.
When asked if his appearance - specifically the tattoos visible from his hands to his neck - has stifled potential business, he claims, “I don’t ever dress up for anybody. I don’t believe in the suit-and-tie method. I believe that the real value is what you have in your head.”
He's also hyper-aware that his desires for the future of Rolling Loud are lofty, but revels in the possibilities.
“It’s about how big can we go without sinking the ship.”