Rolling Loud is kicking off their inaugural festival in Wynwood on Saturday February 28th at Soho Studios. Presented by Dope Ent, the festival was a labor of more than four years of consistent shows, bookings and loyalty to their fan base. We caught up with the visionaries behind Dope Ent and Rolling Loud (pictured above, Tariq Cherif and Matt Zingler) last night for a last minute convo about their upcoming festival and how they got to the point they are at today with their company.
And if you haven’t yet, make sure to buy tickets to Rolling Loud by clicking here.
Otherwise, read our conversation with Tariq and Matt of Dope Ent below.
Photo taken in front of Wynwood Kitchen, February 26, 2015 at 8PM.
In such a typically difficult market like South Florida, why is it that you guys decided to put together the type of events and shows that you guys have produced over the last few years?
Tariq: It started because nobody was booking the type of rappers we wanted to see in concert. Not just in Miami but in Tallahassee, Gainesville, Tampa, Orlando [etc). We went to school up north and up north it was all EDM DJs and when it was a rap show, it was a larger than life rap show with no underground type stuff. So we saw a lane that we could take over and we made it our mission to do that. And four and a half years later, all of a sudden we’re here. We are the premiere hip-hop booking company in Florida and we’re proud to be here.
Matt: Influence-wise, I’d say that we really stick to what we believe in, in musicians we respect and artists we feel are coming up. Notice that on the lineup for Rolling Loud there’s a lot of underground cats on there and we flew them in from all over. For the festival, we really wanted to let people know who we thought was dope. We brought in guys from New York, Texas, L.A. and the lineup on the Travis Scott Stage, which is the outdoor stage, is very diversified with a lot of upcoming artists that you’ll probably see on [XXL’s] Freshmen list this year. That’s how we like to do it. We like to predict who’s going to be the next big thing. Everybody’s gotta start somewhere and we gotta catch them before they blow up. And that’s where a lot of our relationships come in. We toured Kendrick Lamar before his first album even dropped and did 600-people capped rooms with him. And now look at him. Same thing with Schoolboy Q, we did his first nationwide tour and crushed it. We just focus on dope music.
How long has Rolling Loud been in the process of being created?
Matt: Its been a vision since day one [four and a half years ago], we’ve always talked about how awesome it would be to do a monster festival, and not necessarily hip-hop oriented. Just something where you have the masses in front of you. Something where you can show what you know appeals to the masses. Its great to see how well tickets have sold for this event. We’re well over 4,000 ticket sales two and three days before the event. Most festivals don’t do that.
Tariq: Especially first year festivals don’t do that.
Matt: And with Rolling Loud, we’re going to put on a really great show and production, a really clean event that’s all ages that you can come to and if you like hip-hop you can come and jam out. That’s what a lot of these venues and nightclubs don’t do. They don’t appeal to the masses. They want to appeal to the drinking crowd because they want to make their money. For us, its about the music. And obviously to book artists you need money but ultimately its stuff we believe in so we know it’ll sell.
Tariq: To his point, we had the vision for Rolling Loud for a long time but we had to grow as a brand to be able to do it in-house. We don’t want to do it like some other promoters or promotion companies where they team up with like a hundred people and there’s a hundred logos on the flyer to throw one event. We grew our company to get to a place where we could do that ourselves. We not only had to grow but we had to gain the trust of our target market. So for the past four and half years, we’ve been booking show after show in kind of the same spectrum of artists that you would see at Rolling Loud. We’ve been booking those types of artists for years building that following with those fans that follow Dope Ent. We just needed to get to that place and now that it looks like Rolling Loud is going to be a success, its a snowball effect from here.
As businessmen, what do you think has helped you guys in creating that loyalty and following with Dope Ent?
Matt: Sacrifice. A lot of sacrifice. A lot of financial sacrifices that we’ve made. You lose a lot of money in the entertainment industry and you make a lot of money in the entertainment industry. It goes both ways. When you lose, you need to swallow your losses. A lot of companies, they don’t pay out when they lose. And that’s one thing we always do, we always pay no matter what. A lot of companies, aside from the major corporations, do not have the financial backing or even the intentions to do so. They consider it a come up. But its a business for us.
Tariq: We’ve taken a lot of risks. Our first show lost a lot of money and we had to get back to the drawing board in 2010. But we had to stay consistent. We booked show after show and when we had a show, we would get the host to ask the crowd who they wanted to see next. We always try and ask our customers what they want and then give it to them. But also, just kind of know what they want and give it to them because we like the same music. I’m proud to say that us and pretty much all the people that go to our shows, we pretty much like the same music. We get offered shows all the time that we pass on. I get offered a French Montana show or a show from one of these radio acts.; and they’re dope, but I’m not going to book them. I rather book Denzel Curry because I know he will for sure sell 500 tickets. French Montana might not do that…
Matt: Same thing with 2 Chainz, Rick Ross and some of these bigger acts. A lot of times they also may not even show up and not care about their reputation because they’re just so big. A lot of times they just don’t show up and just blame it on the promoter. And a lot of the bigger players don’t have agencies because they keep flipping agencies so much. So we really focus on the agencies that are reliable, which are the top five agencies in the United States.
Tariq: We have great booking agent relationships. They have our backs and we have theirs. I remember that we were booking Tyga with one of the agencies and they made me send a deposit without a contract just to make sure that we were legit when we first started. And we’ve been doing business with them ever since because we were A1 and they were A1.
What do you guys look for in local artists looking to open up and perform at a future Dope Ent event…?
Tariq: Talent, work ethic and the ability to engage a fan base. I don’t care how many followers you have, I care about the percentage of your followers that are engaging with your content. How many people are commenting, liking, and sharing. That’s all important to me to calibrate an artist and what their buzz is. And then aside from that its about the quality of the music.
Matt: Definitely for me, everything that he’s saying but in this industry its such a difficult time for an up and coming artist to really get the speed they need to get up and going. I just believe that there are few and far that have the necessary assets to do so. A lot of people have talent but don’t have any money. And then a lot of people have a bunch of money but don’t have talent. Its just kind of a hit or miss. But what I look for, a lot of locals have reached out and we’ve assessed their music and we’ve had a certain amount of opportunities and slots – and as a team we listen to everybody’s stuff and try to figure out who’s really going to be dope.
So a local artist can cold email you guys and possibly get a chance to catch your attention?
Tariq: Yeah. But I mean we already reach out to the best local talent that we already know about and hit them direct.
Matt: And then there’s always referrals as well from other artists that know other artists and its just a chain. Everybody kind of knows everybody in the industry so when you’re in it, its great to have some stepping stones and know some people that can look out for you [to put you on to other artists].
What was the thought process behind the acts you guys chose for Rolling Loud?
Tariq: It was a conscious effort to fully appeal to our current fan base that fucks with Dope Ent. Within that group of people that like that really lyrical chill stuff like Action Bronson or Curren$y or a bunch of other artists we have. Or if you like to turn up more we got Schoolboy Q, Juicy J, Ferg, Travis Scott, Simmie, Curry. And some of the artists are even right in the middle. We tried to create from a fan’s perspective, the ultimate show. As a fan, Rolling Loud is the coolest shit I’ve ever seen in my life and if I didn’t have to work it, I’d be turning up in the pit because the lineup is crazy.
Matt: The other thing too is that when you put a price on something, its gotta be worth the price. We wanted to diversify the lineup so we spent a lot of money on smaller artists so you can hop around and get a true feel of what a hip-hop festival should be like. I don’t really know any hip-hop festival that only focuses on rap music that is so diversified like Rolling Loud is….
Tariq: …while appealing to this new younger demographic of people that like this new type of rap music. Because obviously in the history of rap you have had successful and unsuccessful festivals, but I really feel like they were stuck in the classic hip-hop route like the Talib Kweli, KRS-One, Wu-Tang and all that. That shit is cool, don’t get me wrong, but our kids aren’t going to that. They don’t fuck with that. That’s before their time. They want to go to turn up. They want to go see Yung Simmie, Denzel Curry, Pouya. And they want to see Schoolboy Q, Juicy and all that.
Is there a specific moment where you guys just decided to just go ahead and go forward full steam with Rolling Loud?
Tariq: The original date was December 20th, so that all the college kids would be home and be able to attend. And in October when we had all these artists on standby and had to pay an expensive non-refundable deposit; contracts weren’t being executed quick enough, and we weren’t going to be able make the show happen for December 20th. So we found the next best date, which was February 28th and we just went with it and didn’t look back. We just pulled the trigger. We’re calculated people and calculate to an extent, but sometimes you just gotta pull it out and show them what you got. Sometimes when you’re trying to get with a girl, sometimes you just gotta’ pull it out and show her what you’re working with.
Matt: We were done talking and we just wanted to just do it. Actions speak louder than words. This is a half-million dollar festival. This is a hefty amount of money to be putting up for a hip-hop festival. On-site, everybody that’s coming is in for a treat. They don’t even know the production value we’re bringing to the table. This isn’t just a hip-hop event. This is going to be a full blown festival. This will blow away on any other production they will see. This won’t just be a stage with some lights. This is the balls-to-wall staging.
So for someone who thinks putting together shows is all fun and games and want to do what you guys do…what would you tell them?
Matt: Good luck!
Tariq: Yeah, good luck. We done grown up to be sharks and if you jump in our waters, we will bite you. And I don’t care if you’re those bigger corporations, we’re biting right there. And if you’re doing it in another genre, good luck. It takes being able to lose. In our first show, I put $15,000 and Matt put $15,000 and that was all our money at the time. When we left that event, we had $5,000 in revenue so we lost $12,500 each.
Matt: And in other events we’ve lost $17,000. If you’re going to come in this industry, you better have an open-ended checkbook and a team behind you that knows about the industry that you’re about to come into. And you better have respect and proper artist relations already because if you don’t, you’re not getting anything. Between Live Nation, AEG Live and us, nobody’s getting anything else.
Tariq: You not only have to be good at marketing, you have to have a keen understanding of how social media works and understand that when you first start, you’re not going to get any traction unless you are already a popular person to begin with. When Dope Ent first started and we posted our first event on Twitter, we got zero retweets. We had to build to this point of 12,800 Twitter followers. When we announced Rolling Loud, we got over 500 retweets. Corporations are scared because we reach customers at a much lower rate than they do. Our customer acquisition rate for Rolling Loud is somewhere around 20 cents per ticket purchase. The bigger corporations spend way more money getting to their customers. They have a way bigger email list than we do, but our list is growing. But overall, you better have patience, endurance, work ethic….
Matt: And a FUCK TON of money.
Tariq: Or access to it.
Matt: You’re not going to get any artists worth booking without a fuck ton of money.
What do each of you bring to the table in terms of Dope Ent?
Matt: We’re so different, yet similar in many ways. I consider myself rational to an extent, but I’m extremely aggressive. What I bring to the table is that i’ve managed multiple music venues and even in Tallahassee I managed two music venues. I had 103 employees, I was talent buying. But I quit everything to really focus on building our brand. But knowing the backend on how venues work and experience in talent buying under the venue, you could do so much and offer artists percentages off the door and other things. So my knowledge of all of that, is what I bring to the table.
Tariq: He’s more of the strict one…NO…YES…etc. I’m more easing going. Its a lot of good cop and bad cop and rarely am I the bad cop. But I do a lot of the artists relations, making sure they fuck with us after a show and making sure they always have smiles on their faces. And also, even though Matt’s been up on it recently, I’m always up on the music. But in the past few months, we‘ve really change a lot. It used to be where Matt would handle all of our finances and I’d do everything else. But lately he’s stepped up and I feel like he’s done everything for Rolling Loud.
Also, Its funny because most companies incorporate and get their LLC’s and draw up the structure to their company so there’s legality to it. Well, he could steal the whole company from me right now and I could steal it from him. But we’ve known each other since we were seven years old so I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Matt: And if you can’t trust your family, you can’t trust anybody, especially in this world. You can’t do it by yourself. There’s too many moving parts to any business and you need that counterpart to really help you offset. Even if they’re not doing much, all the little things count, especially with a large event like Rolling Loud.
Rolling Loud takes place Saturday February 28th at Soho Studios in Wynwood. Doors open at 1:00PM. Click here for tickets.