Getting Superfly with PJ Loughran [Exclusive Interview]
photos by Lauren Simpson for Festival Squad
What do major festivals Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, and Lost Lake have in common? They are all Superfly. In case you are not familiar with Superfly, the company is a hybrid creative marketing/production company, founded in 1996. The company operates out of three offices across the United States and prides itself in “creating shared experiences that enrich lives and unite communities”. They are arguably one of the best companies in the music festival business. There are a total of eight individuals who lead Superfly. One of these leaders is PJ Loughran, Executive Creative Director and EVP of Strategy.
The Road to Superfly
Loughran has been long involved with the Co-Founders of the company, and recalls meeting them about 15 years ago, as an aspiring musician. His girlfriend at the time (now his wife) made the introduction because of their shared love for the music industry. The group stayed in touch over the years as Loughran faded out of the music world and into entrepreneurship. Superfly Presents transitioned Superfly and introduced the music world to Bonnaroo. At the same time, Loughran launched his first company Kerosene, and then sold it five years later. He then founded a second company, called The Distillery. “And at that point, Rich [Goodstone] approached me and said that he was looking to grow and expand… That they were in particular looking to build a creative agency as a part of their service offering.” And so Loughran’s story with Superfly begins.
“He approached me about coming to work with him and then inevitably it turned into the group acquiring The Distillery, and me coming on board as Executive Creative Director. My role in the beginning was primarily to help build the agency but now I participate in all aspects of the business that pertain to creative and strategy,” Loughran explains.
What It Means to Be Creative Director
From business pitches and execution of work, to design, social media, and everything in between, Loughran keeps busy with his team of about 25. The balancing act between creative agency and festival production seems to come second nature for him. “I work very closely with Rich Goodstone, the head of the agency and building out that business. And on the property side, I work closely with Jonathan [Mayers], who leads the company’s IP division, supporting him in the development of new and existing owned properties”
One of Loughran’s largest projects recently was leading the creative vision behind the inaugural Lost Lake Festival, which took place in Arizona this year. What is most noticeable about the events that Superfly curates, is that they’re carefully constructed around the culture in which the festival lives. Loughran and the team at Superfly consider what makes the location and the culture in that area unique and they strategize how they can translate it into a celebratory festival, and then bring it all to life.
Building The Brand Culture
Superfly has been in operation for over 20 years, and the company has watched the music festival scene grow in number and greatly evolve. Bonnaroo celebrated its 16th anniversary this year and Outside Lands will be celebrating its 10th next year. In the music festival world, this is no easy task. The festival community has watched festivals come, go, and even take year long breaks. So what is it that makes Superfly festivals special? Loughran feels that is has everything to do with the relationship between these festivals and the festival goers. “It really is about the customer or the fan experience first. It’s always about trying to engage our audiences around their shared passions (whether ion the festival side or on the brand side) in the most compelling, most creative, most innovative ways. We are a “creative first” company supported by best-in-class production and operational capabilities.”
When asked about how Bonnaroo and Outside Lands retain festival goers year to year Loughran said, “These are festivals that have always been about the holistic experience versus just the music. For example, Outside Lands enjoyed its 10th year this year and we’ve been celebrating the culture and people of San Francisco since the very beginning through unique food and drink activations. Bonnaroo has always had amusements and other experiences that have been core to what its been all about. So I think I think both of those festivals and really the work that we do is already well positioned in this space in terms of where the industry is heading.”
Networking At XLIVE Vegas
Next week, Loughran will be attending XLIVE Las Vegas December 10-13. This event is one that allows industry professionals to gather under one roof to learn and share ideas. He says he is most looking forward to “sharing some of the challenges in our world, sharing what it is we’re most excited about, and talking about where we see the business headed. We’re in a similar space and are working day to day with similar challenges.” Dozens of workshops will be held over this time span for networking to happen among those in the event production business.
After a long discussion with PJ Loughran, it is very clear that the future is bright for Superfly. The company has been a leader in the industry for so long and is showing no signs of slowing down. “I love the number of interesting and different challenges this position provides me, both from an entrepreneurial and a creative standpoint. But the best part is easily the incredibly accomplished team I get to work with day to day. I’m very fortunate that my peers are truly the best in the business at what they do.”