Snowta Organizer Zack Chazin Talks Behind the Scenes
In the last decade, the United States has seen an impressive energy geared towards nurturing festivals and their culture. From small backyard celebrations to full sized cities built on the brink of civilization, there is a magical amount of love and care that is funneled into these events. When thinking about these curated parties, we often imagine the music, installations, art and the overall indescribable experience. The inner workings, preparation and immeasurable amount of applied labor are often overlooked.
We had a chance to talk to Zack Chazin, one of many involved in events such as Snowta, 515 Alive Music Festival and Zombie Pub Crawl. He shares his climb to success, contributions to the music industry, keys to balancing mental health and how he works towards being a present father.
iEDM: When did you first get involved in the music industry?
ZC: It’s been about ten years now. I started by managing a group of artists. In 2009(ish), some friends of mine started a rap group and, by default, I became their manager. Growing up I had always had sales jobs. I was selling phones for a while in high school at mall kiosks. I was good at working with people, naturally I just fell into the role as a manager.
I started working with different promoters and venues in Minneapolis at that time. I was getting my friends opening slots at shows. We would sell tickets, promote or sometimes pay to perform. After a while of working with these venues and promoters, I was really sick of it. I kept telling myself, God, I could do these shows so much better myself. Back then, especially in the Rap world, promoters could be really janky. They would book artists and advertise them as "live performances" but only book them for hosting. So people would get there when doors open at seven or eight, they would have to sit through ten opening acts and then wait for the headliner to to come on at 1:30 in the morning. The headliner would then only go on to play for twenty minutes.
I hated seeing that stuff because I really care about my community. It pains me to see people having a bad time at shows. I love going to concerts so much and thought I could do a better job. So, I started renting out rooms, contacting artists and bringing in artists myself. One thing led to another and I did that that for several years. Then, I got this bright idea, I've done a bunch of stuff here. I think I need to go to LA.
I went out to LA and got a job sponsorship coordinating around town. Then, I got a job managing a nightclub. And then, I got hooked into some talent agencies. Around 2011/2012, when dance music started to pop over here in the States, I went on Holy Ship year one and two. It was there where I had an epiphany that I shouldn't be in LA trying to be a music agent but I should go back home to Minneapolis and start doing festivals. It was also Holy Ship where I realized Rock & Roll wasn't dead- it just became electronic. I came back to Minneapolis and now five years later here we are.
iEDM: To what do you owe the growth you have encountered the past four years? What have been the obstacles?
ZC: I don't want to say it's luck. Luck is nothing but preparation meeting opportunity.
Minneapolis was severely lacking a proper music festival. My partner Alex had a New Year's Eve festival at Skyway he would throw every year and it eventually outgrew the venue. And with me having a Hip Hop background, we decided to join forces and combine both our scenes under one roof on the most celebrated days of the year. That's how Snowta came about and with 515 Alive and Zombie Pub Crawl there's a lot of crossover. Everything I'm doing helps extrapolate the next things I'm doing.
Three years ago if you look at 515 Alive- crazy line up. Then you look at Snowta- crazier line up. 515 the next year- bigger than last year. The obstacle I face is "one-upping" myself every time.
iEDM: How do you balance being a father and working in the music industry?
ZC: In this business, having a life and work balance is a very difficult thing to accomplish. There are no work hours. Everything is time sensitive. Everything needs attention. It's very, very difficult to have a personal life sometimes; let alone be present mentally around my children. Even when I'm not physically doing something on site or at my desk in my office, I'm thinking about stuff- working it out in my head. Figuring out how to turn my mind off is really important because you can get burnt out really easily in this line of work.
I try not to be glued to my computer or phone or stuck in my head trying to solve a problem so that I can be a present father for my children. I try to sleep normal hours during the week when I don't have shows. I get to bed at a decent hour so I can wake up around eight or nine and put in a full eight hours of work during the day. That way in the evening I can step away from my phone and not feel like I need to respond to every email so that I can be present for my kids' lives. I try to keep to a real schedule.
It also helps having a whiteboard that dictates what I need to do. If you don't have a method of organization, it's easy to lose sight of what needs to get done, especially, when there are so many moving parts. It takes a lot of work to produce a music festival- let alone three.
iEDM: How do you hope to contribute to the music industry?
ZC: Right now what we are seeing, at least in my world, are a lot of artist-curated festivals- which is good. But what I think is overlooked are indy promoter-curated festivals. There are many festivals which have contributed to the burst of the festival bubble that aren't necessarily owned and operated by true fans of the music of the event they are producing. My partners and I are fans of the music first and promoters second. We are producing our events from a different point of view. We look through the perspective of what the person at the festival would like to experience and work that way. Working top down instead of bottom up.
So to answer the question, what my partners and I are looking to contribute is to provide people with new and exciting experiences unlike anywhere else. You look at Snowta - find me another festival that can bring you top tier artists like Skrillex and Marshmello with under cards like Dirt Monkey, Peekaboo and Spark Master Tape and then have Chief Keef and Ganja White Night while also throwing in snowboarding jams, motocross, skate boarding and arcades. We're just trying to book stuff that we would want to do. It's fun to go into a festival project and say, What can we get away with this year.
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Snowta Fam, we’ve been listening and addressing your feedback and we have some exciting news to share. We are incredibly excited to announce that Snowta NYE Festival 2018 is moving to The Armory! That means: - BIGGER production - BETTER Sound - Full and accessible bars on all levels - Snowta VIP’s will have exclusive balcony viewing, bars and bathrooms on the first club level and exclusive access, bars and seating areas on the second balcony, a private bar and viewing area in front of the MainStage, and exclusive entry - Premium Experience upgrades also available include private suites and club boxes. - General Admission and VIP attendees will be comingled for the Main Stage dance floor - FOUR stages of music throughout the night on three different levels - All of this (and) our event capacity is the same as at the Convention Center!!! And don’t worry if you already booked your hotels, the Armory is 6 blocks away from the Convention Center. Shuttles will be available from Convention Center Hotels to The Armory. Stay tuned for details. Since its opening in December of 2017, the Armory has hosted some of the biggest concerts in the Twin Cities. We could not be more stoked to be able to partner with this incredible venue to produce the absolute best NYE festival in the country!!!l The countdown starts NOW! See you all soon!!!
iEDM: You've struggled with addiction in your past. What advice do you have for people into the music industry who struggle with these issues?
ZC: I think it's important, now more than ever, to stop stigmatizing mental health. The truth of the matter is whether we want to admit it or not: we are all struggling with something or another. The problem is that society has trained us to feel inadequate if we recognize this in ourselves. People may try and ignore their problems or aren't willing to talk about them.
In a sense, society has enabled us to let our demons run rampant. Being an enabler is not a good thing. I think it's important for people to have open conversations. We are all on this boat together and we need to take care of each other. Now more than ever, we need to watch each others' backs.
I have been in recovery going on fifteen years now. I have been in and out of treatment many, many times. I've been there. I have multiple years of sobriety and I would not be in the position I'm in now if it wasn't for it. Everything good in my life has come from being sober and every horrible has come from not being sober. One of the reasons I'm sober right now is because I have a strong support system in which I surround myself.
My advice for people in the business. You are not alone. Find someone you connect to and talk about it. There are people out there who have struggled and have found ways to live their lives. When I was first trying to get sober, I was like, Oh, I'll never be able to do it. It's going to be boring. Blah, blah, blah. That was all excuses. I have found that I enjoy life way more sober. When I am not sober, it's not pretty. I'm not really a social user- it's not a pretty site. It's not hard to find someone in recovery these days either.
Maybe back in the day in the music business, you would tell someone you had a problem and nobody would feel like they could trust you. But now it's just not like that. It's almost 2019- things have changed.
Reach out. Lean on your friends and family. Talk about it because we are all in this shit together.
iEDM: Any future plan you can share with us?
ZC: There are a lot of things happening that I am not at liberty to speak on. If you know anything about me, you know that I don't stop. I don't know how to stop. It's a gift and curse- I guess. Speaking for me and my partners we are figuring out new ways to raise the bar and that's our goal. That's what we are going to do.