Eric Weiner, founder of The Wild Honey Pie, and I exchanged some words a week or so ago, we found out we live on the same block in Greenpoint, and I learned a lot about the future of his company.
Welcome Campers is just weeks away from kicking off, and i’m excited to share a conversation about this unique music experience standing against the overpriced traditional music festival model. The Wild Honey Pie for those who haven’t heard, has captured on film local artists very early in their careers, including Lucius and Caveman with their Buzz Sessions.
Weiner’s latest project builds beyond the filming sessions locale, is one part music festival one part summer camp, combining all the dopeness of summer camp: water games, bunkbeds, warm campfire, intimate crowds with the experience of a music festival. Eric shared thoughts on growing with the listener experience and artist discovery.
“The music industry and the music world changes so quickly, we were founded in 2009, really in the day and age of the MP3. Music blogs had a large importance in inseminating the content, but things have changed. Music streaming platforms have grown they are the standard and the norm now and we need to cater to people’s music listening habits and make sure we are on the cutting edge of everything music related and how people consume their music.”
Why did you start off with video w WHP?
You know it’s funny, we actually didn’t start off with video, I started WHP as a music blog but I had a background in video editing (which came in handy). When I started WHP I was interning at MTV in London and defiantly didn’t have the connections and wherewithal to start our Buzz Session Series. It was really once I got back in New York and got a foothold in Brooklyn we started doing a lot of content. I bought a couple of cameras, upgraded my equipment, found really talented videographers and cinematographers to join the team. When my colleague Lauren McKinney joined the team and headed up the editorial side, I could focus more on the video and event side of things. We understood pretty early to make WHP a sustainable business we needed to be more than just a music blog. We needed to be a media company that released our own media content in house that we could get hired to produce. Building our brand is something I’ve been most focused on and the video content has been a huge player in that, as a result in the last few years we’ve seen a large growth of our YouTube audience.
I would love to talk about other event series you do, Campers is in its fifth year right?
Welcome Campers was a series we started as a video series actually, but people wanted to be there, we were taking over summer camps essentially and bringing bands and people there. We were feeding people and doing it up, so it made sense to transform it into a sort of music festival, and make it something we would want to be at. We’re really sick and tired of the traditional music festival formula, 60k people in a field, given overpriced food and beverages with the largest acts you can book… I think people are excited about getting to know an artist and being in an intimate setting with them, getting to know the people around you too, and building relationships, I think that’s what it’s all about, building community with people.
What’s the lodging situation like?
Everyone sleeps in a bed. There’s no camping, it’s more like summer camp, imagine if you’re a kid at summer camp sleeping in a bed, you bring your own bedding and we give you a comfortable place to sleep and if you want you can sleep in a bunkbed, there’s a variety options. It’s easy to get to as well, it’s in Western Massachusetts. We’ve done this in New York and Texas as well, but we’re creating a home for ourselves at Massachusetts-based Camp Lenox, we’re also offering a $50 round trip bus from Williamsburg so really quick and easy for anyone that wants to come.
Do you think you’d do it somewhere else down the line?
Absolutely, right now we’re focusing on making it amazing and then we’ll worry about growth. I want it to be perfect and have it packed out and make sure everyone has a great experience, we’ve had a lot of requests to bring it to California but for now we’re making it within driving distance from NYC and Massachusetts.
It’s dope you’re focused on the east coast, it’s something as a New Yorker I don’t think of existing here, sounds really more Mid-West Coast-y.
Believe it or not there are a lot of adult camp events here, it’s just that they’re super overpriced and none of them are indie music festivals, what we’re doing is unique and we’re excited that it brings a New York, Philly, and Boston crowd together, we even have folks come from North Dakota that drive in, last year we had people from California fly in.
I believe I’ve seen Caveman performing at one when I first heard of it, I love them.
That was actually the 1st year we did it and that was at my parents property in Westchester New York! We brought about 100 people to my parents house and it was at DIY as it comes but it was a really exciting opportunity and a lot of fun.
Five years later here you are, I love to see its slow and steady progression, where are you now?
I think we’re really upping the ante on the music, I think the lineup this year has surpassed anything we’ve done in the past, we’re bringing in more food trucks this year, making sure vegans are happy, making sure we provide something for everyone with the ticket fare. We’re bringing on a strong video team again like we have in the past, but mainly I think it’s going to better organized, the more we did this the more we learned and last year was a great experience because it was the first year Welcome Campers was more like a festival than a video series and I learned a lot. This year is a good jumping off from there to grow this into a festival the way we envision it to be.
I love to see a company with your sense of adaptability, any thoughts on this?
I think as a company you have to, the music industry and the music world changes so quickly, we were founded in 2009, really in the day and age of the MP3. Music blogs had a large importance in inseminating the content, but things have changed. Music streaming platforms have grown they are the standard and the norm now and we need to cater to people’s music listening habits and make sure we are on the cutting edge of everything music related and how people consume their music.
Do you think music blogs will be around in 10-20 years?
In some way shape or form, I think that they will have to adapt and create strong brands in order to do so.
Anything else in the stew?
This year we’ll we’re focused mostly on Welcome Campers, we think it’s a unique and an exciting way to experience music, but we’re also working on allowing music fans to have dinner with bands. You get to hang out and see them perform then have dinner with them and it’s really reasonably priced, the 1st one we’re having is only $30 and you get a three course meal. We’re talking to local restaurants in Greenpoint right now, we’re trying to establish ourselves as a Greenpoint business and building the community here. Next year we’ll do a few of these dinners in East L.A. and March and June next year we’ll be kicking off Buzz Sessions again and focusing on Campers for the time being allows us to keep doing the things we love, and obviously lots of content as we go, we shoot each episode of Buzz Sessions once a week in New York and L.A. so we’ll be pretty busy.