Richard Goodstone, B.S.’95

Building Bonnaroo

By Jim Sciancalepore, M.A.’93

From its inception in 2002, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival has blossomed into one of the nation’s largest music festivals. More than a million passionate fans have attended the four-day event, held annually in Manchester, Tenn. It has been headlined by such music legends asBruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Elton John and Stevie Wonder. The festival even has its own Ben & Jerry’s flavor: Coffee Caramel Buzz.

Richard Goodstone

It all comes back to an audacious idea hatched by four friends in a New Orleans apartment. (The festival’s name was inspired by New Orleans culture. It means “best on the street” in French Creole.) One was of those friends and dreamers was Richard Goodstone, UAlbany graduate.

Goodstone is one of the co-founders of Superfly Productions, the experiential marketing firm that developed and launched Bonnaroo. The festival is unique in that it celebrates a broad array of musical styles – rock, jazz, hip hop, etc. – along with comedy, visual arts, and even educational topics like sustainability and the environment.

Goodstone and his Superfly partners were inspired by some of the large music festivals in Europe, such as the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival, and they saw an opportunity to replicate that model in the United States. He also credits the convergence of online music communities and “the iPod generation” with spurring interest in their multi-genre music festival.

Scenes from Bonnaroo
Scenes from Bonnaroo
Scenes from Bonnaroo
Scenes from Bonnaroo

“We were able to tap into the digitally connected grassroots community, and it just took off from there,” said Goodstone. “We had the right idea at the right time.”

Beyond Bonnaroo, Superfly produces innovative marketing efforts for a variety of major brands, from JetBlue to Tomy toys – all driven by a more experiential or interactive approach, in contrast to traditional advertising media, such as TV or print ads.

“We are a catalyst for positive feelings,” explained Goodstone. “We are building experiences, moments, memories in a person’s life. It’s very enriching.”

Goodstone said that he feels fortunate to work with his best friends at Superfly on a daily basis, and that his work never feels like a job. “We work, play and laugh hard,” he noted.

The married father of two described his UAlbany experience as formative for his career because it gave him a strong marketing foundation. He also credits the University with introducing him to jazz. “I was taking a jazz class, and our teacher played ‘First Light’ by Freddie Hubbard,” recalled Goodstone. “It was a profound experience for me.”

Through Bonnaroo and other Superfly efforts, Goodstone is now helping others enjoy similar life-shaping experiences.