This Could Be the Next Big Event Since SXSW. At Least Mark Cuban Thinks So.
Diplo has seen it all. A renowned DJ, he’s collaborated with Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Usher and sold out shows in top venues such as Madison Square Garden. Wherever he goes, fans mob him for selfies.
But last Spring, Diplo saw something that made him a fan -- something that inspired him to pull out his phone and capture the moment. After headlining a show at the University of The Pacific, Diplo went to his dressing room only to find a violin quartet waiting for him outside. The violinists warmed up their strings, the conductor cleared his throat and the quartet began playing the DJ’s hit song, “Bubble Butt.” Watch below, it’s super dope.
As the orchestra played, madness ensued. Students crowded around and pulled out their phones, scurrying to Snapchat the moment and share with friends. Diplo himself couldn’t help but do the same.
Related: Only at SXSW: Our Favorite Moments
In the back of the room, however, two men quietly let out a sigh of relief. Jack Shannon and Deuce Thevenow are the founders of RECESS, a college music and ideas festival responsible for bringing Diplo to campus and surprising him with the “Bubble Butt” orchestra.
These abnormal moments have become their norm. They’ve hosted RECESS festivals at 23 campuses with more than 70,000 attendees. They’ve brought together the likes of Diplo, Calvin Harris and Jermaine Dupri with Twitch co-founder Justin Kan and Chubbies co-founder Tom Montgomery. It's an intersection of music and tech that we've never seen before. College students everywhere are raving about it.
RECESS’s events have become so popular that they’ve caught the attention of superstar investor Mark Cuban, who said, “A festival-like approach to reaching millennials that mixes music, networking and access to unique information and speakers is a strong opportunity.”
Cuban invested in RECESS in hopes of bringing more innovation to college campuses everywhere. RECESS leads by example -- founded by Shannon and Thevenow in 2010 as an Indiana-based concerts-production company, the pair bootstrapped the company into a millennial-media hub.
It’s easy to see why college students love RECESS. The festival starts with Office Hours, where students experience interviews with entrepreneurs and see a side of them they wouldn’t find in newspapers, blogs or podcasts. It’s real, unfiltered advice from one generation of entrepreneurs to the next.
Students got to hear from Every Vowel’s Jon Youshaei as he interviewed Looksharp CEO Andrew Maguire on how he fundraised $4 million while roadtripping across the country. They heard from The Chainsmoker’s Alex Pall and Drew Taggert on how they produced and marketed their hit song "#SELFIE" to more than 300 million people.
This fall, students will hear from DraftKings CEO Jason Robins, Total Frat Move CEO Madison Wickham, Wordpress co-founder Matt Mullenweg, HARD Events CEO and founder Gary Richards, TeeSpring co-founder Evan Stites-Clayton, MMG Nightlife CEO and LIV & STORY operating manager Dave Grutman, Life in Color co-founder and CEO Sebastian Solano, number-one Vine influencer King Bach and more.
Office Hours are followed by a pitch competition, where students get a chance to go from dorm room to board room. Among hundreds of submissions, five teams make it to the main stage where they pitch RECESS’s judging panel of entrepreneurs, investors and mentors. The winning teams fly to Los Angeles for Field Trip, an all-expense paid adventure through Silicon Beach.
They get the star treatment, traveling around in a Red Bull party bus, visiting LA’s top tech companies and networking with top investors. Cuban along with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and renowned venture capitalist Tim Draper have already invested in many of the finalists, showing how RECESS opens the pipelines between millennial upstarts and startup investors.
RECESS finishes off with a concert, infusing music into tech in a way we rarely see today. At Virginia Tech, the same students who heard selfless advice from The Chainsmokers danced to #SELFIE beats from the duo. At UConn, they went wild as Flo Rida sung “Wild Ones.” At Amherst, students screamed as T-Pain danced on stage. This year, students will get to experience a concert from EDM duo, Adventure Club. It’s a spectacle unlike any festival around.
But Shannon and Thevenow have even bigger dreams for RECESS. They struck partnerships with L’Oreal Paris, CNET, Pivot and Softlayer to provide a myriad of opportunities and initiatives to inform, entertain and engage students on the tour. The high-profile partnerships don’t end there: RECESS joined forces with Live Nation’s Michael Rapino to partner on scaling concerts nationwide.
“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with RECESS and support young entrepreneurs and to provide top quality entertainment as an avenue for them to celebrate their accomplishments on campus during the day," Rapino said. "Every college student should have an experience like RECESS.”
They’ve also brought on Gary Vaynerchuk’s Vaynermedia as a partner so brands can participate in RECESS’ growing popularity. With these top partnerships and more than 70,000 students attending its festivals, RECESS is poised to become the next big event series since SXSW.
Its growing tour lineup shows that RECESS knows how to connect with millennials in a way other media companies struggle to do. Perhaps it’s because Shannon and Thevenow care about something more. It’s not just about one-off concerts and competitions. For them, it’s about taking their two passions, music and technology, to create a meaningful impact on the lives of college students.