“We haven’t had the luxury of pumping a couple extra hundreds of thousands of dollars into staff,” he said. “We basically do this on a shoestring.”
Lowenhagen is joined by his only staff members: full-time Development Director Gloria Mock, and part-time Talent Coordinator Nathan Price.
Lowenhagen said the three of them are responsible for everything from booking acts to marketing to accounting to selling sponsorships and keeping the budget balanced.
“Basically anything that encompasses hosting 20,000 people and 140 bands for three days,” he said.
They rely on their work chemistry and a group of volunteers that help in the final days leading up to the festival.
“Right now, it’s incredibly intense. It’s insane. There’s a lot of logistics — but I enjoy that,” Mock said.
With the festival beginning in two days, Lowenhagen and his small staff are busy planning, answering emails and phone calls and implementing last-minute changes.
“It’s less of a job and more of a lifestyle,” he said.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming, but it’s a labor of love.”
Price agreed the hours are non-traditional and taxing.
“It all comes in waves,” he said. “Some nights I might work five to six hours. Last week, I worked 80 hours on Hopscotch.”
The genesis of the festival was an email sent by Lowenhagen in June 2009 to Steve Schewel, the owner and co-founder of Independent Weekly. The email, which detailed Lowenhagen’s plan to create a specific music festival in Raleigh, led to an invitation to lunch from Schewel.
“By the time we left lunch, he said he’d do it,” Lowenhagen said.
Six years later, Hopscotch has landed on Rolling Stone’s “Summer 2014’s 40 Must-See Music Festivals,” and has been dubbed “the premiere experimental and underground music festival in America” by music publication AdHoc.
But there are still many aspects of the festival that are small-scale.
Lowenhagen declined to give specific financial figures, but said the budget was limited.
“We have never spent more than a million dollars to produce a single Hopscotch,” he said.
He also said that since selling Hopscotch to Etix founder, Travis Janovich, in February, he is now debt-free.
Price said he believes the festival is unique because it is indoors, which is rare for a music festival.
“That’s one thing a lot of people don’t like about big festivals: seeing bands out of their element,” Price said. “You’re getting a very energetic experience. There’s a little bit more energy in the room — it can change the vibe.”
Lowenhagen explained that besides liking the word “hopscotch,” the festival’s name is based off the premise of Julio Cortazar’s choose-your-own-adventure book with the same name.
“The prologue says, ‘There are many books contained within this book.’ The idea is that Hopscotch, the festival, is a lot like the novel,” he said.
“Everyone is doing the same thing — we’re having a collective experience during the weekend — but everyone is having an individual experience as well.”