Before the fifth annual Hopscotch Music Festival began last September, festival director Greg Lowenhagen told the INDY he’d been courting investors to help guarantee the event’s future.
“I’m going to talk to some people I’ve already had conversations with about how serious their interest is in providing some more capital to the festival,” he said then.
His search—and his ownership of the festival—will soon be over, it seems.
According to documents filed with the N.C. Department of the Secretary of State and obtained by the INDY, Etix founder Travis Janovich has established a new company, Hopscotch Presents, LLC. Janovich confirms his intent to purchase the festival from its current owners, Lowenhagen and Steve Schewel.
“We’re in the final stages of pushing agreements back and forth,” he says.
Janovich established the new venture with minority partner Paul Laughter, who now serves as the director of sales for fairs, festivals and expos at Etix. Though Hopscotch Presents, once the name that Lowenhagen used to present shows outside of the festival itself, has no official affiliation with Etix, it shares a Morrisville address with Etix, according to the filing. Etix has been a longstanding partner with Hopscotch, providing sponsorship and its ticketing platform for five years.
“Travis became, for us, the clear choice to lead Hopscotch into the future, based on his experience, the success of his other businesses, and our relationship with one of his companies, Etix, who were our ticketing partner for the past five years,” Lowenhagen says. “He was really the only true local candidate. He was also probably the most excited about it.”
Lowenhagen will remain the festival’s director. He says he fielded competing offers to buy the festival, but Janovich’s enthusiasm, proximity and his reluctance to overhaul the festival were deciding factors. “This does not change what the fans have come to expect from Hopscotch,” Lowenhagen says. “It’s going to be more of the same, and better. [Janovich] is going to be able to take what we’ve built and improve upon it and make it long-lasting and really stabilize us.”
Lowenhagen says last year’s festival turned a profit—the second time in five years Hopscotch ended up in the black. But he acknowledges the stress of running the event on his own. “We did not have enough resources financially to reach out as far and wide as we hoped, in terms of promotion,” he says.
Janovich, however, saw the potential for growth.
“Hopscotch wasn’t something that needed to be rescued,” he says. “It was something that was building already, and it was an opportunity for me to buy an asset that everything was already in place for.”
The Hopscotch Music Festival was founded in 2009 by then co-directors Lowenhagen and INDY music editor Grayson Haver Currin, under the ownership of the INDY’s former parent company, Carolina Independent Publications (CIP). The inaugural festival was held in September 2010. In 2012, CIP president Steve Schewel sold The Independent Weekly, but not Hopscotch, to Richard Meeker and Mark Zusman, the owners of Portland’s City of Roses Newspaper Company, which publishes Willamette Week. Lowenhagen became the majority owner of Hopscotch, with Schewel remaining his business partner. Currin left his post at Hopscotch in January 2014.
“The people who are buying Hopscotch have been to Hopscotch, care about Hopscotch, love Hopscotch and love their experience there,” Lowenhagen says. “They’ve enjoyed the festival, admired what we’ve built, and are ready to build and enhance that legacy moving forward.”