Interviews / Music

So What?! It’s Mike Ziemer

A successful entrepreneur of over a decade now, Mike Ziemer is one of the most popular concert promoters across the state of Texas and founder of one of the most anticipated music festivals in the U.S., So What?! Music Festival (formerly South by So What?!) in Dallas, Texas. He also runs an artist management company called Evolve Management and a record label called Third String Records.

Mike has been a man behind the scenes making huge waves in the music industry that we just had to know more about. As the festival is coming up on it’s 10 year anniversary this March, 2017, Mike gave us the inside scoop as to who he is and what he’s excited about most with what’s to come at So What?! Music Fest.
Cliché: So Mike, tell us about yourself. Who are you?
Mike Ziemer: Hello! My name is Mike Ziemer, I am the founder of So What?! Music Festival, Third String Records, Third String Productions, Evolve Music Management, and the IMI Conference!
How did you get your start in the music industry?
When I was in high school, I would review albums and interview bands and some friends of mine asked me to help manage them. One of the first things they needed was a show, so I booked a show and became a promoter!
What were/are some of the toughest parts about building a name for yourself in this industry?
When I started, I was in high school, so really just learning how to run a business with no real guidance or help. I did it all on my own so it was a lot of learning as I went and making mistakes.
What inspired you to start Third String Records?
Third String Records was originally started in 2005 but the two bands on the label broke up so I put it on hold … for a long time haha. I just wanted to help out this band Dear You I was managing and then it grew from there.
What has been the highlight of that career path?
Being on the cover of Businessweek at the age of 20 was pretty insane.
Tell us about So What Music Festival. How did that come to be and how long has it been going on?
Every March was our anniversary show and coming into our four year anniversary, my graphic designer joked, “You should just call it South By So What?! since none of these kids go to SXSW.” So we did. And it’s about to celebrate its 10th year. We have since changed the name to help establish our own identity.

Photos by Imani Givertz
What has been your vision and mission behind the festival?
Honestly I was just trying to fit as many cool bands as possible onto one show with four stages haha. There was never really a vision or goal other than to have fun and pay the bills. Now it’s to bring the brand to other markets!
What’s it like to run a music festival?
It’s the most stressful, but fun thing I’ve ever done in my life. Sort of like willing to go completely broke to put an event together that people may or may not care about. It’s fun, it’s great, there’s just so many things that COULD go wrong. I don’t sleep much around festival time.
Did you encounter any similar challenges starting the music festival that you encountered starting the record label?
The biggest challenge has been bouncing back from losing money on ideas we believed in that didn’t go as planned. We have lost a lot of money and had to figure out how to keep going. But every successful person has gone through that.
What has been the most memorable moment so far about So What Music Festival for you?
When Taking Back Sunday and The Used played. They were on a tour together in 2002 and it was one of my first real concerts and to have it all come full circle and book them was amazing.
What are you looking forward to at this year’s So What Music Festival?
Hip-Hop! I am so stoked to mix genres and bring new styles to our festival that we haven’t had before.
How has your career impacted your life?
I don’t really have a life outside of my career. My career is my life. It has to be. When you love what you do as much as I do and want to be great, your life is your career.
Are there any other things you would like to do in addition to So What Music Festival and Third String?
I want to eventually be able to invest in other small businesses and help people grow their dreams while being able to venture into things besides just music.
If you were to meet yourself when you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself?
I would just remind myself that it’s important to always have fun and to not take myself too seriously. Also, to just ignore “haters” because they aren’t supporting you anyway so they don’t deserve your attention.
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So What?! It’s Mike Ziemer. Cover photo by Casey Lee

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