BIO, EVAN HARRISON,
Chief Executive Officer, HUKA Entertainment
Evan Harrison was 16 when he landed his first gig in the music business behind the counter at his local MusicLand record store in New Jersey. Even at that early age, he knew that he wanted a career in the music business.
Today Harrison is the Chief Executive Officer of Huka Entertainment, one of the world’s most visionary creators and producers of large-scale destination-location music festivals. Huka is behind the Pemberton Music Festival, situated on 300 pristine acres at the base of Mt. Currie in British Columbia and the Tortuga Music Festival, held annually on the white sandy beaches of Ft. Lauderdale, FL. They are also co-producers of the Buku Music + Arts Project in New Orleans, the original architects of the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL, and run an expanding touring division that produces hundreds of shows every year across North America.
In many ways, Evan’s professional journey has come full circle. Huka’s consistent growth over the last decade has been driven by relentless focus on providing an unparalleled fan and artist experience. And although Harrison would eventually move into artist development, digital and music programming, that’s right where he got his start, turning music fans on to new bands at the East Brunswick Square Mall so many years ago.
“Music festivals plus digital & social media are the new radio and record store combo as it pertains to artist discovery,” says Harrison. “The energy in today’s music business is alive and well – at Festivals.”
Harrison’s first full time record company job was working in the mail room in the San Francisco branch of BMG Distribution. “The boss saw on my resume that surfing was one of my passions and I’d just call him up every week and we’d talk about the waves until the day job finally opened up.”
Eventually he was promoted, and began spearheading innovative local marketing campaigns for acts like Tool, Sarah McLachlan and Dave Matthews Band. That got the attention of BMG’s New York headquarters where Evan was tapped to be the company’s first head of digital marketing.
Where other music executives saw the coming digital revolution with trepidation, Evan saw opportunities for his artists and soon he was brokering content with digital partners to drive album sales for BMG artists. Evan’s creative abilities did not go unnoticed by the digital community and in 2001 AOL recruited Evan to help form their nascent music division. He would soon go on to become head of music and radio at the company.
While at AOL, Evan helped develop the iconic AOL Sessions program, as well as First Listen, which debuted many of the biggest hits between 2001-2004 exclusively on AOL, 24 hours before they were available on radio or any other media outlet. AOL Music also produced a free show for Dave Matthews Band in Central Park as well as dozens of live event broadcasts from intimate club settings across the country.
In 2004 Evan was recruited by Clear Channel where he would leave a mark on the radio industry by creating the company’s multi-platform strategy, and ultimately, iHeartRadio. Evan created a similar digital platform for Univision, overseeing the company’s approach to music on radio, television, online and in the live sector.
Along the way, Evan was recognized in Advertising Age's "Entertainment A-List," Mediaweek’s “50 Most Indispensable Executives,” Details’ “50 Most Powerful Men under 38,” and New York Observer’s "Power Punk" list. He has been a frequent contributor to CNN Headline News, and has been both profiled and quoted by Advertising Age, Billboard, Business Week, Crains, The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Paid Content, Reuters, USA Today, Variety and The Wall Street Journal.
The driving force behind Huka Entertainment has been its founder, AJ Niland who created his very first festival, Hangout Music Festival in 2003, when he was just 25 years old. “A.J. was a prodigy, an unstoppable creative force,” says Harrison. “The festival business was already beginning to mature when he started Huka and A.J. saw a different way to build festivals with a location, the fan and artist experience as the main attraction.”
And now, HUKA itself has matured into a serious business that needed an expert CEO at the helm, freeing the company’s founder to do what he does best – create unique experiences for music fans and artists.
“Our staff are diehard music and festival fans who live on social media,” says Harrison. “They all experienced Coachella and Bonnaroo as fans, before they had jobs. So we are able to take what we love about the great festivals that came before, and apply our special touch at our unique destination locations. With the team now in place, A.J. and I are confident that massive growth and good things lie ahead for Huka, the artists we work with and the fans that we work so hard for.”