Breakaway founders: Music festivals like ‘high-energy workout class’ — here’s what to know

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In 2010, Adam Lynn was a student at the University of Michigan trying to book a show with trip-hop rapper Kid Cudi. At the same time, diehard Buckeye fan Zach Ruben was a few hours away in Columbus trying to book a show with the same artist on the same date.

“We ended up partnering on the show instead of competing. I moved down to Columbus later that year and we started Prime Social Group (PSG),” Lynn said.

PSG quickly made a name for itself in the world of concert promotions, producing more than 1,200 events and 50 music festivals worldwide since its inception and growing beyond Columbus to open offices in L.A., Nashville and New York.

In addition, Lynn and Ruben’s business acumen has earned them entrepreneurial from global investment banking firm Goldman Sachs.

The pair’s efforts to expand PSG’s reach led to the birth of another enterprise: Breakaway.

“We had been growing in our careers and we found single-ticket shows were great to build up our database, but we felt there was a void in our business of owning a brand and owning a concept. A brand is one of the most tangible assets you can have in this business.” Ruben said.

“The Columbus area was missing that pop cultural, new-age festival. It only had Sonic Temple (Art & Music Festival), which was then Rock on the Range. We felt that the contemporary demographic needed a spotlight, and we needed a home that we could scale to other areas.”

Indeed, Breakaway Music Festival, which began in Columbus in 2013, has snowballed from a hometown happening to a multiday, multicity, multistage traveling tour of emerging electronic dance music (EDM) artists. Breakaway was named the best festival series at the EDM Awards during Miami Music Week in March.

In addition to Columbus, this year’s festival stops include Miami Beach and Tampa, Florida; Charlotte and Concord, North Carolina; Bonner Springs, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City); St. Paul, Minnesota; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Worcester, Massachusetts.

If you’re planning to attend Breakaway — which Lynn and Ruben liken to “when you walk into a high-energy workout class” — we’ve got you covered below with some must-know details.

Adam Lynn, center left, and Zach Ruben, center right holding award, are the founders of Prime Social Group and the masterminds behind Breakaway Music Festival.

Where and when is Breakaway?

The festival takes place from 4-11 p.m. May 31 and 3-11 p.m. June 1 at Historic Crew Stadium, 1 Black and Gold Way.

How much are tickets?

One-day general-admission tickets are $94, and $65 for college students. Two-day general-admission tickets are $139. For May 31, VIP tickets are $155 and Space Deck Terrace tickets are $239. For June 1, VIP tickets are $150 and Ultra VIP tickets are $629. Two-day VIP tickets are $264. Parking passes ranging from $25 to $85 also are available.

I want to upgrade my ticket to VIP. Can I do that?

VIP upgrades can be done at the box office only on May 31 and June 1 — subject to availability and prices may vary. Ultra VIP upgrades can only be done in advance by emailing hey@breakawayfestival.com.

Who’s playing at Breakaway this year?

On May 31, the headliners are Grammy-nominated DJ Kaskade and Tiësto, aka “the Godfather of EDM,” who won the Grammy for best remixed recording, non-classical in 2015 for his “Birthday Treatment Remix” of John Legend’s “All of Me.”

The headliner for June 1 is to be John Summit, a groundbreaking DJ who’s played at festivals including Coachella, Lollapalooza and Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Las Vegas and sold out Red Rocks last year. Lynn said Summit is to EDM what “Morgan Wallen is in the country space.”

In addition, more than 20 other artists are to perform at Breakaway. “We like to highlight local acts from the community,” Lynn said. “There will also be a strong female presence this year.”

Ruben added, “It’s one of the best EDM lineups in Ohio.”

Why does Breakaway focus on EDM?

Both Ruben and Lynn are passionate about the genre, having grown up listening to it, especially during their high school years. “It really started to become popular as we graduated and started our business. There’s not a lot of EDM promoters, so there’s a lot of opportunities to promote this music,” Ruben said.

What’s new this year?

For one thing, Breakaway normally happens later in the year, but Ruben said he and Lynn decided to “get ahead of the summer traffic.”

“We’ve also added a whole bunch of experiential things, a ton of brand partnerships and immersive activities,” he said.

What does Breakaway offer besides music?

There will be plenty of food, drinks, vendors and a silent disco, which allows the addition of another stage without noise bleed from other stages. It also means participants can listen and dance to different DJs simultaneously, Lynn said.

“People have on headphones completely blocking the noise. It’s an interesting sight to see. It’s definitely a highlight for a lot of our consumers—a good way to ‘breakaway’ from the rest of the festival,” he added.

What if it rains?

With the exception of severe weather, Breakaway is rain or shine, so the festival goes on as planned. Should severe conditions occur, announcements should be made from the Main Stage PA system and the festival may be postponed until weather passes.

Weather is one of the biggest challenges of holding a music festival, Lynn said. “You can send prayers to the weather gods and still get a rainstorm,” he said.

What are some other challenges of running a music festival?

Lynn and Ruben listed issues such as competition driving up artists’ asking prices, vendor and operations costs and making decisions like who to book.

“A lot of times, Zach and I have to take a smart guess as to who is going to be really big in six to 12 months. We don’t know who’s going to drop big hits,” Lynn said.

Expanding the fest to other markets has counterbalanced cost issues by generating lots more revenue and forging brand partnerships like the one Breakaway has with its first presenting partner, Celsius Energy Drinks.