Nov 10

Warm Vibes and Winter Wonderlands




Humanity has recognized the power of “the gathering” since the first nomadic tribes. The primary reasons for gatherings, on both tribal and “civilized” levels, have ranged from celebrating a bountiful harvest to honoring newly established diplomatic relationships, but, above all, they have been often used to simply promote the welfare of the members within their respective community. Music lover, humanitarian, and founding member of the Electronic Music Alliance (EMA), Scott Stoughton, embraces the notion that properly curated music festivals have an unrivaled capability for unifying the masses. We talked about how music has directly influenced his life, the healing properties of music, as well as strategies for maximizing the “activation potential” of music festivals.


Where did you grow up?

I grew up in New Jersey, the Jersey Shore, actually.


What were some of your earliest musical influences?

The writings of Marley were probably the first thing that really spoke to me.


What’s your fondest musical memory from growing up?

Seeing my first Grateful Dead show. Not necessarily so much the music, itself, but seeing the community engaging in these drum circles. Everybody was encouraged to participate in this true, pure medium. That attitude is something that I’ve tried to incorporate into all of my endeavors, whether it be festivals or my own musical performance. It’s amazing…the power of the hand drum.


Taking that as your introduction, what inspired you to get into the music/entertainment business?

I think it found me more than I found it. I was always drawn to the higher vibrations of “gatherings” where you could leave the normal confines of the tangible norm. When that started to light up inside me I started playing more music and I moved to Colorado. I got into the music here and then moved to L.A. and started experiencing so many different aspects of it. I toured in a band for years all around the country and got really enthused by what kind of positive influence we could have. I’ve always been about positive messaging: environmentally, politically, and socially. Environmentally is something that resonates really deeply with me. I was always drawn to and respected artists that would use their personal platform to do good. I’m not really interested in materialism or acts that just do it for the sake of “let’s get high, shake ass, high-five, and see how many people we can sleep with.” That influenced my producing world. I started playing these benefits and producing these benefits. I started putting on outdoor shows and gatherings and I got pretty decent at it. I opened a club in Vail and started to produce more and more bigger events when I wasn’t touring. I wanted to focus to be to draw people into these events and festivals for the right reasons. I embrace a really strong community outreach message. I hold fans and artists accountable for their actions. I don’t create parties for people to get fucked up in. I’ve done that in my past and it’s not my future or my present state. That’s kind of how I’ve rolled. From being a musician and someone who’s been on the road and grinding it out, sleeping in a van, to someone who has produced some pretty successful events that give back substantially to the community, the artists, and to the fans.


Would it be fair to say that you are trying to create environments that are the antithesis to the “bro-raver” element and mentality? Haha. Yes. It’s definitely more about giving back and a sense of community.


You coordinate several events in Colorado. Where did the idea for Snowball Festival come from and what vibe were you guys trying to achieve?

The founder and my partner, Chad Donnelly, who runs the operations, had a vision to combine outdoor activities (in these cases snow sports) and a diverse spectrum of music, beyond what you normally see in the mountains. Kind of an urban, world-class music setting with cutting edge talent, surrounded by beautiful natural surroundings. People are allowed to “get off” however they see fit, whether it be snowboarding on the hill, skiing, and then coming in and listening to a variety of acts. It’s always been about having a wide variety of music available. Everything from deep house to house to dubstep to funk to disco to reggae to bluegrass. It’s been a really amazing platform and it’s got people really excited. I mean we’ve had everybody from Snoop Dogg to Bassnectar to Pretty Lights to Theory to the Flaming Lips. I think it’s pretty diverse and I think that’s one of the elements that people really like.


What is your position and what are your current responsibilities within your company?

I launched a festival called Winter Wondergrass, which is like acoustic roots with local bourbon, wine, and food festival. We’ve had two events that have sold out, here in Colorado, and this year will be our third. Roughly about twelve to fifteen thousand people attended these past two years. This year we are launching in Squaw Valley. No corporate sponsors. Completely locally sourced: food, wine, spirits. Those events keep me really busy and then I have the 7th Annual Campout for the Cause, which is a fundraiser that I do. It’s a three-day event that brings camping, yoga, workshops, activists, and all types of family-friendly gatherings. Music creates a really great foundation for people to do truly beautiful things. It doesn’t matter what the event is. People want to have more love in their hearts.


What is the most rewarding part of your job? Most challenging part?

The most rewarding part would probably be when I get messages after festivals. I got a message from a woman that is going through cancer treatment and chemotherapy and she wasn’t really happy that she made it to the event because she could feel the healing going through her body. She could feel her cells vibrating at a higher frequency, which certainly helps with the healing process. When people have a positive reaction to something that I put together…you can’t top that. If someone feels better about themselves or in some cases heals then that’s the change I want to create. The challenge is to walk the fine line between having a higher expectation of people attending my events and not preaching any messaging. Pushing forth a positive message without beating people over the head with it is definitely a challenge. I don’t want anyone to feel alienated. The key is getting them to feel welcome while getting the message, whether it be “leave no trace” or recycle, and have it seep into their psyche. Even if they aren’t prepared to take the necessary steps right now, I want them to feel welcome at all times.


How did you become affiliated with the Electronic Music Alliance (EMA)? What potential did you originally see in the EMA?

When I was working pretty seriously with SnowBall and SnowGlobe in L.A., a few years ago, I saw a fan-base that I wasn’t normally exposed to and I was curious to see if anyone was tapping into it to promote any positive messages through that community. I got looped in with Janine, from the EMA, and when we met I was drawn to her spirit, her goals, and her attitude towards creating positive change. Even though it wasn’t a community that I was immersed in and entirely familiar with, I wanted to align myself with their central messages. In doing so, I also wanted to make a move to incorporate some of those elements into the events that I was already working with.


What is the local support scene like where you live in Colorado? Are you affiliated with any particular outreach programs that try to activate the youth and student populations in the community?

My focus is on the community as a whole. I live in the mountains and most of my events are up here. I integrate with a lot of environmental groups and groups that support musical education for kids. There is a focus on the younger demographic, to about fourteen or so, with some music camps that we throw. We also try to do what we can to encourage music appreciation in underprivileged children. A lot more people are talking. A lot more people are becoming aware of global challenges. I’m seeing a very visible conscious shift from people coming just to get “fucked up” to becoming more and more aware and proactive. The messages seem to be resonating because people are bringing the positive attitudes home with them and sharing them throughout their own respective community.


The media has reported and, in some cases, sensationalized incidents that involved a breakdown in the compassion and attitudes of some festival goers for their friends and contemporaries. An example would be people sending their friends, that need medical attention, home from festivals instead of pursuing helping them. Besides for providing empirical evidence for the press to note that these behaviors are being addressed, what trends can you see emerging as more people adopt a code of conduct along the lines of the EMA’s “Party Pledge?”

I think the awareness has been heightened. As festival organizers become more aware of their responsibility to educate their attendees, I’m seeing very positive trends emerge. We have a buddy program that we supported last year at SnowGlobe, which was absolutely incredible. They were there to support any need that someone might have from gloves to a cell phone to whether they were hungry or thirsty. I’ve seen more and more kids that want to get involved with those kinds of services. I think it’s the right thing to do and people feel good about doing it and, in my mind, it’s definitely saving lives.


What can festivals do in to provide more of an incentive for their patrons to be socially responsible?

I think, for me, we can’t do it all, nor should we. There has to be an equal desire on the part of the attendee to want to be responsible. I think offering incentives can be effective. I think we just need to set the bar higher for ourselves, in general. This goes for organizers, attendees, and artists. You get back what you put out there. In my mind, I wish more artists would push positive messaging within their fan bases, but I understand why they don’t. It comes down to marketing and image and their “rock star-dom,” but I don’t buy into all that. I think you can make a greater change by having a little more balls.


Does that imply that there is definitely a social construct that creates a battleground for the intrinsic responsibility an artist has to use their platform for something positive?

I think so.


What is your take on the potential therapeutic and healing properties of music?

My take on it is that it’s a reality. People have been playing music since the dawn of time, gathering around the fire to share stories and to heal. The vibrations from music vibrate the cells in your body and that controls so many parts of your life. There’s incredible healing properties and opportunities within music, whether it’s silently listening to heavy laboratory-type sounds or what you feel when you go to a gathering of fans that are supporting an artist that they are all really into. Often when people have something to say but they can’t find their voice, they look to an artist and their music to help them heal.


What are a few charities whose causes you hold in high regard?

I’ve been working with All Hands a lot. They are a 501 (c)3 NPO that did a lot work in Haiti after the most recent massive earthquake. They mobilize volunteers around the world to go into disaster-stricken areas. They get into the situation and get their hands dirty. They clear rubble, establish safe zones, assess structural damages,  and figure out a way to support clean water delivery and filtration systems. They go to the poorest of areas and live in the harshest of conditions. We all worked six days a week from sunrise to sunset. They’re domestic. They’re international. I very much support them.

Love, Hope, Strength is another amazing NPO that I totally support. Their mission is to get people to register to donate bone marrow. They have saved hundreds and hundreds of lives by matching people up. I also try to work with local NPOs wherever I go.


Please list three global issues that you believe deserve immediate attention and your potential solutions for addressing them. 

Our reliance on fossil fuels is a situation that is certainly going to propel us into even more chaos. That’s obvious. The solution is alternative fuels but the primary solution should be personal responsibility on personal consumption. You can control what you do. The more you can control what you do, the more that will create a greater change outside of what you do and who you are. Saying “Fuck Big Oil” is great, but how do you change that? I put that responsibility on each and every person to take care in respect to their own energy consumption.

I believe that the war, the global war, that is going on right now is a big problem. Some might say it’s religious and some might say it’s territorial. I think that is something that is on top of my list of global concerns and crises. The solution for that, I believe, is education, travel, and understanding one another. Having the ability to have an opinion and have a belief structure but also being able to listen to another person’s point of view. You don’t have to agree with what I’m saying but you’ve got to listen to what I’m saying and make an attempt to understand what I’m saying. If people can do that, we can solve that problem. So many people are caught up in their own minds and their own lives. We need to have more empathy.

My third concern, which is of great importance and definitely ties into the fossil fuel issue, is our environment. The rivers and the ocean, I mean, that’s our blood. We don’t live on the Earth. We live in it. If we don’t do everything that we can to support the vibrancy of life, it will eventually go away, at least at the rate we’re going. It might not happen in our lifetime, but in our children’s lifetime. If you look at the rate of deforestation in the rain forest, the mountain of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, overfishing, genetically-modified organisms and other things that are being tainted to “sustain” food sources, people need to be more aware. I don’t want to preach those things. I want to discuss those things. If we don’t understand our role in our environment, we’re doomed. Take a look at the rise in cancer and the rise of GMOs and various processing methods and it’s an exact tie-in. We’ve been creating problems and then throwing money towards trying to find solutions. All of the issues are related. They’re all the same thing. You can’t separate them.


What goals have you set for yourself for the next year? 5 years?

Really walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I’d like to make the conscious decision and the right decision. I don’t mean the right decision, in the moment, for my personal gains, goals, or financial windfall but making the right decision to help with all of the issues that I just mentioned. If you live in a manner that you know is true in your heart, change will happen. It’s a challenge that I put forth to myself every single day.


Is there anything else you would like to share about your organization or yourself?

I’m just really really really really grateful and feel really blessed and honored to be in a position where I can speak with you. I could get on stage and speak to a crowd or I could MC an event and have an opportunity to connect with people. I would be able to let them know that I am completely full of love and compassion and want to understand each and every body, every color, every race, every religion, every political belief..I think those are part of us, but they don’t make us who we are. First and foremost, we are all human beings and we’re all connected at the most basic level. It’s something I’m grateful for every second.


The old adage is that “no good deed goes unnoticed.” However, the power behind this dime-store philosophy grows exponentially when an individual is truly motivated by a selfless intention to enrich the lives of those they encounter. Scott Stoughton has managed to fine-tune a comprehensive approach that merges his love for music with the opportunity to create community-oriented atmospheres that benefit the participating individuals as well as Mother Earth. Acknowledging that the power to incite positive change, in others and the world around us, exists in all of us is a vital step in humanity actualizing a state of global harmony. Can you think of a good reason not to be the sound of change? I thought so…


Scott Stoughton is a founding member of the Electronic Music Alliance








Electronic Music Alliance links:







Photo Credit: Lani Michelle Photography