This week on 'Cannabis & Main', host Ricardo Baca welcomes Crystal Bauer Feldman, owner of Arcane Revelry, a company that puts on experiential cannabis events. Ricardo and Crystal talk tips for putting on a successful event, connecting with sponsors and the future of open cannabis consumption.
This season 'Cannabis & Main' is brought to you in part by Fluent Cannabis.
Ricardo Baca: Hello, hello and welcome to Cannabis & Main, a Civilized podcast where we extract one element from today's cannabis scape and go deep. I'm your host, Ricardo Baca, Founder of Grasslands, a journalism-minded agency, and it's so great to be with you today. You can learn more about this show, alongside the marijuana news and cannabis lifestyle coverage you crave from Civilized, found on the worldwide web at Civilized.life.
Ricardo: Now this week, we're going to dive deep into cannabis and experiential events with a guest who is one of the busiest event producers in the marijuana industry. First, let's talk about why these experiential events are so important in an industry like marijuana. First, this industry is built around an intoxicating plant that has various legitimate medical properties and so it's no surprise that a lot of these brands want to host events that celebrate the consumption of this plant.
Ricardo: Secondly, cannabis brands are like any other brands in that they need to differentiate themselves from their competitors. And because the proof is in the pudding, experiencing these flowers and concentrates and topicals is the single, most compelling way to stand out from a crowded field. While I could keep going, I'll move on by saying that most of these brands don't have access to traditional advertising channels like Google, Facebook and many mainstream publications, a construct that makes these kinds of events all the more necessary and important.
Ricardo: Now there is an art to producing these types of events thoughtfully and responsibly, something we've learned at my agency, Grasslands, many times throughout the years. While I've watched so many event producers fall short of creating a gathering that transcended the appearance of a typical event, my guest today is a peer who knows how to create something special, something that elevates the experience into something beyond that.
Crystal Bauer Feldman: And tonight, a party was hosted inside this venue. It was a concert. The bud dropped, much like on New Year's Eve where a ball drops. The bud dropped at midnight. This was a cannabis countdown party.
Ricardo: So, cannabis and experiential events, let's talk about it right here on Cannabis & Main. Crystal Bauer Feldman is an author, producer and owner of national event production company, Arcane Revelry. Crystal.
Crystal: Hey Ricardo.
Ricardo: Thanks so much for joining us.
Crystal: Thank you for having me. How are you?
Ricardo: It's great to see you.
Crystal: You too. It's been a while.
Ricardo: You look wonderful.
Crystal: Thank you, so do you.
Ricardo: Oh, man. Dude.
Crystal: I love that black and yellow.
Ricardo: Oh yeah, right? Christiania represent. We need to throw some events in Copenhagen.
Crystal: Oh my God, that would be a dream come true.
Ricardo: How is business these days?
Crystal: Really good. I've been really busy. I just got back from Miami. I went to CannaCon down there, just kind of checking out the landscape, and it's really popping down there in Miami. So, it was really fun.
Ricardo: Yeah, you're really popping. You're all over the place.
Crystal: Yeah, that's by design for sure.
Ricardo: Congratulations -
Crystal: Thank you.
Ricardo: - on all of the successes.
Crystal: Thank you.
Ricardo: I outlined just a few of the reasons in that introduction about why experiential events are so necessary in this industry.
Ricardo: But when it comes down to it, when you're pitching that big prospect on a meaningful event, why do cannabis and hemp brands need these kinds of events to really round out their marketing programs?
Crystal: In my opinion, what I see far too often is that we're sort of marketing to a loop. We have the same people that are in the industry that we keep inviting to the same events, right? Or, we're doing Patient Appreciation Days at dispensaries, or things like that. I understand that those can be cost-effective. However, it's not really helping the brand branch out into the mainstream.
Crystal: So my whole goal is to partner with media companies, especially mainstream media, to get them on board, to get them introduced, and as well, to get the brands to just realizing that they have a way to expand. There are certain gray areas when it comes to advertising, but they can really break out of that just marketing B2B and go into the mainstream public, but in a tasteful way.
Ricardo: You know, tasteful, tactful. These words have not always been associated with the marijuana industry and it's public outreach, but that's changing and it has to change.
Crystal: Yes, and the brands are the ones who are going to help us change that. The more that they normalize this, the more that they actually go out and participate in these events, the more that their names end up in the press or whatever articles are attached to the event, the more that they really help change that landscape like it's okay. You know, it's okay.
Ricardo: I love that you mention right off the bat, the need at least for you, to connect these events to mainstream media outlets. As you know, I worked for mainstream media outlets for 20+ years.
Crystal: Yeah, they're great.
Ricardo: It's taken them a while to come around to it, but they recognize that they need to cover this industry. But how do you benefit? How do these events benefit? How do your brand partners benefit when you're able to parlay a media sponsorship or media involvement for these kinds of events?
Crystal: Yeah, it's a little bit of a proprietary secret, but I'll give you this much. One of the things that I offer is value to my brand partners, when I do partner with a media company, is in their sponsorship also comes a type of ad, a banner, an advertorial, something that carries on past the event.
Ricardo: And you've been pretty successful with this. You have a great partnership with LA Weekly. We had Michael in here this morning.
Crystal: Oh, Mike? Really?
Ricardo: Yeah, totally.
Crystal: Yeah, he's awesome.
Ricardo: You did some work with Weed Week too, if I remember correctly.
Crystal: Yeah, I sure did, with Alex. Mm-hmm.
Ricardo: That's very cool. I'll be seeing Donnell later on today.
Crystal: Nice. Yeah, yeah we did an event called Recharge back in February. That was really awesome. We had a bunch of speakers come up. The panel was amazing. We had Donnell of course. We had Alex. We had one of the heads of Canndescent. Yeah, it was a great time and I really liked it. I've also partnered with Dope Magazine before they got bought out by High Times.
Ricardo: Oh, I've been to your Dope parties before.
Crystal: Oh, you have. That's right. And you wore a lens. That's right. Last year. I totally forgot about that, yeah.
Ricardo: You know, I would definitely recommend other event producers in this space and out to really consider those media partnerships because I think too often they're overlooked, they're automatically assumed to not be interested. But the truth is, while your local daily newspaper might not be interested, what about that blog? What about that alt-weekly? Chances are, they might be open to the prospect of some sort of in-kind or even monetized sponsorship, partnership, donation. And, I think anything that we can do to support American media outlets, we should be doing.
Crystal: Absolutely. 100% we should be. I get that a lot of mainstream media outlets, they are afraid to advertise any cannabis brands because they might lose one of their larger non-cannabis sponsors. You've got to deal with those issues. And then I think it was Maryland, just recently banned the advertisement of cannabis.
Crystal: We're kind of fighting an uphill battle like that, but if we can get everybody joined together in some sort of unification and work on it, it's a slow moving ball, but once that ball gets rolling you can't stop the momentum.
Ricardo: Mm-hmm, that's so true. Yeah, it's a whole disaster of patchwork regulations right now, including what's happening in Canada province by province, when it comes to advertising, marketing and events. Crystal, I want to focus on this word "experiential" for a second.
Ricardo: You know, you can throw an event. Anybody can throw an event. But to throw an experiential event, can you maybe give me an example or two of an event that you're particularly proud of that you've produced that was experiential in that it really involved the brand and brought people into that brand's world, whether that brand was a media outlet like Dope, or a flower company, or a technology company, which I know you've worked with all of these.
Crystal: Yeah. Just right off the top of my head, there is a company that manufacturers terpenes. When they came on board, I paired them with an alcohol company, because they're not cannabis, they're just terpenes. So we were able to create these amazing craft cocktails with the different terpene flavors at the bar all night long, which was really awesome. Most recently, I did an event called High Tech, and at that event I got a cryptocurrency sponsor.
Crystal: So everyone who came to the events, when they RSVP'd, got a link first of all, that took them to download a Tokes Wallet, and then when they got to the event, they were given free cryptocurrency, in which we had a full market on the inside for people to come and start learning how to use crypto and see how easy it is. Because just like with anything, people really fear what they don't know, what they're unsure about. So the easiest way to get people on board with a lot of these things, cannabis or cryptocurrency for instance, is to just give it to them. Give it away for free and let it evolve. Let it evolve within them.
Ricardo: Hey, it's Ricardo Baca. You're listening to Cannabis & Main, a Civilized podcast.
Derek Riedle: Hi, it's Derek Riedle, publisher of Civilized. You know I'm a fan of Ricardo's and Cannabis & Main, and I can't thank our sponsor, Fluent Cannabis Care, enough for being fans just like me. Now, Fluent is based in sunny south Florida, where they have 12 locations and more on the way. Plus, they've go locations in Puerto Rico, in Pennsylvania, in Texas and coming soon in Michigan, where it's summer time and it's sunny right now.
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Ricardo: Hey thanks, Derek. If you missed something earlier or you want to dive deeper into any of these episodes, we post full transcripts from every single episode of Cannabis & Main at Civilized.life. Now, back to our conversation.
Ricardo: So much of this world, at least that I've found, and I want to run this by you - we are segmenting audiences when we throw events for clients. Sometimes they're going after C-Suite. We only want decision makers in the room. Other times, we are going after the opposite. We are going after budtenders. They are selling our products, they're the front line, how do we get them in the room, how do we compel them and educate them, and make them endeared to our brand so that we can move forward and know that they're going to represent us well?
Ricardo: That market segmentation is a constant challenge because you're aiming at this end of the spectrum, or this, or somewhere in between. What's an example of an event that you've thrown that you're particularly proud of in terms of reaching that demographic and also meeting them where they are?
Crystal: Sure, probably another event that you were at, which was the one in Denver for MJ Freeway.
Ricardo: Yeah, that was a beautiful dinner party.
Crystal: Thank you, thank you. Yeah, so that was an event that was specifically designed to bring in C-Suite level executives, influencers and people who are basically decision makers in Denver in the cannabis industry.
Ricardo: It was a very warm room. I always appreciate when you walk into a party and it's just elevated. You can have very high level conversations with people who can pull the trigger. The other parties are fun too, and it's fun to get down and dirty, but I need to be there to network and get the name out there and do all that, and that was a fantastic room.
Crystal: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, that was great. We had Bakked or Organa come on as a sponsor, and then Feather, which is Dom and Ben. They make really amazing vape pens. We had an edibles brand there, which was 1906. I love that brand, by the way.
Ricardo: Yeah, they do good work.
Crystal: Very good work. It's so cool. Gosh, I can't remember who else, but I flew in a producer/DJ to actually run the set for the entire dinner, and that dinner, we were expected to I think to only have 75 people day of. We had 120 RSVPs somehow. So I had to completely just hustle to accommodate everybody, but we did it.
Ricardo: That's a riot, dude.
Ricardo: So tell me about Arcane Revelry. You're a gun-for-hire. You want to throw a party? Let's talk.
Crystal: Yeah, for sure. But I do definitely choose who I work with wisely. I can't work with everyone, nor does my business model work for every brand. So it needs to be a symbiotic relationship where I can kind of take a look at what are their marketing plans, what are their goals, what do they want to do in Q1 and Q2, what do you have coming out. Then we kind of talk about what would be best to strategize not only with media announcements, but also with the event itself too.
Ricardo: And you've produced events east coast, west coast.
Crystal: Mm-hmm, New York City, Boston, Miami, New Orleans, Denver, Vegas, Seattle, Portland. It goes on and on. San Francisco, San Diego. West coast, best coast for sure.
Ricardo: Certainly some of the more lenient laws and regulatory environments for doing what we do.
Crystal: Yeah, I mean it's that too but we're just a lot more open about it I think because it was medical here for so long.
Ricardo: So long.
Crystal: But going over into Boston, whoa nelly.
Crystal: It's a little hairy there for sure. New York surprisingly, is very conservative when it comes to cannabis, but I went to an awesome party when I was in New York. There is an organization called Spleef, and it's run by this guy named Mark. He basically is doing what Arcane was doing two and a half years ago, but in New York City. So I go to this downtown Manhattan loft, go up the elevator and it opens up to a vibe. I was like, "Whoa, okay this is cool."
Ricardo: It's fantastic.
Crystal: Yeah, cannabis brands galore, music, awesome female DJ, a bar. There were like infused teas with chia seed. I mean, it was really dope for sure.
Ricardo: Hot damn. Can you illustrate for me some of the challenges that are specific to throwing events in this space, because you can throw a crypto event, and it sounds like you have, and I'm guessing that presents it's own unique challenges just as weed events.
Crystal: Yeah, definitely. You have to mitigate a lot of circumstances, for sure. One of the first things that I... I sort of have a protocol. One of the first things in that protocol is contacting my lawyer, Aaron Pelley at Cultiva Law, and having him look into the particular county where I'm going to be hosting the event to make sure that we're okay first of all, and I'm not going to jail, because I was truly afraid of that in New Orleans. I was like, "Okay, that's it. I'm going to jail. I'm going to call you. Bail me out."
Ricardo: Yeah, you guys had the CBD cocktails, you had some cool activations.
Crystal: Right, very much so, but we had no cannabis at that party because of that.
Crystal: People could bring their own and smoke outside. That's not my business, as far as what we provided. But yeah, first and foremost is checking out the legalities and making sure that I'm protecting not only my company, but my brand partners as well. Then knowing what are the laws around sampling, and what are the laws around consumption. Is it decriminalized?
Crystal: In New Orleans, it's only decriminalized in New Orleans proper, but the second you step over into Metairie, boom you're going to jail. I would also say too, finding venues that will accommodate a cannabis event can be difficult. Really, people sort of see it as there's just going to be a bunch of drugged out losers coming in here trashing my place out.
Ricardo: Of course.
Crystal: So then I have to take a deep breath and backtrack a little bit, and explain to them what it is that I actually do in the crowd that I bring. It's very, very different for sure.
Ricardo: Those first emails you send to a venue always have to be the height of professionalism, well-written, here's what we do, here's what we've done. You can trust us, in short.
Crystal: Yeah, absolutely.
Ricardo: There's also responsibilities that are specific to cannabis events, like if you have somebody passing infused appetizers, those servers absolutely need to be communicating to everybody they're giving food to, "Hey, this has 2.5 milligrams of activated THC."
Crystal: 100%. And I think that that's something that's sort of lost. A lot of events that I go to, there will be dosed edibles or there will be food out on display, but no markers of "This is cannabis infused, this isn't." For that reason, I actually do not infuse any of the food at my events, unless somebody asks for it. If somebody wants that, that's like a separate area. But for the most part, when people get high they want to eat. They want to munch. So, giving them more infused edibles could really ruin somebody's night for sure.
Ricardo: It's also tough... If I am infusing food at my own home, for example, like for a dinner party of six or eight people, much smaller than your 120 bomb parties, I like to infuse maybe the appetizer and just let it take root over the next couple of hours.
Crystal: For sure.
Ricardo: But even then, people have such wildly different tolerances that I'm of the belief that it's just kind of better. Bring your own. I'll provide a ton because we're in a private environment, and do whatever's right for you. I don't smoke.
Crystal: What's your favorite way to consume?
Crystal: Yeah, me too.
Crystal: Yeah, absolutely.
Ricardo: Wow. We're in the minority though, don't you think?
Crystal: I think so. A lot of people associate cannabis with smoking, and though I love hitting a joint especially in a social setting, my preferred method of consumption is the most natural possible way. So either actually taking the flower and cooking it into my food, or using something like a Rick Simpson oil, or sometimes even the CO2 distillate, although I'm not that big of a fan of CO2. It's good stuff. It's my favorite.
Crystal: I think it really does connect you back to nature. I think that this plant is very holistic, it has a very deep spiritual meaning for not only me but other cultures as well. I think that it's one of the most amazing things that I've seen in my lifetime, is the shift over to legalization because this plant can create for us a sustainable economy. If we were to start utilizing hemp for plastics, biofuel, bioenergy, hemp textiles for instance.
Crystal: All these different things that are finite resources that we're using now that are polluting the earth, we could create a more sustainable economy by utilizing those hemp products. Hemp can remediate soil, so plant it in Chernobyl, and it takes up all their toxins and radiations, sucks it up into the plant, and you can still use the fibers for construction or concrete. I think they call it hempcrete.
Ricardo: They do, yeah.
Crystal: Yeah, it's so great. Right now, China is the number one exporter of CBD. We could tap into that market share so easily if we just started working on kind of cultivating not only a culture, but the processing facilities it takes to get that hemp and turn it into those sustainable products. We're missing that. We haven't had hemp available to us commercially in over 100 years.
Ricardo: I know, and how fantastic is it now having a fully legal hemp plant and fully legal hemp derivatives.
Crystal: Yeah, it's amazing.
Ricardo: And of course, they're figuring out the human ingestibles today at the FDA, and hopefully they figure that out for the betterment of humanity. But you're a top event producer in this field doing fantastic work. What's your hope for the future of open cannabis consumption in the United States?
Crystal: My hope is that we can all destigmatize this plant and the ideas around it, first and foremost. That we, the people, who have been harmed by the war on drugs have some sort of redemption through this process. That's my number one goal. Second goal, to save the earth. Do great for people. Do good by people. And then to see really and truly a normalized space where we can go and consume cannabis at will like we would a bar, or a Cava tea house, or whichever.
Crystal: We really need to get onboard with educating people not only on its effects, but the laws and its benefits. I think once we do that, again what people don't know they fear. But once we educate them and really show them, I think a lot of things will change.
Ricardo: Well, with you being based here in LA, I cannot wait to see what you end up doing in the next year or two as it relates to the California laws with the fairgrounds, as it relates to the West Hollywood restaurants that are going to start opening here soon.
Ricardo: Crystal Bauer Feldman, thank you so much for joining us today.
Crystal: Thank you, Ricardo. Yeah, absolutely. It was a great time.
Ricardo: To our listeners, thanks for listening to this episode of Cannabis & Main, and we will see you next week.
Thank you for listening to Cannabis & Main. Please rate, review and subscribe on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and your app of choice. For transcripts, show notes, and more of the cannabis lifestyle coverage you crave, go to Civilized.life. The voice you heard at the beginning of the podcast was [Janilla 00:25:47] Massa, City News Toronto.
This episode was edited and produced by Jeremiah Tiddle of Native Creative Podcasts. Executive Producers are Derek Riedle and Katie Labrie. Your host is Ricardo Baca.