Drake performs at Uncommon Entertainment's 2022 Super Bowl event in Los Angeles
Founded in 2021, Uncommon Entertainment’s swift rise in the world of cultural events has been nothing short of meteoric.
In the two short years the company has been operating, the team led by Josh Zipkowitz and Jake Nussbaum has facilitated, organized and produced over-the-top celebrations and events for some of the biggest stars in today’s market.
Starting with the inaugural Palm Tree Festival with multi-platinum producer and DJ Kygo, Uncommon Entertainment has worked with Drake and Justin Bieber, co-created on-site events with Coachella, Miami’s Art Basel, the Super Bowl and more. But while lots of event producers can claim A-list headliners, Uncommon Entertainment prides itself on curating spaces that A-listers want to spend their time in, even when they’re not on the bill.
We caught up with Zipkowitz and Nussbaum as they drove to their next big event (with an undisclosed A-list Coachella regular) to see exactly how the world’s best parties come to life and what we can expect in the future.
Jake Nussbaum and Josh Zipkowitz of Uncommon Entertainment
Tell us a bit about your history. How did you get here?
Josh Zipkowitz: I was the cliche high school academic failure and quick college dropout; the 18 year old nightclub promoter in NYC. After quickly realizing it wasn't a long term path for me but rather a springboard to what was next, I had a brief stint working for Billy McFarland at Magnises in 2014, networking through the city, setting up member-benefit driven partnerships in the hospitality realm. Six months later, I was running my own membership-based hospitality concierge which led me to eventually run and grow the events division at In the Know Experiences for five years. After the company was sold and turned into purely a travel agency, Jake and I knew it was time to act on our years of visualizing what we could do differently in a notoriously crowded space.
Jake Nussbaum: I was an athlete growing up, so as is every kid's dream, I wanted to go pro. When I quickly realized that was not going to happen, I knew I wanted to work in sports in some capacity. I went to Umass Amherst graduating with a sport management degree, landing an internship at a company that was a connector between brands and athletes. The company also produced a large event at the Super Bowl. With the company being small, I got thrown into the fire immediately, learning the ins and outs of the event business. I simply put my head down, worked hard and networked with as many people as people, while always making sure that I was a good person and did great work. Now, Josh and I have a team of rockstars alongside us and have worked with some of the biggest artists in the world on exclusive events that we ideate, fund, curate and produce.
Justin Bieber performing at Uncommon Entertainment's Super Bowl 2022 event in Los Angeles
What’s it like to produce events and experiences for some of the biggest cultural movers in the world?
Zipkowitz: We constantly have to remind ourselves (and our team) that despite working with A-List artists (Drake, Justin Bieber, Post Malone, Coldplay, Travis Scott, Dave Chapelle, Kygo, Disclosure and The Chainsmokers, just to name a few), we never can let it get to our heads and remain humble throughout the process. Especially with many of our events being comfortable for celebrities to attend casually, we strive to create our spaces with that in mind; putting our guests, partners and artists first. Practically speaking, my favorite moments at events are when I finally get a second to breathe, take in a special performance, and have a moment of gratitude for being able to curate a special experience for so many people. To see months of hard work peak at a single moment is a special feeling, to say the least. Jake and I have even had a few teary eyed moments together on stage, but we'll never admit to it.
Nussbaum: It’s humbling, to be honest. We have been producing events for the last eight years, and while that might sound like a long time, there are event producers that have been doing this for 25 years, plus. We consider ourselves outliers, or "Uncommon" to the norm, as we truly work to create an elevated experience from start to finish that you cannot get anywhere else. A good example of this thorough process has led us to producing the most elevated event at the Super Bowl the last two years with Drake and The H.Wood Group.
Post Malone performing at a recent Uncommon Entertainment event
What’s one thing you had to learn on the job?
Zipkowitz: Everything. This business wasn't learned formally for us, and it really was a learn-as-you-go kind of mentality. The biggest thing for me has been continuing to improve [the management of] what feels like a million moving pieces at once, ensuring nothing gets overlooked that could impact the success of an event. This also plays into how we treat our partners, living with an over-deliver mentality to ensure long-term relationships.
Nussbaum: I second that. Everything to be honest. I had zero experience in the events world just a few years ago, and all I felt I knew was how to communicate with people the correct way, manage, lead and close. We learned on the fly and quickly surrounded ourselves with the best people and partners, including our rockstar team that all have specialized roles they are experts in. This includes technical production, staffing, operations, front/back of house and VIP services, sponsorship management and artist relations. I've learned that the team is the most important element to a company. Without them, it is impossible to execute at the highest level.
Drake performing at Uncommon Entertainment's Super Bowl 2022 event
What’s been your biggest event to date?
Zipkowitz: Definitely our Super Bowl activations in Los Angeles in 2022. In partnership with our close friends and partners at H.Wood Group, we built a pop-up venue in West Hollywood at the Pacific Design Center which turned into the hotspot for the who's who of the big game weekend. Home to about 3,000 guests per night, we brought together an insanely curated crowd to watch Justin Bieber and Drake perform in an intimate setting on back to back nights. Simultaneously, we were hired by the host team to produce the annual Owner's Dinner, which we built out on the roof of the PDC in a custom, 20,000 square-foot tent. That brought together the NFL team owners to enjoy a curated evening of fun, and a special performance by Chris Martin of Coldplay to end the evening.
Nussbaum: Size-wise was the Palm Tree Music Festival 2022 in the Hamptons with Kygo and Disclosure. The event had over 7,500 people on five-acres of land at a private airport in The Hamptons. We are planning to hit 10,000 this year.
Palm Tree Music Festival, 2022
What’s been the most difficult?
Zipkowitz: The first ever Palm Tree Music Festival in 2021 that we produced in partnership with [Kygo’s manager] Myles [Shear], Kygo and the PTC team, which was our first ever music festival production. The logistics and planning process in bringing together 5,000 guests in a raw space at Westhampton Gabreski Airport was no easy feat. We learned a lot along the way, which set us up for an even bigger festival in 2022. We only received our permit roughly 45 days out, and it was a nonstop grind for six weeks to make it happen. I vividly remember getting the call that it was happening and not being able to sleep that night, thinking “how are we going to pull this off?”
Nussbaum: Saying no. Fortunately, we have been contacted by a number of people to produce events for them, and the most challenging thing is to say no. Many times, people do not realize how hard it is to execute high profile moments, so we are strategic with the projects we take on.
Coldplay performing at the 2022 NFL Owners' Dinner
How do you ideate the creative direction for these events?
Zipkowitz: With events and live entertainment so much so in the forefront of people's minds (especially in the post-pandemic era), there is a lot of smoke to shine through and stand out. Our motto, as inferred by our company name, is really to be different in everything we do, in all ways. Our business model is unique in that almost all of our projects are funded, conceptualized, produced and operated entirely by our company, in-house. We do not piecemeal various specialized vendors together to execute on our vision, like others mainly do in the space. This allows us to align with the right lifestyle partners, sponsors and artists to develop the creative vision that we know our audience enjoys.
Nussbaum: We have numerous team and partner calls per event. Usually, we will plan around a theme, the artist or the location to develop a look and feel for the project that will stand out and be different—Uncommon). Once we agree to a mood board and theme, we will develop everything off of that.
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What do you do to prepare for the big day?
Zipkowitz: In the long term, the prep really begins on day one of a project, making sure we hit our timelines on all fronts. In the short term, a lot of water and sleep the night before, and a short pep talk with Jake to share a moment of gratitude together. Funny as it sounds, on event day itself, I try to be away from the venue as much as possible with full trust in our team to execute like we always do.
Nussbaum: Great question. I think my days of being an athlete helped me with my pre-event prep. I always check on my team first to make sure there is nothing else needed from my end to each element of the event. From there, I will make sure I hydrate, eat something and take a deep breath, and appreciate the moment as to what we just built from scratch. Staying positive and energized is key to making sure that others around you feel the same way.
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Any fun anecdotes you’d like to share?
Zipkowitz: We've been fortunate to have produced two shows with Drake during the past two Super Bowl weekends in Los Angeles and Scottsdale. Given his global status, we wanted to ensure we went above and beyond for him and his team to develop a long term working relationship. At both shows, we decided to invest in building a bespoke OVO (Drake's lifestyle brand) branded compound for him to use as he pleased.
Lined with custom decor, projection mapping and casino tables, both years Drake surprised us by inviting a handful of high-profile guests back to hang out until late. While not our intended purpose, as the area was really meant to be a pre-show lounge of sorts, we were happy to host. Let's just say this past year had one of the most legendary blackjack tables of all time; a few all-star professional athletes, a supermodel and a well known music executive.
Any last thoughts as we close out?
Zipkowitz: As corny as it sounds, we always say “good things happen to good people.” We treat our partners, artists and guests right, and have maintained strong relationships in the industry. We believe that staying focused and working harder than anyone else will result in good things happening.
Expect our upward trend to continue with exciting, inventive and “Uncommon” concepts from us in the next year and beyond. Our entire business is built on alignment with lifestyle partners who believe in us and that can co-develop exciting concepts that will bring good vibes all around. Stay tuned for a big philanthropic focused project mid-2023!
Photography by: Courtesy of Uncommon Entertainment