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Entrepreneur Melissa Carbone bringing country music to LA with Tailgate Fest

Melissa Carbone is no stranger to business start-ups. Her passion for decorating for Halloween, along with a keen business sense, led to the launch of Ten Thirty One Productions, a Los Angeles entertainment company started in 2009 specializing in horror attractions from haunted hayrides to ghost ships.  With a successful pitch on Shark Tank in 2013 which resulted in a $2M investment from Mark Cuban, Carbone and her then partner, Alyson Richards, grew the business and became highly recognized and respected female business owners in the horror entertainment industry.

With the sale of Ten Thirty One Productions earlier this year, Carbone has set out to build another empire, this time in the entertainment industry, combining music festivals and tailgating. “I started Tailgate Fest because honestly, the words that came out of my mouth to my best friend were, ‘I wish I could make a living tailgating,’ because it was what I did for fun,” says Carbone. “Every time I start a new company, I start the company because I’m elated about something that I want to do that for a living. I want to have as much fun in my career as I can in my non-career life.”

The inaugural Tailgate Fest will be held on September 1, 2018, at The Forum Grounds in Los Angeles. Headlining this year is Toby Keith with a lineup that includes Randy Houser, Nelly, Joe Nichols, David Nail, Eric Pasley, Jana Kramer, and Parmalee. “We’re bringing country to the city because those types of experiences in areas like this are the experiences that erupt and become massive hits,” says Carbone. She’s using the same concept and appeal that brought her success with her previous company. “In my last company, I created an entertainment company that created live attractions in the horror space. We created this Halloween world. We do three things here in Los Angeles. We go to restaurants, we go to movies, and we shop. I took those people and I sucked them into the woods at night into a very Americana small-town vibe and it exploded. It became an incredibly successful company that spawned an industry.” With Tailgate Fest, Carbone says, “while some people think it’s a pretty significant departure from my last venture, it’s not. I’m building this Americana country small town vibe that you cannot get in Los Angeles which is why it’s going to be a hit.”

Carbone explains “there are two main themes of the event that I call the co-nucleus pieces of the event. One is the tailgating and the other is the star-studded country music line up. Those two things are the things that I want people to grab onto. In addition to that, we are curating a world for people. The world is organically driven and built by the tailgating. I always say to people, one truck and that truck of tailgaters puts their tent up, their chairs, their grill, they have coolers, they start playing cornhole, they have beer pong… You created the content around one truck. Now, multiply that by thousands and you have a village of all of this very organic content of the things that people love most in the world: food, beverage, music, fun, games, and friends. In addition to that, we are going to bring in a cornhole competition. Literally, groups of tailgaters can compete against each other for what will become the World Cornhole Championship of Tailgate Fest.

We’re spending a lot of time on the detail of the aesthetics and how people can experience the music. For instance, one of the side stage viewing platforms will actually be a swimming pool available for certain ticketholders based on the type of ticket purchased. Talk about content and country. You can sit in the swimming pool, side stage, with a beer in your hand, and watch Toby Keith.”

As for Carbone’s vision for Tailgate Fest, she tells us “I think everybody starts a business with a definite vision of growth in mind. I feel like Tailgate Fest can manifest itself in a lot of different ways as this big giant country music festival. It can become a multi-day music festival, or it can also be smaller things like pop-up events where we roll into beach parking lots to celebrate the start of football season with a bunch of jumbotrons. For me, this is literally a labor of love, a vision, like it was with the LA Haunted Hayride.”

Carbone’s key to success?  “I’m a huge believer in activation being the bridge between ideas and your best life. I think everybody has ideas and if you activate on that idea, that’s where the good stuff happens. That’s where you start living your best life. That’s where societal change happens. That’s where anything great happens. For me, I am a fun addict. I don’t want one minute of my time being spent doing something I don’t want to do. I’m highly focused on the things that I love, and I’m passionate in all the different corners of my life. When there is something that I want more of, I can’t not go after it. That’s how Tailgate Fest was born. I love tailgating so much. I love being with my friends, I love dancing to music, and eating great food, and having a beer on the back of my truck. If I could have more of that, sign me up.”

Truck for Tailgate Fest

As with any business, there are challenges business owners face. Carbone is no exception. “There are challenges every day. Are they gargantuan challenges or are they small challenges? You overcome challenges by continuing to move forward. If you let a challenge stop you, the only way you fail is to not get back up and keep moving. I can’t stress enough not letting a challenge be a deterrent. Challenge is a really good thing; it teaches you a new skill, and I think failing is a great thing because failing teaches you what not to do. I think if you fail, you have to take that information, use it as data, reprocess it, get back up, and start again. It’s the best lesson that there is. I’ve had all kinds of challenges from launching attractions that flopped, business partnerships that went south, and monetary struggles. I just think that as long as you are making the choice, and that’s where it goes back to what I said earlier, making the choice and then activating. As long as you’re making the choice to keep doing this until you get there, you will not “not” figure it out, you’ll just keep moving forward.”

As a female entrepreneur, Carbone would like to see more women involved in business and stressed, “There needs to be more female presence everywhere. Not just on the artist side, but on the business side as well. Live Nation just launched this awesome fun promo called Women’s Nation Fund which is there to support females in the music industry on the promoting side, the managing side, and the idea side. Tailgate Fest being founded by a woman and being executed and built by a woman is a proud moment for me.”

Carbone offered some advice for female entrepreneurs. “What do you want to spend all of your time doing? Make the choice to figure out how to model that into a career and then just go. Make the choice to go after exactly what you want, and once you make that choice, activate hard. There have been times where people have looked at me like I had three heads. I quit my cushy high paying job in corporate America to launch a haunted hayride in Los Angeles! They thought I was crazy for doing that. That didn’t matter to me. I think that’s the other important lesson here is that the words and notions of others just can’t matter. If somebody says, ‘you’re a fool, how can you do that?’ In my mind, I’m like, ‘I don’t think I am a fool.’ Either you’ll be right, or they’ll be right, but I’m still going to do it. Once I know I’m going to do it, I know I’m going to do it.”

Tickets are on-sale NOW!! For full ticket descriptions and detailed festival map, visit

Tara Low



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