The Creative Partnership of Imagine Music Festival Founders Glenn & Maddy Goodhand
Imagine Music Festival
Many of the world’s most sought-after festivals are legacy affairs—the first EDC was held in 1991, the first Creamfields in 1998, and the first Coachella in 1999. Compared to these events with decades under their belts, Atlanta’s Imagine Music Festival—which debuted in 2014—is a relative newcomer.
However, it has all the trappings of a destination festival: camping, pools, amusement rides, and yoga workshops. And just by peeking at this year’s lineup alone, you can tell that the team behind Imagine is good at what they do—and has been at it for years, even prior to the festival’s first iteration.
Glenn Goodhand founded IRIS Presents, the event production company that manages Imagine, in 1996, and after a brief hiatus to attend law school and work in commercial real estate, he revamped the company with his wife, Madeleine (Maddy) in 2011.
We chatted with Glenn and Maddy Goodhand about building an event from scratch, using their complementary skills to work together as a team, and what’s in store for festivalgoers at Imagine’s first event since 2019.
Imagine Music Festival
How did you both get involved in the dance music scene?
Maddy: It started more as a passion for electronic music, which turned into a lifestyle for us. Glenn began as a b-boy in the party scene up in New York City and then got his start as a promoter in Atlanta. At the time, the scene there was burgeoning, but not giving any indication that it would be as big as some of the other metro areas across the States. That was the primary thinking behind Glenn’s involvement in the scene—wanting to replicate what he had seen in NYC while also putting his own spin on it. In the mid to late ‘90s, the electronic dance music scene was being shaped by pioneers like Glenn, who set the tone for what you see today.
So tell me about the very beginning of IRIS Presents. What was the scene like when you started? And after your hiatus, what was it like to re-establish IRIS?
Glenn: I started it back in 1996, which was a pivotal point in Atlanta’s history. We had the Olympics coming and a lot of transplants calling this city home, which made the scene ripe with opportunity, but also infused a lot of other styles from other cities into Atlanta’s vibe. It was a lot of fun and each week we brought in a full production and had to have everything loaded out by 7am. After I met Maddy, who had never been to IRIS events in the past, but kept hearing about them from old ravers, it was clear that we needed to re-introduce it to the new emerging scene, which we did in 2011.
Tell me more about the urge to revamp IRIS. What made you want to take this step to turn your love of dance music into a career?
Glenn: That was more from Maddy’s urging and what felt like an obligation to teach the "kids" what a real party looked like. She knew how to market in the new media age and helped transform the IRIS brand into a proper company. And we have definitely achieved that, building beyond shows at venues across Atlanta to the biggest dance music festival in the southeast—and owning our own venue. We regularly receive “Best Of” accolades across the board that help validate our efforts beyond our passion.
Imagine Music Festival
And I’m sure that your success is also due to your teamwork and the unique skills that you both bring to the table. Can you tell me about the roles you both play and how you make a perfect team?
Maddy: What makes us a great team is our ability to understand each other better than anyone and fill the gaps in each other's skills. We have a shared vision for Imagine, which continues to grow, with each of us contributing where we best see fit. Glenn is more on the artist side, production and promotions—he is always online and interacting with our guests. I enjoy spending time on creative and marketing, but also on the foundation and planning of our business. Together, our strengths and the things we like to do complement each other perfectly.
When was the first time you remember having the idea to start Imagine? How has the festival evolved since your initial vision?
Maddy: It always was an idea that lived in the back of our minds. You can be limited when you produce and promote events in spaces you do not own and control. You want to transform the space and people’s experiences, but the ideas are often more significant than what you are allowed to do. Imagine is the manifestation of all those ideas, which continue to grow.
In terms of a lot of massive, destination festivals on this scale, Imagine is relatively new. To what do you attribute your massive growth into a widely recognized name and brand?
Maddy: I would not necessarily think of us as new when there seems to be a new concept popping up each month/year. For us, our growth is rooted in our persistence and unwillingness to compromise. We are the largest independent festival in the southeast and possibly the country, which allows us to do things some of the bigger entities can’t. We maintain a fiercely loyal fanbase, and we listen. Our guests have helped shape Imagine as much as anyone, and that keeps them coming back—and us growing.
Imagine Music Festival
What makes Imagine stand out from other similar festivals?
Maddy: We are the aquatic fairytale! We want Imagine to be an immersive experience, from the moment they enter the gates to the experiences throughout, and a lineup that rivals some of the biggest festivals globally.
Anything new in store for this year? Can audiences still look forward to more of the plethora of experiences beyond the music (camping, pool parties, workshops, etc.) you’ve offered in years past?
Glenn: Much of what fans have come to love in past years will return, but we are also making the experiences bigger and better. We have two years to build upon previous incarnations, making improvements to some while also pushing the envelope to bring a new environment to Imagine as a whole. The pool parties will be better than ever, which is one of the most popular activities at Imagine each year. And the new venue is absolutely breathtaking. Stay tuned to our social feeds for some surprises yet to be announced.
Yes, a lot can change—and grow—in two years. This is your first year back since COVID derailed things in 2020 and Hurricane Nicholas canceled the event in 2021. How have you weathered these past years, what have you learned, and how does it feel to be finally back?
Maddy: It definitely has been challenging, but Imagine is a strong brand. Instead of buying into the frustration of things we had no control over, we focused on making this the biggest and best Imagine yet.