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Published: 2009/08/08
by Mike Greenhaus

Lollapalooza Industry Chatter with Perry Farrell

MG: It’s interesting that you specifically mention a band like Kings of Leon because they are group that has really benefited from the festival circuit. I remember seeing them at Lollapalooza a couple years ago when they were just a support act and now they are a co-headliner.

PF: Yeah, well you know. They blew up this year. There is no doubt about that. They hit the perfect demographic: they are the perfect age, they are the perfect demographic. I see that when I look [online]. You know, we have this very interesting set up now with Facebook and iPhone where you can put together your own festival schedule. And when you put your schedule together and say, “I’m going to see Jane’s Addiction or whomever,” you can register with other people on Facebook that are going to see them. So I kind of get to see, in a very interesting way, what this demographic of computer users are listening to these days. And, you know, it’s an interesting read, for me anyway. More and more people want to go out, we have never had such good numbers, and we have been a festival for 18 years.

MG: I was actually surprised how well most festivals are selling this summer. With the economy in such bad shape, I thought this would be the summer festivals really struggled.

PF: And it wasn’t always so. It started out it was so. And what happened was, around 1997, people didn’t really give a hoot about festivals, especially the musicians. The musicians were all full of themselves by that time and the hot, fresh group would also want to go out as a headliner. And there was enough interest and action in the music industry at that time that you can book somebody on a hit. There was a point where we’d say, “these people called the Smashing Pumpkins from Chicago—it is their first big record and it is their first big festival, all these kids are listening to the newest groups.” But, as FM declines, and record sales and CD sales decline, you find that music listeners are people who are on the computer a lot are more. People that are computer savvy. People that have time to get on Facebook are now a certain demographic in the music industry. It’s interesting.

MG: No, most definitely. Did you find that when you guys were booking the festival this year that you kind of, were spending more time seeing who had more Facebook and MySpace friends than who had big album sales this year?

PF: Well, you know, I can’t necessarily say that it had a lot to do with MySpace but, I will tell you this, when we, we have, there’s a triad of partners. We have C3 out in Austin, Texas. They have live venues out in Austin, Texas and they do SXSW too—and they have Stubbs, which is like their premier stage. Then we have William Morris who booked the whole world and they are reading things from Pollstar, etc. And then there’s me and I’m a musician and help program from that angle. I love to cruise music blogs. So I’m kind of a computer guy. So I’m getting my reads off of the music blogs. The music blogs are passing around remixes and stuff. That’s how I’m bringing my list of artists who I want that year. So it’s kind of a well rounded thing, but the Internet plays a big part of it for my estimations and my decisions, you know? I’m cruising the Internet all year.

MG: Lollapalooza has made a point of booking at least one marquee jamband like Widespread Panic, moe., the Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee and The Duo since re-launching as a single-weekend event. This year STS9 is playing one of the festival’s main performance spaces. I know you first collaborated with STS9 while on a snowboarding trip a few years ago. What initially drew you to that group in particular?

PF: It was just one of those things where I just admired that they were a group, you know that they performed. It’s wonderful to know electronics. But I’ll tell you, in the early ‘90’s, you know, electronic music and house music, people were calling themselves DJ superstars and it was a big deal, right? But, then the rave acts hit, and Disco Donny got arrested for selling ecstasy out of his club. Even though it wasn’t him, it was some guy who had ecstasy and the Rave Act, what it said was that anyone caught with drugs in your club qualifies you, the promoter as a drug dealer, and it wiped out the scene for a long time. It wiped out the scene in New York. But, it never died in Europe, and it kept on developing here but just underground. And, with the festival starting to include electronic music more and more, and I think it reached an apex with Goth Punk because of what they did. But they were very smart, they said, “We are going to put a great live show together” and they might still be just doing the same thing that the guy in the club does but with a robot mask and a pyramid full of lights, but its effective. And it makes people feel like they are still getting a show when they go out. With STS9, I appreciated their performance. I appreciated their working with electronic music and they were performing with it. You know they had live strings, instrumentalists. It was just the kind of thing where I just admire what they do.

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