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Warped Tour Boss Says Big Festivals Need To Change Their Game

Written by Nastassia Baroni on March 13, 2015

Vans Warped Tour founder and boss Kevin Lyman gave a TEDx talk this week, where he addressed the necessary changes that need to take place in the music festival industry. Lyman spoke about the need to adjust the festival experience so that it’s not solely reliant on big headlining acts.

Lyman’s talk focused on what he says is a gap in the festival market for people in the 24-29 age bracket – the punters most burdened with things like time constraints, debt and larger existential questions about their life’s direction. To get them on board, Lyman says his industry faces the not so simple task of addressing these issues.

Part of that challenge is fighting back against what he calls “the Walmartisation” of music festivals into big budget productions. “Big box festivals are turning up all over the country,” Lyman told the audience gathered at California State Polytechnic University. “You throw up three stages, you find a parking lot, you charge kids a bunch of money – for the same bands.”

“We have to build festivals that are locally driven and locally created for you,” he added. “We need to give you something more than just going out to watch big giant headliners.”

Lyman’s plan is to start a “whole new movement” in festivals, where the draw of big ticket acts is replaced by more intimate experiences with artists, including even personal teaching sessions.

“We’re creating movements so you have these one-on-one experiences with those artists,” he explains. “Special experiences. Up close experiences that you may not get at some of these festivals, especially when the stage is 20 ft high.”

If they can build brand loyalty, he says, “we don’t have to be driven by going out and buying this big talent. You want to be there because you’re party of the community.”

Lyman also indicated he would be moving away from the multi-day festival model. “Why does every festival have to be three days?” he asked. He said he will be organising “a whole world of one day festivals” that will be launched very soon. “Those will be the successful ones,” he added. “Because they’re affordable.”

Watch a stream of the talk below. Note Lyman’s address begins around the 2.49.00 mark.

Gallery: Vans Warped Tour Australia 2013, Melbourne / Photos by Aleksandar Jason

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