THIS IS THE START OF EVERY REGION HAVING ITS OWN MAJOR FESTIVAL!
Posted on Wed, Nov. 14, 2007
Two festivals pitched to rock Fairmount Park
By Dan DeLuca
Inquirer Music Critic
From Live Aid to Live 8, Philadelphia has hosted its share of mega-concerts.
But next summer, a proposed multiday music festival in Fairmount Park could draw even more people to town than those global music events.
Call it Philapalooza.
Today, the Fairmount Park Commission is scheduled to meet to vote on whether to approve a recommendation by the park's fund-raising wing, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, to contract with C3 Presents to hold a three-day festival in August, featuring 90 to 120 music acts, on Belmont Plateau.
C3, based in Austin, Texas, is the nation's third-largest concert promoter and produces the annual Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza music festivals. Austin City Limits drew 225,000 people to Zilker Park in September, and Lollapalooza pulled in 159,000 to Chicago's Grant Park in August, according to Pollstar, the magazine that monitors the concert industry.
Each included scores of acts, with headliners such as Pearl Jam, Amy Winehouse and Philadelphia's the Roots at Lollapalooza, and Bob Dylan, Björk and the White Stripes at Austin City Limits. According to C3, each contributed mightily to local economies: Austin City Limits has generated an economic impact of $129 million since its inception in 2002, and Lollapalooza $106 million since 2005.
However, at today's 1 p.m. public meeting at the Horticultural Center, C3's plan won't be the only one on the table. The Fairmount Park Commission also will consider a proposal for a multiday festival next summer from Electric Factory Concerts, the longtime Philadelphia company now owned by Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter.
In a statement last week, the conservancy deemed the C3 bid preferable, in part due to the company's "experience producing multiday, multi-stage concerts." The conservancy also cited C3's willingness to pay for all city-related expenses and contribute $500,000 or 7.5 percent of gross ticket sales, whichever is greater, to the conservancy.
The conservancy aims to raise awareness and money for the 9,200-acre Fairmount Park system, which takes up 11 percent of the city's land, according to conservancy director Katrina L. Wilhelm. She declined to comment yesterday on the proposals.
A C3 'palooza is by no means a done deal. Electric Factory, which books concerts at the Tweeter Center in Camden, the Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia, and many other venues throughout the region, is looking to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2008.
In an interview, Electric Factory head Larry Magid said his company had been inquiring about staging a festival next summer at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts when it got wind of the C3 bid.
"Coincidentally, someone else had an idea, too," Magid said. He said it was too early to talk about acts that might play a two- or three-day festival promoted by Electric Factory.
"We've done a lot of things in the city over the years - from Live Aid to Live 8," Magid said before heading to Toronto for a concert by Stevie Wonder, whose tour he is promoting. "And we go all the way back to the Atlantic City Pop Festival in 1969."
Asked about a report in the Philadelphia Daily News that he was "outraged" about C3's proposal, and that he had told the Texans "if you're going to come to my town, you'd better bring a gun," Magid said: "That's silly. I'm not going to get drawn into that."
The competition between Electric Factory and C3 - whose executives declined to comment for this article, but are set to attend the commission meeting - can be seen as a new front in the turf war between Live Nation, a division of Clear Channel, and smaller promoters over the growing festival market.
In the first nine months this year, Live Nation reported 27.9 million tickets sold worldwide, according to Pollstar. Its closest competition, AEG of Los Angeles, tallied 8.5 million. C3 - named after its "three Charlies," Jones, Attal and Walker - came in third, with 761,000.
Throughout this decade, several annual music festivals around the country have risen to prominence, from Coachella in California in April to Bonnaroo in Tennessee in June to Vegoose in Las Vegas at Halloween, all produced by Live Nation competitors.
"Live Nation controls much of the concert market," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar. "And they have said that they want to do more festivals."
Meanwhile, C3 has proved itself "by developing two significant festivals, and by reviving the Lollapalooza brand," he said. Lollapalooza was established by Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell in 1991, and toured as a traveling alt-rock circus until 1997 before being successfully relaunched in 2005.
"What's interesting about that is that they did that in Chicago, a market they had no presence in," Bongiovanni said. "Their festivals are run very well. When you're the little guy, you've got to do everything perfect."