Perez Hilton's "Liston to This" section of his website where he recommends new music.
Say what you will about the lightning-rod that is celebrity blogger Perez Hilton (nee Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr.), the fact is the man lives for music and has spent the last decade championing music he believes in. With the announcement of" "Pop Up" #1, a compilation he produced slated for August, .Biz spoke with Perez about his gym-ready project, why his 2009 tour failed, his collection of gold and platinum records and his dream festival.
Billboard.biz: Congratulations on the new compilation.
Perez Hilton: Thanks! I'm super excited about it.
Is there a single?
Perez Hilton No, not that I'm aware of.
Is there one track you feel could be a single or a lead track or maybe is your favorite?
No, I really love all of them.
They're all very different…
I know, that's what I love about them. They're all very different, but to me they're all very pop.
There's stuff that really heavy trance or EDM or more like Lady Gaga and one that's bit trip-hoppy…the press release lumped it all under eclectic dance music
I wouldn't call it dance music, I would call it a pop compilation. And that's why they call it "Pop Up," because to me, all of these are pop songs, they just explore different aspects of pop.
Which track do you think could make it onto the Hot 100 or get radio airplay or be the song of the summer a la Carly Rae Jepsen?
I'm not looking at it that way. I'm looking at it as a collective body of work. My inspiration and the light bulb that went off doing this "Pop Up" was a few things: It was like well, I have an opportunity to do something cooler than "Now! That's What I Call Music" because that's kind of lame, and I don't think my "Pop Up" compilation is lame. I think it's really cool. They do very well, and that's great, but that's not what I'm interested in doing. What I love is when everything is real and organic. I'm not one of those people to just do something for a paycheck. I have no interested in that, I'm not motivated by money. It's not my number one priority. I wouldn't have done this unless I thought I could bring something to the table that was special and different and make it cool. I don't think anybody is really quite doing this. That excited me.
What also excited me is when something is organic and when several of my passions and interests combine in one-not only am I passionate about music, but I'm also passionate about inspiring people to be healthier, and I'm constantly looking for new music for my gym mix. I do something active every single day, literally, and I need new music for my gym music. If you don't have good music, you don't have good workouts, in my book. All of these songs are perfect for the gym. There's none that I would want to work out to that are depressing or too slow.
How'd you find these artists? Did they come to you pitching demos?
All of these artists I've already mentioned on my website. I had already recommended their songs. So, this is just me going through all of my recommendations from the last several months and putting together a possible mix and seeing what songs I think would work together and would flow.
How do you first find them?
Through word of mouth, mostly. People emailing me, knowing what kind of songs I like… readers, followers, friends…
And you actually sit down and listen to all the recommendations?
Yes! Music is my passion. I love it. I live it, I breathe it. Even though some people might be skeptical of me or make fun of me or some people might not welcome or embrace me, I think that a lot of musicians - I don't care music journalists, readers or whomever - respect me because they know I will only post things that I genuinely like. Because God knows and labels know and artists know if I don't like something, I'm not going to post it. I'm not going to recommend it if I don't like it. That, to me, is so important: my integrity, my words. You know, I like this, I listen to this, I think this is awesome. Also, artists have seen that in addition to being a big music lover, I have been able to help a lot of successful artists when they were starting out along the way.
Who are some of those artists?
I would never take credit for anybody's success, but it has been exciting for me to champion, really, a lot of artists that have then gone on to be very successful. From the very beginning, I was championing artists back in 2005 and 2006 like Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse before other people. Then it was Mika to Adele to Lady Gaga to Katy Perry. One of my most prized possessions in life is this collection of gold and platinum albums that I have at my place that were sent to me by artists to thank me for helping them. I've never asked a single one of these people for them, they just send them to me because they're happy. I have them from Adele, Amy Winehouse, Gaga, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, The Ting-Tings.
Were you into the first Amy Winehouse record?
Well, I didn't catch on that early, but before the second one was released - like, literally the week "Rehab" came out before it hit the charts in the U.K., I happened to be in London. So, I was lucky enough to hear it the week it came out, and I was like "Woah, this is amazing!" And it was way before it was a huge hit in the U.K. and a whole lot longer before it hit America.
The Ting-Tings, Eric Hutchinson, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Adele, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse and The Jonas Brothers all hsent me gold and platinum plaques. It is one of the things I am proudest of. It makes me so happy looking at all of that and having all of the memories and knowing I was able to help. I love music, and I love sharing it with people.
What's also really cool about what I'm doing now with this compilation is that it's coming full circle. In college [at NYU], I was that dude that would make mixed CDs - it was past the mixtape era - and I would give them to all of my friends. It kind of became this really coveted thing - people would be like "When are you coming out with your next one?" because I always put together a really eclectic, cool collection of songs.
You're working with a label called Opus, which was founded by [as the press release says] "two fashion and music visionaries." How did you hook up with them?
I worked with them in the past, they did a limited edition T-shirt for me when I did my ill-fated tour back in 2009. But just because the tour wasn't a huge success doesn't mean… I've learned probably more from my mistakes than I have from my successes, and I'm unafraid of just trying new things, and I'm unafraid of failing. And if this is the only compilation I do, then I had a great time making it and being very involved in everything.
What did you do?
I handpicked every single artist and song on the collection; I said exactly what I envisioned for the artwork, for the merchandise, for the T-shirts that come with the downloadable album. The whole concept was all my vision. If nobody agrees with my vision, if nobody likes it, do I care? Of course I care, but would I regret having done it? No.
How did the project begin?
They approached me, saying, "Hey, would you be interested in doing your own music compilation?" I had never done one before and in the past when I had worked with them, it was just a T-shirt for the tour-a tour T-shirt with music from all of the artists from the tour. It was a really cool tour at the time, I had Ladyhawke, Eric Hutchinson, Semi Precious Weapons, I had Ida Maria, Julian Perretta, Frankmusik, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, who are no longer-they changed their name to something else, and then they ultimately broke up. But I really loved their music, they were so cool.
You said you learn from your mistakes, why do you think your 2009 tour failed?
I kind of knew from the beginning that it was going to fail. I kept voicing my concerns loudly over and over and over and over again-I'm not here to throw anybody under a bus. At the end of the day, you're the one that needs to be held accountable and responsible for everything. But I knew, right away, that the ticket price was too high.
Who were you working with on a tour?
It was with a touring agent. I don't want to mention them, I take accountability for the tour not working…
How big were the venues?
That was another problem. The venues, I knew, were way too big, and the ticket price was way too high. But they needed the large venue to justify the cost?
Were they arenas?
No, it was a venue like Irving Plaza in New York, or the Avalon in Los Angeles. Like 2,000. I thought it should have been in venues that were like 600. I would have rather it be sold out and had a low ticket price and great demand and everybody talking about it so then I could have done it again. I didn't do it to make any money, and I didn't make any money. I would have loved to get more money from sponsorships to help cover costs so we could have had a lower ticket price, but I wasn't able to raise that much money through sponsorships in that short amount of time. The biggest thing I learned is that you need a headliner. I kind of didn't believe in the concept of a headliner. I'm like 'I love all of these acts!' But you need a headliner, people want a headliner.
You had the Gossip in LA and that sold out, right? They were leaked as a special guest. Do you think you'll take your new compilation artits on a tour?
No, I don't want to do a tour, either. I learned from that. I would actually rather do a festival, that's definitely more of my dream. My whole thought about doing the tour originally was that I wanted to make it like a festival. And I also realized that's really hard, there's a reason why Lilith Fair didn't work out.
Would the fest be more like a Coachella, Lollapalooza, or Electric Daisy Festival?
None of those. What I would really like to do is start a festival inspired by the brand I'm trying to create. I'm calling these compilations "Pop Up." I would love to start Pop Fest; I would call it Pop Fest. Because to me, the word "pop" is so universal. It's a big umbrella where a lot of different genres can fit into that. I would have everybody from Kanye West to Taylor Swift perform at my Pop Fest because both of them to me are pop artists, even though one is predominantly working in hip-hop and the other predominantly working in country music.