When Metallica recently announced that its first North American music festival would feature appearances by indie-centric bands like Arctic Monkeys, Modest Mouse and Best Coast, some questioned how those artists would go over with dyed-in-the-wool Metallica fans.
During an early February web telecast to announce the event, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich explained that the band wanted a diverse group of artists to perform at its first festival. "If you took our four iPods and scanned through them, you'd find the biggest variety and diversity of music," Ulrich said. "So we're trying to bring that spirit to the festival."
Aside from Metallica, the only other metal bands that have been announced for Orion Music + More -- to be held June 23-24 at Bader Field in Atlantic City, N.J. -- are Avenged Sevenfold, the Sword and Liturgy. Other acts on the lineup include psychedelic pioneer Roky Erickson and blues-rocker Gary Clark, Jr. Metallica will headline both nights of the festival, playing the "Black Album" in its entirety one night and "Ride The Lightning" all the way through the other.
Orion Music + More will contain multiple music stages for at least 22 bands and a myriad array of events that the band has termed "lifestyle elements" relating to each member's particular interests. Tickets for the event, which is being produced in conjunction with Austin-based promoter C3 Presents ( No. 33 on Billboard Power 100), went on sale Feb. 11 for $150 for a two-day pass.
C3 partner Charlie Walker says that in his experience with producing large-scale music festivals like Chicago's Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits in Texas, festival-goers are looking for musical diversity in a lineup.
"Whenever I see kids at Lollapalooza or ACL, they always tell me that one of their favorite parts of the festival is going out and seeing something might not have ordinarily seen or bought a ticket to, because they didn't know enough about the band," Walker tells Billboard.biz. "It's really about being wide open across everything from punk to country and having people exploring multiple genres and multiple types of bands."
The promoter understands, however, how some Metallica fans might be confused about the festival's indie-centric lineup. "I'm sure some people have a vision of what they think it is because it's Metallica, but I think they'll have a different understanding of what it is after they come and see it," he says.
So will more metal-leaning acts be added to Orion Music + More? "I think we'll try and stick with diversity. You'll see some more hard rock bands, you'll see some more alternative bands," Walker says. "We're certainly not consciously trying to lean it hard rock or indie -- we're trying to make it balanced."
Walker says that the festival's "lifestyle elements" are still being discussed. But he notes that those elements will be based around "stuff that ties back to the guys as a band and individuals," which could include everything from film and art to skateboarding, motorcycles and surfing.
Meanwhile, Walker estimates that the capacity of Bader Field is about 60,000, but declined to give an estimate of how many fans might attend Orion Music + More. During the web telecast to announce the festival, Metallica explained that Atlantic City would be the perfect spot for a festival because it's accessible to fans in both North America and Europe. Walker says that Red Light Management founding partner Coran Capshaw -- whose clients Dave Matthews Band has performed at Bader Field -- played a role in C3's decision to stage Orion Music + More at the venue.
"[Red Light] told us about their experience with Dave and were really helpful with us getting the site for Metallica and working with me there," Walker says, noting that numerous hotels are about 30 minutes walking distance from Bader Field.
Orion Music + More will face competition from other music festivals in the surrounding marketplace, including Bamboozle New Jersey (May 18-20) and and All Tomorrow's Parties (Sept. 21-23), both of which will be held at Asbury Park in New Jersey. Walker doesn't believe that either event will impact attendance at Orion Music + More Fest.
"There are festivals all over the country, and more and more ever year. But this one is a unique property with the guys being involved, so it's definitely different," Walker says. "The population base in the northeast is so huge and the fans are so diverse that there's certainly room for all this stuff, especially given the diversity of the festivals."
Metallica and Walker haven't ruled out the possibility of expanding Orion Music + More into other locations in the future. But the promoter says that their main focus is on making the festival's inaugural year the best it can be. "We want to get through this one and see what we learn, and whether it moves or stays in Atlantic City," Walker says. "It's way to early for me to be able to tell."
Metallica's Orion Music + More is the most recent example of bands taking control of their own festival destinies. Some other examples in recent years include Phish's Super Ball IX; Dave Matthews Band Caravan fests; Zac Brown's Southern Ground Music & Food Festival; the Roots' Picnic; the Disco Biscuits' Camp Bisco festival; and Wilco's Solid Sound Festival 2.0.
Music acts can potentially earn more money by holding their own festival rather than playing another large event, but the financial risk is high. Even so, Walker believes that it's a trend we'll continue to see in the future. "It gives them some creative control and input that they don't necessarily have when they come to another festival," he says. "Most artists by nature are creative people, so this is a natural extension of their creativity."
Bands Announced for Orion Music + More:
The Gaslight Anthem
Cage The Elephant
Gary Clark, Jr.
The Black Angels
A Place to Bury Strangers