As Chicago is hovering on the brink of its fifth Lollapalooza in the city's Grant Park, all three partners in producers C3 Presents - Charles Attal, Charlie Jones and Charlie Walker - are in the Windy City about to tee up what may be the most successful Lollapalooza yet.
Austin-based C3 has successfully transitioned the Lolla brand from a touring multi-act festival into a one-off major event, this year featuring headliners Depeche Mode, Tool, the Killers, Kings Of Leon, Jane's Addiction and Yeah Yeah Yeah's. Despite the fact that they're about to kick off one of the biggest festivals in the world, the Austin-based C3 guys were typically chill as they talked to Billboard about putting this year's Lolla together, ticket sales and why they're stoked to see Lou Reed.
Billboard: Tell me about putting this year's lineup together, what was the climate like?
Charles Attal: Everything came together pretty good. We always go after a lot of bands, and putting together 130 bands you get some you want, you lose some you want. But overall I think we've got a great lineup.
What was it like dealing with the agents this year in putting the lineup together?
CA: They know the drill now, this is year five. Most agents have been here, most managers have been here, everybody kind of knows the set up. Some bands even say they want to play on this or that stage.
Do you leak your own lineup?
CA: No. People just figure it out. Some bands put it on their Web site, or there will be a hole in the routing. People piece it together, they're smart.
What will people notice that's different about Lollapalooza this year?
Charlie Walker: Perry (Farrell) is here, the DJ world is significantly larger.
Charlie Jones: Our recycling program. This is the first year the City of Chicago has allowed us to do aluminum cans. We'll use the same recycling program we use at the (C3-produced) ACL Festival, which reduces our waste to landfills by probably 70%.
CW: It's expensive to be green, so if we didn't believe in it we wouldn't do it.
How are ticket sales?
CA: We'll end up selling out by this weekend.
Was the buying pattern different this year?
CA: It actually has been different. We've seen more singles than three day passes, but sales are cranking on each day. We've had a bigger last two weeks this year than we did last year.
Is that because of something different in the way you promoted?
CW: We didn't change the way we market or sell tickets at all this year.
How tough was it to lose Beastie Boys (which cancelled their tour and headlining Lolla appearance in the wake of a cancer treatment for the group's Adam Yauch)?
CA: It was tough, but it's not like they pulled off because Adam sprained his ankle. It's a legitimate concern, and we hope he's going to be alright, and we'd welcome them back next year.
How difficult was it to find a replacement headlining act?
CA: We replaced it in probably 12 hours. It was more about routing, finding a perfect situation. We wanted the Yeah Yeah Yeahs from the beginning, and we couldn't get it to work right. Then their routing came through after the fact, and then it all came back around and worked out perfect for us, and for them, I think.
You've got some big name sponsors this year. Did you notice any belt tightening with companies?
CW: It's tough, man, especially if you're a public company. If you've got shareholders you have to do the best you can for, maybe you don't want them to ask questions about how you're spending your money, and some of these things are pretty visible when you're sponsoring at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Coachella or whatever. I think they've got less money. If it comes down to sponsoring Lollapalooza or laying off people, then you hope they don't sponsor Lollapalooza. But the tightening sponsor market has made us become more creative with our sponsorship packages so we provide more value to sponsors. You can't just get away with slapping somebody's name on a sign any more.
What sets Lollapalooza apart from other major summer festivals?
CA: Grant Park.
It's safe to say that this brand has been more than successfully resurrected, but is anybody ever in a place where they can rest on their laurels?
CA: No. You've got to keep grinding, especially in this environment. If you don't, you're toast. We're always worried about next year.
Who are you guys excited to hear?
CA: Kings Of Leon. Fleet Foxes. Tool. Lou Reed.
CW: Thievery Corporation. Lou Reed.
CJ: Lou Reed.
And who do you think has a real chance to create a buzz and turn on the audience?
CW: Black Joe Lewis.
CA: Andrew Bird. Bassnectar.
CJ: I think Lou Reed might blow away some of these people who might never have had a chance to see or hear him.
Lollapalooza ticket sales and attendance numbers according to Billboard Boxscore, 2005-2008:
2008: $17 million gross, 225,000 aggregate attendance, sellout
2007: $9.8 million gross, 167,330 attendance
2006: $7.9 million gross, 166,356 attendance
2005: $2.9 million gross, 60,000 two day attendance