Then it evolved to where the community was strong… NOFX and Bad Religion would take a step back to move forward, and they would bring the young bands up behind them. [Bad Religion guitarist] Brett Gurewitz once said it best: “We all get under the Warped umbrella to keep the community strong.”
Then we went into that phase [around the turn of the millennium] where radio couldn’t ignore the strength of the bands. We were going around the country doing 10,000 to 15,000 people or more a day. So we had this relationship with labels on how to work together. They would invest in the bands around Warped Tour, release records on Warped Tour, and then we would try to build, develop headliners. And then I had the opportunity to work with some of these bands one-on-one as they were breaking -- acts like Paramore, A Day to Remember. They would come out when they didn’t really mean anything, and then they would come back when they were kind of getting known, and then they would come back and actually draw, helping people to see the new wave of future young bands.
[Now] I think the community is, for many reasons, not as unified as it used to be… And to be honest, it gets a little frustrating now, because we invest in bands, and all of a sudden they’ll shift their focus. You invest a lot of time in them for a summer, and then you want to try to bring them back when they’re gonna start meaning something, and they go off in a different direction, for whatever reason.
I get a sense, working in music, that artists sometimes turn down potential fans in favor of chasing some aesthetic or “cooler” fanbase.
Yeah. We do so much data and so much research on our fans. So I kind of know what these people want to see. And when the band says, “Oh, we’re not really into that,” I’m like, “Wouldn’t you want to go where the people who really want to hear you are?” It just makes sense to me.
I watched the people who did it right. I watched Gwen Stefani… I always have that [saying], “You gotta be ready to give up the punk when you go pop.” And when you’re ready, you have to have your fanbase so solidified so they’ll follow you, understand you’re maturing as an artist. Hayley Williams has done that well. But I watch artists now, all of a sudden they start grasping onto a scene of music, and then they decide they’re gonna go into another scene of music: “Oh, we’re gonna be indie now.” Well, that indie world is a weird world to navigate. You haven’t even solidified the fans who really back you and then you’re gonna jump to another scene of music? You see that story happen quite a bit.
What about it in terms of ticket sales and profits? Was there a dip that influenced this decision?
We were doing fine, but we had a pretty big dip last year. It was that younger end of the demo. It was an interesting tour -- the bands didn’t feel the dip because the fans that were there were super engaged… Everyone’s lining up at 11 o’clock and they don’t want to miss a band. So that [younger] demo changed, but then I talked to people after the tour and bands did great on merchandise, they had great crowds -- everyone had good crowds in front of the stage. But that casual fan that’s learning how to go to a music festival -- they were not there last summer... It was a really great show, sponsors were happy, but our attendance was down.