The Billboard Q&A: Charles Attal
Imagine being able to put together the ultimate rock'n'roll party. You pick the bands: Radiohead here, Nine Inch Nails there. Now, let's add the Raconteurs. That's Charles Attal's gig. Attal, partnerImagine being able to put together the ultimate rock'n'roll party. You pick the bands: Radiohead here, Nine Inch Nails there. Now, let's add the Raconteurs.
That's Charles Attal's gig. Attal, partner in Austin, Texas-based C3 Presents, is the chief talent buyer for Lollapalooza, as well as the Austin City Limits Music Festival and hundreds of other concerts and events. He talked with Billboard about booking this year's Lollapalooza, not blowing the budget and the frustration of leaky lineups.
When you started booking Lollapalooza last fall, did you have a goal or theme in mind?
CHARLES ATTAL: No, we never do. You open it up, get your list together, and then go. You start piecing it together [and] see who's going to be available for the year. It kinda heats up around late November, and then come January you're finishing it all up.
You finished in January?
No, I booked a band just yesterday. But by the first week in February we were done with the headliners.
Do you book your big anchor headliners first?
No, we start booking ground up. I never book headliners first, unless they just happen to come in, because you can't rely on what's gonna happen at the top. You have to go from the bottom all the way up and then you start in on the middle tier. It kind of guarantees you that you're not going to go crazy -- you're not going to get caught up in the headliners and then all of a sudden you won't be able to put in the mid-tier acts because you've over-paid.
When you look at the 2008 lineup, do you feel good about it?
I feel great about it. Whenever you get the bands that we have at the top tier, it's hard not to get excited about it.
What was the talent-buying environment and what impact did what the other festivals were doing have?
It's weird. We thought going into '08, based on who we heard would be working, that there would be too many headliners for every festival. But then all of a sudden, routings changed, things change. And, sure, there's some good headliners on the festivals out there but I thought there would be even more of a surplus. But different festivals pop up at different times and the routing didn't work out for some of them.
How many buyers work on Lollapalooza?
It's Houston Powell and myself. We get input from the whole booking department, seven buyers. We have meetings. We kick it around our office. It's like a big buying pit -- everybody can hear everybody else. Houston Powell runs point on it, and then he and I collaborate with Perry Farrell on who to put on.
Did you blow up your shopping budget?
In certain areas we did a little bit, but it wasn't what you would have expected from us. Things sort of fell into place for us. It's not what you would think, expense-wise.
Is it hard to be disciplined sometimes, as a music fan?
Oh yeah, it's very hard to be disciplined. You want to go after it and you get yourself caught in places where you're kind of impulse shopping. Obviously, though, if you look at our lineup you can see that we put the headliners on that were working, and some that weren't even working. It's our fourth year. We really feel like the festival has matured into what it is now.
How were your advance sales, before the lineup was announced?
Fantastic. They were up.
What's your take on the lineup leaking before your official announcement?
It's not cool. You embargo the lineups and you try to wait until everybody is coordinated, all the bands. You try to do it the right way so everybody is on the same page, but some people don't pay attention to the embargoes. They leak it out, it's out there, half of it's true, half of it's not true. You end up having to back-pedal to make sure everybody's on the same page. You have to make 100 phone calls to agents. [After Friday's leak] some of the morning radio shows have cancelled on us and some of the TV shows have cancelled on us. We were going to have bands perform [but that didn't happen] because it's not news anymore. It hurts ticket sales when it leaks out like that. It's hurtful to the festival and the city of Chicago. I don't want to be totally angry about it, but it's just not cool. When it leaks, you just try to do the right thing, call everybody.
That said, what's your take on the reaction to the lineup?
I've never seen it this positive.