Perry Farrell: Music Biz Should Look to NBA, NFL for Inspiration

Perry Farrell: Music Biz Should Look to NBA, NFL for Inspiration

The NFL and NBA are at the root of Perry Farrell's vision for the future of music. Acknowledging he had not fully thought out the idea, the Jane's Addiction singer said the industry needs to support young musicians from an early age, creating musical opportunities for youths like Little League baseball and Pop Warner football.

"If music was run like the sports industries, the NBA or the NFL, we would have a healthy school system," Farrell said Thursday during the keynote Q&A at the Billboard Touring Conference at the Roosevelt Hotel. "We could put together Super Bowls. We don't have anything like this in music (but could) if we could organize ourselves. Jerry Jones has a stadium and he entertains with a football team."

Farrell's belief is that by creating scenes through youth organizations -- and having a professional level that pumps money into the systems for youngsters -- those kids in Texas who dream of playing for the Dallas Cowboys one day might also consider a career in music. It is, he said, part of a solution for a music industry that is as broken as American politics.

"We could do this thing around the world," Farrell said. "God makes musicians. That raw talent will always be there, there has to be the right opportunity to flourish and blossom."

Breaking down barriers through Lollapalooza and being at the epicenter of L.A.'s alternative music scene of the late 1980s in Jane's Addiction were discussed at length with Billboard editorial director Bill Werde at the session.

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Farrell, whose earliest singing gigs were as an imitator of David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Frank Sinatra, became involved in the punk rock scene by what he called "circumstances that were absolutely perfect." Once he landed in Jane's Addiction -- and a growing number of people said they were a band that had to be seen -- "I took it really serious," he said. "I rewound to the Beatles and the Stones. They were able to change the world."

For Farrell, that meant paying attention to how they conducted themselves, their work ethic and they way they pledged allegiance to their influences. "It was is important to wear the names of our favorite bands on our backs. It's sad they don't do that anymore."

Lollapalooza grew out of Farrell's concert organizing efforts in the desert that involved bands such as Sonic Youth, the Meat Puppets and Redd Kross. "We called it Desolation center -- no bouncers, no fences, no urinals." A successful touring festival, Farrell contended that it shut down due to political reasons. Farrell's plan prior to the Bush-Kerry election was to involve the political activism organization, which the concert-promotion behemoth Clear Channel opposed due to its numerous relationships with President Bush's camp.

"The week before before we were to start, a big phone call went out nationwide with (a promoter) saying we're not going to pay these guys," Farrell said. "It was the worst moment of my life outside of my parents dying. It got even worse. Right after that my band says they're leaving too - to create a band called Panic Channel."

The festival's revival in Chicago, Farrell said, owed to the involvement of people from Austin City Limits. "I'm forever indebted to Charlie Jones," he said.

Next year's edition is in the booking stage and Farrell participates in weekly discussions about acts and possible aesthetic and strategic changes to the show in Chicago's Grant Park.

"We do have bands I don't like," Farrell admitted. "But there are lot more slots available" than back when he was making the booking decisions, "and my taste is not the only taste. If I feel somebody really does not belong, I'll speak up... but (the bookers) are so sophisticated because they have Austin and they see all these groups. They're ahead of me -- they turn me onto music."