How Los Angeles Became the Dominant Festival Market Post-FYF

ISSUE 7 2019 - DO NOT REUSE!!!
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The pier at Redondo Beach. The seaside city is home of the first BeachLife festival.

It took 14 years to build FYF Fest into one of Los Angeles’ most storied live events -- and just six months for all of it to come crashing down. Weeks after making a major investment in FYF in November 2017, Goldenvoice parted ways with festival founder Sean Carlson over allegations of sexual misconduct. Six months later, the 80,000-capacity show was canceled amid poor ticket sales, disrupting the festival map and setting off a race among bookers to fill the void in North America’s strongest festival market.

“There’s more opportunity,” says Morgan Margolis, CEO of Knitting Factory Entertainment, which partners with Moon Block Party Collective founder Phil Pirrone on Desert Daze, one of dozens of festivals holding on in a post-FYF landscape. “It’s the first year I haven’t been told ‘no’ by an agent because their band is playing FYF,” says Pirrone. “But,” he adds, “the effects will be short-lived.”

While New York’s festival space has shrunk in the past year with the cancellation of the Live Nation-backed Meadows Fest and AEG’s Panorama, Los Angeles, with its year-round warm weather, continues to be a major market for outdoor events. This summer, there are over 20 multiday festivals happening in the city, with new live events like Rolling Loud L.A. and Goldenvoice’s rapidly growing slate of mini-festivals in Long Beach competing against Eddie Vedder’s three-day Ohana in Orange County and the expanding KAABOO in San Diego.

“Fans are tired of festivals that don’t have a perspective,” says Los Angeles promoter/venue owner Allen Sanford, who this summer will co-launch BeachLife in Redondo Beach, the first multiday festival set in the famed South Bay region of Los Angeles and featured on shows like Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210. BeachLife will celebrate surf culture with a lineup of sun-and-sand-friendly acts like Brian Wilson and Donavon Frankenreiter. “The only way BeachLife turns into a decadelong success is by giving people the nostalgia and vibe of true Southern California beach culture,” says Sanford. “I don’t even think of it as a festival -- to me, it’s the biggest raging party in all of L.A.”

And as the Los Angeles market continues to spread out, so too will opportunities for independent promoters who can connect with fans in ways that larger bookers can’t. While the major festivals continue to treat exclusivity as currency -- Coachella is offering $50,000 luxury “platinum estates” for each of its two weekends -- promoters like Margolis’ Knitting Factory Entertainment are offering innovative experiences that fans want to be a part of and are still small enough to manage. “We’re not just building festivals,” he says. “We’re building communities.”

Festivals 2019

This article originally appeared in the March 23 issue of Billboard.