Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong tosses the neck of his guitar into the crowd following his expletive-filled rant at the end of the band's IHeartRadio set Friday night. (Photo: Getty Images)
How did Clear Channel get No Doubt, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Pink, Mary J. Blige, Usher a surprise performance from Prince and countless others on the same bill at this year's second IHeartRadio Music Festival? By planning way ahead of time. As early as October 2011, in the case of this year's confab.
"[Clear Channel programming chief] Tom Poleman and I begin almost 30 days after the current one is finished," Clear Channel entertainment president John Sykes told Billboard Saturday night shortly before showtime. "In fact, we've already booked a few aritsts for 2013 whose touring cycles wouldn't permit them to be here this year. That really sends an important message that the artists see this as an important way to get the message out to their fans, they don't see this as a cross to bear."
To Sykes, former president of VHI and a founding member of the team that helped launch MTV along with Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman, that's already achieving part of the TV-like goals the company had for the festival. "We're now on the calendar like the Grammys and the VMAs," he says. "The reason I came back to this business was because Bob Pittman came over and I loved the idea of creating scale at our radio stations and creating not only radio content but television, live events, anything that could create appeal to the consumer. Anything with a megaphone to send the message out to the consumer."
Another message that circulated after Saturday night was the news that Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong had checked into rehab to seek treatment for substance abuse, following his band's expletive-ridden, guitar-smashing performance Friday night. Though Armstrong cursed the fact that he was being told the band only had 1 minute left after playing just over 20 minutes, Sykes suggests it was a stunt for the crowd. "If anybody goes long on a set, we really don't care," he says. "We thought it was a great move and we were along for the joke." As for what Armstrong meant by his "We'll be back" comment before storming off stage, Sykes was unclear. "He walked off the stage and was saying hello to everybody and went to his dressing room. But all in all, it was the essence of rock n roll and rebellion and smashing his beautiful guitar, like Pete Townshend did and Jimi Hendrix. We just thought it was a great moment for the show."
Another highlight from this year's IHeartRadio was the deeply felt presence of EDM, with Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris and Deadmau5 among the performers. As more DJs like Harris and David Guetta cross over to pop stations for their collaborations with A-list vocalists, Sykes would like to see IHeartRadio play an even larger role in exposing other EDM artists to Clear Channel's audiences.
"We've been finding more of EDM showing up on the stations. Obviously Calvin has the big hits, and aside from the weekend [dance] shows they do [in programming], the great thing about IHeartRadio is it's gonna be exposing so much of this to a lot of our listeners and they're gonna discover it. We'll find a natural transition from our terrestrial stations, too. In our eyes it's one business. We love EDM, we want it to be a big part of the festival we want it be a big part of our listeners' lives. It could be more fun for both as well. We know all about multiplatform and we're gonna deliver whatever we can."