The Vans Warped Tour has grown from just over 25,000 attendees in its debut year of 1995 to an estimated 580,000 this summer, and the one thing that tour founder Kevin Lyman says he never stops thinking about is how to give fans the most for their ticket price, which this year is around $50.
He may not have found the ultimate solution yet, but he's working on it. "I'm trying to figure out how to get a better value," Lyman said. "Maybe not the ticket price knocked down, but how do I get to spend more money on talent and do different things like that, versus Ticketmaster fees."
Those Ticketmaster fees account for almost 22 percent of the total ticket price, taking it from $37.50 to $48.05. But regardless, this year's tour, with mainstage acts Paramore, 3OH!3, Jack's Mannequin, The Devil Wears Prada, Less Than Jake and more, is "selling very well," with 60,000 more people expected than in 2010.
In the last three years, attendance numbers have fluctuated quite a bit, and Lyman is uncertain how effective the Warped Tour digital initiatives have been. "I always ask our guys: 'Do we really need to have so much online?' I'm also spending a ton of money on it," said Lyman, referring to both the interactive website and the pit reporter hired each year to photograph and video blog about the shows.
"Are we giving so much that kids could just stay home and watch the Warped Tour?," he wondered aloud, "I hope not, because I think you need to have that experience of sweating your ass off. And the social experience you'll never replace. You'll never replace music."
In recent years, Lyman has amped up the interactivity of the Warped Tour brand through the use of social media, has increased the educational and non-profit sides of the tour, and has given more opportunities for small acts to play locally. "I think you're going to see some big changes next year," Lyman said. "I'm working on a lot of big changes. Not so much with the show but maybe where it plays, the type of situations we play in."
Lyman is already making some changes -- the tour has cut Calgary in favor of Omaha and Las Vegas dates and shortened each day by 30 minutes. "I felt that it was getting a little long," Lyman said.
"[There's] not a whole lot of new stuff, just hopefully better, refined stuff," he continued. "Like there's going to be a bigger presence with the non-profits."
Warped Tour is working with some of the non-profits to implement eco-friendly initiatives this year. "We've got this whole program in the works -- we're hoping to collect 60,000 used cell phones for charity at the gates, so that's been a big call to action this year," said Lyman. There will also be a second solar stage debuted this summer, with solar panels to power all of the equipment needed for the day's performances.
There have been a lot of changes in Warped Tour's 17-year history, and the tour is constantly evolving. In an effort to help hone the tour's identity, earlier this year it launched a "We Are Warped" campaign, asking fans to help define Warped by submitting their photo and their story for a collage on the website.
"People are always asking 'What's punk rock? What's this? And what's the Warped Tour?' " Lyman explained. "And it really was kind of a defining thing -- like what defines Warped? It's all 12,000 people a day make up Warped Tour. It's all the different sounds of music out there . . . Nothing individually defines Warped. It's everything together."