“It’s rare that we’re ever in the same town, let alone the same place at one time,” Charlie Jones said as his C3 founding partners Charlie Walker and Charles Attal joined him backstage at Lollapalooza Sunday afternoon (Aug. 4).
Sitting down with Billboard for a truly rare interview (the last time we spoke to all three principals was in 2009), the C3 founders reflected on everything that went into the making of this year’s Lollapalooza – on track to be the festival’s biggest year yet in its ninth incarnation as a destination festival in Chicago. The fest’s 2012 outing ranked as the world’s second largest music festival, according to Billboard Boxscore, taking in $25 million in grosses and over 270,000 in attendance. This year, attendance is likely to top-out at 300,000, as C3 sold out 100,000 tickets for all three days within 36 hours — and before any lineup was even announced.
Of course, the record success doesn’t come without a healthy dose of skepticism and even straight-up snark. Lollapalooza is oft-cited in articles and thinkpieces decrying the over-sponsorship of music festivals — several of the fest’s main stages (Bud Light, Red Bull Sound Select) are named after corporate products, while activation booths from Samsung, Mophie and Whole Foods, among others, were scattered across the grounds.
At the top of Lolla weekend, The Onion posted a particularly hilarious spoof video at the suggesting that fans flock to the festival to see the world’s “biggest brands.” (Money quote: “I really wanna engage with Bacardi…their brand essence is sick.”)
Charlie Walker, the marketing guru of the C3 trio, says the promoter is focused on working with sponsors partners who can “bring some benefit to the fans.” And the top of those priorities is using those sponsorship dollars to keep ticket prices low. “We were at $235 all-in with fees on top,” he said. Added Charlie Jones, “You couldn’t do that without our sponsors.”
And as festivals like Coachella and even C3’s other tentpole, Austin City Limits, expand to two weekends, Lollapalooza is content with its current three-day status in the States. Instead, they’ve focused the festival’s expansion efforts on foreign territories like Chile and Brazil, which will return later this year. “We’ve kept the capacity for a couple years,” Jones said of Chicago. “We’re very happy and just want to make sure we’re running a safe event.”