The cost of meeting Lollapalooza’s production needs at nontraditional venues created an untenable risk/reward ratio that has contributed to the cancellation of two dates on the tour. But the amphitheater dates on the route are performing well enough, despite organizers’ belief that the tour is being perceived as less than successful.
“This tour is doing fantastic,” says Peter Grosslight, who heads the music division for the William Morris Agency. “We’re fighting a perception. Lollapalooza is doing great as an amphitheater tour.”
Grosslight admits that two dates at alternative venues did not work out. “We, and a couple of promoters, were too bullish in two situations,” he says. “We could have done 15,000 people, but the promoters would have lost a lot of money.”
With a cost to talent buyers of $500,000, Lollapalooza is already on a tight profit margin. And while Clear Channel Entertainment (CCE)-promoted dates are at venues that routinely host touring festivals, less-than-hoped-for sales led to the plug being pulled on shows in smaller markets in Ionia, Mich., and Vernon, N.Y.
CCE is promoting 22 of Lollapalooza’s 30 dates. Brad Wavra, VP of CCE’s touring division, believes it is no coincidence that the canceled dates are not at CCE venues. “We did a lot of research to figure out where we could have the best success,” Wavra says. “Amphitheaters were built with the infrastructure that allows you to take additional kinds of chances that you can’t take in a field or a nontraditional venue.”
In other words, the sizable guarantee compounded with additional production costs make the break-even point very difficult to attain at nontraditional venues. “It’s like doing a stadium show — a very expensive proposition,” Wavra says. “It adds a level of expense that amphitheaters have already considered a capital investment.”
Even so, ticket sales at the nontraditional venues were not in the league of what the CCE dates were generating. “We’re seeing some very good counts,” says Wavra, citing 17,000 in Philadelphia (Tweeter Center, Camden, N.J., July 27), 17,000 in Boston (Tweeter Center, Mansfield, Mass., July 25), 12,000 in Chicago (Tweeter Center, Tinley Park, Ill., July 12) and Detroit (DTE Energy Center, Clarkston, Mich., July 18) and close to sold-out in Holmdel, N.J. (PNC Bank Arts Center, July 23).
Wavra says CCE brought Lollapalooza what it felt was its best markets in a highly competitive hard-music summer. “When you’re re-establishing a brand, you have to be smart about routing and competition in the marketplace,” he says. “We brought them the markets we were most confident in.”
The remaining dates are at large, mostly corporate sheds, with the exception of the Aug. 24 tour closer at the 25,000-capacity Columbia Meadows in St. Helens, Ore.
The brainchild of Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell, Lollapalooza is produced by Sanctuary Artist Management and the William Morris Agency. The main-stage lineup features Queens Of The Stone Age (replaced Aug. 16 by A Perfect Circle), Jurassic Five, the Donnas, Incubus, Audioslave and Jane’s Addiction. The pioneering festival returns this year after a six-year hiatus.
“We’re happy with the dates we have on Lollapalooza,” Wavra says. “What’s important here is, in the face of a lot of naysayers, they have put a great product together. Perry Farrell, William Morris and Sanctuary have put a lot of time into trying to do something different, and they have succeeded. This is something you can build on.”