writes on April 27, 2017
The festival that gave a 14-year-old Taylor Swift her start showcased over a hundred unsigned musicians on ten stages for three, sunny Florida days for the 17th annual Florida Music Festival. FMF prides itself on providing not only the opportunity to perform for downtown Orlando crowds, but educational panels headed by music industry veterans.
Kevin Lyman organizes The Warper Tour, the last touring festival in the country, and has booked some of music’s biggest acts over twenty years in the business. His enduring belief in the power of the live performance has pushed him to continually better his lineups, but also give back to emerging artists.
“There’s about six people controlling all of music nowadays on radio,” says Lyman. That’s why he pushes artists to never stop improving their product.
“As an artist it ultimately comes down to songs. The caliber of music has never been higher I don’t think. It still will come down to that song that stands out,” Lyman told a crowd of unsigned artists at the Rosen auditorium. “It’s about writing writing, writing, writing, and honing your live show.”
Lyman knows what it takes to become successful now, as opposed to previous years in music where labels picked up artists like hotcakes: “We’re not talking about albums anymore. We’re talking about releasing a song every month.”
Lyman was also joined for a second panel by Dan Larson of Okeechobee Music Festival and David Beame of the Global Citizen Festival. Below, we’ve compiled the most crucial advice they had to offer artists-on-the-rise.
Lyman: We could run a whole day on failure, but I move on from it quickly. There’s a lot of artists out there and if you want to make it a lifestyle, there’s only 2-3% doing that. And I still get rejected. I call bands and they say no. It’s okay. Keep at it.
Lyman: Being nice is really important. It’s a simple thing in life but we need to be nice to each other. I’ve had to say, “You do not talk to women like this.” We now work with Voice for the Innocent. I funded them to be out on the road for us. You don’t have to tolerate anything. Now, you can’t be offended by everything. It is a business. You might be offended every once in a while but get past it. But you don’t have to tolerate anything inappropriate.
David Beame: As you see, we don’t sell tickets which is not the best model for a business but it lines up with what we want to accomplish. We are trying to create some type of movement and we are leveraging the notoriety and celebrity of these names for the specific areas we focus on like education, women and children, and sanitation. We follow these key political areas because we try to get commitments from world leaders. We don’t sell tickets but we’re using your voice to get these issues heard.
Lyman: I’m not a fan of all festivals. I did a TEDx talk about the Walmart-ization of festivals. We are the last touring festival. Now, my goal is creating festivals for the 90% who can’t afford to go to most festivals. You think Southern California revolves around Coachella but 90% of the people there can’t afford to go to it.
We went four years ago headliners making $500,000 to now headliners asking 2 million or 3 millions dollars. So you’re going to see these headliner-driven festivals go away. We see that happening now.
Dan Larson: An act that would charge $500 or $1000 at a club would come to a festival and ask for $10,000.
Lyman: A band was asking a million dollars and they’d never sold more than 8,000 tickets in any city they were in. We just have to say no to maintain the culture of our festivals. You’re starting to see that now.
Larson: When we launched the first year, I was personally hit up by a thousand artists. So we set up Destination Okeechobee. For that, you need to incentivize your fans to come out and buy tickets. From there, you need to have a compelling live show.
And for us, we’re a fan of music. We go to shows. So it’s the right artist at the right time. We’re huge fans of Kendrick’s music. So he was the right act at the right time for us. Hip-hop is moving people now too. Hip hop is pop these days—we had Future last year. We want acts that are memorable, that are surprises. When you see it on a poster you say, “Holy shit. I can’t miss that.”
Beame: We’re trying to program for a millennial generation. We want to get the broadest range possible. And I can literally list a hundred different ways to take that next step. People think of playing on that stage in a festival, but they forget the 99 other steps that come before that.
Lyman: You have to realize with the large festivals, about halfway down the show list are favors to agents and managers. There’s politics in this business. You can hopefully do something with radio stations, like battle of the bands.
The problem with independent artists is how are you going to get them working outside of the tour. Do they have a good team around them so that they’re just not doing anything the rest of the year when the tour is over?
Beame: You have the SoundCloud and Spotify kids that their live show just sucks. It sucks. But it’s the song and the feeling it creates. I see a lot of people breaking that way.
Lyman: For me, it’s all about the live show.
Check out FMF’s Facebook page for more pics and videos of their weekend.