WORDS: GEORGIA RAWSON
The world has changed. Your favourite bands you watch through your screens, you leave the house with a mask alongside your keys, and the shift in society has been both confusing and overwhelming. So where does the music industry stand in this monumental change? Does it leave room for enterprise in a crippling economy, does venue closure mean a new rise in DIY?
They say that great change starts not by one big singular action by one individual, but a vast amount of smaller actions by like minded people, and it is this ethos that Warped Tour founder, Kevin Lyman has applied in his approach to bringing vital change within the industry.
“I guess I had the good fortune of not having my first event in 28 years, but that’s not to say that like many of us it’s good fortune in a pandemic.” He muses. Sat in a room with signed Ramones memorabilia, a certified platinum disc for My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, and other iconic memorabilia it’s easy to imagine that Lyman is comfortable after two decades of running the USA’s most successful nationally touring festival. But the same drive for change that created that tour is still very much intact.
“It hit August and then I thought, ‘wait a second; If people don’t start getting off the side-lines and doing more, or figuring out some things, they’re going to be out of business. There is going to be no future.” He continues. “We are not going to have an industry. It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist, a manager, a crew member, it won’t be there.”
“If people don’t start getting off the side-lines and doing more, or figuring out some things, they’re going to be out of business. There is going to be no future.“
Lyman for a moment tells us about some of his fellow industry workers using the pandemic as their opportunity to opt out of the industry, to stand down from being the generation in charge, and as Lyman predicts, “an industry currently ran by the 40 year olds need to be ones with the influence of the next generation.” So how does this happen? How does a baton being clutched more tightly than ever with an unsure future be passed down? It adapts.
If you’ve ever been aware of Warped Tour, then it’s relationship with philanthropic organisations also comes to mind. From Keep A Breast to Food Drives, the recently announced Adapt conference, hosted by Lyman and his colleagues sets about bringing the same level of change to the music industry, the same ethos of if no one else will make a change, I will. But with a lack of live entertainment to encourage this change and bring about awareness Lyman had to look not just forward, but also to the students he now teaches about the business. The conference which Lyman describes as “pulling together a classroom”, and aims more to look at ‘getting around the roadblocks they’re now going to hit’, rather than that of just another industry panel. The panel pulls together professionals who have survived, and will continue to thrive successfully in the given climate, as well as provide others the opportunity to collaborate as well. But whilst the term professional often has previously meant someone to have many decades of experience Kevin is firm that it is still the future generation at the forefront of Adapt.
“You’re gonna need new ideas and youthful ideas and youthful energy to grind through this, because it’s going to take us a while.” He nods when discussing the panel itself. “I didn’t want to get someone because of who they were, or that they had years of experience, I wanted to get people who genuinely understand and care for the future of this industry in it’s current state.”
“But it’s not tokenism with ADAPT, its authenticity.”
Having driven a stake into the heart of some of the prejudice within the industry over the years through the Warped Tour, Kevin becomes vigilant in describing this is not a conference designed to fill the pockets of white male company executives, but also confront some of the most important social justice issues that have erupted in the last ten months. “”My production staff on the Warped Tour was always predominantly women.” He reflects. “When I started in the 80’s one of the first things, I noticed was that there was a lack of women in the live industry. I worked harder than ever then so that I could be in control of my own events and bring more women on board. But it wasn’t straight forward.” Fast forward almost three decades later and another aspect of the industry remains unsettling for Kevin. In the face of the Black Lives Matter social movement it because more apparent than ever that there was lack of diversity within the industry’s live workings, and then a letter came.
The letter addressed to Lyman was from none other than Jerome Crooks, a once stage runner who had worked under Lyman during the Lollapalooza festivals, and now with the ADAPT conference wanted to bring forward more change. Now one of the biggest stage managers in the world, Jerome brings his project, Diversify, to ADAPT. But Lyman knows that this isn’t a quick fix.
“”As the BLM movement showed us this summer you just can’t fix things overnight. I said, it’s not something you do overnight, it’s something you have to start now with, it’s going to take five or 10 years. But it’s not tokenism with ADAPT, its authenticity.”
“We can figure this out, we can be fair, we can be equitable, because without every piece of this business it’s going to be lost.”
Since the beginning of March streaming platform Twitch saw 1.645 billion hours of streaming per day. At the same time the shut down of the live industry is due to have cost us not only our venues, livelihoods and careers, but over $10bn in sponsorships, and by the time this article has been read over a third of industry personnel would have lost their jobs. But the trends of music consumption within our industry are changing, and for Lyman he see’s this as a potential positive, about how this change could reinstate power to the artist, to the fan, and to the independents.
“I think we’re all looking at each other and going, you know what, we can be civil to each other.” Concludes Lyman when asked about the future of the gatekeeping side of the industry and the new future being presented to us. “We can figure this out, we can be fair, we can be equitable, because without every piece of this business it’s going to be lost.”