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ACL Announced -- and pondering festival glut

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Today’s announcement of the lineup for the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Sept. 26-28 – organized by C3 Presents, the same Texas promoters behind Lollapalooza in Grant Park – offers new fodder to consider a question that many in the concert industry have been posing of late: Is there a festival glut?

The new model of a multi-day “destination festival” packed with more than 100 bands and presumably offering “something for everybody at a bargain price” has increasingly come to dominate the summer months in many markets.

But it’s resulting in a homogeneity of many of the lineups, which are starting to look all too similar – and less special or distinct.

Consider the highlights from this recent article by Jeff Leeds in the New York Times:

In a slumping music business such events pack a box office punch: the top five American festivals generated a combined $60 million in ticket sales last year, according to Billboard magazine’s estimates…

At least four new festivals will make their debuts this summer, raising the total to more than a dozen. Various concert promoters are already warning of the dangers of oversaturation, and point to the clutch of stars headlining multiple festivals…

In general, rock festivals have built their reputations by offering fans the chance to pack months of club crawling into one weekend and discover new favorites. But some talent managers caution against the idea that emerging acts can build their names through playing the full complement of festivals, where artist sets are sometimes abbreviated, and fans can be distracted.

Mike Martinovich, who manages the rock group My Morning Jacket, said the band had agreed to play the two most established festivals, Coachella and Bonnaroo, and turned down other offers to keep from seeming like too much of a commodity. “Doing a whole tour of festivals would be disastrous,” he said.

And some promoters worry that similar talent lineups will limit the festivals’ collective appeal. [Coachella promoter Paul Tollett] said the fear was “that it could become homogenized, and everyone have the same bill and the same sort of feel at the festival.”

We are not at the point of all the festivals being the same quite yet, but there is a lot of duplication in the bills. Here is the lineup for Austin City Limits, with notes in parentheses if the artist is also performing at New Jersey’s All Points West (A), Tennessee’s Bonnaroo (B), California’s Coachella (C) or our own Lollapalooza (L). (The full lineups for All Points West, Bonnaroo and Coachella follow after that.)

Foo Fighters
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (B)
Manu Chao
John Fogerty
David Byrne
Alejandro Escovedo
Gnarls Barkley (L)
The Raconteurs (B, L, C)
The Mars Volta
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
Erykah Badu
Drive-By Truckers (B)
Five Times August
Ingrid Michaelson
Langhorne Slim
Stars (C)
Eli “Paper Boy” Reed & the True Loves (L)
Jose Gonzales (B)
Bavu Blakes & the Extra Plairs
CSS (A, L)
AA Bondy
Del the Funky Homosapien
Christopher Denny
Man Man (C)
Mike Farris
Jamie Lidell (L)
The Lee Boys (B)
MGMT (B, L, C)
South Austin Jug Band
What Made Milwaukee Famous (L)
American Bang (C)
Jenny Lewis
Bobby Bare, Jr.
Robert Earl Keen
M. Ward
Patty Griffin
Asleep at the Wheel
Bellville Outfit
Tegan and Sara (B, C)
Mason Jennings (B, L)
We Go to 11 (L)
Iron & Wine (B)
Heartless Bastards
Band of Heathens
G. Love & Special Sauce (L)
City and Colour
Neko Case
The Nachito Herrera All Stars
Sunny Sweeney
Band of Horses
Shooter Jennings
Elizabeth Wills
The Swell Season (B, C)
Xavier Rudd
Silversun Pickups
Yeasayer (L)
Bonnie Bishop
Gogol Bordello (B, C, L)
Octopus Project (L)
Ben Sollee
Gillian Welch
Joe Bonamassa
Ben Cylus
Eli Young Band
The Kills (L)
The Concert Supremes
The Black Keys (L)
White Denim
River City Christionettes
Against Me! (B)
Louis XIV (L)
Shields of Faith
Jakob Dylan and the Gold Mountain Rebels (B)
Delta Spirit
The Jones Family Singers
Okkervil River (L)
Mates of State (A, L)
Nakia & His Southern Cousins
Nicole Atkins & the Sea (A, L)
Brotherly Luv
Kevin Fowler
Electric Touch (C, L)
The Hensley Ensemble
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings (B, C, L)
Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears
School of Rock
Hot Chip (C)
Back Door Slam (B)
Vampire Weekend (B, C)
Tristan Prettyman
Q Brothers
Slightly Stoopid (C)
The Strange Boys
Buck Howdy with BB
Duffy Ryan
Uncle Rock
Flyleaf Scott
Big Don
Roky Erickson
The Freddy Jones Band
mr. RAY
Yonder Mountain String Band (B)
Colour Revolt
The Jimmies

ALL POINTS WEST (Liberty State Park, Jersey City, N.J., Aug. 8-10)
Radiohead (two nights); Underworld; Spearhead; the New Pornographers; the Go! Team; Girl Talk; CSS; Forro in the Dark; Juana Molina; Little Brother; Andrew Bird; Mates of State; Nicole Atkins; Kings of Leon; Animal Collective; Metric; Chromeo; the Roots; the Black Angels; the Virgins; the Felice Brothers; Alberta Cross; Sia; K'Naan; Duffy; Your Vegas; Jack Johnson; Cat Power; Rodrigo y Gabriela; Amadou & Mariam; Youssou N'Dour; Black Kids; Jason Isbell; Grace Potter and the Nocturnals; Rogue Wave and Neil Halstead.

BONNAROO (Manchester, TN, June 12-15)
Pearl Jam; Metallica; Jack Johnson; Kanye West; Robert Plant & Alison Krauss; Phil Lesh & Friends; My Morning Jacket; The Allman Brothers Band; The Raconteurs; Willie Nelson; Death Cab for Cutie; B.B. King; Sigur Ros; Levon Helm and the Ramble on the Road; Ben Folds; O.A.R.; The Bluegrass Allstars Feat. Luke Bulla, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Bryan Sutton; M.I.A.; Umphrey's McGee; Iron & Wine; Yonder Mountain String Band; Swell Season; Talib Kweli; Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi's Soul Stew Revival; Gogol Bordello; Broken Social Scene; Robert Randolph's Revival; Rilo Kiley; Mastodon; Lupe Fiasco; Against Me!; Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings; Pat Green; Ozomatli; Tegan & Sara; Solomon Burke; Drive-By Truckers; !!!; The Avett Brothers; Israel Vibration; Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet featuring Bela Fleck; Phil Lesh / Larry Campbell / Jackie Greene; Aimee Mann; Ladytron; The Fiery Furnaces; Orchestra Baobab; Ghostland Observatory; Jose Gonzalez; Dark Star Orchestra; Minus the Bear; Donavon Frankenreiter; Lez Zeppelin; State Radio; Battles; Jakob Dylan; Two Gallants; The Sword; Vampire Weekend; Little Feat; Nicole Atkins; The Felice Brothers; Mason Jennings; MGMT; The Lee Boys; Black Kids; Serena Ryder; Steel Train; Grupo Fantasma and Back Door Slam.

COACHELLA (Indio, CA, April 25-27)
Jack Johnson; the Verve; the Raconteurs; the Breeders; Aphex Twin; Fatboy Slim; Tegan and Sara; Serj Tankian; Goldfrapp; the Swell Season; the National; Slightly Stoopid; Mum; Pendulum; Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings; Battles; Aesop Rock; Les Savy Fav; Midnight Juggernauts; Spank Rock; dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip; Diplo; Redd Kross; Adam Freeland; Santogold; Jens Lekman; John Butler Trio; Vampire Weekend; Dan Deacon; Black Kids; Architecture in Helsinki; Sandra Collins; Busy P; Cut Copy; Black Lips; Datarock; Professor Murder; Porter; Rogue Wave; American Bang; Luckyiam; Prince; Portishead; Kraftwerk; Death Cab for Cutie; Cafe Tacvba; Sasha & John Digweed; Rilo Kiley; Dwight Yoakam; M.I.A.; Hot Chip; Cold War Kids; Animal Collective; Kate Nash; Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks; DeVotchKa; Flogging Molly; Mark Ronson; Scars on Broadway; Islands; Does it Offend You, Yeah?; Above & Beyond; Enter Shikari; Calvin Harris; Boys Noize; Junkie XL; Cinematic Orchestra; the Teenagers; VHS or Beta; CarbonSilicon; Erol Alkan; Man Man; Yo! Majesty; Little Brother; Bonde Do Role; St. Vincent; AkronFamily; MGMT; Surkin; Curses!; Para One; Orgasmic; James Zabiela; SebastiAn; Kavinsky; Minus the Bear; Dredg; the Bird and the Bee; 120 Days; Yoav; Electric Touch; Yelle; Uffie featuring DJ Mehdi; Jesse Murphy; Roger Waters; Love and Rockets; My Morning Jacket; Spiritualized; Justice; Gogol Bordello; Chromeo; Metric; Danny Tenaglia; Simian Mobile Disco; Booka Shade; Murs; Dimitri from Paris; Autolux; Stars; the Field; Linton Kwesi Johnson; the Cool Kids; Sons & Daughters; Sia; Holy F*ck; Black Mountain; Annuals; Kid Sister with A-Trak; Modeselektor; Duffy; I'm from Barcelona; Manchester Orchestra; Deadmau5; AUSTIN TV; Swervedriver; Grand Ole Party; Shout Out Louds; Plasticines; Vas DeFrans and Brett Dennen.

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How many people are actually even CONSIDERING going to multiple? Very few ...... right? So, why would this be a problem at this point? If someone lives in NYC, most likely the Coachella lineup will not have any bearing on whether his enjoyment of All Points West will be effected. Samely, if a Midwesterner is going to Lollapalooza, the ACL lineup announcement isn'g going to ruin their fun. Now, I am discounting music journos and pros that have the time and money to be trouncing the country going to multiple festivals.

Now, I do see a point w/ a festival like Rothbury, being so close to Lolla in Chicago, which seems a bit festival overkill. But, region to region, I think every general geographic area deserves a hige festival. America is a big place, I think these major festivals are one of the few shining lights of the music industry, why gripe about it when everything else in the industry sucks right now? So, having a Coachella, Lolla, Bonnaroo, and ACL, and APW, all seem reasonable. So, your grouching, Jim, is just you grouching again, because not everyone sits around reading lineups and creating duplication charts. Intuitively, it seems fine, w/ the exeception of a few "crowders" like Virgin or Rothbury. Just my 2 cents.

Frankly, I think the above lineup is better than the Lollapalooza lineup. With the exception of the Lolla headliners, the lower level bands are much better at ACL fest. Plus, what's up with No Chicago love for the Freddy Jones Band?

So let me get this straight. "Festivals" are cool but consolidation of other media isn't, right?

I hate get all old school but as Mr. D said, back in the day Lolla was something because it was different, because it offered something that you couldn't get elsewhere. Now, it's the standard. It's as codified and corporatized as concerts at disneyland (and just safe and orchestrated).

It's shame that most music and concert buyers have such low standards. I mean, a two tiered, Lolla "VIP area". You've got to be kidding me. Sheep. Wake up. This isn't the standard you want to support. And now we have an ACL festival. An ACL Festival? The festival with the name of a show thats ran Buck Owens and the Fabulous Thunderbirds for three decades?

The cool thing about festivals can be when you get see regional acts that otherwise might no be playing in your area. Maybe you get exposed to some cool genre you wouldn't have considered before. But Foo Fighters don't need 129 other support acts. "Bargain pricing" ain't.

I remember seeing Tool back at the early Lolla's and thought it was cool that other people got to see them (at the time). But make no mistake, the Tool Lolla shows were maybe half as good as any of the smaller venue shows they played around the same time. Major festivals are a distraction from serious tours of decent venues. Like radio consolidation it's just a cheap vehicle to keep you focused on the acts the media corporations want you to be focused on. I'm not advocating some kind of ideological purity test for artists or venues but to me, the cheap, plasticky taste of these festivals is obvious. So please, line up to get herded into the pen and watch your multi-hundred dollar festival. I'll stick to my spot in the back club, by the sound board, where there is a place for my cocktail and someone that actually brings it over to me.

How elitist ..... I think people just have to feel like they are at something "unique" so they can tell everyone that they were there, at the exclusion of others. My whole point is: people on the East Coast, Midwest, South all can't make it to Coachella. But there are fans of these bands everywhere, and they deserve the chance to experience a festival too. Getting all elitist means you would be in favor of excluding these fans of a chance to enjoy one of these festivals. So, Lolla is a little bit of a 2nd banana to Coachella (although they have nearly caught up based on year 3 and the potential of this year 4), but it's better that Midwestern fans have this sort of fest where they can see a lineup that they wouldn't be able to see in their wildest dreams any other way. I think these festivals are just fine - not perfect, mind you, but a great alternative to the past several years of mainstream Americal Idol, teen pop, radio rap, etc. There is so much wrong with the industry, we can find much worse to pick on than these festivals. I think this "festival overkill" movement is driven my well-intentioned music fans who spend time supporting their bands in the club circuit. Bravo for supporting indie music. But their is a huge number of fans who need a festival to be able to experience and hear out bands they normally would never hear.

People over think this stuff sometimes. Its this simple, people want to hear the music and bands want their music heard. These festivals aren't in the same areas or at the same time of year. As long as people are coming, there aren't too many festivals. I think there is room for more festivals actually. Its a big country. I agree with the point about diversity. If you don't keep the line up filled with all different kinds of music genres the audience will shrink.

If its a band you love, seeing them at a club is defiantly the best way to experience their music. But, many bands are hard for a lot of people to see in a club. And your missing the point that a festival is a different experience. The exposure to different music that you many not have heard before is key to me. And I think that is a big reason the bands do it to. Tell me where else a band can go to get there music heard by someone else besides there target audience. Not a lot of choice if you think about it like that.

Thanks for the break down. Good stuff.

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