The Vans Warped Tour kicked-off its summer tour season June 20 in Pomona, CA, with a sold-out show of 20,000, 13-25-year-olds fans despite the 104-degree temperature. Using biodiesel trucks, recycled catering supplies, among loads of other green initiatives, the 39-bus circus continues to roll through more 43 different cities across North America, until circling back to Los Angeles and ending August 17th. This summer will mark the 14th year for the Vans Warped Tour, with the theme “The Roadtrip Continues” -making it the longest and largest touring festival in North America. With more than 625,000 tickets sold to young people mostly between the ages of 13-20, it’s undeniable that the formula for success for this tour is worth serious attention not only to music industry players, but also sponsors, musicians, and fans.
Many people account for the tour’s success to the founder and director, Kevin Lyman, who has an uncanny ability to select a mix of up-and-coming bands, along with older bands re-instating their careers, which continue to draw a youthful audience. In a live interview on site at Pomona, Kevin explained to Label Networks TV that there are several new things to expect from the new crop of up-and-coming bands and tour this summer. “It’s the first day so there are things to work out, but it’s great to see 2,000 kids run over to see Oreska band play, then Beat Union. I think the Aggrolites are going to be interesting to watch this summer, among many others. Once we hit Phoenix, I should have more time to be out in the crowd and check out more bands.”
What’s notable already about this year’s tour is that a new crop of up-and-coming bands already claiming the spotlight among an entirely new generation of fans, including Katy Perry, Angles and Airwaves, Say Anything, Cobra Starship, Shwayze, The Maine, and Family Force 5, among others. Over the summer, as word-of-mouth spreads as the tour travels, specific bands will become the “break-out” bands and achieve incredible success among this marketplace, and often influencing new styles and fashion. Last year, this was due to Paramore, which could still be seen in Pomona with many girls (and guys) sporting yellow stovepipe denim pants and yellow Converse sneaks.
Kevin also talked about his concern for the economic climate and the cost of gas prices for the kids trying to get to the shows. “We know it’s more expensive to drive to the Warped Tour this year, and it is for us to go to each city, but we’re set on bringing the show to as many people who want to see it as possible.”
Ironically, while the economy continues to struggle and music concerts and festivals continue to increase prices, the Vans Warped Tour remains the cheapest ticket in town at $27 for pre-sale–up only 50 cents since last year–of which 25 cents is donated to the Camp Hollywood Heart Charity. “We have had to be very creative in how we keep our ticket prices low,” explains Kevin. “But we’re determined to make sure every kid can come to the Vans Warped Tour that wants to.” Running from 11 a.m. to about 8 p.m. each day, for $27 fans can see more than 40 bands in a day, not to mention visit various merch tents, activity tents, non-profit information tents in a village called Take Action, and check out skateboarding in a mini ramp provided by Vans. In a genius move, kids can also drop off their parents in a Reverse Day-Care tent.
The big rush at the beginning of each show is to run to the oversized blow-up program sponsored by the presenting sponsor AT&T which is a 1-story red blowup of the day’s band schedules listing the order of the bands and which of the 8 stages they’ll be appearing on (Kevin sets the line-up each night before the next days show). Immediately, fans text the line-up on their cell phones or write down who’s playing where and when and sprint to the stage showcasing their favorite band. And so the festival frenzy from stage to stage begins.
In Pomona, and again in Ventura for the kick-off weekend, bands such as Cobra Starship, Angles & Airwaves, Katy Perry, Say Anything, The Briggs, Everytime I Die, Gym Class Heroes, and Oreska were attracting large audiences. Not to be overlooked however, on other stages, the duo band 3OH!3 out of Boulder, Family Force 5 and their mix of rock/techno/rave, pop-punkers The Maine, and several emo bands are attracting demographics who for most, are witnessing their first concert of their lives.
Fashion trends are launched at Warped each summer as well as young people check out via the Warped website, social networks, and personal blogs to get the latest scoop on what’s taking place at each location of the tour including who’s wearing what, which then gets recontextualized and modified in the next city and the next, to the point where trends get their start (and then top-end designers copy). Styles already on the radar include bright-colored, cartoony graphic T-shirts (several bands are sporting block letters with bright mixed colors in their merch), handmade T-shirts with lettering in felt, stovepipe denim and colored denim, and serious attention to accessories, particularly angled haircuts, oversized thrift sunglasses, tiny backpacks, multiple beaded bracelets, and handmade necklaces. Stay tuned for more fashion trends from Label Networks later in the summer.
The Vans Warped Tour is also where great ideas for sponsorship and marketing opportunities come to light. Cool sponsor programs in the past have included texting the band line-up which changes each day for cell phone brands, “jump-the-line” programs that allow kids to skip up front of lines, band autograph signings in sponsor booths, tons of eco-initiatives, contests, slip-n-slides, video gaming areas, among other things.
Top sponsors this year include AT&T, which hosts the text messages for the day’s line-up each morning, KIA which is sponsoring the solar-powered Kevin Says Stage, which is also where a lot of new bands break-out each year, making it a must-see venue for fans of new music; plus Monster Energy Drink, Hurley, AP Magazine, Vans, Ernie Ball, Trojan, Fuse TV, Truth.com, Music Saves Lives, Guitar Center, MySpace, SkullCandy, Lost, Xbox, among others. So far among sponsor tents, the Truth was gaining traction with people participating in various activities as well as the Girls Garage and the Keep-a-Breast area; SkullCandy rapper stage and acoustic set-up and band signings kept things active and the AP booth which hosts the official Warped tour magazine was also busy. Other notable areas included Xbox and Rockband the game (which is an association with MTV), Ernie Ball’s guitar set-up where you can play and test equipment, and Vans merch booths selling the latest Warped Tour gear. In the band merch area, some of the most popular booths are for favorite bands of course, but also apparel and accessories that have their own message, such as To Write Love on Her Arms, Glamour Kills, the cloth backpack booth, and the sunglasses booth.
Stay tuned for more from the tour including break-out band stories, fresh fashion styles, and live interviews with bands and Kevin from the road.