Kevin Lyman speaks on Warped Tour

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Kevin Lyman talks about his experiences in the music industry. Photo by Corey Kleinsasser

Summer is usually a time where people stop going to school, take vacations and spend time indoors. But for the people on the Vans Warped Tour, they are preparing to start working for the entire summer and fans are waiting to attend.

This year marks the 20th year that Warped Tour will run. For those who are unfamiliar with the tour, it is an yearly, all day, summer concert festival that has nearly 100 bands playing at each show. It starts in June, ends in August, and travels all across the United States and Canada.

The tour was founded by Cal Poly Pomona alumnus Kevin Lyman, who recently spoke at his alma mater. Even though summer is an exciting time for many people, Lyman is not one of them because he is hard at work.

“Everyone’s always asked, ‘Are you excited about this summer?’” said Lyman.  “Personally, I don’t get to be excited about the summer.  I’m the guy that has to go out there every day and worry about 13, 14,000 kids well-being at a show.  I have a thousand people [working] on tour that I have to worry about.”

Most festival shows nowadays are relatively expensive, usually ranging near and well above $100.  Warped tour has always strived to keep its costs low.  Since day one, and even today, the cost has been under $50, and that is thanks to sponsors.

Lyman was broke after the inaugural year of Warped Tour and did not know if it would be a continuous event.

“None of the promoters are going to pay me,”  said Lyman.  “They lost any money because they lost all their money on the first year…So then I thought, corporate sponsor is the way to go.  Then I start realizing, we are supporting these companies.  Let’s get some money and have some good times.”

Lyman’s partner at the time convinced him that Calvin Klein would be a great sponsor for the tour.  Even though he was desperate, Lyman did not want them.  He then set up a meeting with Vans CEO Walter Schoenefeld.

“They brought me in for a meeting in a small room,”  said Lyman.  “He said, ‘I’d like you to help me with my amateur skateboard contest.  Would you like a job at Vans?’  And I go, ‘No, Walter, no one’s going to come see amateur skating unless it’s part of my successful music festival.’  And he’s like, ‘Oh, tell me about this.’

I got it together and in 15 minutes, I thought I was getting a check for $3,000, [but] I was walking out with a check for $300,000.  You believe in your brand, you sell your brand, you were selling what you did, you have nothing to lose and that’s when Vans became my brand on the tour.”

Compared to the Warped Tour of today, the first one had a very minute lineup.  But of that first lineup, two bands eventually became legends and now have Warped Tour to thank.

Sublime and No Doubt were the first two bands that made it really big when they played the first Warped Tour in 1995,” said Lyman.  “They blew up following the tour.  After that it was: Deftones, Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, Eminem, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, [etc].”

The workers are a vital part of putting on each stop at Warped Tour.  It is a traveling city on wheels thanks to the workers.

“Seven-hundred to 1000 people [are] working on the tour, depending on the city,” said Lyman.  “[They] put a city up in four hours and tear it down in three.”

Warped Tour is unique because no fan will know the set times until they enter the gate.  All set times for each band playing will be posted at a large, inflatable wall at each stop of the tour.

“That came from me being on Lollapalooza in 1991 because my favorite artist was Henry Rollins,” said Lyman.  “Henry Rollins would be like, ‘This is a perfect amphitheater, but none of you would have been here and a few of you would have been on the grass.  Henry would be on stage killing it, every day at 1:20 in the afternoon and I’m there thinking, ‘Just think if he got a chance to play before Jane’s Addiction.’

That’s where I came up with the idea where if I ever did something in my life, I would reshuffle the schedule.  Writing that schedule everyday makes you guys come at 11 o’clock.”

Warped Tour is not just about the music, it is also very high on the amount of businesses it has at each stop of the event.  More than 50 vendors are at each stop of the tour, promoting and selling products before, during and after each show.

“It’s not just about breaking bands, it’s about breaking brands,” said Lyman.

Warped Tour also has their own television show called Warped Roadies that airs of Fuse Television.  The show profiles Warped Tour during the summer through the highs and lows of the summer.  Lyman had the idea for the show for about 10 years before it came to fruition.

“I’m somewhat protective with the brand, but I also realize with Warped Tour we can try to have some fun with it,”  said Lyman.  “I didn’t think it was going to hurt the brand…It turned into kind of a fun thing.  It reminds people of Warped Tour during the winter time.  It wasn’t planned for me to announce bands every episode, but that became kind of a cool thing.

The ratings were great on it, but you always have to have a back-up plan.  Something in my heart told me we might not have a third season…As a back-up plan, we’re going to be shooting our own episodes.  It’ll be a Warped TV show online next year.  We’re going to edit it [and] we’re going to put it all together.  I’m putting all these ideas together.  We’re going to start shooting stuff in two weeks.”

The festival is the longest running annual-tour in the US today and shows no signs of slowing down.  Even though it does not have a tour overseas yet, Warped Tour has hosted shows in the United Kingdom since 2012.

How has Warped Tour affected your life?

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