Talking ‘Self Help’

The folks behind A Day To Remember’s talk with Pollstar about booking radiuses, building the lineup, and supporting young bands – all while bringing ADTR’s vision to life.

The event planned for the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino, Calif., March 7, will mark the third incarnation of Self Help.  Having debuted in San Bernardino last March, Self Help’s second time was at Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing in October.  A Day To Remember headlined both 2014 festivals.

But while A Day To Remember is not playing next month’s Self Help, the band is curating the event and members have involved themselves with virtually every aspect, resulting in a lineup that includes Pierce The Veil, Sleeping With Sirens,Falling In Reverse, The Devil Wears Prada, Real Friends, Breathe Carolina, The Ghost Inside, Whitechapel, State Champs, Stick To Your Guns, PVRIS, Assuming We Survive, and The Amity Affliction.

To find out what goes on behind the scenes of the Self Help Festival, Pollstar spoke with A Day To Remember vocalist Jeremy McKinnon; promoter Andy Serrao, owner and talent buyer for Anaheim nightclub Chain Reaction and the director of A&R for Roadrunner Records; The Agency Group’s Dave Shapiro, who represents A Day To Remember; and ADTR managers John Youngman and Mark Mercado of Fly South Music Group. 

While the interviews were conducted separately and then mashed together, the outcome is a peek behind the curtain, not only about how festivals are managed, but how ideas and concepts become reality.

National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino, Calif.

Why is it called the “Self Help Festival?”

Youngman: We were all in London … in a taxi cab and they were trying to think of a name that embodies the whole movement of music that they are a part of.  Jeremy was commenting on the fact when fans write the band or talk with the band [during meet-&-greets], kids always say, “Your music saved my life,” or “It got me out of a dark place,” those type of things.  (ADTR guitarist) Kevin just had the light bulb of “self help.” And everybody felt that embodied the message behind the music.  Every year they try to pick bands that have lyrics or that type of material.

Jeremy, who are some of the bands whose music has helped you?

McKinnon: I think live music helps me more than specific bands. There’s just something special about seeing a band you love really going for it and a crowd vibing with them. That just makes me feel at home.

What are the advantages of holding a festival in March as opposed to late spring or in the summer?

Serrao: In late spring you get radius-ed out by the summer touring.  … An artist that is on Warped Tour will not be allowed to play the territory.  That’s why we hold it in March.

In late spring, … in April you do compete with Coachella.  Not that it’s the same world or genre but since Coachella and Stagecoach have kind of been events more so than music fan things, people just go to go.  You still want to be part of that traffic, you kind of want to keep a clean window to get in.

Shapiro: Radius clauses, in general, have been a challenge we need to work with, whether it be tours the bands are on or summer festivals. Last year when we did Self Help, we did it a little bit later in March and we found that it was a little close to what the Warped Tour radius was.  This year we decided to move it a little bit earlier and stay away from the Warped Tour radius clause, which opened up a few more bands to be considered for the festival, which was a good thing.

The other thing we did purposely, which worked out really well, was we booked Self Help to be the weekend after Soundwave in Australia ended.  A lot of bands that were fly-ins, ended up not being as expensive as a normal fly-in because they were already flying through Los Angeles on their way home from Australia.  So they could essentially route through and play our festival on their way home.  And that worked out very, very well for us.

With A Day To Remember not performing at Self Help, is the brand growing strong enough that the band will not be involved in future events?

Shapiro: The goal is that they will always be involved because it is their festival.  They are kind of the centerpiece of this.  They help curate it.  They have a big voice in terms of the lineup.  They’re also the ones who played it the first year and they launched this thing.  They are not only partners in the festival but they are a huge marketing component to it – which is a good thing.  I don’t think our goal is to get them out of the mix.  Our goal, quite the opposite, is to build a bigger and better brand that helps grow their brand and vice versa.  It’s something A Day To Remember can use to their advantage while [the band] is also helping to build the Self Help Festival.  It’s a mutually beneficial situation there and we really want the essence of what A Day To Remember wants to do with it to always be there because it’s kind of their brainchild.

Mercado: I think they both go together. … It seems like we’re in an absolutely great place and it seems what the band’s vision was, bringing the right bands together, is certainly working out.  As of right now it’s moving in a positive direction and we’re going to continue to grow this … slow and organically, try to grow it at the right place, and make sure we don’t get too big for our britches.

Youngman: Our ticket sales are almost, number for number, parallel to what we saw last year, so we’re right on track to do about the same number of people.  I think with the way the lineup has been structured, and A Day To Remember having a huge role in curating it, they kind of attack putting the festival lineup together with our help, with Andy and The Agency Group’s help, the same way they put together a tour package.  It’s putting the right bands together with other bands that are going to make kids excited.  It feels like they’ve done that again with this lineup because there seems to be a lot  of excitement out there amongst the fans.

Jeremy, do you see the concept growing beyond the festival and becoming an entity onto itself that promotes the “healing” music can offer?

McKinnon: We would love that, because that’s really what it’s all about. Getting out of your box, and being with other likeminded people.

Any chance Self Help will grow into a multi-day event?

Youngman: I think anything is possible.  I can see it at some point maybe being a few days.  Right now it’s a one-day event, we haven’t looked past that.  I think little by little there may be another market at some point.  I’ve talked to everyone else that I’d love to do Mexico City or something.  We’re just taking it one day at a time and making sure every [event] we do is as good as it possibly can be.  Then we start thinking about the next one.

Jeremy, what has surprised you the most about the business of live music that you may not have been aware of before launching the first Self Help festival?

McKinnon: How easy it is for owners to accommodate bands, but they don’t. We pride ourselves on really taking care of the fans, and artists just the same.

Dave, What would you tell a music fan who is considering attending the Self Help Festival  who hasn’t decided whether to buy a ticket?

Shapiro: I want those people to know that while the lineup is absolutely incredible and I think we’ve put a really good job putting together a lineup that people really want to see, that if that’s not compelling enough, I think the experience of the festival is something music fans should experience.  We don’t do it like a lot of other festivals.  There aren’t 10 stages, 100 bands, 50 sponsors and tents everywhere with people trying to sell you stuff.  We try to make it a much more fan-friendly experience.  It’s two stages, only the bands you want to see.  Merch tents for the bands that are there playing.  Really streamlined. It’s a great, great experience. It’s the festival that, if I was going as a fan, that I would want to go see.

For more information, please visit the Self Help Festival’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, Instagram page, YouTube channel, and Tumblr home.