Lollapalooza Is Upon Us: Q’s With Charles Attal, C3 Presents And C3 Management

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
– Lollapalooza
Fans soak in the tunes and vibes of Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago Aug. 6, 2017. This year, C3 Presents’ flagship festival locked in Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, Jack White and Arctic Monkeys for headline spots.
Charles Attal’s first Bill Graham Award for Promoter of The Year was 2005, when he was operating as Charles Attal Presents, and he won it again for 2013 and 2014. In between those later wins Live Nation acquired a controlling stake in C3 Presents, his company with Charlie Jones and Charlie Walker. 

His three-peat victory puts him in distinguished company, as only two others (Jack Boyle and Gregg Perloff) have achieved the feat since the award took its namesake in 1992. 

But beyond awards, C3 Presents’ affiliation with Live Nation is putting it right on the front lines of a music industry that is in full boom. The Lollapalooza brand has exploded in Europe and South America and Austin City Limits remains a beloved North American music festival. 

In addition to the promotion company, C3 Management – which is not affiliated with Live Nation – represents an array of artists like Mt. Joy, Rebelution, Jon Pardi,  Phoenix, The Strokes, Sylvan Esso, The Head And The Heart, and The Revivalists

Lollapalooza returns to Grant Park starting today, featuring The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Travis Scott, Odesza, Post Malone, Portugal. The Man, Vampire Weekend and many more. The festival has certainly come a long way from the days when it was the traveling brainchild of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction, becoming a destination event based out of Chicago in 2005, when William Morris Entertainment’s Marc Geiger and Charles Attal Presents came on board.

Meanwhile, the Austin City Limits brand expanded Down Under into Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia; Voodoo Music + Arts Experience has become a premier event in its own right and C3 is now reportedly valued at $250 million. It’s no wonder why Bob Roux, Live Nation’s president, U.S. Concerts said his company for the most part leaves the Charlies “to do what they do.” 

With so much on his plate, including the launch of Lollapalooza today, Attal was gracious enough to check in with Pollstar to talk about what’s new, the secret to how his company avoids getting “old” and potential markets for more Lollas.

So how do you prevent Lollapalooza from getting stale? 

We’re always looking to expand and improve what we do. We’ve added cocktail lounges, with our special GA+ ticket package. They include more shade, more seating, air-conditioned restrooms, complimentary water, soft drinks, discounts on beer/wine. We’ve got food for purchase, games, a chill lounge area. 
There will be a professional ping pong tournament. It’s not sanctioned but there are pro players coming and fans can actually play for prizes. It’s pretty cool. 
And we’re always enhancing the artists’ experience, how to get in and out. We’re just trying to have best practices in the country and the world. 
So why did you introduce the GA+ package, yet another tier between GA, Platinum and VIP?

We do surveys online and people were asking for something. They didn’t want a full VIP ticket but they wanted a little something extra. Just more shade, more relaxing area. If you’re coming all day, you have to hang and chill. Sometimes you want to be a little more off the beaten path. 
The Lollapalooza Aftershows have become a whole market in themselves. What are you excited about this year?
Oh, we’ve got a lot of them. I can tell you the ones I’m going to (laughs). Jack White at the Metro / Smart Bar, Dua Lipa at the Vic Theatre. Greta Van Fleet is gonna be awesome at the Vic. The National at the Metro / Smart Bar. Carly Rae Jepsen will be cool. Vampire Weekend at the Metro. The Metro is stacked deep. 
There is so much going on it’s kind of like a whole second part of Lollapalooza. How has it gotten to this level?
Activating the city is our No. 1 goal. We do as many shows as we can. A lot of bands can’t play aftershows, some have to leave town, but if we could do aftershows with every band we would. 
Joe Shanahan [the founder and owner of Metro / Smart Bar in Chicago] really helped us develop relationships with the clubs and the theatres. He’s been a great supporter of us over the years and he’s been a good voice locally to help us out. We lean on him heavily to tell us where to go, what to do. And it’s worked out. 
It’s a little early to go to bed at 10, right? Well maybe not for me, but for some of the kids. (Laughs) 10 p.m. on a Friday night people are just getting ready to go out. 
Photo Courtesy of C3 Presents
– Charles Attal
The expansion of the Lollapalooza brand internationally has been a huge success. Can you talk about how the expansion has happened and how it has affected your business strategy?
We don’t want to live and die by one show. Some shows will be soft one year, some will be super strong. We want to be able to continue to diversify.  
[But] we grow organically, we don’t ever force feed anything, anywhere. The growth of Lolla has all been organic growth, in finding great partners and great sites in different cities around the world. 
We won’t do two Lollas in one country. We do one per country, and it takes years to come up with a site. 
We’re super excited about Stockholm coming online, all the South America shows are doing very well, they’ve been selling out. The brand is healthy. 
Every country is different as well. There’s always going to be a regional, local and national flair to each festival. There’s no cookie cutter going on anywhere, because you can’t do the same types of activations, food, music or art, because every country is different. That’s the beauty of Lollapalooza, we’re able to come in and create something different in every market.

Even in different South American countries you see that diversity? 
Exactly. Buenos Aires is totally different from Chile, Brazil. And they are totally different sizes. I think Chile has the best kid’s activation that we have, at [their] Kidzapalooza. That’s a place anybody would go hang.
And we learn from all our partners around the world. We try to have best practices and they do too. We’ll see something really cool in one country and we’ll think, “Wow, we should try to go do that somewhere else.” 
Even international bands. Sebastian from Chile will call me and say, “Hey, I have this really cool South American band, you want to put it on Lolla Chicago?” Sure enough, you put it on and people come out of the woodwork for it.
It’s not always perfect, we have heated disagreements that are very productive, but at the end of the day we are all one big family and it works out well.
Are you looking at major cities in East Asian countries like Japan or China?
I’m not personally, but that doesn’t mean that my partners aren’t looking. We are always looking for sites, so yes, we are looking [in those markets]. We haven’t found the ideal situation just yet, but we would love to go to East Asia.
It seems like big promoters, like Live Nation, are trying to open new markets so they have more places to run their tours. Can you speak about C3’s role in that process, with such a strong international brand in Lolla ? 
Live is where [the artists] are making their money. It’s not like the old days, so they have to find new markets or sit out six months in a year.
In South America the Lollas are able to help break artists. Even big artists that aren’t as [popular] down there are willing to play Lolla. It’s a great soft ticket for them. They don’t have to worry about filling up the clubs, they can get in front of a built-in audience and show their talent, and then they can come back and do a hard ticket on their own. 
That’s been the model for a lot of bands, which is great for us. We love it. 
We’ve written about how Live Nation does not have a “festival division,” and that the promoters they acquire mostly do their own thing. So, what does collaboration look like for you?
I’m very close with a lot of the European promoters, the South American promoters, the Australian promoters. I get on a weekly call with Andre Lieberberg, Melvin Benn, Denis Desmond, John Reid, Kelly Chappel, Anna Sjolund, people around the world who I respect and love working with. … We talk about what artists are working in what parts of the world, and what’s bubbling to the top. 
How are you handling the ever-increasing workload as you continue to expand?
We are lucky to be in Austin, next door to the University of Texas, which is a great university. We have a great intern program and thousands of resumes. 
When you’re out of college, if you don’t want to leave Austin, a great place to work is C3. You can travel, you can work in different cities, you can cut your teeth in production, creative, marketing, sponsorships or booking. There’s a lot of departments.
We’re lucky to have that pipeline and we train kids for a few years before they are working on a major project. 
We hire a lot of people out of that program. We teach them the way we like to do it, and they’re not jaded from working in other markets. They come with ideas and we are always looking for new ideas. 
We never shut the door on new talent and new ideas because you know what, I’m 50 (laughs), so my ideas may get a little tired sometimes. We need revamp on our festivals and our events, we need fresh eyeballs on it and that’s the key to our company.
What are you excited about with Austin City Limits this year?
I mean, we’ve never had Paul McCartney or Metallica on this show. That’s our wheelhouse. Having Metallica on a Saturday night in the park is going to be epic. We’re super excited about that. 
The city embraces this festival. It’s been here for a long time [since 2002], it’s one of the older festivals in the U.S. It’s part of the DNA of the city, its special, and we look forward to it every year.