Q’s With A Pollstar Live! Panelist: Paradigm’s Mike Marquis on Warped Tour and What Comes Next

Courtesy of Paradigm
– Paradigm’s Mike Marquis
As an agent at Paradigm, Mike Marquis represents acts including The Maine and Mayday Parade.

Vans Warped Tour has achieved a staggering level of cultural ubiquity since it debuted in 1995. Bolstered by its impressive longevity, the annual event shaped a generation of music fans and stands as one of the most influential traveling music festivals in history.

Tour regulars including Mayday Parade and The Maine — represented by Paradigm’s Mike Marquis — formed the backbone of Vans Warped Tour and defined its image.

“It was always about stuff that isn’t too cool,” Marquis tells Pollstar. “Stuff that’s mainstream and kids listen to in the suburbs and spend their allowance to go to the Warped Tour.”

Though a chapter of Warped Tour’s history ended in 2018, when the festival launched its final touring iteration, Warped Tour has announced plans to return for a limited run of 25th anniversary shows this summer in Northern California, Ohio and New Jersey.

On Feb. 12, Marquis will join Warped founder Kevin Lyman, Synergy Artists Management owner and founder / Public Consumption Recording Company co-founder Evangelia Livanos, Emo Nite co-founder Barbara (Babz) Szabo and Fearless Records president Andy Serrao for the Pollstar Live! panel “Living In a Post-Warped World: What’s Next?”

Ahead of the panel, Marquis connected with Pollstar to discuss how Warped Tour impacted the careers of his clients, emo’s continued relevance and what Lyman might have in store for the Warped anniversary gigs this summer.

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How did Warped Tour impact the careers of the artists you represent?
Mike Marquis: It impacted them immensely. I know a lot of bands that got started on Warped Tour. And then a lot of bands that felt they should do it every two to three years just to continue connecting with the young audience and make sure that they were relevant still. The Maine and Mayday Parade, who are two of my clients, are bands that always valued it to make them feel like they had the ears of the fresh 16-year-olds that were just starting to get into punk or emo. There was such a brand with the tour and so many kids that are die-hard Warped Tour attendees that don’t even necessarily care who’s playing, they’re just going to go because it’s a staple.

How do you think Warped Tour’s absence will impact the careers of the bands who played it and the commercial viability of the genre of music it promoted?
If every band that would’ve done the Warped Tour tries to do their own tour that is going to be really hard, trying to divide the audience up into 20 different shows. If artists can figure out creative ways to package and do something that’s worth talking about and has an x-factor that makes those fans attracted to the show, I think it’ll be fine.

How did the tour evolve over the years?
Kevin was really good about making sure that there were a handful of artists on the bill every year that felt different. He would always do stuff to bend the rules. He follows his gut. If he liked something and believed in it, he would do it. He was a risk-taker and I remember when Katy Perry did the tour or Eminem or the Deftones. Those were chances at the time and they proved to be visionary moves.

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Can you speak to the relevance of genres like emo and pop-punk in 2019?
Music goes in cycles. Emo and pop-punk are kind of having a little bit of a resurgence now, because some of the kids that liked it at 16 are 26 now and they’re working jobs. They don’t have the time to go out and scout new music. I think when all those kids went to college in 2008 or 2009, they decided they were too cool for the Warped Tour scene and kind of forgot about it. And the market corrected, I guess, on how big emo was. Now, it’s starting to balance back out. People are realizing how much they loved Dashboard Confessional, All Time Low and stuff like that.

I’m 27 and I have totally seen that. People in the early ’10s were like, “The emo stuff is behind us.”
Too cool for school.

And now there are younger acts coming up who cite your All Time Lows and your Dashboard Confessionals as big influences.
It’s true. I’m 36, but I listened to grunge and alternative when I was growing up and then all of a sudden when I hit my late twenties I was like, “You know what? This is just my favorite kind of music and I want to go back and listen to a lot of Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins. I don’t have to answer to anybody anymore. Music is not a big enough part of my identity that I need to feel like I’m ahead of anything, I just want to enjoy what I’m listening to.” There’s a lot of that happening in the emo world.

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Do you think that traveling festivals have a future?
I think something comparable can and will arise. I don’t know if it gets to the same scale. I don’t know if it becomes 40 dates and seven or eight stages. But traveling festivals with that kind of music, yeah, I do. I also think there’s more and more artist-curated events.

Your client Jack Antonoff curates New Jersey’s Shadow of the City festival. Is the festival market gravitating toward those niche experiences?
I think they’re doing well and people like those kinds of festivals because the vision is honest and unique and speaks to something that people want to take part in. Whereas all the “big festivals” are homogenized just booking all the same talent. Ninety percent of the bill is artists that are also playing two or three other festivals, at a minimum. That’s a lower-tier fan on that. Whereas the artist-curated ones speak to something more specific. And the artists that do it right, I think there’s something special about them because the effort and the work comes through and I think fans realize that too.

What are you expecting from the 25th anniversary Warped gigs?
I have faith that Kevin will make them great. From what he told me, it seems like he’s trying to go for a history of Warped Tour and have more older artists and artists from the entire history of the tour.