The Next Festival Frontier? Lollapalooza Expands To India

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JULY 29: General view of the crowd on day 2 of Lollapalooza at Grant Park on July 29, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images)

C3 Presents made a splash with the announcement that the already-global Lollapalooza is expanding to India, its first time in Asia, with two full days across four stages. 

The event takes place in Mumbai Jan. 28-29 – a much shorter window from announcement to show date than most major festivals – to make the most of the city’s temperate and drier season. Artist reps have already expressed excitement in response and, while most in the industry have noted and expected growth of Western-style tours and music festivals in South Asian and Southeast Asian markets, erecting a major festival from scratch is no small feat. The planned capacity is approximately 40,000 per day.

Pollstar caught up with C3 global promoter Joe Howard to hear more about Lolla India, which is co-produced by WME, Perry Farrell and Indian partner BookMyShow. 

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GLOBAL JOE: C3 Presents’ Joe Howard has played a major part in developing Lollapalooza into Europe, South America and, now, India.

Pollstar: Everything seems to be happening at once.

Joe Howard: It’s been a busy couple weeks. I was in Europe for three weeks. We had Lolla Stockholm at the beginning of July, and then we had Lolla Paris kind of mid-July and then I came back home to Austin for basically just four days and then went to Chicago. So July was a doozy, but also that was our first time getting back to Europe post-pandemic. It was great to get back over there and hang with some of the local teams that we work with and have been Zooming with for literally three years. And the shows were great. All  three of them were great.

We feel lucky to get the two in Europe back and obviously we did Chicago last year but this year felt more normal. We also had epic weather and it felt like the show was running super smooth all around for the fans, the artists and for us working it.

C3 has developed multiple events in different markets, but the Mumbai announcement seems different from most. How did it happen?

We’ve been Zooming with the team there locally for two years basically talking through things and then once we got to the end of last year, we started to feel comfortable that 2023 might be the year to really give a go and pull the trigger. 

For Lolla, we typically lean toward finding a marquee, metropolitan/international city as a destination for that type of event. It might have originated with a connection made through (C3 partner) Charlie Walker and then Charles (Attal) as well with our guys in Mumbai through mutual contacts, colleagues, and friends. We’ve been looking at places in Asia to bring Lolla to over the years. All the factors just didn’t really make sense until now. Mumbai is obviously a major city in India and throughout history has kind of been a symbolic gateway to Asia. It’s a similar scale, population size wise to São Paulo, Brazil, for example. Close to 20 million people.  When it came online as a real possibility a couple of years ago, we were immediately excited. Conversations were ramping up right as the pandemic started.

What’s the response from the artist community been like?

What was interesting to me about this market is there definitely seems to be a kind of a mythological interest in coming in, in traveling to India. In the reaching-out phase, just to see who was potentially available, the common thing was like, “My artist has never been there, they’ve been dying to go, and maybe this is the opportunity to finally do it.” 

You’re heavily involved on the talent side for the international festivals. Do you know what will work in Mumbai? 

I’m not going to pretend we’re suddenly experts in the Indian adolescent culture and what they like to listen to. We can see some data, which is helpful, but we rely heavily always with our local teams trying to help us figure out what they think is important. Generally speaking, some years are better than others. We think Lolla is a great platform because it is a multi-genre festival by nature. So we want to have a little bit of everything if we can. There’s typically always going to be a spectrum of rock and pop and maybe electronic. We want to book what’s contemporary, what’s popular, what’s trending.

We’ve learned a lot over the years in South America. And so we’re looking forward to kind of seeing this first year through, hoping that the stuff we’ve been able to book is going to be something  the local crowd wants to see. The second half of that is delivering hopefully a great fan experience so we build some loyalty with the brand, knowing that every year the lineup is going to be different. It’s way harder than any normal fan realizes, to book the bands we do. We get lucky sometimes. A lot of it is timing, a lot of it’s trying to stay in front of people’s planning phases. 

There’s a lot of risk involved when we go to a new market. We have the mindset and it’s part of the conversation with our local partners that we want to establish an annual, longstanding show that is going to be there for many years to come. That’s always the goal. It does take a couple of years to kind of get through the initial hurdles of just figuring it out.

BookMyShow is handling ticketing as well as production and logistics for Lolla India. How do you figure out the logistics, vendors, staffing and marketing?

We work with them just like we do in South America or Europe. They’re the ones on the ground, talking to all the local vendors that we work with to produce the show. They’re putting a great team together. I’ve met a lot of the main guys and they’re developing their respective teams for the different departments as we speak. And we’re bringing more of our core team that works on most of our festivals to help supervise and suss through the initial “What’s the game plan?” Until you really do a full year and actually produce a show, you don’t know what works and doesn’t. 

We’re involved and we’re helping guide the process and establishing a lot of the best practices, but the people on the ground are doing the hard work and really the producers, the local teams are. We want them to learn from us. We want to help bring some ideas that we’ve implemented over many years and many shows. We want everybody to grow from that. 

You’re sort of springboarding the development yourselves at this point.

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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – MARCH 26: A general view of atmosphere at Autodromo de Interlagos on March 26, 2017 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Mauricio Santana/Getty Images)

In South America, once we had three established Lollapaloozas there, we created this kind of natural network and tour, which I’m heavily involved with. It’s a logistical beast and undertaking in South America. It’s three festivals and we have a sister festival in Colombia and Paraguay, so it’s five festivals, five countries over two weekends and a 10-day period. There’s a lot of logistical pieces of the puzzle at least to start out with Mumbai. We’re helping coordinate bands coming in and going out to other markets, but we’re focused on one show in this period at the moment and that’s going to help us have fully focus on Lolla India itself and not have too large of an undertaking to start. But maybe we grow from that.

I’m going to keep kind of paralleling back to South America, but the early days of South America were similar, 10 years ago. 

We’ve been going down there since 2011, and Lollapalooza and all the increasing volume of traffic of all shapes and sizes has pushed the local vendors to invest more as the live industry grows. So I think everyone’s going to benefit from the infrastructure investment. More shows like Lolla or more touring traffic coming into the market. I think Mumbai’s gonna see that, and other markets in India are going to see that and hopefully react to it. 

We’re diving in as we speak about all that stuff, about what vendors have the equipment, etcetera. We want to rely on local vendors as much as we can, because we want them to grow with us. 

So you’re looking to build a network of Asian dates similar to South America?

That is the logical path that we hope develops over the years. And if we can be kind of a new anchor in the window in the region, it’s going to be mutually beneficial for sure. For the bands and for us and for whoever else can kind of align with us, whether it’s something we’re involved with or something that piggybacks on top of us. It’s certainly going to make life easier to have other stuff to bring to the table for the bands who are (otherwise) doing a one-off in India. I’ve flown there from Austin, Texas, and it’s a haul (laughs). So the more dates they can do along the way is good for everybody.

Otherwise on a headline run, they don’t have the support, they can’t afford (touring in Asia or South America). It’s super expensive, they’re all fly dates, all that stuff. This is going to take years, like it did in South America to build a stronger network where we can have a solid opportunity to hit some of these markets for the first time.

Can you say anything about potential Lollas or other festivals in other new markets?

We are always looking for new opportunities and new markets. Every artist needs more places  to go, more destinations to play and more trusted companies and producers planting a flag in the sand. We’re entertaining conversations all the time and we have a lot of various things that need to kind of get in place to be comfortable to kind of move forward. But we’re always looking. s