The founder and operator of 4Fini, Inc., the live event production company and brand strategy firm behind Warped Tour, Kevin Lyman started producing concerts when he was still a college student. That led to a gig at Goldenvoice, the company that now promotes Coachella every year, and the Goldenvoice gig in turn enabled Lyman to launch Warped Tour more than 20 years ago.
Initially, Warped Tour wasn’t a success.
“It was a failure that first year, but people saw that I was trying to do something different,” says Lyman via phone.
He speaks at the Rock Hall Library & Archives at 7 p.m. on Friday. Admission is free, but reservations are required.
“It was a great lineup, but the country didn’t have the eclectic music tastes I was trying to show at that point," he continues. "I thought everyone liked an eclectic lineup. I was the guy who loaded the trucks. I was the first non-artist that started my own tour. It was always [Jane’s Addiction singer] Perry Farrell or Blues Traveler or Sarah MacLachlan. All of a sudden, the guy who loaded people’s vans was putting on his own tour.”
Earlier this year, Lyman, who has also appeared in and produced multiple TV series, movies and documentaries during the course of his career, announced that Warped Tour will hit the road this summer for the last time.
“A lot of it has come to the physical side of things,” he says when asked about what made him decide this would be the last Warped Tour. “I’ve always worked in a different kind of way than other people. When I was 30 years old, it was a lot different. Also, artists used to come on Warped Tour because they were part of a community, and they wanted to support the younger bands. They thought it would help their career down the road. Times have changed. Bands have to tour all the time now. That’s their main source of income. For what I do, that sense of community isn’t as strong as it used to be.”
Lyman has recently spent more time lecture circuit. He recently gave the keynote speech at the annual National Association of Music Merchants conference.
“I do these different formats,” he says via phone when asked about his speaking engagements. “When I speak at universities and colleges, I’ll throw out broad topics. I will then dive into questions right away. I’m not sure what people want to walk out with. I can tell stories about Warped Tour, but I’m interested in talking about what’s got us to this point.”
This Rock Hall talk is presented in conjunction with the 22nd annual High School Rock Off, and Lyman will also serve as a judge for the Rock Off’s "final exam," which takes place at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Rock Hall. Prior to the start of that event, Lyman will conduct a Q&A with the bands that made it to the finals and undoubtedly drop some serious knowledge on the teens.
“I tell young bands to be patient,” he says. “Have as much fun as you can now. If you become bigger, it becomes a business much quicker. Your life is under a microscope with social media. You don’t get the luxury of making mistakes that artists did at one point.”
PNC Bank, a sponsor of the High School Rock Off, will help high school seniors launch their careers in music by providing scholarships of up to $2,000 to Tri-C.