Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman speaks on his industry experience
Kevin Lyman, creator of Vans Warped Tour, spoke to students Friday afternoon as part of the Curb College and the Morris Family Lecture Series, discussing his involvement in the music industry.
He opened by talking about his own experience in college, where he first fell in love with live music while earning a degree in recreation administration.
“It got into my heart and it’s still there,” said Lyman.
Following graduation, he worked for a punk-rock club, gaining knowledge about the music industry for the first time.
Lyman’s first big job came in 1992 with an invitation to be a stage manager for the Lollapalooza Tour. This offer was the “most epic moment of my life,” said Lyman.
The idea to start his own tour came in 1995 after getting news that he was going to be a father. Lyman decided to have one last summer of fun before being forced to settle down and get a “real job.”
After discussions with a lawyer about naming rights, Lyman made a deal with Warp Magazine, a skater lifestyle magazine, to use the name for the tour.
Lyman then used his contacts to book bands and hit the road for the first show in Salt Lake City.
The first year utilized attractions such as a climbing wall and the “human cannonball” to bring in crowds and to stand out from other tours.
“We always try to give you something you don’t expect,” said Lyman.
Lyman didn’t expect to stay in the music industry after the birth of his daughter, but his love of Warped Tour caused him to continue another year.
For this to be possible though, Lyman needed money. Money meant searching for sponsors for the tour and going back to lesser jobs like the one in the punk-rock club.
“Realize you have to, in this business, be able to step back,” said Lyman. “Never be too good for a job.”
His business partner at the time decided to contact a person he knew at Calvin Klein and ask for a sponsorship.
Luckily, before this could happen, Lyman was contacted by Vans and was offered a job in their company.
Lyman used this opportunity to instead ask for a headline partnership in place of the job. Vans agreed and provided the tour with $300,000.
This deal caused the annual event to be named Vans Warped Tour and since then it has been successful, becoming the longest-running festival concert tour in North America.
Lyman then took questions from the audience, which largely veered away from the Warped Tour-exclusive talk. Topics ranged from metal music and specific bands to advice for those wanting to manage artists and the artists themselves.
“Go take a psychology class if you want to be a manager,” said Lyman.
He also shared that the best way to build lasting relationships in the industry is to just be nice to people.
Lyman shared his experience working closely with bands and mentoring those he brings on tour. This year, he has decided to require each individual band member to meet with him about how to deal with life on the road.
Furthering his advice to artists, he added that being successful in the industry now requires thinking of a band as a brand. There needs to be a CEO, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Communications Officer.
Lyman didn’t want to take away from the musical talent required though.
“You have to write good music. It always starts there,” he said.
To close out the convocation, Lyman was presented with an award for Distinguished Lecturer for Mike Curb College of Entertainment.
This article was written by Chaney Mitchell.