This weekend in Orlando, our photojournalist Savannah Rowley covered the 17th annual Florida Music Festival & Conference held at UCF Rosen College and the surrounding Lake Eola area. There were conference panels featuring a keynote talk and Q&A session with the Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, as well as music business panels with people speaking from Okeechobee Festival, Global Citizen, as well as venues like House of Blues and agencies such as ReverbNation.
In the keynote session, Lyman spoke on what Warped has become since the start. Stating that it started on corporate dollars, the brands that originally helped fund it including how it became the Vans Warped Tour (can you believe it was almost the Calvin Klein Warped Tour?) Lyman said he was the first person who wasn’t also a music artist to start a festival. His main goal for Warped Tour is to educate people, whether it’s learning about a new organization or checking out a new band.
We also spoke with Kevin Lyman on a one-on-one interview about Warped Tour, including it’s future, decisions made about the tour, and personal things about Lyman himself.
Some of your other hobbies outside of touring, are such as fishing and surfing. Do you have any funny or memorable stories you’d like to share?
I love the first time of trying something new, and the first impressions of the artists I bring with me to try everything from skydiving, to fishing, sailing, I’m up for anything. I remember when I first took Paramore fishing in Florida years back.
Besides Full Sail, because of course they’re a major sponsor for Warped Tour, does Warped do anything for youth in college in terms of grants or scholarships?
We’re wanting to expand to that in the future. For right now we’re working on a spring internship program for college students. Like what Full Sail does by giving hard working students opportunities and jobs on the road through their degrees, we’re looking to also offer it for those willing to put themselves out there. Students can email me about internships in my offices in Nashville and Los Angeles.
What’s a favorite festival of yours to attend besides doing Warped Tour? Also, what’s the difference between a good vs. great festival?
Cochella is always fun to attend, I love the desert atmosphere. Honestly location is really what I look for that makes a festival good vs. great. Location is key.
What is Warped’s goal for new and upcoming bands on the scene?
We try to develop headliners. We try to see who can move up a few stages. We use Warped as an outlet for bands to start out on and grow, to then progress to bigger and better things. Take Too Close to Touch and Waterparks for example, they were openers last year and did a spring headliner recently together. We also look for bands to stay on Warped for summer to keep fans coming back for their favorites.
My friend Amber Soler is now an interpreter for the Florida Warped Tour dates. How did that happen and do you see it happening more in the future?
Amber reached out to me over email, I loved her idea. I told her if she could make it happen and find a band to interpret for that I’d let her do it. I will let anyone try anything once but I won’t give it to them, they have to work for it. Venues could use their own person to interpret but we haven’t seen that done yet. If it’s successful, we might do it in the future.
You’re definitely using Warped to bring attention to non-profit organizations such as Can You Hear Me?, Hope for the Day, and A Voice for the Innocent. How do you see this expanding in the future and what do you hope fans gain from finding out about organizations such as these?
We use the non-profits as a part of education. 90% of fans who attend, attend for the fun of it by checking out their bands and running around in the heat. The 10% who take the time to explore the tents and find these organizations, they learn something. We try to combine education and fun together, like I’ve always said, if you’re not having fun you’re not going to be willing to learn either. We average 10,000 fans a show. If even 1,000 fans take away something by checking out the organizations and start helping locally in any way possible, it brings more awareness to some major issues in today’s society that these organizations work to prevent from happening. We can come together as a community.
If you had to pick one business besides the music industry and what you do with marketing, what would it be and why?
I would probably do greens-keeping or working on a fishing boat. I love sports so I would love to get involved in that part of the world.
Everyone who has met you says you’re passionate about today’s youth especially. Why do you believe in it so much and have you always been like that? Also, is there a certain message you hope to achieve by talking to and working with the youth of today?
I’ve always been open to helping people, even as a kid myself. I believe it’s important and I wish the industry did more for the youth so I’m trying to help make an impact. The message I’d like to convey is this — you can’t tackle the world’s problems but you can tackle your own. Don’t listen to fake news, fake media, or anyone putting you down. Social media is a big part in the problems we have today, which is why I’m turned off to it. I’ve dealt with hate years on end about Warped and I blow it off and don’t engage because the support outweighs the bad, focus on the positive things you have surrounding you.
We also have photographs of different artists who performed at the Florida Music Festival that can be seen below.
Overall it was an amazing weekend, and our first time personally covering the Florida Music Festival. We can’t wait to see what next year has in store! You can also follow Savannah’s socials such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up to date on these photos and other events.