The Vans Warped Tour isn’t just a cornerstone of a music scene that has consumed the lives of millions of music fans for as long as I can remember, it is the foundation of it. Without the influence of the last traveling music festival standing, there is no music scene as we know it today.
The influence of the Vans Warped Tour is grossly understated. Getting on this tour is an absolute game changer for bands. Each year, record labels fiercely compete over space for their artists to get onto the tour. This is the proving ground for bands to find out whether or not they are going to happen. Each year, I find myself surprised by a new band that I haven’t heard of that is drawing massive crowds. It’s a temperature test for bands, labels, and brands involved in the melting pot that is this music scene.
I can’t speak to the financials of the traveling music festival, but I have heard festival founder Kevin Lyman speak about the difficulties of finding new sponsors to partner with. From the outside looking in, it certainly doesn’t look like it’s getting any easier to fund such a massive event.
With all that said, and with the total dependency of the scene living and dying by the success of the Warped Tour, it is something that is largely taken for granted. Each year, large groups of music fans (who do not appear to be well-informed) take to their social media platform of choice to slam the festival and the team behind it for their choices on the current year lineup.
I find this no different than the screaming teens online who bash a band for “never coming to my city”, seemingly unaware of the extreme complexities and financial considerations that come with booking a tour.
Simply put, getting so many bands booked for the Vans Warped Tour is no easy task. It’s something that starts around September, shortly after the tour concludes, and ends likely days before the festival is announced in mid-March.
Sometimes I wonder if festival founder Kevin Lyman ever wants to throw his hands up and say “fuck it” and put it all to an end.
I think it almost happened.
“I actually started to question if maybe it was time to end Warped Tour and move on with my life,” Lyman said in a shocking piece published by Alternative Press.
2015 was a really bad year for the Warped Tour, though it was not by their own doing. It was a year of allegations that somehow would lump the festival in by association every time.
I’m not here to examine the allegations of sexual misconduct that plagued the scene during that year… I’m here to analyze the fallout.
The year couldn’t have started worse for Kevin Lyman and the Warped Tour organization. In the midst of what seems like a rare vacation with his family, allegations surfaced about an artist who was booked for the Warped Tour.
The internet went into a frenzy. Kevin Lyman, in the midst of his vacation, seemingly pleaded with people to let him spend time with his family for just a few days.
I am on vacation and when I get home #frontporchstep allegations will be completed vetted. I deserve a few days off to be with my family.
— KevinLyman (@KevinLyman) December 31, 2014
Just two days later, Lyman announced he would be leaving his vacation early to deal with the situation. This was six months before the beginning of the tour, with plenty of time to remove the artist if an investigation found there was wrongdoing.
I will be back to work earlier then expected to deal with the situation that has been brought to my attention.
— KevinLyman (@KevinLyman) January 1, 2015
If you followed this situation, you know just how much of a frenzy it was. There was serious pressure on Kevin and the Warped Tour organization to take action immediately. This, coming before the existence of any criminal charges, was an expectation from tens of thousands of outraged fans.
In an op-ed piece written for Alternative Press, Warped founder Kevin Lyman offered advice to the internet community:
“When an accusation is made, don’t jump on the accusatory bandwagon immediately. Stand down for a second. If you are not the accuser or the person with the photos, stay out of the way for a minute. You are not being any help.” Lyman said.
In the midst of the allegations swirling around the web, questions quickly began to arise about the overall safety of the Vans Warped Tour. Specifically, the suggestion was that the show could be an unsafe environment for teenage girls.
Things got so bad, Lyman actually had to publicly disclose a plan on how he would be keeping the Warped Tour safe. A festival that sees approximately 700,000 fans in attendance each year, lets parents in for free and has a spotless record on safety had to create a plan on how they would keep their fans safe.
I had the privilege of getting a personal tour from Kevin Lyman at the Warped Tour back in 2015. I met his staff behind the scenes (which is literally entirely comprised of women who kick ass) which certainly disproved the view of some that the Warped Tour had a “women problem”.
As troubling and deeply concerning as it is when these allegations surface, it’s important to allow people like Kevin to review the facts in a timely manner. Rushing a review is never helpful. Would you rush a researcher working to cure the next disease?
I fear that the Warped Tour would not have survived this situation had sponsors began pulling out. It would be a tragic end to something so special.
When I met Kevin, he talked about the importance of getting people to stop taking selfies and start talking about real issues.
It’s not just a place for music. The Vans Warped Tour has become one of the best places to get young people talking about a positive change in the world they live in. The festival now has a significant number of non-profits out on the road with them.
Fortunately, the tidal wave of criticism wasn’t enough to take down the mighty Warped Tour. Neither was the piece I saw online at the time about how it was “time to end the Warped Tour”.
For now, the Warped Tour lives on. I’ll let Kevin finish his thought on reaching a level of frustration that almost made him bring the festival to an end.
“I actually started to question if maybe it was time to end Warped Tour and move on with my life. However, as it was pointed out once before, this is ultimately only a small fraction of a percent of the people who we were reaching: The greatest thing most of them had probably accomplished was the ability to take a selfie. With that in mind, I think Warped still stands for what it originally did: a place for many to come, to meet friends, support charities, learn something, discover something, get motivated to do something great and have a great, fun day in the sun.” Lyman said.