Why Lollapalooza India is a big win for the Mena music industry

The Mumbai event could increase the number of artists coming to the region to perform, say insiders

Miley Cyrus is one of the many music stars to play Lollapalooza, she is pictured here at the Brazil festival in March. Getty Images
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Lollapalooza's arrival in India next year is a boon for the Mena's concert industry, according to local and regional promoters.

The music festival, which began in the US in 1991 and later expanded to Europe and South America, will mark its Asia debut with a two-day event over four stages in Mumbai, to be held on January 28 and 29.

The venue, performing artists and ticketing information are yet to be announced.

"The music of India is transcendental, it draws our spirits east," said event founder Perry Farrell.

“Lollapalooza is an instrument for unity, peace, and education utilising the universal languages of music and art to find common ground.”

For Mohammed Abood, an Iraqi national and seasoned event organiser in New Delhi, Lollapalooza India’s arrival is a welcome shot in the arm for an industry focused on electronic music.

“For years, all the large music festivals have been in the EDM world and it was all about DJs," he tells The National.

"What makes Lollapalooza significant here in India is we can finally see bands performing on stage.

“This is what we are all really excited about because beforehand, with the exception of one-off shows of rock bands and people like Justin Bieber, hearing live music on a festival stage has been very rare.”

Abood, a founder of New Delhi’s Jazz Weekender and Goa Sunsplash festivals, puts the dearth of major music events in India down to the lack of infrastructure

"There are not a lot of venues to support events of that size. So after you find a venue, you will then have to work hard to make transportation and accommodation accessible to the venue," he says.

"On top of that, you will have to get all the required licences because in India there is no one-stop shop permits for events of this size to happen."

Abood states Lollapalooza's choice of BookMyShow, a regional ticketing and events company founded in India in 1999, as local partner bodes well for the festival.

“You can’t just come to India with a big name and expect things to work out because it doesn’t happen that way,” he says.

"When you have one of India's biggest ticketing companies facilitating the event for you, a company who also does tours locally, you increase chances of success because you will have the local knowledge, insights, metrics and metadata that will allow you to examine consumer behaviour.”

How UAE promoters stand to win

The Lollapalooza effect is also set to reverberate beyond India with Mena concert promoters observing the festival’s development with interest.

Thomas Ovesen, chief executive of Top Entertainment and promoter of Justin Bieber’s upcoming Dubai show, expects Lollapalooza’s line-up will result in opportunities for UAE concerts.

“And, this doesn’t mean they play here on the way to the festival. Sometimes, it can be later down the road,” he says.

“A lot of the time you will get agents saying how a good show by an artist arrives in a new region results in a tonne of demand for more shows and they come back.”

Ovesen also predicts Lollapalooza will galvanise more Mena promoters and event organisers to pool their resources together to convince artists to extend their stay in the region.

"This is already starting to happen with people talking to colleagues in adjacent territories and putting multiple offers together to convince an artist appearing in a particular festival to come to the region," he says.

"The few remaining promoters understand that we are part of an ecosystem and trying to exist on our own merits would be stupid when there are opportunities to work together."

Warm up shows in the UAE

Convincing artists to sign on the dotted line for extra shows in the region is not always difficult, according to Barney Ribeiro, Indian-Portuguese guitarist of heavy metal band Nervecell.

“This is especially the case when it comes to artists who are performing in the region for the first time,” he says.

“That excitement and curiosity of playing to a new audience in a new country is always exciting and some bands like to take the opportunities to play more shows if they are offered.”

As someone who organised metal concerts in Dubai, Ribeiro predicts there will be a number of smaller bands performing at Lollapalooza who will be interested in offers from UAE promoters.

"Sometimes they will do it at a reduced fee because it is an opportunity to tap into a new market," he says.

"And, while it may not be marketed like that, a smaller show in the UAE could act like a great warm up gig before playing the main event in Lollapalooza.

“These are all normal industry practices that create a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Why India has the crowds and talent

The biggest winner of all is unarguably the music lovers in India.

Ribeiro has fond memories of the energetic reception Nervecell received when performing at the Bangalore Open Air Festival in 2018, followed by further shows in Mumbai and Hyderabad.

"The crowds are amazing and warm and it does make me wonder why a big festival like this didn't happen before," he says.

"Because India has the demographics and they have the manpower and event experience."

Abboud agrees: “When it comes to event management the talent in India is the best in the world because of the Bollywood industry. So when it comes to building stages and set design, it is an absolute cake walk."

That being said, the successful staging of the occasional superstar concert by Coldplay and U2 (separate shows 2019) is different from a multi-day event with dozens of international acts and thousands of fans.

Ovesen wishes his Indian colleagues all the success in the world because the wider regional industry will share in the reward.

"Even if your competitor has a great event in a neighbouring market it is to your advantage because more artists will come to the region and you will have more opportunities as a result," he says.

“Even if in the short term our ticket sales in the UAE go down because people are heading off to India, it is a good thing because what will happen is they will come back and harass me and my colleagues to do similar events in the UAE."

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Updated: July 29, 2022, 12:18 PM