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POP MUSIC | POP EYE

A Word From Their Sponsors

March 16, 1997|STEVE HOCHMAN

The tobacco sponsorship of the new ROAR rock festival tour planned for this summer is not the end of the story for commercial support of the summer fests. In the wake of last summer's soft concert market--when many promoters reported losing money on festival shows due to rising artist fees and production costs--other tours have aggressively courted potential sponsors.

Sponsorship is hardly new to rock. The Rolling Stones, for example, have routinely made high-profile deals for tour sponsors. But at the grass-roots level, artists who link themselves with products have been criticized by some fans who feel such moves run counter to rock's spirit of independence.

But others insist that the right kind of deal can bring more positives than negatives. Many point to last year's successful arrangement between Vans Inc. and the Warped tour, which Warped organizer Kevin Lyman credits for the low ticket price of $15--less than half the cost of a Lollapalooza '96 ticket. Vans is back on board this year, and even though the show boasts a somewhat pricier talent package (including Pennywise, Social Distortion and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones), the Warped tickets will go up just $2.

Meanwhile, the new Lilith Fair, a women's festival founded by singer Sarah McLachlan, is doing a deal with Starbucks, which will sponsor its "second" stage. And H.O.R.D.E.--though headlined this year by vigorous sponsorship foe Neil Young--will get support from Sony PlayStation in exchange for a display booth for the multimedia games player. H.O.R.D.E. organizer David Frey defends the arrangement, noting that most major concert venues are already covered with paid promotions (many from breweries).

"Who am I to draw the line? How self-righteous am I?" Frey says. "People buy things that are made by companies that also own tobacco or chemical plants all the time and think nothing of it. And my personal opinion when it comes to concert sponsorship is that the fans don't give a [expletive]."

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