Governors Ball on Randalls Island has managed to disprove the long-standing assumption that an annual multi-day music festival couldn’t possibly thrive in New York City. Now the festival Founders Entertainment brought to life in 2011 faces potential competition from AEG Entertainment, one of the biggest names in the business and the architects of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and FYF Fest. Next year AEG intends to debut another New York festival, perhaps in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, a mere two weeks after Governors Ball is scheduled to take place.
The folks at Founders have not taken the news lightly. After learning that while AEG hadn’t yet nailed down permission to use the park but had nonetheless begun booking acts for what it is calling the Panorama Music Festival, Founders initiated a change.org petition calling for Mayor Bill de Blasio to reject AEG’s proposal. In fewer than 24 hours, the petition garnered 5,000 signatures, and by October 17 had neared the 7,000 mark.
“The timing of this proposed event is an aggressive, greedy attempt by AEG to push a small independent company of born and bred New Yorkers out of business and out of the market,” the petition reads in part.
Jordan Wolowitz, co-founder and partner of Founders Entertainment, believes AEG is trying to put Gov Ball out of business.
“We definitely feel like they’re trying to squash us,” Wolowitz tells the Voice. “Why else would they do it two weeks after us? There’s no need for a corporation to come in here and spoil the waters like that.”
When just about any music venue or festival books an act, the contract includes what’s commonly known as a “radius clause.” In exchange for being guaranteed a specified sum of money, artists agree to not play any shows within a certain window of time and a certain radius centered on the venue. The rationale is that a second performance too nearby and too soon would detract from attendance. (So entrenched is the radius clause that rock group Arctic Monkeys and hip-hop duo OutKast made headlines in 2014 by negotiating the language out of their contracts with Lollapalooza in Chicago in order to play at Summerfest in Milwaukee.)
About a hundred miles of asphalt separate Milwaukee (where Summerfest takes place in late June and early July) and Chicago (where Lollapalooza transpires in early August). To get from Randalls Island to Corona Park, all you have to do is schlep across the Triborough Bridge and a little way past LaGuardia.
With two events only two weeks apart, says Wolowitz, “We wouldn’t have bands you’d want playing both festivals; you’d have one or the other. New Yorkers would have two mediocre festivals within two weeks instead of one awesome festival in June and another at a different time of year. It’s not good business for AEG or Founders, nor is it in the best interest for New Yorkers.” AEG has not responded to the Voice‘s requests for comment.
Wolowitz says Founders has never been reluctant to encourage another major festival in the New York market — but the timing needs to make sense.
“If you look at Chicago or Los Angeles, they have multiple music festivals but none of them are within two weeks of each other,” he says. [In Los Angeles] FYF and Coachella are both by AEG, but one is in April and one is in August. We were thinking about doing a fall festival, and we still are. But there’s no need for a festival that’s almost exactly the same as Governors Ball two weeks after Governors Ball.”
AEG’s plans would also be a strain on the city, Wolowitz argues. The New York Mets, who play at Citi Field in Flushing, have home games scheduled on three of the days Panorama has earmarked. “That would strain public transit, NYPD, and health,” Wolowitz adds. “And [Flushing Meadows Corona Park] is a public park. Gov Ball aside, I don’t know if they’d logistically be able to do it.”