When you take a look at Terry McBride’s track record it doesn’t take long to realize that he’s always been on the cutting edge of the ever evolving music industry. He is the CEO and co-founder of Nettwerk Music Group, an umbrella company for Nettwerk Management, Nettwerk Records, Nettwerk One Publishing, Nutone Records and Artwerk. Over the years, Nettwerk has managed to navigate the stormy waters of the music industry and have maintained their reputation as one of the most progressive companies out there – since the start of the digital revolution and the introduction of MP3′s and iTunes, Nettwerk has been one of the major players in the fight against the RIAA and the inclusion of DRM on MP3 downloads, saying “Litigation is destructive, it must stop…. [in regard to] Nettwerk copyrights, we have never sued anybody and all our music is open source to encourage fans to share it with others”.
Even before the digital millennium, Terry McBride was looking at problems in the music industry and how to go about fixing them. In 1996 he, Sarah McLachlan, Dan Fraser and Marty Diamond developed Lilith Fair in response to the growing realization that female artists were not getting the same bookings as their male counterparts. As if to prove the whole music industry wrong, Lilith Fair became the highest grossing touring festival in the world with 1.5 million fans in attendance and $10 million raised for national and local charities. Ten years later, Terry McBride has announced the festival’s return and took some time to speak with OurStage about what prompted Lilith 2010 and how the festival has gone from a celebration of women in music to THE celebration of women in music.
OS: What was your initial inspiration for launching Lilith Fair when Sarah McLachlan approached you back in 1996?
TM: The story of Lilith Fair was a very simple fact that Sarah had toured really, really hard playing 24+ months on the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy Tour. Break-out artists tend to evaporate, so about 2 years after being on extended recuperating mode a managers job is to try and reengage the artist and try to find a balance between their personal life and musical life. So Lilith Fair came out of that need. Really, really simply, I wanted her to play some concerts, but she didn’t want to play concerts because she didn’t want to be the main draw and have the responsibility of doing a two-hour set. We really wanted her to do summer concerts, so in the end she agreed to do five summer shows where she didn’t have to headline. So she did 2 shows backing up Sting, but there were no other major supports around that made sense.
It came down to, “What if I got five other artists with you?” And her push back was, “Okay, but they all have to be female.” The first level of shows was at Pine Knopp in the Summer of ’96, which is in Detroit. It was an amazing success so we did two more shows, one in LA and one in San Francisco, and then we added a show in Vancouver. Then I said, “Well, I guess you’ve got four weeks to come up with a name of what this should be,” and she came up with the name Lilith Fair, so the following year we launched Lilith.
OS: After the festival’s initial success, what prompted the decade-long hiatus?
TM: Well, we said from day 1 that we were only going to do 3 years.
OS: What inspired you to bring it back 10 years later?
Well, Sarah’s now a mom, she has 2 beautiful daughters, so the only time she really can tour is during the summer. If we’re going to launch a new album, trying to do a Sarah-only tour along with an album promo schedule is just daunting. So for that, the best option for is Lilith. Two other things have also happened. For one, when Lilith ran in 1997 and 1999 we pretty much tapped all the available female talent that was willing to play Lilith. Most of the talent back then, with the exception of the third year, was mostly new artists, so their careers had only been about 5 to 8 years. All of the Bonnie Raitts and The Pretenders came on the last year. They had no interest initially and it had to be approved. So this time around there’s all these artists back then that are still around, plus this whole new crop of young female artists that have broken in last 5 or 6 years. What we didn’t want was Lilith Fair past 1999 just to be the same old thing. We wanted to go out on top, it was the biggest traveling festival in the world then and that’s the way we wanted to end it.
OS: According to Billboard.com, women accounted for nearly half of the “20 music stars with the best performance on the Billboard 200 albums chart and the Hot 100 over the last 10 years.” Do women in the music industry need Lilith as much as they did 10 years ago? Is there a similar sense of urgency?
TM: I think the only thing Billboard is looking at is radio play and record sales. I’m sure if you go look on Pollstar it wouldn’t be the same. You would not see half of the Top 20 concerts being female, you might see about 20%. Look at all the festivals out there. Do you see a lot of female artists on them? Do you see a 50/50 split? The answer is no. While they’re doing well in CD sales and in radio, they’re not getting the same opportunities inside the live stage to actually perform.
OS: Is the message of Lilith 2010 still the same as it was 10 years ago?
TM: The message then was a celebration of women in music. The message now is THE celebration of women in music. When Lilith went away no one stepped in and kept that flame going. You know, Ozzfest hasn’t gone away, all the other festivals are male dominated, so a place where a young female artist gets to play in front of 20,000 people just doesn’t exist. There are lots of opportunities for males, and not for females. I mean even go look at your Coachellas or Bonnaroos, it’s not 50/50. Yet that’s what the radio and record sales say.
OS: Why is it important for you, Sarah McLachlan and Marty Diamond to have a stage featuring emerging artists?
TM: It always really has. I really believe in localizing every Lilith Fair show. I think that there should be a local talent that hasn’t been heard and hasn’t gotten the exposure. Just like I think there should be a local charity that benefits from Lilth being present inside their community. That’s what we did from ’97 to ’99. We so strongly believe there should be a local talent opening up Lilith everyday.
OS: What are you looking for in an emerging artist when you make your selections?
Last time around those selections were run by radio contests, which was really the only way to crowd source. This time around we have [OurStage] doing it. I really want the community to 1) be aware of who’s local, and 2) be part of that process. So, I’m looking at this as being social, It was social 10 years ago, but I think this is a far more social way of doing it now.
OS: How has your interest in yoga and Nutone music influenced your career in the music industry?
It has given me 60 to 90 minutes of peace everyday [laughs]. It allows me to have 3 things in the air and not be stressed about it. I mean I used to play tennis, and tennis was that hour to 90 minutes of just solely focusing on playing tennis. I just find that yoga’s much better for my body and it fills that same 60 to 90 minutes of just personal time when I’m not thinking about 30 different things. Of course, the minute I walk out of the yoga studio it’s like bing, “Oh shit, I haven’t done this or that”, you know all of that sinks back into you [laughs].