Concert series embraces social media, TV

To announce the first Lilith Fair 13 years ago, Sarah McLachlan gathered her fellow female headliners for a press conference at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles and announced every last detail.

For the revival of the tour this summer, the information has been tweeted in bits and pieces, then posted on Facebook and Lilithfair.com. One Twitter post would have artist names, another would have cities, and it was two months after the initial announcements that they finally released a few concert dates and on-sales.

“It’s not one festival, it’s 37 festivals in which each lineup is intrinsically different,” says Paradigm’s East Coast music head Marty Diamond, one of the original organizers of Lilith Fair who is now overseeing the tour with Nett-werk’s Terry McBride, Live Nation and McLachlan. “By having the pieces of information come in waves, it creates curiosity, it creates chatter.”

Yet in the rush to embrace social media, the Internet and other modern devices, Lilith Fair organizers have turned to an old-media option that was not available to them in the 20th century either: broadcast television. ABC has come onboard as the exclusive media partner for this year’s tour, which will hit 37 cities in the U.S. and Canada beginning June 27 in Calgary. It is the first time a broadcast network has taken on such a large role with a concert tour.

Lilith artists will be appearing on such ABC shows as “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Good Morning America” and “The View” as well have their music placed in episodic shows and in ABC.com’s “listening lounge” that promotes music heard on series such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Cougar Town.” ABC will be promoting its fall season at the Lilith concerts, offering attendees a chance to sample upcoming shows. A network special on Lilith Fair is being discussed.

“It’s much more of a media exchange rather than a sponsorship,” says Mike Benson, exec VP, marketing, ABC. “Music has become an important part of our programs. The music is different from show to show, but in many cases, music has become a separate character in these shows that it makes a crucial emotional connection (with viewers). It’s part of our brand as a network.”

McLachlan is the only artist who will appear at every show. Sheryl Crow and Mary J. Blige are booked for blocks of shows, but most of the bills will vary from day to day with artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Erykah Badu, Sugarland, Heart, Norah Jones, Ke$ha, Corinne Bailey Rae, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris and Tegan and Sara.

Each show will feature a mainstage with five acts and two smaller stages with three acts each. Each city will also have a local artist contest.

During her 55-minute closing set, McLachlan expects to perform a song or two from her next album, “The Laws of Illusion,” which Arista will release June 15.

There is a pinch of conflict for McLachlan, who is very much aware that there are certain songs she needs to play nightly. At the same time, though, she says, “I make music and how I sell it is by playing live.”

McLachlan has taken a different approach in the sessions for the record, entering a studio in Montreal and recording eight songs in five days by telling the musicians “here are the songs, here are the chords. Go. Raw energy. It’s a lot different, a lot more playful (but) it still has the songs that make you want to take a knife to yourself.

“The records always have to have the darkness, but this is definitely more light-hearted.”

Notes Diamond: “Sarah is our barometer. She keeps us focused.” That has resulted in the creation of the Lilith i4c Campaign (acronym for “I foresee a better tomorrow”) that will receive $1 from every ticket purchased and have a presence at the various shows.

According to Diamon, the money raised will go to a variety of local and national organizations that will be determined market by market.

“When we shut down Lilith (in 1999), the charities lost that Lilith contribution. There was a lot of trickle down and the good that was being done went away,” Diamond says. Noting that 12 years ago, social causes were all at a grassroots level, Diamond points out, “Now just about every multinational company has green initiatives. It’s a different climate for all of us.”

Lilith, Diamond says several times during a conversation, is a “a daunting task.” But it does not stop the organizers from wanting to do more: They have already started to explore expanding into the U.K. and Australia in 2011.

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