Earlier this year, after Coachella announced a massive lineup for its April edition, the music industry networking site Rostr published a report about the footprints of major talent agencies at Coachella. The results were revealing: More than 50 percent of the artists on the festival's bill were supplied by only three agencies, including Paradigm Talent Agency. On a related but no less staggering note, Coachella's promoter, Goldenvoice, is owned by AEG, which, along with Live Nation, has a duopoly on U.S. concert ticket sales.
Several artists playing at Coachella — including 100 gecs, Omar Apollo, (Sandy) Alex G, Disclosure, Caribou, and Bedouin — are also booked to play at Miami's III Points Festival, which announced the initial lineup for its 2020 iteration this past Tuesday. Of those six artists, three are represented by Paradigm.
Those facts indicate the American festival market, and by extension the North American music industry, is conglomerating. Fewer and fewer companies are responsible for representing, marketing, and booking artists at major festivals. That means these companies are gaining increasing influence over festival lineups, Spotify playlists, and other means of marketing music, and perhaps over the artists themselves. As detailed in a November 2019 Mixmag feature about the subject, booking agencies can command higher fees for artists to play festivals and concerts, which drives up ticket prices and shuts out smaller festivals trying to book a hot act. And artists who want to remain independent of major agencies and record labels, meanwhile, might also have a more difficult time in this market.
So how do the North American music festivals that aren't Coachella or Bonnaroo survive, or even thrive, in these tempestuous waters? If this year's lineup is any indication, III Points seems to have figured something out.
The 2020 iteration will mark the third time in the past five years the fest has shifted its schedule, having moved from October 2017 to February 2019 to its current May 2020 setup; this year will also mark the first time the festival will run for two days rather than three. III Points' new May 1 and 2 dates put the fest within spitting distance of Rolling Loud, which likely forced the organizers to get even more creative than usual in terms of bookings. Last year's headliners were heavy on hip-hop and R&B, with A$AP Rocky, Erykah Badu, Tyler the Creator, and SZA all gracing the top of the bill. This year, however, Wu-Tang Clan — whose many members have collaborated with III Points in the past — is the only explicitly rap act to enjoy headliner status. It's not a straight point A–to–point B conclusion, but because of the politics of festival organizing and Rolling Loud's ever-increasing clout in the music world, it doesn't seem unreasonable to guess that the two festivals' proximity necessitated a shift in curation for III Points.
The rest of the bill upholds the balance between popular, forward-thinking underground acts and experimental newcomers for which the festival has become known. The other three headliners — indie-rock band the Strokes, alt-pop star Robyn, and dance duo Disclosure — clearly spell out III Points' eclecticism but do so with names large enough to draw in punters. Meanwhile, voracious music aficionados can expect experimental craziness from 100 gecs, Yves Tumor, Stereolab, and Ariel Pink; dance heads can get down to Erol Alkan, Green Velvet, a Danny Daze–and–Mall Grab back-to-back, and returning champs Kaytranada and Jacques Greene; and indie fans can slow down for a second with Homeshake, Omar Apollo, Moses Sumney, and (Sandy) Alex G.
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Many of these artists have never been to Miami, and this is one realm where III Points truly sets itself apart. Unlike other local South Florida festivals, such as Ultra and Rolling Loud, III Points doesn't cater to a single genre or demographic; instead, it has staked its reputation not necessarily on booking the biggest acts playing every festival, but on variety, experience, and taste. The thrill of the new has proven foundational for the festival's identity, and Miamians have come to rely on III Points to bring in artists they'd likely otherwise never get to see, possibly because other music gatherings might view those acts as too risky of investments.
Of course, what really makes it Miami's festival is that, year after year, III Points puts on for Miami musicians. Jaialai, Ashley Venom, INVT, Richie Hell, Las Nubes, and Haute Tension are just a few of the local artists and DJs on this year's bill, and more additions are promised. It's rare to see any festival in a major city support the local scene in this way, and it's deeply important to the health of the wider music ecosystem. While festival lineups grow more homogenous with each passing year, III Points is helping to incubate fresh talent. It isn't hiring only artists with proven track records of selling tickets — it's trying to face the future.
Wherever III Points ends up in the next few years — it's already in its seventh edition, a notable feat for any annual music event — it has proven it has what it takes to survive.