Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman speaks about the music industry

Cal Poly Pomona alumnus and Vans Warped Tour founder, Kevin Lyman, returned to CPP to give a keynote speech on navigating the music industry, as part of the music department’s “Getting from Here to There: How to Create a Career in the Music Industry” conference on Nov. 15. Lyman’s speech touched on a range of topics, including stories from his time at CPP, his journey with the Warped Tour and a discussion on mental health in the music industry.

Originally a journalism student, Lyman graduated with a degree in recreation administration. Though his major wasn’t music or event planning-related, Lyman’s interest in organizing large social events sparked from his involvement with the campus’ ski club. 

“We would take 300 people on ski trips,” Lyman said. “I enjoyed the socialization process of being on campus (and) learning how to organize.”

Kevin Lyman, founder of Warped Tour gave a talk on mental health and the future of Warped Tour at the Music Recital Hall.
Elizabeth Aquino | The Poly Post

In efforts to raise money for the ski team, Lyman suggested it start hosting concerts featuring local bands. Over time, he gained a reputation on campus for throwing massive music events. They got so popular, he was forced to host them in venues off-campus.

Lyman even recalled shutting down Ontario Airport with an event he organized. “Cal Poly (Pomona) shut down the Ontario Airport,” Lyman laughed. “I got known as the guy who could throw the best parties with the best new bands.”

After graduating, he took the experience, knowledge and brand exposure he gained as a student organizing concerts and social events, and turned it into his career. He advised students to start gathering experience in their field of interest early on. “Get as much experience as you can possibly get while you’re a student here. This is what will get you ahead in this business.”

During the speech, he also shared detailed accounts about his experience founding and running the Warped Tour. 

Warped Tour, which started in 1995 and ended this year, was a cross-country traveling punk rock music festival that had summer shows annually. Bands like Green Day, No Doubt and Paramore have all headlined the festival. Even Katy Perry got her start performing at Warped Tour. 

Lyman discontinued the popular outdoor festival this year, due to the rise of social media, shifts in the community and even global warming. “There’s 25 reasons (Warped Tour ended) and none of them is financial,” he said. “Global warming is real. One of the biggest reasons I’ve stopped the Warped Tour, and I’ve done outdoor shows for 28 years now, (is because) the weather patterns have changed, as I’ve seen each summer.”

After the speech, the audience asked Lyman questions. Managing mental health in the music industry was a recurring topic. 

Lyman hopes that in the future tour managers will work toward prioritizing the mental health of artists. With the end of Warped Tour, Lyman is now collaborating on a new project with Talinda Bennington, called the 320 Project, in honor of the late Chester Bennington. The project is meant to be a resource for those seeking mental help or dealing with illness and addiction. 

Lyman is also working on hosting a mental health-focused festival in Los Angeles on May 9. “We’re going to do entertainment, panels, roundtables, one-on-one counseling resources for our community, and not just the music community,” he said.

Nathan Le, a third-year accounting student, attended the conference to network at the job fair, but was glad he stayed for the keynote. 

“The speech was really beneficial. (Lyman) is very wise,” Le said. “I learned (success) is not about the money, it’s about sticking to your values and being friendly with everyone.”

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