Meet: Gregg Perloff
Entertainment entrepreneur creates the biggest music and arts festival of the year.
Run into Gregg Perloff at Whole Foods, and you’re not likely to peg him as the man behind the biggest rock concerts in the Bay Area. The laid-back Lafayette music promoter isn’t hipster-slick or hippie-chic, and he’s just as likely to rave about the outstanding jazz program in the local middle school as boast about the massive Outside Lands music festival—featuring Stevie Wonder, Metallica, Neil Young, Norah Jones, and more than 75 other bands—that his company is putting on at Golden Gate Park this month.
In the past 30-plus years, Perloff, president of Berkeley-based Another Planet Entertainment, has booked everything from a Vampire Weekend show at Lafayette’s 185-seat Town Hall Theatre to a Rolling Stones world tour. By any account, he’s a major player—just don’t tell his staff that.
“When I came in for my first interview, his assistant told me he was so sorry, but U2 was in town, and he was called in for a meeting with Bono,” says Veronice Satoor, Another Planet Entertainment’s director of ticketing. “That made me 10 times more nervous when I finally did meet with him, but he could not have been more down to earth. Mostly, we talked about restaurants in San Francisco. By the end of the interview, I realized that Gregg was not judging my résumé but gauging how I was able to communicate.”
Perloff says that communication, diplomacy, and staying organized so things run smoothly are the secrets to success in the entertainment business. “It’s all about how you treat the bands, their crew and management, and most important, the fans who are buying a ticket,” he says.
Perloff learned the music business from the best. While booking shows for Cal Performances as a UC Berkeley student, he was introduced to legendary music promoter Bill Graham, who took Perloff under his wing. He was soon overseeing much of the Bay Area’s music scene in the late 1970s, and later booked the entire Rolling Stones 1981 world tour and brought Paul McCartney to Berkeley in 1990 for an enormous concert at Cal’s Memorial Stadium.
After Graham was killed in a helicopter accident leaving the Concord Pavilion in 1991, Perloff ran the company until it was sold to media giant Clear Channel in 2003. Perloff retired following Clear Channel’s acquisition of Bill Graham Presents but did not rest for long. About a week after retiring, he announced a new venture: Another Planet Entertainment.
Competing against a corporation like Clear Channel posed a David vs. Goliath scenario, but Perloff had a Rolodex filled with 30 years of rock-star contacts. When he announced the formation of his company, he also announced an impressive first booking: Bruce Springsteen at the Giants’ baseball stadium in San Francisco. In its second season, Perloff’s team organized a huge Dave Matthews Band concert in Golden Gate Park benefiting Bay Area charities, including Livermore’s Taylor Family Foundation, a nonprofit that runs a summer camp for seriously ill children in Livermore.
“Over the years, Gregg has been incredibly generous to the Taylor Family Foundation, and has never once asked for recognition or for publicity,” says Elaine Taylor. “It started years ago, when I was standing outside of the new Starbucks in Lafayette, raising a dollar for every cup of coffee sold. Gregg and his wife drove by and asked what I was doing on the sidewalk. I told him, and he handed me a $100 bill and said, ‘I promise, the next time we do a benefit event, your foundation will be the charity.’ Three months later, he calls me and says Barbra Streisand is coming to town, and she wants to make some tickets available to charity. We made $86,000 off that one event.”
In less than a decade, Another Planet Entertainment has quickly grown into one of the most powerful entertainment companies in the western United States, despite its staff of less than 25 full-time employees. In addition to booking several hundred concerts per year, the company coordinates a range of public and private events. And it teamed with Lucasfilm to create Star Wars in Concert, a live symphonic performance of John Williams’ classic scores accented with laser effects and a giant screen showing scenes from the beloved sci-fi films. The production has toured the world, and has performances scheduled in Tokyo and Osaka this month.
Perloff’s business has benefited East Bay music fans more than anyone. In 2004, Perloff secured a deal to be the exclusive promoter of the historic Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley. The previously underused facility quickly became one of the most popular outdoor venues in the Bay Area. The promoter tapped into his relationships with huge headliners—such as Radiohead and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers—that would ordinarily play the Shoreline Amphitheatre or Oakland’s Oracle Arena, but were happy to play for Perloff at the 8,500-capacity Greek.
In 2009, Another Planet started booking shows for the restored Fox Theater in Oakland. The company’s goal was to bring 80,000 concertgoers to the Uptown district in the theater’s first year; that goal was more than doubled. “In all my years in the business, I’ve never seen a venue as hot as the Fox,” says Perloff. “It’s an incredibly beautiful, memorable place to see a concert, and it is also in the absolute center of the Bay Area.”
While the Fox is a year-round economic juggernaut for Oakland, the annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in Golden Gate Park has become San Francisco’s biggest boom weekend of the year. Last year’s festival sold out all three days, with about 50 percent of the audience coming from outside the Bay Area. The festival pumped $67 million into the economy. And this year’s Outside Lands is expected to be the biggest yet. Perloff says he envisioned Outside Lands as a major festival, akin to Glastonbury and Bonnaroo, but with its own unique flair because it also highlights the food and wine of Northern California.
“The idea was to create an homage to San Francisco and Northern California; to celebrate this area’s great food, art, and wine; make the festival family-friendly; and set it all to music,” says Perloff. “We take a tremendous amount of pride in running the festival in a safe way, making sure it’s all on time, and leaving the park in better shape than we found it.”
Perloff says his team created Outside Lands to be a permanent fixture in Bay Area culture, a festival that today’s teenagers will take their children to 20 years from now. It’s quite a legacy for a man who has brought music to millions of concertgoers.
Asked to name his single favorite concert, Perloff refers to a Bob Marley show at the Greek Theatre in the late 1970s. “The audience simply would not stop cheering; they kept bringing Bob back onstage for more encores,” he recalls. Then, he excitedly adds a more recent experience, from last August’s Outside Lands, when gospel legend Mavis Staples and Win Butler from Arcade Fire teamed up to sing The Band’s classic tune, “The Weight.”
“I stopped running around and just listened,” says Perloff. “It was one of those rare treats that you don’t get anyplace else—to see a legend like Mavis and a current star like Win sharing the stage. It was just a perfect Outside Lands moment.”
Actually, it was one of many such moments brought about by Perloff.
Another Planet Entertainment has more than 50 concerts, including the Outside Lands and Treasure Island festivals, scheduled from August to October. Here are some highlights:
Outside Lands, Golden Gate Park: Stevie Wonder, Metallica, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Skrillex, Jack White, Norah Jones, and Foo Fighters, August 10–12. sfoutsidelands.com
Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys: Toby Keith, August 8; Neil Young and Crazy Horse, August 9; Norah Jones, August 12; Joe Cocker with Huey Lewis and the News, August 17; Sugarland, August 18; Sammy Hagar, September 1. apeconcerts.com.
Greek Theatre, Berkeley: Gotye, September 6; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, September 7; Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples, September 14; My Morning Jacket, September 15; Wilco, September 21–22; Train, September 28; Jason Mraz, October 4. apeconcerts.com.
Fox Theater, Oakland: Café Tacvba, August 8: Beirut, September 3; The Tallest Man on Earth, September 6; Hot Chip, September 11; Animal Collective, September 21–22; Beach House, September 28; Citizen Cope, September 29; Grizzly Bear, October 9. thefoxoakland.com.
Treasure Island Music Festival, Treasure Island: Girl Talk, The xx, Public Enemy, October 13–14. treasureislandfestival.com.