Two years ago, one of the greatest, weirdest landmarks in downtown Austin during SXSW was the Doritos Stage, a gigantic monstrosity made up to look like an actual vending machine, with giant Doritos bags up front and people performing down where, on a regular-sized vending machine, the food would fall out. (Last year, the stage was still there, but they sold out by replacing the giant Doritos bag with a video screen.) If you were looking for a symbol of the ways corporate money has changed SXSW, you couldn’t do much better. And this year, the big vending machine could’ve been an even more potent symbol, and a locus for some considerable crowd insanity. But that won’t happen because the city of Austin has prevented Lady Gaga from performing there.
As Austin 360 reports, the Austin’s Music And Entertainment division, who deserve props for letting so much happen during SXSW, have made the exceedingly sane decision that one of the world’s biggest pop stars probably shouldn’t perform on a small open-air parking lot in a major downtown area. Don Pitts, the division’s manager, says, “Our conclusion was based primarily on public safety concerns… We look at the size and capacity of the location covered by the permit being sought and how it fits with the anticipated attendance, based on event capacity and promotion. At the end of the day, it’s a parking lot.” Gaga may still perform at SXSW, but she’s going to need to find a more sane location, one with “the necessary permanent infrastructure.”
In related news, Universal Music had a rough year last year, and Gaga is a big part of the reason why. The New York Post reports that the label conglomerate’s fourth-quarter earnings were down 9.3%. Much of the blame goes to the hugely expensive rollout and disappointing sales of ARTPOP, the generally unimpressive album that Gaga released during the period. A few more albums like that, and Gaga really will be small-time enough to play the Doritos stage safely.