Talking to a Woman from Another Planet

Since there's no 401(k) for rock stars, APE's Danielle Madeira argues that the music and tech industries are converging.

Danielle Madeira (Photo by Adrian Sky)

“The best rider was the ‘small, fluffy animal I get to cuddle before I get on stage,’ ” says Danielle Madeira, Another Planet Entertainment’s VP of special events. By “rider,” she means the little perks that musicians and performers insist upon in order to bring their best to the stage. Madeira can’t name any of them, of course, or else she says she’d “be killed.”

“I wouldn’t be allowed to do business ever again,” she clarifies. In 14 years, Another Planet (APE) has grown into one of the biggest independent promoters in the region, staging music festivals like Outside Lands and the on-hiatus-for-now Treasure Island. The company built a South Park village of sorts opposite City Hall this June for Colossal Clusterfest — a weekend comedy festival where attendees got to witness the mildly surreal experience of headliner Jerry Seinfeld cursing — and this Thursday, Nov. 9, it worked with Live Nation and a constellation of Bay Area business leaders to stage Band Together Bay Area, a benefit concert for North Bay fire relief at AT&T Park with Metallica and Dave Matthews as the headliners.

Metallica’s most recent album was Hardwired … to Self-Destruct, but the band has done anything but. Deep Bay Area roots notwithstanding, it’s a little strange to see them hobnobbing with CEOs and venture capitalists like Ron Conway and Marc Benioff, especially when if mother didn’t let you buy Master of Puppets. But that’s the business. Along with her boss, APE CEO Gregg Perloff, Madeira helps make and maintain these connections. They’re the heirs to the spirit of Bill Graham.

And apart from the near-spontaneity of such events — Sonoma and Napa burst into flames early on Oct. 9, the benefit concert was announced 16 days later, and the show is 16 days after that — Madeira says they’re very different from the “churn-and-burn” of tours.

APE also does a lot of private events, where people or companies hire stars to play in intimate settings. These can be difficult as well — as when a musician doesn’t disclose that they’ll be flying in from Denmark the same day and arriving late for sound-check on an already-tight schedule. In the end, it’s about managing expectations — even if sometimes it feels like a game of telephone.

“Anyone who works with bands knows what their needs are,” Madeira says.

She wouldn’t put “people who are known for high production” on a tiny stage while people are midway through a meal, like dinner theater, then expect them to pose for pictures with the guests for hours afterward.

Sticker shock is the most common complication, even for tech firms who might be flush with cash and looking to make an impression with peers in their industry. (Madeira brushes it off with a casual tautology: “That’s normal. If I didn’t know how much it cost to book OK Go, then yeah, I wouldn’t know, either.”)

Once booked, there’s also more than a bit of ego management on both sides, between artists who bristle at a “dance, monkey, dance!” attitude and clients who shelled out tens of thousands of dollars and want their money’s worth, she says.

While the crabbier divas tend not to accept these engagements in the first place, “some artists are so fantastic, they end up mingling, anyway.” (She cites the ever-agreeable Dave Grohl as one example.)

“He’s the nicest person ever,” Madeira says. “I would pay to just hang out with him.”

There’s been a serious professionalization of this entire side of the music industry — especially since the wild days of the 1980s. Is it social media, and the possibility that anyone can be photographed at any time? In part, Madeira believes, but it’s also the lack of financial security.

“There’s no 401(k) for rock stars,” she says.

Thus, many performers — especially women — turn toward branding endeavors after their original careers peak. It could be Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, Jessica Simpson’s fashion line, or Drew Barrymore’s wine label. Inevitably, this brings some into closer contact with tech bigwigs, who may possess an instinct for forecasting what’s coming up ahead — people like Salesforce’s Benioff.

“Everybody wants to be a rock star, including me,” she says, “and everyone on the music side wants to be a brilliant tech guru and know what’s going into it.”

The rise of festival culture feeds into this as well, as it’s given legacy acts exposure to new audiences. Take Coachella, for example. Kendrick Lamar headlined the final night this year, but there were other stages to fill, and the promoters weren’t going to cannibalize Lamar’s crowds by putting another young rapper on a different stage at the same time. So they got someone who’s very different — in that case, New Order. That slot exposed the British post-punk band to new audiences (who got to witness them close out on “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which was admittedly pretty amazing).

While New Order might remain too niche to headline a charity benefit at AT&T Park, it feeds into the same, mutually reinforcing dynamic of increased longevity and further bookings. Complicating things a bit is the Bay Area’s network of venues and their seating capacity. Promoters must cultivate a sense for who should play the Independent and who’s big enough to fill the Fox.

It’s even tougher at the higher levels. The Greek Theater has room for 8,500 people, while the Oakland Arena and San Jose’s SAP Center (formerly the HP Pavilion) each hold just under 20,000. AT&T Park can handle more than 40,000 people — and that gap could mean success or failure for a badly planned tour that’s too big for arenas and too small for stadiums. (“Arena tour” and “stadium tour” are not interchangeable terms, it turns out,)

For her part, Madeira professes a decades-long love for Radiohead, and their recent show at the Greek was one of her all-time favorites. And she’s still capable of having her mind blown, as at a Yeah Yeah Yeahs show not long ago. She’d never seen Karen O on stage, even though the band had played at APE festivals, because she was always working.

“I never really had a closeup look at her as a performer, so I’ve been missing out,” Madeira says. This time, she got into the photo pit. “I was like, ‘Praise the Lord! I’ve met my priestess.’ There was a guy who was like, ‘I saw you! You’re having the best time ever!’ ”

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