This year’s Frost Music & Arts Festival, scheduled for May 18, will feature a new, state-of-the-art stage and an array of female and racially diverse performers. However, the festival will also be run in partnership with Goldenvoice, a company co-owned by alleged anti-LGBT promoter Philip Anschutz.
As renovations of the Frost Amphitheater came to an end, Stanford Live announced its two new musical partnerships with the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and Goldenvoice, who will collaborate to offer various concerts at Frost Amphitheater in July 2019.
Goldenvoice, a local concert and festival promoter which operates the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, is a subsidiary of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). Philip Anschutz, the owner of AEG and the 40th-richest man in America, has repeatedly been accused of funding anti-LGBTQ and anti-same-sex marriage agendas through his charitable foundations.
A July 2016 report by Freedom for All Americans included Anschutz on a list of 11 “Enemies of Equality.” The report alleged that the Anschutz Foundation funded several conservative anti-LGBTQ organizations between 2011 and 2013, including the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian activist group which has “repeatedly advocated for the criminalization of homosexuality, both in the U.S. and internationally.”
In Jan. 2017, Anschutz adamantly refuted the accusations, telling Rolling Stone that the claims were “nothing more than fake news,” that AEG does not “tolerate discrimination in any form” and that when the issue came to his attention he “immediately ceased all contributions to such groups.” Yet, a Jan. 2018 article in the music magazine Fader denounced Anschutz for continuing to fund anti-LGBTQ agendas.
Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) President Shanta Katipamula condemned Anschutz’s views in an email statement to The Daily, writing that “the actions undertaken by AEG’s CEO are incredibly harmful to the LGBTQ community and are antithetical to the ASSU’s and [the] greater Stanford community’s values.”
“We call on Stanford Live to reaffirm their values and commitment to diversity and inclusion and denounce these harmful actions,” she added. “We also call on Stanford Live to re-evaluate all existing and future contracts to ensure that they are partnering with organizations that share our values.”
At the time Stanford Live announced its partnership with Goldenvoice, Executive Director Chris Lorway told Stanford News that it had found a “wonderful collaborato[r] in Goldenvoice.” Rick Mueller, North American president of AEG Presents, matched Lorway’s enthusiasm, telling Stanford News that, “Goldenvoice is honored to be tasked with programming contemporary music at Frost Amphitheater.”
In a recent interview with The Daily, Lorway defended the decision to partner with Goldenvoice.
“We solicited bids from the major promoters in the Bay Area and through that process and through interviews we decided that they were the best fit for Stanford Live,” he said.
Lorway did not take a stand on the ongoing controversy, telling The Daily that, “I will not comment on whether I believe specifically these allegations. I would refer you to current press stories that sort of outline [Philip Anschutz’] responses.”
“As someone who is LGBT myself, I am comfortable in the decision that we made to go forward with this partnership,” he added.
Lorway believes that the partnership with Goldenvoice will have a positive impact on the Stanford community and the local community at large.
“I think that Goldenvoice, as witnessed in events like Coachella, has a high capacity to create and develop high quality events,” Lorway said. “Stanford Live, and the community as a result, will be the direct beneficiary of the access to that expertise.”
However, when accusations surrounding Anschutz’s homophobic views emerged in the lead up to last year’s Coachella Festival, many Coachella fans expressed their disappointment and protested on social media. Some — including English model, singer and actress Cara Delevingne — even tried to boycott the festival in 2018 by circulating the viral hashtag #Nochella.
Echoing similar sentiments, many Stanford students have now taken issue with the new partnership.
Michael Carter ’19, a resident of the unofficially LGBTQ-themed Stanford co-op Terra, said he disagrees with Stanford Live’s decision.
“[Anschutz’] position in the community should absolutely be considered, especially if Stanford wants to appeal to a generation that is overwhelmingly more invested in positive social outcomes,” Carter said. “I think that as a matter of principle, Stanford should be taking a position in the broader community about … the voices it chooses to amplify. It can’t just be about what’s the most bang for your buck.”
Rohan Kapur ’21, a music festival devotee, was also dismayed by the partnership.
“Live shows and gigs are one of the most important things in my life … they are a celebration of inclusivity, living in the moment, and [freedom],” Kapur wrote in an email to The Daily. “So it sucks that Stanford is partnering with someone who stands for the very opposite (but [it is] not surprising).”
Caroline Dunn ’20, another fan of the festival, took a more nuanced stance.
“Stanford as a school has a humanitarian obligation … and [this partnership] is countering Stanford’s mission,” Dunn said, “but this year’s artists at Frost are very progressive, and that in itself should be supported.”
This year’s festival will be headlined by Kali Uchis, a Colombian-American singer-songwriter, and Jorja Smith, a singer-songwriter whose father is Jamaican and whose mother is English.
While Lorway said that Stanford Live depends on corporate promoters like AEG to secure talent for Stanford’s concerts, he emphasized that Stanford Live “certainly did not make a choice based on whatever the profit was. We were looking for a partner who could bring the best in entertainment and had the best connection with artists.”
Caroline Moon ’20, a marketing intern at Stanford Live who has been planning the festival, was taken aback when she learned about the accusations against Anschutz.
“I personally would never support the CEO himself and what he stands for,” she said, “but I do strongly believe that this new partnership opens up a lot of opportunities to go see shows and have the immersive arts experience on campus.”
Stanford Concert Network (SCN), the annual organizer of the Frost festival, also highlighted the opportunities afforded by the partnership with Goldenvoice while distancing itself from its CEO.
“SCN’s goal has always been to provide superior musical experiences for the Stanford community,” wrote SCN co-director Bella Cooper ’20 in an statement to The Daily on the network’s behalf. “Our partnership allows us to create safe and enjoyable spaces that we’ve championed thus far, regardless of the decisions of a single individual of the parent company, [which] we do not support or interact with personally.”
This article has been updated to reflect that Bella Cooper was speaking on behalf of SCN. It was also corrected to include the correct spelling of Stanford Concert Network’s acronym. The Daily regrets this error.
Contact Caroline Ghisolfi at ceg1998 ‘at’ stanford.edu.