Ted Gardner, a longtime artist manager who co-founded the Lollapalooza festival with Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, died Dec. 28. He was 74.
“I’m sad to report Ted Gardner, Our manager passed away today surrounded by his loving family,” tweeted Anton Newcombe, whose band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, has been managed by Gardner since 2004. “We will miss a great manager, mentor & friend. Our condolences to all his family & friends.”
A more than 40-year veteran of the music business, Gardner launched his career in his native Australia before going on to manage some of the biggest rock acts of the 1990s, including Jane’s Addiction, Tool and The Verve.
With Farrell, he helped invent the modern festival landscape with Lollapalooza, which launched to huge commercial success in 1991 and went on to host a who’s-who of ‘90s superstars including Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Hole, Snoop Dogg, The Smashing Pumpkins and Beastie Boys.
His skills were many and varied. He worked as a tour or production manager for the likes of Frank Zappa, UFO, New Order and Echo & the Bunnymen and, much later, guiding the careers of prog-metal outfit Floating Me and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, which featured prominently in the 2005 documentary Dig!
Gardner left his homeland for the United States in 1982 with Men at Work on the rock band’s national tour. The following year, Men at Work became the first Australian act to land a simultaneous U.S. No. 1 album and No. 1 single, with Business as Usual and “Down Under,” respectively.
From that point on, Gardner aimed high. “My father used to say to me: ‘when are you going to get a real job?’ he told Australia’s Scenstr in an interview published in 2017. “Then one year I came home from Lollapalooza with a check for $1.5 million and he looked at me and went, ‘yeah, but it’s not a real job, is it?’.”
Along the way, Gardner had a falling out with Tool, which he represented from 1992 until May 2000. Gardner sued the band and their publishing company for $5 million for breach of contract and fraud in Nov. 2000, alleging they failed to pay him $500,000 in commissions.
Disillusioned with the music industry and, in particular, the major labels, he took a step back for 12 months in the mid-2000s. In January 2007, he returned to Australia revitalized, and started Cross Section Management and Records with Scott Mesiti.
Reflecting on his career for a 2011 interview published in Australia’s The Music Network, Gardner said the music industry presented no challenges that were too great.
“Jane’s were crazy. We all were. Tool were difficult in many aspects. But they knew what they wanted and they wouldn’t bend and (they understood) what had to be done. And you’d deal with it. They’re the artist. The manager is there to facilitate their desires, no matter how crazy it is,” he explained. “There were some crazy things I’d be asked to do and I’d just laugh, No one was really hard. I worked with John Lydon. That was not difficult. Although he was impossible to work with.”
His approach to management was a holistic one. “You’re a manager therefore you’re a mother, you’re a father, you’re a marriage guidance counsellor, you’re a priest, you’re there as a shoulder to cry on when the girlfriend leaves. You’re a drug counsellor, you’re someone that can bring someone back to life when they’ve OD’d in another room,” he explained in the same interview. “All of these aspects you go through. If you’re going to be involved with an artist, you have to take every facet of their life. You can’t go, ‘I’m dealing with just the business and I take my X percent.’ End of story.”