Sitting at the helm of the frenetic Philly music scene for the past 46 years, Larry Magid is one of the city’s most captivating figures. As a concert promoter on par with the likes of Bill Graham, this 67-year-old has hyped more than 16,000 concerts and performances (and counting), won two Tony awards and was one of the masterminds behind 1985’s Live Aid and 2005’s Live 8, the concerts-with-a-cause that put Philadelphia at the center of the pop-culture universe. But it’s the talent that Magid most fondly recalls.
“The biggest thrill was touring nationally and internationally with the best—Bette Midler, Richard Pryor, Stevie Wonder and Robin Williams,” says Magid, who also mentions Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays, the show that won him those coveted Tonys.
It’s doubtful that back in 1968, when Magid went to work at Allen Spivak’s Electric Factory, one of rock’s first live venues, the Temple University dropout knew he would become a veritable architect of the concert industry: His Electric Factory Concerts series was one of the world’s most successful, respected concert promotions. But it was Magid’s ability to read the industry and foster talent that enabled him to bring just about every major act to Philly—from Fleetwood Mac and The Allman Brothers to Radiohead and others—using his instincts to give him longevity in a notoriously fickle field.
Magid has encountered some professional drama lately, with his tumultuous departure from Live Nation—which, through a series of buyouts and spin-offs over the years, ultimately came to own his Electric Factory Concerts empire—but he still has managed to hold onto his beloved venue. And the music-biz vet’s newly formed Larry Magid Entertainment Group gives him the ability to once again do what he did so many years earlier—revolutionize the industry with innovative music and theatrical bookings. As for slowing down anytime soon, he wryly quotes Dylan: “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.”
Magid’s book, My Soul’s Been Psychedelicized: Electric Factory: Four Decades in Posters and Photographs (Temple University Press), is out in April.
More Moments with Magid
FROM LEFT: The Beatles; Little Richard; Bruce Springsteen
The One That Got Away: “The company I was with when The Beatles came through Philadelphia had an opportunity to promote them at the Stadium. They passed; I moved on.”
Music Heroes Growing Up: “James Brown and Little Richard, then Miles Davis and Bill Evans”
Memorable Shows: “There have been so many great, great shows, but it would be hard to envision anything better then Bob Dylan and The Band at the Spectrum or The Who at Electric Factory, or the growth of Springsteen.”