Panic! at the Disco earned their first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 earlier this year, and now they're kicking off season 11 of Live From the Artists Den with a performance of "Victorious" at the historic Mayan Theater in Los Angeles, which Billboard is exclusively premiering today (watch it below).
On Panic!'s full Artists Den episode, frontman Brendon Urie leads the band through live renditions of "Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time" and "Hallelujah" off their fifth studio album Death of the Bachelor, as well as their breakthrough single "I Write Sins Not Tragedies." P!ATD will also perform their cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," which was featured on the soundtrack for Suicide Squad.
Panic! at the Disco Shares 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Cover From 'Suicide Squad' Soundtrack
Live From the Artists Den began in 2009 as a series devoted to pairing artists with non-traditional venues to provide fans with a unique experience they wouldn't feel in a larger setting. Past episodes have seen performances from Adele, Ed Sheeran, Corinne Bailey Rae and Hozier, to name a few, and the series has attracted partners like Chase Sapphire to underwrite the free secret shows.
Back for its 11th season, Live From the Artists Den will feature performances from Young the Giant, Sturgill Simpson, and The Lumineers. The season will premiere Oct. 8 in New York on public television, and then hit public TV stations across the country this fall (check here for details).
Billboard spoke with Mark Lieberman, founder of Live from the Artists Den, to find out how they select artists to work with and to learn what he plans to do with this project in the future (hint: think festivals).
Why was it so important for you to launch the Artists Den?
The industry had really stopped what I would call music discovery and was very focused on the biggest acts. You wonder, how are you gonna check out, as a fan, the next great band? So I really felt there was a need to be a curator of the very best breaking artists. As a music fan myself I felt like it'd really be valuable if I could trust that the Artists Den would deliver a really compelling band that I needed to know even though I didn't know who they were. And so I think quality discovery was a big part of the start of the Artists Den. The ability to reinvent how live music is presented and do it in partnership creatively with artists, where we both work together, to pick the Artists Den is just a dream come true, and when you get it right, it just lives forever.
What's the selection process like when choosing the artists and the performance venues?
So our programming process is a real team effort. There are a lot of people that work for the Artists Den and they're all big music fans. Alan Light is our head of programming -- who was the executive editor for Spin and Vibe -- he's just an experienced music person. It's a combination of a lot of inbound ideas that come from labels and managers and publicists paying really close attention to who's touring and who's playing the festivals but it all really comes down to our team's taste. And our taste is based on some core values. It's [got to be] an artist that writes their own music, kills it in a live setting and is a great songwriter. If we believe in this artist so much that we would invest in producing a major television episode for them, that means we think they're gonna be a global star. We had Adele play our stage as one of her first concerts for her album 21 from six years ago and boy did we feel good about doing that. Most of the people who saw her in the room that night didn't know who she was but when you think about the decision there, we actually were working with Adele early -- for us. She was just on her sophomore album and we loved the voice and we loved the lyrics and we knew that she would just kill it in an intimate setting so it was an easy one. We try to be as open minded about music of all genres and try to provide diversity across country and rock, alternative and R&B. There's categories we want to spend more time getting involved in -- we'd love to do an Artists Den with hip-hop.
The reality is once we've decided on an artist and they've decided they want to do an Artists Den, it still could take years because we're really trying to find them the right home for their show. Sometimes we get it right on the first time and send them ideas that we've solidified, and sometimes it takes a very long time, and so that's why you probably won't see us do 50 of these in a year because it's just a lot of customizing that goes into each of these.
Since its inception, what has been the most challenging aspect of artist series?
I think the most challenging piece is producing against a schedule, so every six months we have a new season and we're focused on getting it right every time, trying to represent the very best of the moment that we can put on our stage. It's the pairing of place and artist that is very challenging.
We're not trying to put an artist in a glass room that's gonna sound and look terrible but has a great creative concept around it. We have to create something that is brilliant as a capture and is audio that you would listen to as a live album, because those are fundamental to our values.
Given the success of the Artists Den series, do you see yourself expanding the series into a mini-festival? Something continuing the tradition of hosting the performances in non-traditional venues?
Yeah, listen -- you're sitting in our strategy meeting. So we're definitely thinking about -- now that we've worked with almost 100 artists and they're still connected to us through the series. We maintain actively marketing their work in perpetuity, so if you go to some of the artists' pages on the Artists Den site [join here to keep up with show announcements, artist videos and more], you'll see a band that played six years ago and we're featuring their new album, we're pushing out something about their new tour. So the next step to that is, can we think about a way to bring the alumni back for a reprise show or a crossover show? I think there's something there absolutely. I think the festival piece we're still trying to figure out. How do we do something that's special? We really think about everything from an artist-first standpoint not a business-first standpoint, and we know the business will follow, but it's "how do we do something at a festival for an artist that the festival isn't already providing?" They do have these showcase rooms, they do the smaller stage, so is there something we can do the night before? An area that we've gotten really excited about is non-music festivals where the audience are people that know our brand and our bands. We could be a part of the programming there to open the show to a new audience, because we know when people see it, they love it and get hooked. Independent film is very interesting to us -- it's the right audience. Even beer and food, so those could be areas we see us venturing into. And of course international.
Live From the Artists Den season 11 premieres Oct. 8 on New York's WLIW21 at 11 p.m., and on local public television stations nationwide throughout the fall. Check ArtistsDen.com for details and sign up for Artists Den here.