Musicians Off the Record: Charles Attal

When Austin-based concert promoter Charles Attal saw the backyard of Stubb’s Bar-B-Q for the first time, he couldn’t have dreamed that he was looking at a gold mine. Described by its legendary West Texas namesake, Christopher Stubblefield, as “hell’s half acre,” the plot, which holds an outdoor stage, has become one of the most sought after and respected venues to play in America.  It’s also the vehicle by which Attal has become a national fixture as an independent concert promoter.

“Charles Attal Presents” was founded in 1997 and currently produces over 800 shows a year. Now partnered with Capital Sports and Entertainment in an artist management company, Four Floor Management, Attal—with CSE’s Charlie Jones—is the creative force behind the popular Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Attal began booking Stubb’s during the 1996 South by Southwest music conference and unexpectedly landed the Fugees. That evening’s overflow attendance of 5000 made Stubb’s reputation, but it was Attal’s sense of timing and respect for the music community that created a feel-good vibe not felt in such a space since the demise of Liberty Lunch. Attal, a native Austinite, was raised on music and began his career in a punk band on the local circuit.  He stumbled into the business side of the industry via Stubb’s where he quickly became a one-stop operation as a production and stage manager, talent buyer and marketing rep.  Attal now oversees the booking for The Parrish, La Zona Rosa, the Lollapalooza and the ACL festival, as well. 

Despite his laid-back demeanor and easy smile, Attal confirms that the intensity of juggling several tasks in the sometimes dodgy business is not all fun and “rock and roll.  It’s logistics, its planning, its marketing; it’s a full time job.”  A case in point is ACL, which showcases an eclectic lineup of over 100 acts on eight stages and has fast become a celebrated date on the Austin music calendar. As with ACL, Attal brings an insider’s perspective to all his enterprises which he attributes to personal relationships, the kind he builds with artists like childhood companion Will Sexton, Charlie Robison and Lollapalooza’s Perry Farrell, each of whom played a role in forming Attal’s entrepreneurial philosophy.

His success notwithstanding, Attal remains a self-effacing, loyal music lover who tries to stay true to his idealistic Austin roots. In addition to wearing the hat of artist manager for acts including the Damnations and Blues Traveler, he is involved in charities such as Meals on Wheels and volunteers his time for numerous organizations, always quick to remind that the successful endeavor is one that operates as a business venture and looks beyond first appearances.