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EDC Founder Pasquale Rotella on 2018 Festival’s Big Changes, From New Date to Camping

Insomniac’s chief answers our burning questions, analyzes the DJ Khaled incident

Insomniac founder and CEO Pasquale Rotella has announced major changes to Electric Daisy Carnival, his thumping 400,000 person electronic music festival that glows for three nights in the Nevada desert.

Fans freaked out to each piece of news in all the ways that passionate devotees react to a perceived tinkering of the holy.
2017.09.13 EDC 2018 Changes Fan ReactionHowever, some saw a family values angle, a view that Rotella also appreciates.

Others declared their allegiance to efficient logistics.

In one of the first longform interviews since rattling the North American festival calendar, The Party Report caught up with Rotella, the original “night owl,” for an extended chat digging into the calculus behind the evolution.

And calm down. They know exactly what they are doing.

EDC Las Vegas

The Party Report: As soon as we heard about the new May date, we did what you must have done months ago: Google the weather in mid-May vs. mid-June. What was the calculus there?
Pasquale Rotella: I did hire a company that gave me the history of the weather on that weekend for the past 10 years and I’m happy to say that the average high is 90 and the average low is 64. [The weather] is drastically different and it’s not actually that far away. It’s only about a month difference.

We did consider Memorial Day. We considered this weekend — the one that we picked — and thought that this was the better weekend in regards to hotel room availability in the city and just an overall better experience.

Your campgrounds will open 24 days after the campgrounds at Coachella close. For a lot of fans in your audience, it presents challenges: One, a lot of the 18-22 year-olds are in school finals.
We take everything into account. We’re well aware of finals being the week before the weekend [of EDC 2018]. The majority of schools are already done with finals. The majority of colleges, especially in Southern California, don’t have finals the week before EDC. For the majority of people in college, it works out fine. There is no perfect weekend. I wouldn’t say Father’s Day is ideal either.

For anyone that will have camped at Coachella 2018 or does not live in Southern California, to regroup financially, psychologically and socially to get your crew back together three weeks later seems like a challenge. How did these factors come in when looking at the overall festival season calendar?
In regards to at Coachella … As an example, I still go to festivals as an attendee all the time. I can tell you that I just went to Eclipse festival in Oregon and then the next weekend went to Burning Man. Those are back-to-back.

I don’t think that being a month apart is too taxing for two amazing festivals. Coachella is epic and we do everything we can to make EDC unique and epic as well. I think those festivals complement each other and create more buzz and excitement to go out versus take away from each other.

Can you speak to the logistics and what the camping component is going to look like?
This isn’t the first time we’ve offered camping at one of our festivals. We have a solid background in building extensive campsites and getting creative with activities and amenities inside the campgrounds.

Camping WILL. BE. LIMITED. We can’t camp the capacity of EDC today.

That might change in later years, because there is plenty of land around the Speedway and there would be negotiations that would have to happen. That’s not happening today. Nor would we want to try to do something on that scale the first year.

Our goal for the first year, camping is going to be very limited … I would be happy with 15 to 20 percent of the festival to camp out and that’s the goal [approximately 20,000-26,000 people]. We’re still working out the details of that. We will have that figured out before we go on sale [Sept. 28] so that we make the right decisions. We’re definitely going to play it safe the first year and with everything that we do, it will grow as we move forward.

With new extended hours, new daytime programming and campground activities, I’m envisioning something like a several thousand seat “Mama Irene Spaghetti and Meatballs” carb-loading pre-game dinner. Is that where this is going?
Oh man. I love that you said Mama Irene.

Extending the hours, because the [May] weather allows it, is really exciting to me. People can arrive earlier. I think that’s going to have probably even more impact (on traffic) than the camping might.

Is there anything you learned on the last night of EDC this year? You had Drake making a surprise appearance at one stage, at the same time DJ Khaled was at Cosmic Meadow stage, which went in another direction. Is there anything that surprised you about that night or anything you learned specifically from DJ Khaled being booed?
I was right front and center when Drake went on. I knew people would be excited because it’s Drake, but I didn’t know they’d be that excited. I actually got worried at one point because of the surge forward towards the stage.

I actually ended up going backstage — to where the front of the stage meets the barricade — to make sure that people were OK and no one was getting squished. We have a very open-minded crowd. There’s so many different people that are at the show.

If you go in the techno tent, it’s probably a little bit more serious. They’re into music. The production doesn’t have to be all that spectacular. You don’t have to sprinkle glitter in cannons over the crowd. They’re closing their eyes, they’re meditating and they’re in the music.

Then you have people there that aren’t so serious. They’re just there to have a blast, have a great time. They want to be entertained and they want all their senses touched. That element of surprise is perfect at EDC.

And about the poor reaction to non-EDM pop personality DJ Khaled?
My biggest takeaway is that we should actually encourage and continue doing things that are unexpected of us. I think that that’s a lot of fun. Regardless of certain images out there or perspectives that might try to pigeonhole us in to being a certain thing, hey, Drake came out. It’s like, “What’s up? Let’s party.”

It wasn’t just Drake. [Other non-EDM surprise guests included] G-Eazy, Too Short, Miguel, Rae Sremmurd, and the year prior we had John Legend … and Bryan Cranston push the button for Above & Beyond.

Can we dig in to your personal media diet? Are you on Spotify Premium? What do you use? Tidal? What’s on your phone now for audio apps?

Definitely Spotify.

Spotify, iHeart, – I don’t know if this is considered old school now – but definitely iTunes as well. I listen to a lot of podcasts so the podcast app. I think that’s through iTunes as well. SoundCloud, because there’s mixes on SoundCloud. I kind of bounce around a whole lot, but Spotify is killing the game right now. There’s so much new music constantly coming out there and there’s just a buzz about Spotify.

Do you ever check EDC’s Reddit, personally?

You know what? I actually have to do that a lot more. I know that there’s the community there. Just recently, I was discussing with the team to do a “Reddit AMA” and I have decided to do that, speak directly to the community that’s interested in getting questions answered that they might have that we might not be thinking of putting out there.

I definitely pay attention to it. Need to read up more, plan on doing that, but I’m well aware that there’s a passionate community there and definitely want to be for them to answer questions for them. [Ed. Note: Rotella will be doing a Reddit AMA in the near future. This post will be updated with the details.]

I’m over 30. My music-loving friends are over 30. When we go to shows we might have held a banner that says “Over 30 EDM” and met some peers. Any advice for any fans that grew up with different kinds of music and found dance music later in life?
You better make one that says “Over 40” to get any response at Nocturnal [Wonderland festival] next week because that’s when all the real old school heads come out.

Nocturnal has been our longest running festival and there’s a camp there that goes by “Camp OG.” I don’t think you’ll find anyone under 40 there. I think you’re rubbing shoulders with a lot of people of that age demographic. Especially if you go to Vegas.

San Bernardino shows sometimes are a little bit younger. Vegas, the average age is 28. So over 30, you’ll find a lot of people. Especially if you go into the cabana area, you’ll find 40, 50, and older.

My mom was rocking the stages and the dance floor until she was 79, 80. I don’t know. Age to me is really not a big thing, but listen.

Should she stop hanging out with 35-year-olds because they’re too young? No. She had the best time of her life. Who gives a s—?

Everyone needs to just not be so afraid of that. I was thinking if I had the money, I would actually do a campaign. Maybe, hopefully, I can get the money one day. I would, out of my own pocket, spend for a national campaign about festivals. Not just our festivals. Any damn festival. I’d promote all of them. I don’t give a s— because I care about all of them. Dance forever. Promote mental health and physical health by getting out of the house and surrounding yourself with young energy.

If I were to retire tomorrow, which I’m not, you’ll catch me at an underground rave.

EDC 2018 tickets go on sale on Thursday, Sept. 28. The lineup will be revealed in spring 2018.