In 106 degree heat, 400,000 EDM fans are descending on 1,200 acres of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting Friday night for the 19th edition of the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC).
Producer Pasquale Rotella, founder of Insomniac Events and its flagship EDC, has 18,000 pounds of confetti preloaded and 5.3 million watts of speaker power that will thump from 7 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. for the next three nights.
“Walking Dead” fans back at the hotels will appreciate the parade of exhausted people pouring back to the Vegas Strip in the not-so-early hours of the morning, sliding past gamblers already hitting the slot machines.
With all of the top EDM talent in the world in one city, at one time, and no exclusivity clauses that restrict performers at other festivals like Coachella from playing elsewhere, artists like Avicii, Calvin Harris, Diplo, Hardwell, and Tiesto will be playing multiple shows both at the festival and in the nightclubs and dayclubs on the Strip over the next four days.
The biggest surprises: The captains of this industry generally get along, everyone is making money, the fan appetite appears to be insatiable, and none of the financiers and producers take issue with the highly paid A-list talent of an entire industry triple booking gigs in a single weekend, something that should appear to cannibalize revenue and goodwill. However, almost all insist it does not.
On the eve of EDC weekend, five captains of the EDM capital, stakeholders representing the festival itself (Rotella), headline level talent (Hardwell), and three of Las Vegas’ top executives of the hospitality industry (Sean Christie, Neil Moffitt, and Jesse Waits) that fuel the big business the other 51 weekends of the year spoke to TheWrap to reveal how they sync up.
Pick Your Power Player:
Producer, Host of EDC; Founder and CEO, Insomniac Events
Role at EDC Weekend: Rotella is hosting 400,000 guests, called “headliners,” this weekend. The L.A. native is the wizard behind the glowing oz in the middle of the desert. Having started 20 years ago dropping fliers on Melrose for underground raves, he makes all the “most influential/powerful person in EDM” lists while increasingly becoming a Las Vegas philanthropist. Former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman declared an official “EDC Week.”
How the Non-EDM, traditional Hollywood demographic knows Rotella:
He produced the 3D feature documentary “Under the Electric Sky” with reality A-listers Jane Lipsitz and Dan Cutforth that debuted at Sundance last year.
TheWrap: Give us a stat that will impress a non-EDM fan:
Rotella: We have drained the United States of all production gear. There is nothing left. There are no more LEDS left. There is no more concert barricade. You can’t throw anything even in Florida. We’ve wiped everyone out.
What does mainstream Hollywood, the traditional talent community of film and TV still not get about your business? How come when I tell people I am coming to EDC, it does not land with the same authority as Coachella?
I’ll tell you my view — (it is) for the most ridiculous reason. We don’t throw fashion shows.
We want people to come and express their individuality-no judgement. People are uncomfortable with that. For some reason, which is ridiculous and crazy, “love, getting along with each other, promoting peace and uniting people” is corny to people. They think its crazy and passé and cliché and I think that is crazy.
Coachella is a great festival, but I feel like I’m too fat to go there this year, you know what I mean? I won’t look good there. At EDC I’m totally comfortable. I’ll be rocking out. I’ll be in the crowd. It’s a different thing.
There are so many models at Coachella. It’s a great looking crowd. I love those guys and how much they support dance music, but it’s a different thing. (EDC) is not a concert, it’s a culture. It’s a community. That’s the biggest difference. It’s a safe zone. Hollywood is not that way.
What’s your relationship like with (Las Vegas nightlife executives) like the Sean Christies, Jesse Waits, and Neil Moffitts? You don’t have exclusivity with your artists and they are all playing the clubs at the same time as your festival.
Neil Moffitt is a friend. Jesse is a friend. The Wynn and Hakkasan are doing their thing. These clubs were not doing dance music when we (first) did EDC here. The Southern California dance scene was so different, most of those people had never even been to Vegas. It was scary to take that leap and come here.
I believe that all the events feed off each other. It’s “EDC Week.” It’s a whole spectacle. We promote those clubs. If you go to our website, you’ll see, we promote those nights.
But there are no exclusivity or radius clauses?
Dance music is different. It’s not like a band is playing and they’re only going to play their song at our festival and they are going to play the same songs at another festival. Someone who is going to rock (mega nightclub) Hakkasan might completely rock it in a different way and play a totally different set (at EDC). Tiesto at Hakkasan is amazing. Tiesto at EDC is a different kind of amazing. They are totally different experiences. You’re not getting the same thing.
The scope of his big business:
Vice reported that Rotella turned down a $120-$150 million offer from the dance music company SFX, one of 12 offers he passed on. Instead, Rotella partnered with Live Nation in 2013, and reinforces that Insomniac remains wholly independent.
You were in this space so early, when no one else was here yet. How does it feel that the culture has all come over?
Nothing has changed for me. With how big the events are — whether its 400,000 people or 400 people — with how much this has grown and all the money and things are so popular now, the roots of the culture are the same. It’s about getting together and having a good time and being happy. For me, that is something that is special.
It took so long to get here. Hip-hop and rock exploded a lot sooner. It took us 20 years to get to this place. The core of why this culture exists is still intact. That’s unbelievable. Money and fame and popularity can change the dynamic of things. While that might not be that exciting to others, to me I’m grateful and pinching myself all the time.
What’s next for Rotella:
EDC in the UK in July and the 20th anniversary Nocturnal Wonderland, the longest running dance music festival in North America.
It’s the day before you host 400,000 people. What are you worried about right now?
Honestly, I’m worried about every … thing. I worry about everything. I think of every scenario in my head.
Current World’s #1 DJ, as voted by DJ Mag (Back to Back Champion)
Role at EDC weekend:
Plays the mainstage Kinetic Field from 1.15 a.m. – 2.25 a.m. on Saturday night. The Dutch producer played Hakkasan’s main room on Thursday night, leading off a weekend lineup in that space of Tiesto and Calvin Harris, as fellow resident wonderkid Martin Garrix plays at MGM’s Wet Republic pool.
How the non-EDM industry knows him:
Hardwell is not Axwell.
Axwell, formerly of Swedish House Mafia, is a name that has been rippling off the lips throughout L.A.’s scenester community for being an investor in the hottest of the summer rooftop lounge, E.P. & L.P. in West Hollywood. Hardwell, 27, is a Dutch producer behind songs that even a casual fan does not realize they like, such as “Spaceman.”
How he tackles EDC weekend:
At a pre-weekend press conference inside Hakkasan on Thursday, Hardwell admitted that the only thing he has ever done in Las Vegas is arrive, play, and then leave. Being here for a few days, what he gains by avoiding travel time, he gives back in work.
“Saturday, I am playing three shows in like 12 hours — starting (at day party) Wet Republic (at MGM), then an unannounced hip-hop set (at EDC), and then later on main stage (at EDC). Then I’ll probably stick around and watch Dannic close EDC,” he said. “It’s super busy in one day, but a lot of fun. We go club hopping. I was just at Drai’s (at 4 p.m.) for Dyro. It’s fun to hang around with everyone and be in the same place for a few days.”
Give us a Stat that will impress a non-EDM fan:
According to Hardwell, the hottest global hotbed for EDM at the moment is South America, not Europe.
Reflection on the big business of EDM:
When I am playing shows now, a lot of people are coming to see for ‘the #1 DJ in the World.’ They have no clue who Hardwell is, where he came from, or what his music is. They expect the biggest show ever. They expect the stage to explode.
How festivals help his business:
It helps. A lot. “In 2013, after my (Miami festival) Ultra set, people were calling me the #1 DJ in the world,” Hardwell said. “That was just based on the (one) set I played at Ultra in Miami.”
That set has almost 29 million views on Youtube.
High profile pals:
Afrojack (Hardwell gave him his first record deal), Tiesto, and his good buddy Dannic. Dannic’s recent “stop by” to check out Hardwell’s new studio birthed a new collaboration 12 hours later.
What’s next for him:
Las Vegas Nightlife/Daylife/Restaurant Owner / Tastemaker / Managing Partner of Encore Beach Club and Surrender
Role in the scene:
Christie signed Calvin Harris, Skrillex and Steve Aoki to their first ever residencies at Surrender and Kaskade’s first residency in the world at Encore Beach Club.
“Our entire job is signing stars and looking for the next star,” Christie told TheWrap on Thursday night as 4,000 people in swimwear were filing in to see Major Lazer at 1 a.m. “We’re not interested in the middle ground. Guys like Jesse (Waits, Christie’s counterpart at fellow Wynn-owned XS and Tryst) and I have a personal expertise in understanding and identifying musical trends as it relates to clubs in Las Vegas.”
How the non-EDM Hollywood demographic knows Christie:
From his early days running nightlife in Boston (Bill’s Bar, Avalon), trying to get tables for clients at Light nightclub in its mid-2000’s heyday, and now as the ambassador to the Hollywood film community. Steve Wynn tasked Christie with bringing productions to the properties. Sony’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” (68.8 million domestic, 33 million international) was shot almost entirely at the Wynn.
TheWrap: Give us a stat that will impress a non-EDM fan
Christie: On a weekly basis, between XS, Surrender and Encore Beach Club, in this hotel, on a Saturday night we could have 30,000 consumers that are nightlife/daylife driven pass through the hotel and interact with it without overtaking (the hotel) — 30,000 people is (Red Sox baseball stadium) Fenway Park, let’s just say, and we still have a 5 star, 5 diamond resort. Those two things work together.
Do You Go to EDC?
Absolutely not. I have no desire to go to EDC, but I did go last year because what I’m interested in is the production. You have to understand, every single one of our DJs that is here (on property) is there. At this point in time in my career, I don’t need to be at EDC. What I want to see is the production. That’s what’s most interesting and related to the business. Any really good customers that are at EDC, I probably know personally or Jesse knows personally.
But that takes away 400,000 “Guest Nights Out” and sends them to the festival. How does this affect your business?
The festival is good for the city. It brings a large amount of people here. In 2010 (when EDC announced its move to Las Vegas), it really was the stamp that Las Vegas was the #1 nightclub capital in the world.
At night, EDC financially is not a good thing for the nightclubs. It’s not like a Memorial Day weekend which is a much more significant weekend. The spike that the town gets is in the days leading up to the festival.
Your own lineup — day and night — are names like Kaskade, David Guetta, Avicii, Diplo, and Major Lazer. That could be its own festival anywhere. What is the pitch to leave the hotel and go out there and sweat?
Number one, EDC is 18 plus, so it serves a demographic that we don’t serve. We’re 21 plus and we are more expensive. For all these kids in southern California and all over America, a large portion of that festival can not get in to our clubs. EDC is amazing if you’ve never seen that type of large scale production. We offer the counterpoint to that — having that DJ in a luxury setting. It’s an experience to go out there. I will give them that.
How robust are your data analysis and sabremetrics?
Christie:I can say within a 10 percent margin, maybe 5 percent, outside of an anomaly, I could probably tell you within 100 people how many our click count is going to be and I could probably tell you within $10,000 what our revenue is going to be and I can also probably tell you what our net profit off of that number would be within $10,000 as well.
Between all of the captains of industry here, you all seem chummy and professional. In the arms race for talent and revenue, how personal is it?
People are passionate. When you compete on this high of a level, in any field, at the highest level of sports or the highest level of entertainment, people are passionate. If the person at the top of the organization, someone like Pasquale, someone like Neil (Moffitt), someone like myself or Jesse have to advocate for the people you work for.
Tonight there are going to be hundreds of employees that work here that their livelihood depends on the decisions that are jointly made by Jesse and I. We fight for them.
How many contacts do you have in your phone?
I have no idea — as many as you can put in?
Las Vegas Nightlife/Daylife/Restaurant Owner/ Tastemaker / Managing Partner, XS and Tryst
Role in the Scene and Claim to Fame for 2015:
This year, we claimed the #1 spot on Nightclub & Bars Top 100 list for the 5th time in 6 years of being open. We brought Kaskade back to Wynn for a multi-year contract.
Give us a stat that will impress a non-EDM fan:
During the first hour open, we will seat over 120 tables. During a busy night, within the first three hours, we will process 2,000 people an hour going through the door.
How robust are your data analysis and sabremetrics?
I get an hourly financial report from each club [XS and Tryst] and a door count every 30 minutes.
With 400,000 EDM fans out at the festival, how does this affect your simultaneous nightclub business?
We all understand that it is about the city being successful. One difficulty about this weekend for us is that it is a younger crowd than what typically comes to Vegas. So while rooms fill up, many are not 21 or over, which is our demographic. On the upside, EDC brought Vegas credibility to the EDM crowd. During the year that EDC first came to Vegas, we had started booking EDM DJs, but we hadn’t necessarily reached the tipping point. So the festival coming to town helped to solidify Vegas as an EDM mecca for America.
Do you go to EDC and how do you go?
Yes, I go a few nights normally on Sundays.
I’ll go on a helicopter with one of the artists if I am going for a short time, but I have driven there too. If you are driving very late (like I usually am) you can get there in 20 minutes. I love to see all of my friends performing, but it is also good time to hang out with Pasquale (Rotella) and the Insomniac crew, managers or agents that are in town from around the country, and different friends in the industry that I don’t always get to see.
What does mainstream Hollywood (film and TV industry) still not get about EDC weekend?
I think it is hard to grasp the quantity of people in the city, unless you are here. EDC has a culture and massive following built into it — which makes it different than other festivals. It is all about the full experience from costumes, to design, to production.
Rank your revenue weekends:
As far as the most successful weekends for us, New Year’s Eve and Memorial Day weekend are top, followed by boxing weekends and Labor Day weekend. EDC is one of the busiest in terms of having all of my friends in the industry in one place at one time.
Where do you go on your nights off?
I work so much that I enjoy being home when I can. I like to spend time with my family, my girlfriend, and pets or go to a movie.
CEO of Hakkasan Group
Role in the Scene:
Opened, owns, and operates the 75,000 square foot Omnia, the 80,000 square foot Hakkasan, Wet Republic and others. They also manage Light and Haze. Moffitt signed Tiesto, Calvin Harris, Afrojack, and someone who is not even old enough to drink in the spaces, Martin Garrix, to long term residences.
How the non-EDM Hollywood demographic knows London native Moffit:
One of the 12 Hakkasan restaurants is in Beverly Hills and the group also owns Herringbone at the Mondrian. Moffitt acquired a majority stake in L.A.’s h.wood group (Bootsy Bellows, The Nice Guy, Hooray Henry’s) in 2014 over a lunch with John Terzian at Hakkasan Beverly Hills.
TheWrap: How has the talent booking business evolved in the EDM era?
Moffitt: No hate or whatever, I’m friends with Paris (Hilton). She came in to see me last night. Way back during the (2007) Pure (nightclub) days, Paris was getting paid $100,000 to go in to Pure and say (“wheeee”). People would go “Oh my God, it’s Paris Hilton.” She was here last night and no one cares.
Puff’s coming tonight. Nobody knows he is coming. Normally people would make a big deal “Oh, Puff’s coming tonight to hang out.” We won’t ever mention it.
Your background is in festivals. Would you consider sponsoring or getting involved in a festival with the Hakkasan Brand? I could see a tent being sponsored at Coachella, EDC?
No. I’m really good friends with Pasquale. I’ve known him for year and year and years.
That’s such a … they live from one year to the next. I don’t want that life. I want a business that rolls all year round. There are festivals that are very well attended that you would think are the biggest success story in the world that every year lose money.
We all don’t mind a little bit of stress if we get a check for it. I don’t want stress and not get paid. There is so much brain damage involved in a festival, that moment in my life has passed years ago.
High profile pals:
Moffitt once told TheWrap that he’s known Harris since he was stocking shelves in a grocery story in Scotland.
Give us a stat that will impress a non-EDM fan:
Like airlines or Uber, bottle buying table pricing is dynamic. Moffit says he will personally call bottle buying customers when needed, to tell them that demand has surged, and they need to spend more money or lose their real estate.
How robust is his data and sabremetrics?
Moffitt has a team of about a dozen financial analysts working full time to model and predict nightly revenue. During opening hours, he gets status updates every 30 minutes on sales, ticketing, and headcount. On a recent Saturday afternoon during a tour of Omnia, he already knew exactly what numbers he needed to hit by what time to “make the night”.
What’s next for your industry?
There is first class, business class and economy.
How the landscape is today, there is Omnia, there is Hakkasan, and there is XS. They are the Barcelona, Madrid, and the Bayern Munich (soccer teams). Those three exist as where the high net worth table spenders are going to go. Therefore, you can support the content. All the other nightclubs are in a period of reinvention. They have to work out what they want to be and who they want to service.
Everyone is trying to find their niche.