Electric Daisy Carnival Preview: Organizer Says 2014 Will Be 'One for the Record Books' (Q&A)
Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotella discusses what makes EDC unique, how they will minimize drug use and the progress of a dance awards show.
Since making its Sin City debut in 2011, Insomniac's flagship Electric Daisy Carnival festival in Las Vegas has become a musical holiday that many EDM acts look forward to all year.
"If music was a religion, EDC Vegas would be Christmas," said Los Angeles-based DJ and producer Borgore, noting that 2014 will be his fourth year playing EDC Vegas. "It's something I'm waiting for the whole year where I get to see all my family. All the DJs in the world are here right now."
EDC Vegas 2014 will be held June 20-22 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and feature more than 200 DJs and producers, ranging from main stage acts like Avicii, Calvin Harris, Armin van Buuren and Hardwell to notable house and techno artists including Carl Cox, Booka Shade and Luciano. The diverse lineup also boasts hybrid live groups like Chromeo and Destroid.
"This is going to be one for the record books," said Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotella to Billboard, adding that this year's sold-out EDC Vegas will draw about 134,000 people per day. "It's really going to be incredible. Some of the stages are just insane."
Indeed, past Electric Daisy Carnivals in Las Vegas have featured everything from circus-style performers and thrill rides to a fairytale-like main stage with giant inflatable mushrooms and painted flowers, with owl-covered towers bearing giant LED screens.
"When you get into the festival, it feels like you're in a fantasy world," Borgore, whose debut album, "#NEWGOREORDER," will be released on July 8 on Buygore/DimMak, said. "It's the most important thing in our world."
Dubbed "EDC Week" in Las Vegas, the upcoming festival coincides with third annual EDMbiz conference, which began on June 17 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and features three days of panels with music execs and professionals from across the dance music community.
In addition to Las Vegas, EDC has also been held in New York, London, Puerto Rico, Mexico City, Chicago and Orlando.
Billboard caught up with Rotella to discuss what sets EDC Vegas apart from other U.S. EDM festivals, how Insomniac is combating drug use, what to expect from EDC's first live-streaming experience, whether the DJ boom in Vegas nightclubs caused booking challenges, why Insomniac's dance music awards show didn't launch in 2014, plans for a new Las Vegas festival and much more.
Billboard: What sets EDC Vegas apart from other U.S. EDM music festivals like Ultra, Electric Zoo, TomorrowWorld and Mysteryland?
Pasquale Rotella: EDC Vegas is like the dance community's New Year's Eve. We're the largest dance music festival in the world and it's held at night, which is unique. It came from a culture where events were all-night parties, and we're bringing that back. I feel like it's a culmination of everything that happens all year in a big explosion. All those other festivals are great, but they're limited on size and capabilities of what you can do on a production level.
Live Nation purchased a stake in Insomniac in 2013, and this year marks the first EDC Vegas under that new partnership. Did Live Nation play any role in booking and producing EDC Vegas 2014?
We still run the show—the booking and producing of the event is all us. But I definitely asked for help on managing the budget, because I've been terrible with budgets. I love what I do and always want more, more, more. We're still delivering more than we did last year, but it's all being managed more efficiently.
Insomniac produces Electric Daisy Carnivals throughout the world. Do you feel that each one has its own identity?
They all have a unique personality, but none of them are EDC Vegas. In Puerto Rico, we'll do 25,000 or 30,000 people, so you're not going to have the same kind of production. But while you're there, maybe you'll go to the beach or rainforest the next day. When you're in Orlando, maybe you'll go to Disney World. It's not just about going to EDC; it's also about what you're going to do while you're in town.
Las Vegas has become a huge destination for EDM acts performing at various nightclubs throughout the city. Has that brought about any complications with booking EDC Vegas?
EDC Vegas was here before the nightclubs. It's fueled the city of Vegas to acknowledge the dance music culture. All the agents, managers and DJs carve out EDC, so we don't run into any of those problems.
What steps has Insomniac taken to help minimize drug use at this year's EDC Vegas?
We've definitely staffed up and had more messaging that it's not something we tolerate. We have the best medical facilities that I've ever seen at a festival. We really don't have any more problems than you see at a Bonnaroo or Coachella. But we still put a lot of effort into making sure we're the best we can be with safety and security. We do pat-downs, 18 and over, and provide free water for attendees. We also have the ground control, which is beyond security and medical, where individuals come and roam the grounds looking for people who might be lost or out of it.
Insomniac has partnered with 7Up to give fans at home the chance to watch EDC Vegas online. But you've said that it won't be your typical live-streaming festival experience. Can you elaborate on that?
We're going to take people on adventures and make sure it's good. I've seen streaming that's made me not want to go to great festivals. We're going to curate and not try to duplicate your experience at the festival—like DJ, crowd shot, DJ, crowd shot, zoom in to someone that looks uncomfortable, back to DJ. We're going to do more interviews, go backstage, show helicopter views of the grounds and other things you couldn't see at the festival.
What do you typically do during EDC? Are you on site all three days?
I do most of my work leading up to the event date, and then I try to enjoy the festival and host friends and business colleagues. I also try to explore the festival to see what I can do better. Unless something unique comes up, I'm mainly hosting and enjoying the show.
Do you get treated like a rock star now by attendees?
I used to be behind the scenes, and when I'd walk around no one would say anything. That was enjoyable. You could hear people say, "I love this or this sucks." You get the real deal. These days, it's very humbling. There's a lot of love and people want to take pictures and things like that. Sometimes I don't know how to feel, because I'm just doing what I love. They'll be thanking me, but I want to thank them because they're there supporting it.
Insomniac and Dick Clark Productions announced plans last year to produce a dance music awards show in conjunction with EDC Week 2014, but the project never got off the ground. What happened?
God, it's been hard getting that off the ground, because I don't want to do it and not be right. We did plan on doing it this year and still want to do it—it's still part of the plan and vision. But we don't want to do it until it's right. We needed more time.
You've lived in Las Vegas for more than two years now with your wife, Holly Madison, and daughter. Does Insomniac have other plans to expand into the Vegas market outside of EDC?
Yeah, we definitely want to do another festival here. We're talking about March, but we're still working it out. We don't have an exact date.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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