Wynn Las Vegas upped the ante on Sin City's high-stakes EDM game this week, announcing 34 artists contracted for exclusive residencies across its four venues (Encore Beach Club, XS, Tryst, and Surrender). The roster includes powerful names like David Guetta, Skrillex and Swedish House Mafia's Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso, as well as previously announced mega-stars like Tiësto and Deadmau5.
The sheer strength of the line-up gives Wynn a leg-up on its only major local competitor, Strategic Group, which manages the DJ-focused Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub at Cosmopolitan (as well as Lavo at Palazzo, and Tao at The Venetian); and further demonstrates the level of investment casino-hotels are willing to make to lock in lucrative stars, and lock out each other. But regardless of who's writing the checks, the artists are benefiting.
"The casinos aren't screwing around," says Joel Zimmerman, head of William Morris Electronic, which books Wynn residents Afrojack and Deadmau5, and Marquee resident Kaskade. "And it's not just about the big guys. For an artist on their way up, part of the biggest chore is awareness, and casinos are facilitating that with the money they're spending on marketing to get the tourists. Guys like Calvin Harris and R3HAB have experienced tremendous growth because of it. It's a great platform for everybody."
The idea of a DJ residency is a relatively new one for Las Vegas: Until as recently as two years ago, touring jocks would pass through Sin City for the occasional one-off, with no loyalty to one venue or another. But seduced by reportedly higher paydays than in any other market - driven even higher by the competition - and those very tempting marketing budgets, artists and their agents started to cut deals.
For DJ/producer Afrojack - a WME artist who was the first to sign a residency agreement with Wynn in 2010, and renewed again this year - the question is rhetorical. "Of course [the residency affected the progress of my career]," he says. "But outside of the big promotion, it's also one of the most fun experiences, and it feels like home nowadays." Afrojack cut fan-favorite track "No Beef" in the Wynn's onsite studio with fellow resident Steve Aoki, and shot its troublemaking video inside Wynn venue Surrender, and at some of The Strip's seedier landmarks, including Bonanza Gift & Souvenir Shop. The clip has over 8.5 million YouTube views to date.
That symbiosis - promotion feeding promotion - is part of the value for the casinos. "A residency is something we truly look at as a partnership," says Jesse Waits, co-owner and managing partner of XS and Tryst. "We invest in these artists, in building their brand, marketing them, and providing unique press opportunities. In return, our clubs are allowed to be associated with talent of the highest caliber. They help us gain recognition in new markets by sharing details of their sets, photos and videos shot in the venues, with their hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide. It really helps to build enthusiasts for our clubs."
And it's safe to say that they're making money too: XS is already on track to be up 20% in revenue this year according to Waits, which the venue credits largely to its music program. On an average Sunday night without marquis talent, XS usually draws around 3,000 people, its approximate capacity. When Deadmau5 played on October 30 last year, 8,500 flowed through the doors throughout the night, according to the venue.
But if you ask Zimmerman, the dancing days might not be here forever. "Now it's healthy because there are two big players in the market, Wynn and Cosmopolitan," he says. "If you had four big residencies going up against each other at competing clubs, there might not be enough people to go around."