Day two of the EDMBiz conference highlighted a fundamental divide within the dance music industry -- perhaps one of the oldest in the business of making art: To sell out, or not to sell out.
With the news that longtime party promoter Donnie Estopinal had sold his Disco Donnie Presents to Robert F. X. Sillerman, the "An Agent and 5 Promoters Walk Into a Room…" panel, featuring Estinopal, was packed to the gills.
"It was just announced that you sold your company to Bob Sillerman. Congrats," said panel moderator Paul Morris, president of AM Only, in his trademark monotone. The room exploded in cheers - someone even yelled "Who dat?!" - as Estopinal raised in fist in mock victory.
"I've got a lot of money in a bank account right now. That's a good thing," said Estopinal, wearing a T-shirt that read "Have you hugged your lawyer today?"
But seriously folks: Estopinal went on to explain his justification for linking with Sillerman, a move which many other attendees at the conference - from venues to promoters - said off-the-record that they were also considering.
"I want to reward the promoters who have been doing this for a long time and get them all under one umbrella," he said. "People who have put their blood, sweat, and tears into the scene can finally make some money and have an exit strategy for the future. Right now, we're doubling our gross income every year; this [deal] will give us an opportunity to build an infrastructure to keep growing."
But the audience cheered just as loudly when Neil Moffitt, CEO of Las Vegas-based Angel Management Group with a long history starting in the U.K., posed a question from the audience. Saying that he watched his Global Gathering brand "decline" after selling it to Live Nation in 2006, the venue operator asked how the panel, after years of developing their brands, would resist the corruptive effects of large companies that were "only in it for the money."
Estopinal responded: "Neil was a different deal. As long as you don't lose creative control, it's going to give me more to do bigger and better things."
Insomniac Events president Pasquale Rotella chimed in: "Until it's flipped. Then that all goes away."
Until around April of this year, Estopinal and Rotella were partners, the former promoting Insomniac events in the middle of the country, while the latter built his festival empire. Their split was reportedly acrimonious. Less than three months after he formed Disco Donnie Presents, Estopinal sold to Sillerman.
"If it's a public company you don't have the freedom to make choices that make sense," Rotella continued.
Estinopal took the comments in stride, and at the panel's end the two men shook hands. But the room's split reaction - cheers for cashing in, and perhaps out; cheers for protectionism - signaled that an industry-wide resolution would not be that simple.