Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino "looks at electronic music as an absolute here-to-stay genre of music"- and is running his company accordingly. Rapino laid out his plans for Live Nation's expansion in the EDM space during a keynote conversation with Billboard's Kerri Mason at EDMbiz; the Las Vegas conference, in its first year, took place during the week of Electric Daisy Carnival.
Calling EDM "the most exciting thing to happen to live music in 20 years," Rapino discussed current ventures like Identity Festival, Kaskade's "Freaks of Nature" tour, Dutch white party festival Sensation, and Cream Holdings Limited, the company behind Europe's Creamfields Festivals, which Live Nation acquired in May. Cream founder/CEO James Barton will be heading up Live Nation Electronic from the Beverly Hills office, starting next week.
Rapino summed up his global dance music strategy as "acquire or hire. We want to acquire some great brands, if they're available, to build credibility within our own portfolio." The Cream brand is a prime example, given its presence in seven overseas markets. Bringing on Cream CEO Barton to head up the Electronic Nation division was an important step as well.
"We were looking for someone who could help elevate our global strategy, that can teach me the business," Rapino said of Barton. "We've absolutely got to become more relevant in North America with some marquee events. So that will be his mission." (Other contenders for the job included Duncan Stutterheim, founder of Sensation production company ID&T, and Insomniac's Pasquale Rotella. "I couldn't afford Pasquale," Rapino quipped.)
Throughout his conversation with Mason, Rapino was at once analytical and excited about dance music's future, not to mention its origins on the dance floor. "First and foremost," he said, "this business started in the field, exciting tens of thousands of people. I think this space will make everyone in live music wake up and go, 'Wow, what am I doing for my fan?'"
Rapino also addressed Live Nation's acquisition of data company Big Champagne in December of 2011. They've spent the majority of the year streamlining Ticketmaster's multiple databases, he said, to eventually glean consumer insights, meant to inform smarter and more efficient fan-focused marketing campaigns. He also said that GrouponLive, Live Nation's partnership with Groupon to sell lower-priced tickets to poorly performing shows, has indeed moved tickets, but at a lower overall number year over year - which he saw as a sign of the business's improving health.