Electronic Daisy Carnival is staging its most ambitious event yet at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend (June 24 - 26) amidst public safety concerns.
Nearly a year after the death of a 15-year-old girl and the hospitalization of 100-plus individuals at L.A.'s Memorial Coliseum, the Electric Daisy Carnival, an electronic-dance music festival, is about to put on its most ambitious show yet. From today (June 24) through June 26, the EDC is putting on a multi-million dollar extravaganza at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway with nearly 150 DJs (including superstars like David Guetta, Tiesto and Swedish House Mafia), six stages, amusement park rides, art installations, cooling lounges and an expected headcount of 100,000 people daily.
Billbaord.biz spoke with Pasquale Rotella, CEO and Founder of Insomniac Productions, the company behind EDC since 1997, to find out what they are doing different this year to improve the concert experience for the Las Vegas shows and to prevent further fatalities.
(A few days after our interview, at the EDC's Dallas show on June 18, a 19-year old died and another was left in critical condition. When we requested a follow-up interview, Rotella declined, citing a lack of time before the Las Vegas shows.)
Billoard.biz: You emphasize that Electric Daisy Carnival is not only a music festival, but also an entertainment experience. What do you mean by that?
Pasquale Rotella (PR): This is the largest production we've done. The stages are unique to anything anyone has ever seen. The art we have, the theatrical performers, the stages are a huge part of the show. Our audience is also part of it, people will come and interact with one another. They dress up; they are part of the fun as well. With those things something magical, special and unique happens compared to maybe a festival that just has talent on stage that people wait to see and then simply go home.
How many tickets are on sale this year?
PR: It's three days for the first time and we have 100,000 tickets available per day. 300,000 tickets total.
What are the prices?
PR: It depends when you purchase them. The early-bird fan gets a better price than someone who waits until the last minute. It's definitely better than other festivals this size. Now tickets are I believe $200. Correct me Erika [Erika Raney Director of Communications] if I'm wrong.
Erika Raney (ER): Three-day tickets are $215 and we are sold out of the single day tickets.
How quickly did those sell out?
PR: They sold out within the first week.
Do you have an estimate of how much this event will gross?
PR: The show is costing us millions of dollars… so we expect to gross millions of dollars [laughs]
ER: You do the math [laughs]
(Editor's Note - we did: 300,000 tickets at $200 each = roughly $60 million gross - less early-ticket and 3-day package discounts, unsold tickets)
What talent agencies do you deal with?
PR: We deal with AM Only, Windish Agency, David Lewis Agency, William Morris Agency, Circle Management and several others.
As the popularity of dance music increases, have acts' prices gone up?
PR: There's definitely been an increase in artist fees. As it grows, that's something that's going to continue happening.
Have you had any national promoters try to buy your festival?
PR: Yes, we've had several interested.
Are you interested in selling?
PR: I never say never, but we like being an independent company. The whole team is so passionate about what we do that we worry that going that route the magic will be lost. We are very protective about what we are doing and what we've built. We always consider offers and take the meeting, but that's not in our future plans as of now.
A map of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway set up for the festival: six stages, a ferris wheel, art installations, free water stations and much more.
Oscar Goodman, Mayor of Vegas, presented you with a proclamation (on June 16) declaring the week of June 20, as "Electric Daisy Carnival Week," what did that mean to you?
PR: It was very exciting for me. I did not expect to get -- this soon anyway -- this much support. I couldn't have asked for more of a welcome. I rarely tweet, but I tweeted about it! I'm super excited.
Because of last year's incidents -- the death of a young girl and the hundreds of accidents -- how have you had to rethink EDC structurally?
PR: We are constantly coming up with innovative ideas to make our festival not only safer, but more enjoyable to the attendee and on the entertainment side and creating something special and unique. We implemented new policies so our events are safer and we'll continue to do that.
What are the new policies?
ER: I can run through those pretty quickly: In the past year, we've implemented an 18+ policy. We use state of the art ID scanners to verify age. We have very thorough pat downs at security checks at each point of entry. Plus this year we have free water refill stations; actually 96 points of water filling that are available, for free, to any guest that has an empty beverage container inside the festival. Lastly, we've employed a team that interacts with the festival goers on the ground making sure everyone is feeling good and doing okay. Sort of an interactive eye on the crowd…
PR: These groups of people engage with people. If someone is sitting down on the ground, they might pat them on the back and say 'hey how's it going.' This has really gone a long way as well.
How did you rethink your strategies with last year's tragedies and the increased scrutiny?
PR: We just did our best. We took it all in and did our best to answer peoples' questions and concerns, but we also had to focus on our core business, which is producing and creating events that are special. It was something we took in and cared about, but mainly we focused on our shows.
And sometimes the media -- I would say 8 out of 10 times --- are going to do what they want to do and paint the picture they want to paint and it is not always accurate. We did our best to get our information out there and it was at times ignored. There is not much you can do about that. What we can do, moving forward, is make sure we have safe events and events that are special…
Bonnaroo had two deaths this year; do you believe there's a different standard for electronic dance music festivals?
PR: Absolutely and just because… listen, it's unfortunate when someone gets hurt… it's not why we produce events. We produce events to bring people together, listen to music and have a great time. Unfortunately some people get hurt sometimes… especially when they misbehave. We built small cities and someone is going to get…if you do everything you can to minimize any issues then you've done your job.
Do you think the outcry is greater when it's electronic music?
PR: Yes that is definitely the case. And, you know, it seems even more so when it is one of our shows.