Gary Richards (A.K.A. Destructo) plays HARD's sold-out Day of the Dead event in full make-up on Nov. 3 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Nicole Pajer)
Early this month, HARD -- the EDM-centric festival and promotions company that was purchased by Live Nation earlier this year -- sold out their latest Day of The Dead event. In addition to personally DJing under his "Destructo" moniker, HARD founder Gary Richards was elated over the fact that he and Live Nation's James Barton successfully added 10,000 more tickets to the event.
"We rearranged the entire footprint. Last year when Skrillex was on at HARD Summer, everybody went to see him and it was solid but everyone was in that one zone," he said. "I think the way it's laid out now is perfect for this amount of people."
In the coming months, Richards -- a former A&R rep at A&M and Rick Rubin's Def American before founding his own label, Nitrus -- is taking his skill for artist discovery and development to the event circuit, using his many annual shindigs to launch new talent. Among those is the HARD Festival, which drew 30,000 attendees in Los Angeles last year and will add Miami and New York events in 2012. He is also gearing up for Boys Noize's first live North American tour, which will kick off at the end of this month, and will then head to Australia.
"We're doing Stereosonic Festival. We have our own HARD arena tour with Diplo, Mr. Oizo, Gesaffelstein, Brodinski, Zedd, and Dillon Francis. I DJ'd in Australia last year but we've never done a HARD event there yet so this will be kind of an intro," he said, adding that he'd like his festival to become more international and would be open to "anywhere they want us."
"The thing with HARD is that we're not the mainstream, so we have to be careful," he continued. "I think that a lot of these places think of EDM electronic as the mainstream, like Guetta and Tiesto. We're the alternative to that so we'll go anywhere as long as people are open to it -- and I think they are, it just takes a little education because we aren't the bottle-service type of crowd. We're more trying to keep it real."
Richards says HARD will celebrate its five-year anniversary at an upcoming New Year's Eve show in Detroit. After he DJs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on a bill that includes Skrillex, Boys Noize, Flosstradamus, Alvin Risk and D.I.M., there will be a special fifth-anniversary show -- with surprise guests -- later in the evening.
"Basically I'm DJing with Skrillex and Boys Noize and a bunch of people on New Year's Eve -- it's my birthday," he said. "And we're doing an after-hours party that's going to be the HARD five-year anniversary, and we'll have special stuff happening there. The main event is in the Palace of Auburn Hills and the location for our event is going to be in a private room in that building -- in a club or VIP area that holds about 900 people."
Following Holy Ship! (Jan 4-7), Richards will be back in action setting up HARD Summer. "The main thing for me right now is I just want to get HARD Summer here next year nailed down perfectly, the way we did this show." He confirmed next year's HARD Summer will keep the two-day format but will move from Friday/Saturday to Saturday/Sunday. "Sunday it will be a little more daytime. Maybe we'll have a more bands and go that route on the Sunday, more of the festival style. Saturday we'll go late."
Despite the merger with Live Nation, Richards says the focus of HARD will continue to be showcasing emerging electronic talent. "Our job is to bring up the new guys. That's my job, finding the new guys. That's what dance music is all about. Everybody can go off and book Tiesto, but finding brand new DJs is where it's at."
He also mentioned that he's currently focused on locating more female electronic acts and introducing people to a different electronic vibe, one that has more of a "deep house and groovy" feel to it.
"I think that's where electronic is going. People are getting into electronic music -- whether it's coming in through Skrillex or Deadmau5 or whatever -- but they are starting to figure out that there are all kinds of styles and it doesn't have to be that one style to really enjoy it. Just giving them something different which is what I'm trying to do through the festival."
Richards also told Billboard.biz that in addition to the HARD events, Live Nation Electronic Music has encouraged the brand to focus their efforts on touring. "I think the HARD brand will be their little touring entity for electronic, so we'll be doing a lot of tours as well."