Gary Richards and All His Friends Get Ready for His First LiveStyle Festival
Less than a year after leaving Live Nation, Richards returns with the All My Friends festival set for Los Angeles Aug. 18-19.
Gary Richards may have left the company and brand he built, but he’s not lost connection with the thousands of music fans who have followed his career from L.A. underground show promoter to one of the world's biggest dance festival producers for Live Nation with events like HARD Summer and Holy Ship.
After leaving Live Nation last year, Richards is now counting on his following and friendships for his first major festival All My Friends, happening this weekend at ROW in Downtown L.A., the former home to American Apparel that’s been converted into an industrial style festival and food destination decorated with 30,000 square-feet of murals from local artists.
Presented by AMFAMFAMF, the dance brand Richards created at LiveStyle, where he now serves as President of North America, All My Friends features more than 40 artists including RL Grime, Gucci Mane, Ravyn Lenae, M.I.A., Jamie xx and Armand Van Helden.
“It was important that we book artists from L.A. as well,” Richards tells Billboard, including R&B singer Jhene Aiko and dance music icons Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark, along with Richards who performs as Destructo. “Having a lot of L.A. people on the bill for the first one was important to me."
All My Friends, which is expecting an attendance of about 10,000 people a day, is a bit of a reset for Richards who left Live Nation last year to join LiveStyle, a promotion company created out of the ashes of Bob Sillerman’s SFX, which emerged out of bankruptcy in 2016 under the helm of longtime music executive Randy Phillips.
Richards says he’s not trying to recreate his old events, telling Billboard that All My Friends “isn’t HARD part two, it’s more Gary, this is what I do.” He adds the event is more “boutique” with a scaled down production of just three stages.
“We're not trying to get 100,000 people squeezed in and have it take five hours to get out of the parking lot and all that nonsense,” Richards said, drawing comparisons to his HARD Summer 2015 at the L.A. Fairplex in Pomona and his 2016 HARD event at Auto Club Speedway. As well, the HARD brand has struggled with overdose deaths -- five people died from overdoses at the two events -- and continues to find itself at the center of a music culture that can't shake its drug problem. Earlier this month, nearly a year after Richards left Live Nation, a 19-year-old from Northern California died at HARD Summer 2018 and 23 people were hospitalized.
Besides the persistent fan overdoses, Richards has had his own internal battles at Live Nation, at one point suing EDM rival and fellow Live Nation executive Pasquale Rotella over the use of the Electric Daisy Carnival name.
Leaving Live Nation meant "I'm not a division in a big company. I'm the president of the company, so I definitely have more resources to work with than in the past,” says Richards, who’s also booked and sold out Friendship, a rival of sorts to Holy Ship which he created in 2012 and is now run by Live Nation (the January expedition saw more than two dozen people arrested for drug possession while boarding the boat at Port Canaveral, Florida, including New York-based DJ and producer Gina Turner).
Richards' Friendship embarks from Florida Dec. 11-15 and sold out before announcing a single artist on the lineup, a result he says that's partially due to fans supporting him and partially due to efforts by his rivals to block him from booking artists.
“It’s always competitive trying to book acts, even when I was at Live Nation,” he says. "I wouldn't just say Live Nation, but the industry as a whole,” was making it difficult for Richards to book acts for Friendship and All My Friends.
"I'm a promoter and my job is to promote, not block. A lot of other promoters, they like to block. I got into this to help artists, not to block them," he continues. "The good news is that the best skill that I have is A&R and whether I’m at a record label, a studio or building a festival, I'm able to be nimble and book new things. Dance music is always about what's new. It's not about what's old. And I think people forget that.”
As for the inspiration for the name All My Friends, Richards explains, "I landed on this name because besides my family and my wife, the best relationships that I've made are with musicians. People that I've made records with and people I've been on tour with." He adds that many of his events have sparked new friendships, romantic engagements and even marriage.
"There's a lot of festivals with names that don't really mean anything,” he says. “The theme of friendship resonates to me through music and All My Friends just felt like the perfect name."
All My Friends starts Saturday (Aug 18) and runs through Sunday (Aug. 19). The festival is 18-and-older and two-day tickets currently start at $139 plus fees, while single day tickets are $89 plus fees. Learn more at amfamfamf.com.