How Life Is Beautiful Festival Is Prospering in Year 4 & Breathing New Life Into Downtown Las Vegas
"For artists to still be able to discover a different part of Las Vegas, my hope is everybody wants to come back," fest exec Craig Nyman tells Billboard.
This weekend, more than 120,000 people will file into Downtown Las Vegas to see the Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, J. Cole, Major Lazer, Tegan and Sara, Jane’s Addiction, G-Eazy and many more at the fourth annual Life Is Beautiful festival. That attendance figure is more than double the 60,000 who came out for the fest's debut in 2013 and doesn't include the potential millions that will tune into a live stream of the three-day fest on Pandora.
The sheer number of eyes and ears focused on the music of LIB is a point of pride for Craig Nyman, head of music and live performances for the festival, who spoke to Billboard ahead of the 2016 edition's kick-off Sept. 23.
A number of festivals, like Vegoose and All Points West, never made it past a first run. Was there a moment you could point to indicating that Life Is Beautiful would become successful?
When you look at what we were able to do in the first year of the festival: The Killers were hometown kings; bringing Kings of Leon back, which was a resurgence for them; Beck had taken some time off; Imagine Dragons -- again local heroes -- they exploded. We also got Capital Cities before they completely blew up in 2013, and Twenty One Pilots too. So when you look at the overall shape of the festival, we put together a lineup that really dialed into Las Vegas but also was bringing artists that normally skipped [the city] and artists that were on the cusp of making it or breaking it.
In year two, you started seeing that growth happen with some of the artists [booked], and, naturally, with us being able to expand to three days. That was a sign we were moving in the right direction. But the success of last year has really parlayed into what’s become year four setting up to our biggest [festival] to date. When we announced the lineup in May, we got more likes and shares that first day than we got the three previous years combined on Facebook or social media sites.
How much of booking this festival is actually A&R-ing or scouting up-and-coming acts?
We have an incredible partner in Another Planet Entertainment and, collectively, we work as a solid team. We look at the bill like, “How do we want our lineup to be defined?” Some people see us being the last of festival season, but you can also look at us as being at the front because we’re getting artists who may not have gone out in the spring or summer. A lot of it is dialing ourselves into all the music, checking out smaller bands, really having our pulse and ear to the ground on some of these tracks. I’m just as psyched for Bishop Briggs, who keeps getting more spins day after day, or the Strumbellas, who had a No. 1 song this year ["Spirits" topped the Alternative Songs chart] and continue to rise.
Who are those artists who have come to define Life Is Beautiful?
For us, The Killers and Imagine Dragons are a perfect fit because of what they mean to the community and to the fans. Last year, we booked Brandon [Flowers] and obviously we knew there was the surprise of The Killers coming out. If you were in that crowd, you saw what that moment meant to our fans. Twenty One Pilots, who completely skyrocketed this year, that’s a band I hope we’re able to bring back. I look at an artist like G-Eazy, who performed in 2014 and is back this year. He still hasn’t done a ticketed show in Vegas, only nightclub appearances.
Year one, we had Vampire Weekend and Ezra [Koenig] was onstage talking about how he didn’t know a Downtown Las Vegas existed -- he was used to only playing on the Strip. So for artists to still be able to discover a different part of Las Vegas, my hope is everybody wants to come back.