Billboard's Dance Exec of the Year Pasquale Rotella on Insomniac's World Expansion and Why You're Never Too Old to Rave
As rival SFX declares bankruptcy, the Insomniac Events CEO/founder expands dance's top festival series to new continents.
In 1992, a scruffy street kid from West Los Angeles intent on reviving the local underground scene threw a rave. Almost 24 years later, that warehouse party and its proprietor, Pasquale Rotella, have grown into Insomniac Events: a worldwide network of 12 music festivals, major club nights, a record label and a partnership with events titan Live Nation -- all coordinated by a 140-person full-time staff. Its crown jewel? The iconic Electric Daisy Carnival, now with annual editions in New York and the United Kingdom, as well as the Las Vegas flagship, which will feature more than 250 acts and 400,000 fans at its 20th anniversary June 17-19. Rotella, who's married to reality star Holly Madison, isn't content, though. With EDC India and Japan slated for 2017 on top of recent expansion into Brazil, Mexico and the United Kingdom -- and main rival SFX's recent collapse -- the 41-year-old's brainchild is fast becoming the first truly global rave empire, with Rotella securely on the throne.
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There has been a lot of chatter about the "EDM bubble" popping. What do you see?
"EDM" has been a thing for four, five years. Insomniac has been around for over 20 years -- we're not going anywhere. We're selling better this year than we were last. Maybe people are less into that "EDM sound," but they're certainly into house, techno, drum'n'bass and trance. This is one of the most exciting times in dance music history.
What is your view on SFX's spectacular downfall?
I saw it as a Wall Street play -- that's why I never did a deal with them. They do some really great events that would be thriving if they weren't attached to the stock market. Raving and Wall Street are different worlds.
What is the new frontier of Insomniac's world expansion?
Japan. India. Chile. Those are the markets we're focusing on right now. We just did Brazil; we do Mexico and the U.K. Mexico is the one I'm happiest with right now. The fans there understand it.
Safety at raves continues to be a big concern among politicians and the media. Do you think it's overblown?
Dance music events are some of the safest in the world. Young people do what they do, whether they're on college campuses or at rock shows or multigenre festivals. There are problems, but they're no different than what you see elsewhere. People only pay attention to dance music because we were, until recently, unfamiliar to many who make those calls.
Can you ever get too old to rave? Will you ever retire?
No! Not until I'm dead! You never get too old for rave culture. My mom was dancing on stages at EDC when she was 80! In America, people feel like they're too old to go out and dance. It's good for your mind, body, soul -- whatever age you're at.
This article originally appeared in the June 18 issue of Billboard.