As founder/CEO of Life in Color, Sebastian Solano oversaw the brand’s growth from a Florida college paint party to a global touring force that is on track to sell half a million tickets in more than 40 countries this year. Now he’ll get a shot at reinventing the company that originally inspired him to enter the business.
Billboard can exclusively report that SFX Entertainment has appointed Solano as the new CEO of ID&T North America / Made Event. He will remain CEO of Life in Color while overseeing all North American events in the ID&T and Made portfolios, including TomorrowWorld, Mysteryland USA and Electric Zoo.
The move comes off a rough autumn for Robert Sillerman’s dance music conglomerate, which faces a potential asset sale following his failed bid to take the company back private in August. While SFX subsequently secured $90 million in new financing, it continues to deal with anemic stock prices and the fallout from weather-related transportation issues that stranded thousands of festival attendees outside ID&T’s TomorrowWorld.
Life in Color has been one of SFX’s few bright spots this year, launching its first world tour in January, hosting the halftime show at Miami’s Guinness International Champion’s Cup Final in August, and securing a strong lineup for its fourth Life in Color Festival at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium next January.
Billboard spoke with Solano to discuss the new position and his future vision for the promotion companies under his control.
What does this new role mean to you, both personally and professionally?
ID&T’s Sensation was what actually inspired me and my partners to create Life in Color. Back when I was starting to throw parties — I mean little 500-person events at nightclubs in Tallahasee where we were going to college — I discovered Sensation on YouTube and I was like, “Oh my God. What is this?” I just couldn’t believe that a party could be taken to a level where 50,000 people would show up in a stadium. Just to party, right? Not for Madonna. But just for an actual party. Immediately, I started to go deep into research on Sensation, ID&T and founder Duncan Stutterheim. It just really interested me.
One day, somebody invited me to this party called Dayglow, and I was like “What is that?” And they were like, “Yeah, you just party. It’s been going on in the fraternities for years. It’s like a Tallahassee tradition. Everybody wears white and people throw paint all over each other.” So I go and I literally could not believe what I saw. There’s like 400 kids wearing all white, throwing paint all over each other, and jamming to freaking trance and music. Back in those days in the college towns, that was completely unheard of. And I was just so shocked by that moment. Immediately, I said to myself ‘this is the Sensation of America.’ And that is actually the moment I started to pursue Dayglow, which is now called Life in Color. It’s quite ironic how 10 years later, I’m standing here now as CEO of ID&T North America.
Given SFX’s current issues, what sort of managerial approach do you envision taking?
To be honest, my main priorities right now is to uplift the culture and the vibe. Obviously, with what’s been going on lately in New York, it’s been dominated by the press going on about the financial and the stock market stuff, so my first priority is to really remind everybody that we’ve got a business because we want to throw the best parties in the world and that’s what we do. That’s who we are. We’re promoters, and we’ve devoted our lives to throwing amazing parties for music fans because we love the music, because we love to deliver an amazing experience. That’s the reason why we’re here, and that’s the reason why I took this job. And it’s not like they’ve forgotten at all, but it’s been a bit of a distraction that has kind of upset the divides in the working environment. I want to change that culture, and that’s top of my agenda. Everything else, the strategy, the changes, the updates, they’re going to come.
I took over a few days ago, so I haven’t been able to really talk about the strategy yet, but it’s something that’s going to be done. These past couple days in New York, we’ve already been discussing what went well, and what didn’t go well. As you said, Electric Zoo reinvented itself this year and it was hugely successful for both us and the fans, so going into next year, I don’t foresee us having to reinvent the wheel again, but it’s also not going to be a copy/paste approach either — we have to continue to have balls. This first year with Electric Zoo was probably a little more of a revolution, so next year is going to be more of an evolution — how do we improve upon what we started building?
A lot of things happened, for example, with TomorrowWorld that were out of our control. So we need to make sure that we find the proper way of letting the fans know that we care, and that we were devastated more than they were. Because the TomorrowWorld team worked so hard year round to produce an amazing festival, and then the weather comes in and the roads couldn’t handle some rain, and next thing you know, it turned into a tragedy. So there’s some serious challenges of figuring out how are we going to roll this out next year. What are the improvements that need to happen? Obviously, we can’t just write a check for $10 million and rebuild new roads on our own. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into that.