With the title of the panel discussion sounding like the start of a bad joke, Five Promoters and an Agent Walk Into a Room, was unique opportunity to see the O.G.s of EDM sit down and have a civilized conversation (or at least try). After only a few questions from the audience, Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella delivered some cocky answers to relatively dull questions. Where would his dream EDM event be? “EDC on the Moon,” he says. How do you stop saturation with EDM talent? “Book your DJs though Insomniac.”
Despite having some trouble with the law as of late, the EDM mogul was the most surprisingly candid part of a panel that included moderator Paul Morris (founder of booking company AM Only), Eddie Dean (President of Pacha), Donnie Estopinal (Disco Donnie Presents' CEO), Chuck Flask (talent buyer of Paxahou) and Pete Kalamoustsos (managing partner of Glow).
Of course, it would be an understatement to say there was some interest” in what the founder of a hugely successful EDM juggernaut like Insomniac has to say on the state of the business behind mainstream music's latest cash cow. Some of his keys to throwing a successful EDM event were yawningly predictable (a great production team, the right venue and support from the city). But when it came time to discuss the importance of artists at these massive events, he threw the panel and all attendees in for a curve ball, with three simple words:”Talent means nothing.”
“Burning Man doesn't have a lineup and it's successful,”says Rotella, while the rest of the panel threw out big names like Skrillex, Tiesto and Bassnector throughout the discussion.
Rotella says he doesn't see himself as a promoter. He kept referring to when he first started, no one cared who the DJ was it was about the music. “You didn't even know the lineup until you got to the party,” Rotella says.
As new EDM festivals have emerged, he feels people are now seeing the same DJ play over and over again. Unlike like corporate, AEG Live or Live Nation-backed festivals, Rotella says Insomniac festivals are about bringing people for a once in a lifetime experience and production value, not a lineup filled with huge DJs. In an era were corporations are frantically buying out EDM promoters left and right to make a quick buck, it's no secret that we're in the wild west days of EDM. Rotella admitted that it is intimidating at times, but reinforced his motives. “People around me didn't start doing this because they looked at a spread sheet. Once you don't have people with a soul for EDM, it will not work.”
In an earlier panel discussion, Rotella announced in the future he wants to create a Insomniac venue, (an EDM Disneyland, so to speak.). Though he loves the support of Las Vegas Speedway and other venues he has used, he feels that the vision of a true Insomniac experience can only be held in one that he builds from the ground up. That philosophy includes artists as well.
For the first time at EDC, he planted the Discovery Project stage, dedicated undiscovered DJs who submitted mixes in an online contest. Stats for the number of views and plays for each DJ were calculated on Facebook. Winners came from all over North America, including Canada, New York and Los Angeles. EDC will continue to grow with this model going forward. Rotella says that next year EDC might not have the big names that everyone is used to seeing. “I will be done with the industry when people don't pay attention to the experience and only they only come for a DJ.”
Another first for EDC this year is the presence of cellphone towers to help ragging festival goers communicate without a blackout with reception. With this great new addition, you'd think the Rotella would happy right? Well, not really. He reveled his true feeling about the evolution of technology in dance music festivals. “I hate seeing cellphones in the air,” Rotella says.”I want to see people dancing and experiencing the festival. Technology has gone to far.”
At the end of the discussion, one man asked, “Doesn't your festival experience get destroyed when you are alone and can't find your friends?” Given his stance on social media slaves, Rotella's answer seemed appropriate. “At Burning Man, when I can't find my friends, I find 10 new friends.”