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April 20, 2014

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Examining the business of partying at EDMbiz

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Danny Mahoney/XS

DJ Tiesto, at XS in January, uses the web to stream performances to fans around the world.

Members of the EDM and club promotion business flocked from around the country to attend the first EDMbiz conference at the Cosmopolitan Wednesday and Thursday. The series of panel discussions and Q&A sessions was produced by Electric Daisy Carnival organizers Insomniac Events, held in conjunction with a week of events related to this weekend’s festival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

From social media strategies to monetizing fanbases, it was largely business shop talk for those who run the less sexy side of the burgeoning EDM scene. But that doesn’t mean it was boring. At the heart of the conference’s early discussions was Las Vegas’ emerging role as an epicenter of EDM, and the group packing the expansive hotel ballroom was hungry to learn about what’s next for the industry from the city’s top power players.

“You can’t just be a big company and think that you’re gonna book the hottest act and that it’s gonna work,” said Polo Molina, founder of Rocketpop Management at a panel entitled “What Happens in Vegas.” “These [fans] are smart. There’s direct contact with them now (through social media) and if you don’t have that you’re not gonna get support from the audience.”

Perhaps more than any other genre, EDM’s fanbase is tapped into social media to be part of the global scene; artists like Tiesto routinely live-stream performances to fans across the world using sites like Twitter.

That’s why many of the local panelists pointed to the web as their key source for staying relevant and figuring out who to take their cues from in town in order to stay one step ahead as a business.

“It’s all about Twitter. Everything is in real time now so the key is to follow people who matter,” Molina said of his secret to success. “You have to follow everyone who has a pulse on youth or who is a socialite.”

Several panelists cited moderator and Tao Group manager Jason Strauss as a key local source to follow, but Molina was quick to point out that “there are Jason Strausses all over the world, there’s one in every market. And it’s about following and being connected to all of those people. When you do that, you have a real handle on who’s doing good and who’s doing bad.”

But for bookers, promoters and others, staying connected isn’t enough, and the success of a nightclub in Las Vegas often comes down to the whim of those who are in town. As one audience member pointed out, many clubgoers end up at a venue at random, rather than come out for a specific artist. So how much difference does booking a top-tier DJ make versus using local (and less expensive) talent?

“It’s about the overall experience, building a brand of having it all. That’s a responsibility we have to the hotel,” said Strauss. “When we consistently have big name talent, we see a dramatic uptick in prices in tickets, at the bar, for table, and that way we can justify all the money we put into it.”

Strauss did concede that in the world of Las Vegas nightclubs, ultimately brand trumps an artist.  “At Marquee last Saturday we had a DJ we didn’t know and it was just as full as when we have a big-name DJ,” he said. “There’s a lot of different factors that make that soup a good soup.”

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