The Electric Experience: Pushing up Daisies and Dollars in the SinCity Desert
Anyone who's been to EDC - whether in the shunned stomping ground of LA's Coliseum or the newly christened la-la-land of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway - knows that no matter the outer surroundings, it's all about the inner experience of this magical playground. But for the 16th annual installment of what has become North America's biggest, most extravagant dance music festival, the chips are stacked higher than ever. With EDC's upcoming sophomore year in its new desert hometown, the "experience" has inevitably changed a lot, and now there's finally enough room (literally and figuratively) for it to keep growing and outdoing itself in perfect Sin City style.
Even though the drastic change in location was forced by a tragedy, the festival has thrived in the 2 years since Sasha Rodriguez's death in 2010's final LA edition. With another 3 years contracted in LV, EDC will no doubt continue its rapid climb to the creamy upper layer of international festivaldom, and the stats don't lie: in 2010 it drew a crowd of about 185K for 2 days, and then in 2011 with a 3rd day added, it drew a whopping 230K people.
2012 ticket sales are set to peak above 300K, and for those of us who have received our special deliveries in the mail, we can already see that Insomniac is feeding their proceeds back into our hungry raver mouths with impeccably flavored production value. Complete with a logo keychain, stickers, a poster, pamphlet and of course the coveted credit-card style pass, the ticket packaging alone shows how much Insomniac has stepped up their game recently. Last year they even paid homage to the city that welcomed their event with open arms by donating $75K to several Las Vegas charities, including The Clark County School-Community Partnership Program, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the Injured Police Officers Fund.
Looking back on the now measly 4K people who showed up to the very first EDC back in 1997 at the Shrine Auditorium in LA, the expansion seems endless. Sound is just a singular element of this interactive extravaganza, and aside from stellar artist bookings across seven decked out stages, there's an additional 500 theatrical performers, carnival rides, and large-scale art installations spread throughout 1000-acres, plenty of space for imaginations to run wild. International festy-vets often argue that EDC can't compete with Belgium's epic Tomorrowland, but nonetheless, there's a reason why it's earned the nickname the "American Ibiza."
But in terms of the business of electronic music, the clearest indicator aside from sheer numbers that EDC and Vegas are at the industry's epicenter is Insomniac's inaugural EDMbiz conference at The Cosmopolitan from June 5 - 7. Hosting a sparkling roster of pioneers and business leaders, guest speakers will discuss topics like the "festival phenomenon," brand investment, social media's influence, the changing face of record labels and music management, artist discovery and longevity, electronic music in film scores, and much more. Speakers include Matthew Adell (CEO of Beatport), Steve Angello, Kaskade, Marian Goodell (Director of Business and Communications for Black Rock City, LLC), Eddie Dean (co-owner and operator of Pacha NY), alongside many more movers and shakers of this ever-expanding, 10 billion dollar industry. And of course, sprinkled in among all of that business talk will be 3 nights of exclusive Insomniac nightclubbing and pool partying. 2012 is truly a tipping point in so many ways, and this groundbreaking conference highlights the growing importance of America's EDM economy and culture.
But aside from the cashflow, the ultimate goal for everyone is FUN. So for all you EDC virgins, we've compiled a quick list of the key official (and unofficial) tips and tidbits to remember when you make your way to electronic utopia in just a few short weeks.
1. If you haven't booked a hotel room yet, get on that! There's no camping allowed at the festival, but EDC's website is still advertising blocks of discounted rooms, including Cosmopolitan Special EDC rooms starting at $169 per night.
2. When it's time to get to the rave, which is located on the outskirts of the city, you have a few options. If you don't want to sit in traffic or hemorrhage cash for cab rides, either rent a car or drive there with your own (plus your DD) and leave at least an hour early. There's plenty of free parking so that won't be an issue. The EDC pamphlet tells us that the "easiest" way to get back and forth from the strip to the Motorway is via the official EDC shuttle service, but you'll be surprised how much waiting around a $70 3-day shuttle pass will buy you. We're not knocking the raver bus line entirely, but it was obvious that last year's shuttle situation was less than convenient when thousands of people were all trying to get back to the strip at 6am. But who knows, it might be revamped this year - OR you could always sidestep all of that logistical craziness and rent a helicopter to drop you off in proper Vegas fashion - just an idea!
3. This should really be #1 on the list, and we're only stating the obvious, but if you've never been to Nevada in the summer don't underestimate the power of the heat, even at a dusk till dawn event. It's going to be upwards of 90-100 degrees at night, so wear comfortable and of course skimpy clothing, have extra cash for water bottles even in addition to the free water refill stations (which are going to be packed the entire time), and make sure to bring sealed chapstick because your lips will be cracking in the desert dryness.
4. You can read the official list of Guidelines and "Prohibited Items" in detail, but the main thing to remember is that even though you'll be reveling in the EDC cocoon, this is still the US, this is still Vegas, and there's going to be herds of cops everywhere, so don't smoke weed - that's what they look for more than anything. And in general, don't be a dumbass or you'll probably get arrested and have the worst EDC experience ever.
5. This rule goes for any rave or festival, but especially for one as mammouth as EDC. Invest in a pair of musicians ear plugs. You don't have to spend a fortune, but they're worth their weight in gold. The Alpine Music Safe Classic Hearing Protectors are an example of effective and comfortable eardrum "jock straps" - because you can bet that the sound systems are going to be kicking your head in after 3 days, and we all know how much tinnitus sucks.
Those are the main things to be aware of if you want to survive EDC 2012, but we'll report back with a post-mortem when the dust settles and our ears hopefully (see #5) stop ringing!