Many electronic dance fans in the New York City area are gearing up for Electric Zoo, one of the biggest and most highly-anticipated festivals of the year. For music lovers, this year’s event is just another massive party, but for those behind the festival itself, how well things go could determine the future of a brand that has had its fair share of trials and tribulations in the past, and that has a lot to prove this time around.
In less than a decade, the Electric Zoo has become one of the most recognizable and powerful names in the EDM world, which is no small feat in a vertical that seems to become more and more crowded every summer. While the fest certainly has brand recognition, the past few years have been troublesome for the event’s planners. In 2013, there were two overdose-related deaths reported on the grounds, and the following year an entire day had to be cancelled due to what turned out to be just a spot of rain. On top of those issues, the company that now owns Electric Zoo, the electronic dance music conglomerate SFX Entertainment, announced its bankruptcy earlier in 2016, which many in the industry worried could be a death sentence for most, if not all, of the owned properties.
Despite the problems in the past and the uncertainty of the present, Electric Zoo is moving forward, and those involved with the festival are excited about this weekend’s staging. The promoter responsible for the party, Made Events (which was purchased by SFX a few years back), is giving it all it’s got, because to be honest, if things don’t go exceptionally well this weekend, the promoters might not get another chance.
“You need to stick with us, give us one more shot here,” insisted SFX Entertainment VP Adam Richman during a recent call, revealing candidly that the brand knows the perilous position it is in. Now that it’s become easier to see many of the big names on the roster outside of a setting like EZoo, and with new EDM festivals popping up in the area, Made Events is very aware of the fact that its most important brand can no longer rest on the laurels of just a name. The company needs to step up its game and show festival-goers the times of their lives, because these days, it has to be about proving to those that attend that it’s more about an unforgettable, otherwise unrepeatable experience, and not just the hit songs and the famous producers on stage.
Last year, the company began to try to change the story by upping the ante in terms of production and the overall experience. This year’s festival is set to take on a Wild Island theme, complete with parades of animals, performers on stilts, and much more. The experience and the theme have been carried throughout every touchpoint an attendee has with the festival, from the marketing materials to the signage as people enter the grounds, even to the food vendors. It’s all about sticking with the theme, which is supposed to give those that paid good money an overwhelming and all-encompassing feeling they can’t get anywhere else.
“It’s all those little experiences, the micro-experiences,” explained Richman on a recent call ahead of this weekend’s party, pointing out all the ways that he and his team have tried to make every minute of Electric Zoo special. “Those make it worth a lot more than just the headliners. That’s really but our focus for the last two years.”
While SFX Entertainment might be going through some rough days, Richman explained that the bankruptcy, the restructuring, and even the ousting of the well-known CEO Robert Sillerman hasn’t had too much of a negative impact on the planning and running of Electric Zoo. Those investors that stepped in to help keep the EDM powerhouse afloat didn’t slash the budget of a marquee name like EZoo. Instead, they opted to give the brand whatever it needed in order to survive.
“We’ve actually increased the budget from last year to this year,” the SFX VP stated surprisingly. According to Richman, those that helped the company during its Chapter 11 period haven’t been looking for ways to cut a few dollars here and there with the NYC event, instead asking him and his team, “What do we really need to do to make sure that these brands are here and that they are here for a really long time,” and then allocating the resources where necessary. With a pair of bad years still in the minds of the EDM world, now is not the time to be shrinking the spectacle or scaling back on pyrotechnics, light shows, or stage construction, especially since rival electronic festivals are also trying to outdo themselves with every passing event.
With just one day to go before the gates open, Electric Zoo still isn’t sold out, though the company says it’s getting close. Ticket sales are reportedly up 30% from 2015, and many people do decide to attend last minute. If all goes well, the brand will have taken another giant step towards getting back on track and taking over the world, which has already staged events in Japan, Mexico, and will soon make its way to Shanghai.
Richman truly did sound excited by the time he wrapped up, and he ended by stating that, “This year’s Electric Zoo is going to be an overwhelming success,” before pausing and adding a very necessary, “knock on wood.”