Conglom pursues int'l electronic dance music market

Live Nation Entertainment has been making waves this year by aggressively pursuing a piece of the increasingly lucrative EDM pie, raising both hopes and eyebrows as it attempts to become a leading name in the international electronic dance music market.

Live Nation has successfully snagged two key properties: In May, it acquired Cream Holdings — a major British dance promoter and host of the globetrotting EDM festival Creamfields — and named Cream founder and respected EDM luminary James Barton as head of its newly minted electronic music division. One month later, the company acquired Hard Events — a Los Angeles-based company that has events across the country — and the services of its founder, Gary Richards.

Now, Live Nation has eyes on another continent, Asia.

Barton noted that with “no real electronic music festivals in Asia on the scale of North America’s or Europe’s, it’s a ripe market to pursue.

“Places like Singapore have always had a pretty good electronic scene,” Barton said. “But it’d be amazing — we’d be the one of the first, if not the first — to get a successful show somewhere like Shanghai or Beijing. There are challenges there, but it’s a matter of time.”

Matthew Adell, CEO of Beatport (one of the largest music resources for DJs and the online EDM community), agrees, pointing to the fact that the largely instrumental genre translates well abroad.

“Asia, India especially, has been a good market for the music for a long time,” he explained. “We’re going to see some intercontinental event tours in the coming years. And for us in North America, I’d like to hear some Indian and Asian (electronic) music coming here.”

As it looks to expand its new holdings, Live Nation has perhaps inevitably attracted skepticism from members of the tightly knit EDM community. Hugely popular DJ Joel Zimmerman — more commonly known as Deadmau5 — wrote on his blog that the rise of mainstream electronic music has inspired him to “put on my life jacket and swim as far away from this shipwreck as fast as I can.” And Insomniac Events topper Pasquale Rotella had choice words for new investors in general, telling the New York Times that “you don’t want this to turn into what the concert business is today, where you just sell people tickets and they come to the show and sit in their seat.”

But Barton is the first to acknowledge the cynics, pointing a wary finger toward other investors who are trying to “buy their way” into the EDM scene. “Those people don’t have any relevance to any aspect of the business. At least Live Nation is in the business of creating musical experiences. Whether they sit in a seat or dance in a field, it doesn’t matter,” he said, adding that “my track record speaks for itself.”

And in that vein, Live Nation prexy-CEO Michael Rapino says the company’s goal isn’t simply to control a stake in the electronic scene but to do it better than anyone else — and before properties get acquired by lesser organizations.

“Being in electronic festivals is an absolute mandate now,” Rapino said. “My biggest concern was not getting on this genre fast enough and start making it a core business for us.”

Only time will tell how effectively Live Nation supports the live EDM scene. But for better or worse, Deadmau5 may have summed up the overall situation best: “Today, EDM is as commercially viable as Coca-Cola,” he wrote. “And what ‘popular’ entity wouldn’t want to cash in on that?”

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