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Banner festivals postpone in America

Burning Man, Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Las Vegas and Lollapalooza Brasil have become the latest high-profile festivals to cut their losses and cancel or postpone their respective 2021 editions.

Annual countercultural arts event Burning Man has been cancelled for a second consecutive year, though organisers say it will return in 2022.

The organisers of the festival, which typically draws tens of thousands of people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert each year, had been considering making Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for the event in August 2021 but have ultimately decided to forego this year’s event.

In a statement, they said: “Although here in the United States we may be feeling the weight lifting and the light at the end of the tunnel brightening, we are still in the pandemic, and the uncertainties that need to be resolved are impossible to resolve in the time we have.”

Elsewhere in the US, the organisers of EDC Las Vegas have been forced to postpone the 25th edition from May to October due to local restrictions on large-scale events.

“We are still in the pandemic, and the uncertainties that need to be resolved are impossible to resolve in the time we have”

According a statement by EDC founder Pasquale Rotella, Nevada state officials announced they would lift social distancing requirements as of 1 May, permitting the festival to go ahead as planned at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The statement goes on to say that on 21 April, the Clark County passed a reopening plan that requires 60% of their residents to be vaccinated before restrictions over large scale gatherings can be lifted, casting uncertainty over the viability of the event.

“We currently have over 40 trucks en route to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway from all over the country,” wrote Rotella. “The lineup is fully booked and was going to be announced tomorrow [22 April] at 12 pm PT. The team and I are heartbroken, as I know many of you are as well. For those who have stayed with us on this journey, I thank you. Your trust & loyalty is what gives us strength to keep moving forward.”

EDC Vegas has now been rescheduled to 22-24 October.

Meanwhile, Lollapalooza, which has planted its flag in seven countries, has pulled its Brazil edition due to the pandemic.

“It became increasingly clear that it will not be possible to have the spectacular weekend you love in 2021”

“Our mission has always been and will always create amazing days and nights for you, passionate about music,” says a statement on the festival’s website. “Moments that shiver, that inspire, that fall in love, and that never leave the memory. We really wanted to make another unforgettable edition this year, but with the public health emergency of international importance due to the pandemic, it became increasingly clear that it will not be possible to have the spectacular weekend you love in 2021.”

The festival, organised by South America’s largest live entertainment company Time For Fun, would have taken place in September 2021 but fortunately fans won’t have to wait an entire year for its return.

The 9th edition will take place between 25 and 27 March 2022 at Interlagos Circuit, in São Paulo.

At the time of writing, Lollapalooza is still set to go ahead in Chile and Argentina in November 2021, while dates are yet to be announced for Berlin and Chicago, which typically take place late summer/early autumn. The Paris and Stockholm 2021 editions have already been cancelled.


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EDC promoter Insomniac revives Okeechobee fest

Majority Live Nation-owned Insomniac Events is teaming up with Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival (OMF) founder Soundslinger to bring the event back for 2020, following a year’s break.

The multi-genre music and camping festival will to return to its home in Sunshine Grove, Florida, from 5 to 8 March, 2020.

Launched in 2016, Okeechobee attracted around 32,000 visitors annually to see headliners including Kendrick Lamar, Arcade Fire, Robert Plant, Kings of Leon and Skrillex. Despite sold-out editions in 2017 and 2018, Soundslinger announced the 2019 event would not go ahead.

“It’s official! I’m happy to announce that Insomniac will bring the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival back to Sunshine Grove,” says Insomniac founder and chief executive Pasquale Rotella.

“I’m a big fan of what [Soundslinger founder and DJ] Rechulski and the Okeechobee team have built, and honoured to be able to lead such a unique event and continue the journey,” continues Rotella. “As someone who tries to always put culture first, I recognise how passionate this extraordinary community is, and I’m excited to bring this festival back and make it better than ever.”

The partnership is the second move in Florida in as many months for Insomniac, which recently took control of historic Miami club Space. The promoter launched the Orlando, Florida edition of festival franchise Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) in 2011.

“I am so excited once again to enter the portal alongside Pasquale Rotella and the Insomniac team,” comments Rechulski. “The best years are ahead of us, and I am certain that together we will continue our beautiful story for many more years to come.”

OMF 2020 will kick off on Tuesday 5 March with a nighttime pre-party. In addition to the festival’s three main stages and Jungle 51 dance party, festivalgoers will have access to immersive art, yoga classes, workshops and artisan vendors, as well as a 24-hour supermarket, all-day food options and other facilities.

Tickets go on sale on the OMF website on Friday 23 August at 10 a.m. (ET), with four-day camping passes starting at US$249 and VIP packages from $649.


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Study: 1 in 4 people attend festivals sober

Streaming platform Cloud Cover Music has examined the changes in music festival experiences across the United States over the last few decades in a new survey asking respondents about sobriety, drug intake, sex, memorable acts and life-changing experiences.

The study finds that 24% of those surveyed reported being sober at music festivals. Alcohol consumption at festivals has been higher in the past decade than previously, rising from 64% in the noughties to 71%.

The survey finds that festivalgoers in the 1980s were more likely to consume marijuana or hard drugs, witness violence and rioting, have sex and witness nudity at a festival than they are now. 83% of attendees in that same decade described festivals as life-changing, compared to 53% in the 90s, 62% in the noughties and 65% now.

Burning Man consistently proved to be the least sober event, with 45% of festivalgoers saying they drank alcohol and consumed a mixture of drugs at the event

82% of respondents stated that Woodstock 1969 was life-changing, making it the most impactful music festival on the survey. However, the festival had only 17 survey respondents. Ultra Music Festival was voted the second most life-changing music festival with 78%, followed by Electric Daisy Carnival (75%) and Burning man (73%).

Burning Man consistently proved to be the least sober event, with 45% of festivalgoers saying they drank alcohol and consumed a mixture of drugs at the event. The results coincide with secondary ticketer TickPick’s survey of drug consumption at festivals last year. In contrast, 72% of respondents say they did not consume any substances at Warped Tour.

Across genres and festivals, Red Hot Chili Peppers were ranked the most memorable act at music festivals, with Jane’s Addiction, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé and Tiësto also making the top five.

The full study can be read here.


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Electric Daisy Carnival heading for China

EDM festival juggernaut Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) will touch down in China for the first time this April, promoter Insomniac has announced.

In partnership with local promoter Zebra Entertainment Enterprise, Live Nation-owned Insomniac will transform Shanghai’s International Music Park with “awe-inspiring stages, incredible laser and light displays, imaginative theatrical performers and world-renowned dance music artists” for the inaugural EDC China on Sunday 29 and Monday 30 April.

“To bring EDC halfway around the world is a milestone for our entire Insomniac family,” says Pasquale Rotella, founder and CEO of Insomniac. “China marks EDC’s sixth international location, and I’m excited to connect and create beautiful new moments with the country’s passionate and ever-growing dance music community.”

Insomniac’s flagship EDC Las Vegas festival welcomes more than 400,000 fans over three days each year, with international events including past and present EDCs in Mexico, India, Brazil, the UK and Japan.


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EDC Japan is a go for 2017

EDC Japan, the delayed inaugural east-Asian edition of Insomniac’s Electric Daisy Carnival, is confirmed for next spring.

The festival was originally slated for this year but was put on hold in March, along with the cancellation of EDC Puerto Rico and Beyond Wonderland Bay Area.

“Dance music has become a global phenomenon that we are fortunate enough to share with our EDC communities around the world in India, Mexico and the UK,” says Rotella. “Taking EDC to Japan has been a goal that’s years in the making, and I can’t wait to deliver something really special in 2017.”

The festival will take place at Tokyo’s Zozo Marine Stadium (30,000-cap.) and Makuhari Beachon 28 and 29 April, co-promoted by Insomniac, Creativeman, Live Nation Japan and GMO Internet Group.

The confirmation of EDC Japan comes alongside news that EDC New York will not go ahead next year.

“Although EDC New York 2016 was one of my favourites hosted in the Big Apple, we’ve decided to take a break in 2017,” writes Rotella in a Facebook post outlining Insomniac’s plans for 2017. “We hope many of you east-coast headliners will join us in Vegas.”

Insomniac this year held its first event in India, at Delhi’s Buddh International Circuit. Ajay Nair, of local promoter OML, told IQ earlier this month the event was affected by India’s demonetisation crisis, with ticket sales down an estimated 1,000–1,500 per day as a result of the shortage in cash.


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Loss of festivals no big deal, says Goan minister

There will be no decline in tourism in Goa this Christmas, despite the state government having forced two of India’s biggest musical festivals to relocate, its tourism minister has declared.

Rival dance music festivals Sunburn and Supersonic – the former of which attracted 350,000 festivalgoers in 2015 – will both move to Pune (Poona), in Maharashtra, this December after Dilip Parulekar declared they would no longer be welcome in Goa in 2016.

Speaking to the IANS news agency, Parulekar says the impact on tourism should be minimal. “People come for Goa’s culture, not because of EDM,” he comments. “It will not affect [footfall] much.”

“People come for Goa’s culture, not because of EDM”

Announcing Supersonic’s move, Saugato Bhowmik, of promoter Viacom18, praised Pune for its “openness towards modern influences” – in contrast, perhaps, to Goa, where one local politician accused dance music of being “against [Indian] culture and [pro-] pushing drugs” – and a “world-class destination” for the festival.

“Deeply-rooted in culture and traditions, the city is known for its openness towards modern influences and thought, Pune is a seamless blend of local culture and global influences, thereby making it an apt destination for the upcoming edition of Vh1 Supersonic,” says Bhowmik. “We also see this as an ongoing journey to provide transformative experiences to today’s youth by creating the Supersonic world at the kind of world-class destinations that Pune is providing to us. We are looking forward to a very successful Vh1 Supersonic, celebrating Pune as our new home.”

Insomniac held its first event in the subcontinent, Electric Daisy Carnival India, at the Buddh International Circuit near Delhi last weekend.


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EDC continues global expansion with Indian event

Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), one of the world’s largest dance music festivals, will this year expand to a fifth country with the launch of EDC India.

The festival, a joint venture between Live Nation’s Insomniac Events and local promoter Only Much Louder (OML) and sponsored by Budweiser India, will take place in an as-yet-unannounced venue in New Delhi on 12 and 13 November.

Since its inception as a one-day festival in Los Angeles in 1996, EDC events have been held in cities across the US, as well as internationally, in the UK, Mexico and Brazil. (A spin-off festival was also announced for Tokyo but has since been called off.)

“I know India is a place where the magic of EDC can come alive in a truly unique way”

Vijay Nair, CEO of OML, says attendees can expect “one of the largest line-ups of international and Indian artists” at the “Vegas-style festival”, in reference to EDC’s flagship event in Las Vegas, Nevada. “We can’t wait to bring that experience to Indian fans and blow their minds,” he adds.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by [India’s] colourful and exotic culture,” comments Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella. “I know it’s a place where the magic of EDC can come alive in a truly unique way, and we’ve got amazing partners in OML and Budweiser who can help make that happen.”

The location and timing for EDC India are key, as two of India’s biggest existing dance music events, Sunburn and Supersonic, are at loggerheads with the government of Goa after the state announced that their traditional Christmas/New Year slots are off limits in 2016. The Delhi event is, however, still comfortably within northern India’s cool season, meaning a repeat of the sweltering 109°F heat seen at this year’s EDC Las Vegas is unlikely.


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17 deaths and 100+ overdoses: a year in live EDM

While many are by now used to hearing about drug deaths at electronic dance music (EDM) events, with tragedies such as the six fatalities at Future Music Festival Asia 2014 and, more recently, the five at Time Warp 2016 in Buenos Aires looming large in the popular view of the genre, the last 12 months have been particular deadly for EDM festivalgoers, with no less than 17 deaths – six in 2016 alone – and over 100 reported non-fatal overdoses.

In addition to Time Warp, Live Nation’s Hard Summer 2015 (two deaths), Insomniac/Live Nation’s Beyond Wonderland 2015 (one), SFX’s Stereosonic 2015 (two), USC Events/Live Nation’s Paradiso 2015 (one), Insomniac/Live Nation’s Electric Daisy Carnival 2015 in Las Vegas (one), Buma’s Amsterdam Dance Event 2015 (one), Servants of Sound’s Dragon Dreaming 2015 (one), Q-Dance’s Defqon 1 2015 in Australia (one), Ultra Enterprise’s Ultra 2016 in Miami (one) and ID&T/SFX’s TomorrowWorld 2015 (one) all experienced drug-related fatalities in the 12 months from May 2015 to May 2016.

Two, TomorrowWorld and Stereosonic, have since had their 2016 editions cancelled (ostensibly for financial reasons), while many of the others are increasingly attracting the attention of authorities keen to prevent any more deaths on their turf: Argentine capital Buenos Aires has, for example, in the wake of the Time Warp tragedy said it will no longer allow dance music festivals to go ahead in the city, while councillors in California are currently debating whether to ban dance music events from San Manuel Amphitheater, the home of Beyond Wonderland and Nocturnal Wonderland.

Within the sector and beyond, questions remain about who is to blame, with everyone from drug dealers, drug users and negligent promoters cited.

In the case of Time Warp, it’s relatively clear-cut: promoter Adrián Conci, who is still wanted by Argentine police, was allegedly complicit in the selling of lethal PMMA-laced MDMA to festivalgoers. In the case of Stereosonic, outspoken cofounder Richie McNeill appears to lay the blame at the door of those taking the drugs, stating in an interview with theMusic.com.au in February: “I’m sick of seeing festival organisers being blamed for the idiot, stupid behaviour of narrow-minded individuals that are taking poison…”

The International Music Summit (IMS) in Ibiza will tackle the issue head-on on 25 May with the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM)-presented The Future of Our Industry panel, bringing together Dutch label Spinnin’ Records’ CEO, Eelko Van Koote, Italian DJ Joseph Capriati, CAA’s Maria May, Beatport’s Terry Weerasinghe and Tommy Vaudecrane of French industry association Technopol to discuss how to “identity a positive path forward” for an industry “under attack from governments and negative media”.

“We need to identity a positive path forward for an industry under attack from governments and negative media”

The panel won’t be “a place to speculate on what happened in Buenos Aires, Manchester [Parklife festival] and Italy [the closure of Cocoricò after a number of deaths] last year”, IMS organiser Ben Turner tells IQ, “but a chance to help educate and inform the genre about the actions we are taking together to help combat criminals trying to destroy our culture.”

This view of an industry under siege is popular among those working in dance music, many of whom believe EDM festivals are subject to a disproportionate amount of scrutiny and criticism, especially when compared to events of other genres.

Speaking at ILMC in March, Mark Lawrence of the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) complained of a “passive discrimination” against EDM promoters, stating that violence and crime are far higher on average at rock and country festivals than at dance ones, but that stories about EDM are “sexier” and sell more newspapers.

But it’s the nature of the genre that some attendees at EDM events are going to want to take drugs, especially MDMA/ecstasy – it was, after all, the emergence of modern dance music (especially the UK’s acid house scene) that first brought the drug, initially trialled for therapeutic use, into the public consciousness – and many are now pointing to harm reduction, as opposed to outright prohibition, as the most effective way of preventing similar tragedies occurring in future. (Initiatives such as DanceSafe in North America, which provides pill-testing kits, free water and electrolytes and non-judgmental, fact-based information on the effects of drugs, and Conscious Crew, who roam festivals looking for people who have suffered an overdose, have won widespread support from the EDM community.)

While the IMS session will likely gather sympathetic ears to its Future of the Industry debate, will the EDM business begin to self-regulate in order to lower the death toll? Turner hints at potential guidelines or a code of conduct for events: “You’ll be hearing from AFEM soon about what we can all do as an industry and as a culture,” he says.