10 Questions with ... John Boyle & Jason Bentley
June 7, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Cary Vance from All Access with John Boyle, who is the Chief Growth Officer and Interim CFO of Insomniac, and Jason Bentley, who is the Host, and Curator of EDMbiz, as well as being the Music Director for KCRW.
This is your 5th EDMbiz which is a milestone, five is a great number. What have you seen as the biggest changes in this event since the first rendition?
JASON: Biggest changes... the interesting thing about Dance is it's always evolving. That's some thing that's unique, and exciting and challenging about Dance music it's just the nature of this scene. It's always moving forward, and changing and evolving. I think to a certain extent it's a great strength, and it's also a great weakness, you know. We're trying to make sense out of something that in a lot of ways is a moving target. People are always interested in what's next, and how to do things differently and engage the music in different ways. So the gross trajectory has been astonishing but I think it presents a bunch of unique challenges for us. Originally we just wanted to create a forum where we could help guide them though the process where we could help develop the newcomers; the people that are interested in getting into this space. Finding business opportunities, and ultimately communities. That's really what's essential. As we all know, Cary, you know this, down the stretch, it's about relationships in business. You work with people that you genuinely like and you want to be with. So that's been the key to success for us with EDMbiz. I genuinely like the people I work with and what we've created, that's motivated us. But at the same time, you want to give people an opportunity to foster those relationships on their own. We've seen that happen every year. And I guess for me, that's the most gratifying thing, being able to help make those lasting relationships.
Five years ago when EDMbiz started, it was a couple of hundred people that were involved. Now it's a couple of thousand people that attend, and the program has grown where not only do you have panel discussions about the state of Dance music, or this year you have a Women In Dance Music panel, and you're also going to announce the Billboard Power Players, what's the biggest challenge now in having to create a program that caters to the youth, as you mentioned, Jason, that wants to come and break into this business. What goes into planning out what the panel discussions are going to be?
JASON: It's a reflection of the main issues in the music scene itself. The challenges, the difficulties we face, that really dictates the program. We also look at some of the other conferences that we respect a lot like ADE [Amsterdam Dance Event] we go to ADE and they do an amazing job. So in a lot of ways we aspire to be even better. There's room to improve every year for us. We don't want a sense of redundancy in the conference. The truth is that the established players, the influential people from year to year, may be similar so we need to really push ourselves to reinvent some of the different discussions, and feature different people. We have seen some consistent threads like profiling of an agency, you can get a better look at the make-up of a booking agency, who are the real people that build successful careers for Artists and DJs, so those sort of things we are seeing but it happens organically. It's sort of the things that are prevailing, where we think collectively, we think, you know what, this is good! We've got something good. Let's do this again. So we have to figure out how to make it unique this time.
JOHN: One thing I'll just add, when we did the first year, and as you say, it was a few hundred people, there was very much a very compelling need for this type of conference within the business. That first year was very much a business-to-business type of conference, and each year the conference has become more consumer based if you will, then it was in the year before. And while there's absolutely a need for this conference still within the core of business ecosystem, we are very much focused on people who we call the Aspirationals: the ones that want to be in the business and we absolutely make it a priority to have programming that will allow people to network, and also teach people, and inspire people on how to get in the business.
I think you do a great job of that. I mentioned to Jason prior to us jumping on this call together, that one of things that I've marveled at, and give you great praise for, is watching how you've embraced the youth that come to EDMbiz and just want to soak up knowledge. You guys have created a program that allows for that to occur. One of the big changes for EDMbiz this year is the location. Not necessarily that it's moving from Las Vegas, but that it's moved from The Cosmopolitan to Caesars Palace. Was that due to size? Or you just wanted a different change of environment?
JOHN: A little bit of both. There were some scheduling conflicts with the Cosmo. Also, we thought it would be nice to have a change of place. The Cosmopolitan has been a great place to have it, and who knows, we could go back there in the future. Moving to Caesars it's a significantly bigger hotel. They have more space offerings, if you will. It's also where Omnia is, so that's kind of fun to have it in the same hotel. It really just came down to availability, and a change of scenery just to freshen it up.
You have different partnerships throughout the week, EDC Week, with various different hotels, pool parties and venues, one of the main opening night parties this year is with Afrojack at Omnia. How do you go about deciding at EDMbiz, which DJ you're going to tie in to make it the kick-off event?
JOHN: We work very closely with all the nightclubs in Las Vegas, literally, all of them. The Wynn nightclubs, The Hakkasan group nightclubs of which Omnia is part of. And of course, the Tao Marquee guys as well. And we work closely with their talent buyers, and we work closely with our talent team here at Insomniac, and its really a programming effort. There's nobody that sits in a room and says this is who we are going to have on this particular night. It's very much a collaborative effort among Insomniac and the nightclub. And if you notice, EDC Week we do promote all the clubs, we happen to have chosen Afrojack at Omnia as the opening night party, really, more so due to proximity than any thing else, with Omnia being there at Caesars.
JASON: I'd just like to add that every year there is some economic impact or some information, data that we have at the conference its always pretty mind-blowing just what it generated around the festival, itself. The wisdom in developing what you both referred to as EDC Week, whether that's conscience of sub conscience by developing programming and just incentives to be in Las Vegas that week running up to the Festival is just so smart. And you know that is happening at festivals everywhere, whether its Lollapalooza or Coachella, you see the kind of ecosystem that's created around a festival. When we started this conference, I really understood the wisdom of the kind of idea. And I knew that if we just had sincere intentions to build something meaningful, then people would come. And here we are, five years later!
I think it says something to the branding that Insomniac has built from EDC Vegas to EDMbiz to now what people refer to as EDC Week. It's incredible branding and the product that's put out.
JASON: On that, and I can only really say this as sort of a friend of Insomniac, but as an outsider, I don't work there. I don't see a lot of heavy handed branding like Insomniac presents EDMbiz. There's a distinction between the two that I feel is smart and intentional in a good way. It's sort of a distance. I can't speak for the sort of strategy, that's sort of a John question or is there one. It's always felt like it's a separate thing. And that's been good.
Is it kind of like Red Bull? If you think about it, you don't really see them advertise a lot but their product is kind of there. They're not in your face, so sub consciously what you're saying is correct in that it doesn't sound like Insomniac, and John you could probably speak to this, is pushing it out there, but I think the industry as a whole, or Vegas as a whole has said, hey this is just EDC Week. So subliminally the message got out.
JOHN: The credit really belongs with Pasquale Rotella. He did have a vision for this. That something very special could be built in Las Vegas and have it culminate with the Festival. Pasquale saw the opportunity to unite the city, work with all the nightclubs and create the citywide destination for people from around the world to come to and not just come for the weekend, but come for seven, eight days. Las Vegas is an international destination, it's not coincidental that people are coming in for the week from around the world, Asia, South America, Europe, you name it, there are a lot of people coming from every corner of the world.
One of the new things this year, you've started at EDMbiz, a Mentorship panel that you have with Little Empire. How did that come about?
JOHN: The Mentorship concept is something that we have talked about for a couple of years, and really what happened this year, Stefanie LaFera came to us and said hey I would like to spearhead this at the conference. Stefanie and her friend, Kerri Mason, launched a program called SkyLight a few years ago at our conference. SkyLight was really a platform to inspire women to get into the Dance music business and of course we support that as you can tell from our programming. And we gave SkyLight a platform to announce and promote itself and we also gave scholarships to give worthy young women the opportunity to come to the conference without having to incur the costs of registering for the conference. I think this is part of Stefanie and Kerri's mission to give back, and being that it's an element we always wanted to have, we welcome them. And it's very exciting to have them this year.
It's definitely a great mission! You also have again this year, an A&R competition. How are people able to enter and how are winner or winners being decided.
JOHN: This is the 2nd year of the contest. People enter through Insomniac's Discovery Project. The Discovery Project is the platform we launched just a few years ago and really the intent of it was to find young, unknown talent, and give them the opportunity to grow and evolve within the Insomniac platform. So winners of the Discovery Project would get the opportunity to play in our shows. We've been doing that for years. Last year we decided to let's have fun. We didn't invent this wheel, SXSW and other music festivals have done this. Let's have a competition and let's have people submit their best track, we'll filter them out and then we will come up with the best group of tracks and we'll play them live at the conference for A&R executives, radio programmers, music supervisors, basically change makers, and we'll anoint a winner. So it was a lot of fun last year. This year we put a little more sophistication into the process and I think we're going to have some excellent music added as part of the competition this year.
And does the winning entry, the winning song come out on the Insomniac label or a label?
JOHN: Last year it did. And this year it may. We don't necessarily guarantee that but in all likelihood that could very well happen.
Now both you, John, you worked at Warner Bros., Virgin, Giant Records, and Jason, you've done stuff with Maverick and Island Records, what's more difficult, working for a record label or trying to put together a program that keeps the interest of attendees that are coming to participate.
JASON: Well those are very different things of course. One thing I've really loved are complimentary, but very distinct points of view. John brings this kind of a business savvy, he really follows the currents of executive movement and business development, as he should as this is sort of his area within Insomniac, too, but in the same way that I kind of follow bands, and Artists and DJs, and what moves they're making, for him the stars are in a way are the executives in tech and in the music business. Obviously the business has changed so much. But, it's sort of complimentary in terms of what we bring to the conference. John has put together some unbelievable panels with really top executives and that's because he has those connections, friendships and relationships. On my end, the more creative perspective the Artist panel has always been one of my favorites that traditionally ends the conference. There have been some memorable moments on the stage with the Artist panel, so we kind of each have our language and our special interests and passions and there are reflections of that in the conference.
One of the Artists you have participating this year, I don't think has spoken a word yet. So I'm not sure if I'm asking a question that I may be asking to give something away, what is Marshmello going to do on a panel? Have you guys figured out is he going to do sign language, or something?
JOHN: We have figured it out and we can't spill the beans on that one right now. You'll have to attend the conference to get that answer.
That's a reason unto itself to be there. You also have keynotes this year from Armin van Buren, Moby, Pasquale Rotella, Bob Lefsetz. What can attendants of this years EDMbiz expect from some of the keynotes?
JOHN: With Pasquale, this will be the first keynote that he's actually ever done. So that will be exciting for attendees to this year to see him for the first time be the focus of a one on one. And of course with Bob Lefsetz, you never know what you're going to get with...Well, actually, you know that you're going to get, controversy, you know you're going to get a lot of f-bomb's, and you know that it's going to be thought provoking, but what exactly he's going to say, I don't know. I'll let Jason touch on Moby and Armin....
JASON: My sense is that Moby is in a very reflective mood with the new memoir out called, Porcelain, [Penguin Press] so he's going to want to talk about the book and how Dance music in its very earliest stages changed his whole life. And I think that really speaks to where we are in the bigger picture in the scene. Because in the last year or two, maybe, we saw such a surge in attention and investments and then things have started to settle more so there isn't the same frenzied consolidation and whatnot and I think what that means as things settle, what I mean by that, there's more of a sense of where it all came from. You know, the history of the music. That it didn't just crop up out of nowhere over night. That you know we can reflect on this. Also that is a big theme for EDC at 20 this year. So there's a lot of nostalgia going around. I think that's really good and it's really healthy and it shows further longevity in the scene. You know, everyone was speculating, oh is there a bubble, is there a bubble and you know, maybe it's a correction but also maybe it's just a greater sense of who we are. So I expect to hear that from Moby. I expect to hear that from Armin. I expect to hear that from Junkie XL, too, who I'm excited to talk. Here's a guy who has his roots in Break Beat and electronic music and has earned himself an A-list film composer in Hollywood reputation with Deadpool, with Batman vs. Superman, he collaborated with Hans Zimmer. And with several other films, you know he is legit at the highest level. And we're going to be able to talk to him about you know what were the key things that he took from his whole formative ten, fifteen years; touring, producing electronic music, what were some of the skill sets, and the things that he valued most as he made the move to the film scoring. Those are all unique things that we are going to explore further at the conference.
If you could give a piece of advice to a person who is coming to attend EMDbiz for the first time, who's not in the music business, and give them one piece of advice on what they should do at EDMbiz, what would it be?
JASON: Open mind, open ears. Connect, you know just meet people and take it all in. We're working very hard to present all of this for your consumption so please be our guest and indulge and I think you'll come away happier for it, or at least with some new friends and connections and some new insight.
In five years, this event has grown immensely, and has become one of the preeminent if not the preeminent event of its kind here in the States, where do you see EDMbiz five years from now?
JASON: I don't know, maybe International destinations.
JOHN: I agree with Jason, I think you could likely see more than one event and I think you could see some International expansion. I think that we both hope and certainly Pasquale hopes that it can really almost serve as a college unto itself to give young people the opportunity to pursue their passion of being in this business. If we can continue to carve out that pathway so that people can come and really learn and really have a pathway to a career in this business that they can be passionate about, that's where I hope we can be in five years.
For those that can't be in Vegas during the time of EDC Week, are there plans to be streamed or hosted afterwards for people to watch?
JOHN: We intend to release the videos of the panels after the fact. But we will not be streaming the panels live.
Is there one must-see event within this entire event, or is it just the overall EDMbiz itself that people should come and focus in on?
JASON: Beyond The Boys Club, After The Drop, Drugs And Dance Music and the Nielsen Presentation are good ones. I would say the Artist Panel is always personally a favorite of mine. I also love seeing all the networking in the lobby. In recent years, we've made that more of an opportunity for people. I'll never forget, I think it was year two of EDMbiz, in the lobby, I met several investment bankers and I've been to all kinds of conferences, from SXSW to CMJ to remember the New Music Seminar back in its heyday in New York and I know there's a more current reincarnation of that, but way back when it ran New York I went to that, but I never had conversations with money managers and investment bankers and I was stunned. So don't underestimate the value of just socializing out there in the lobby.
If someone wants to find out more about EDMbiz where should they go?
Thank you, John and Jason!