Arguably one of the most innovative music festival and event conglomerates of our generation, Insomniac, gave $115,000 on Monday, July 30 to four charities in the city that first boasted their premier annual Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC). What can only be described as a state-of-the-art, boundary-pushing music-fueled circus, EDC profits helped Insomniac contribute to Rock the Vote in support of Spin the Vote, the Clark County School-Community Partnership Program, UNR’s Foundation’s Emergency Medicine Resident Research Fund and the Injured Police Officers Fund, and Speedway Children’s Charity.
Original night owl and founder of Insomniac, Pasquale Rotella has brought spectacular performances, pleasure and money to millions of people—festival diehards, music enthusiasts and those less fortunate alike. From mayhems that can ensue at large scale events to the sleepless schedule required to run an operation named for folks that stay up all night, the EDC visionary offers up insider details about his two decades of insomnia.
Here are his thoughts:
On getting started:
The first event I organized was a warehouse party in South Central that drew in 300 people, and I was hooked from there. I didn’t grow up in the most inviting [of] sub-cultures in California, and when I went to my first [underground electronic/hip-hop] event, people were so kind and open, accepting of one another, and that was something that drew me in. We reached a period where every event was getting busted, and then simultaneously people were knocking the growing popularity, which killed the scene. But I wasn’t easily influenced and remained passionate about it. I originally started producing events because I wanted somewhere for my friends and I to go. I didn’t look at it like a business. I wanted to experience that feeling I had when I walked into my first party.
On the defining moment:
When at 19-years-old I was successfully able to get our events from warehouses into legal venues. This was a huge sense of accomplishment as it was very difficult to get approved for licensed venues for dance music events. In Los Angeles, the convention center, sports arena, and other large venues had been turning down dance music producers for years. I worked for six months to get the LA Sports Arena to agree to host Countdown, which was a New Year’s Eve Party.
On keeping it thriving:
The most important key to my career has been simply staying alive. Keeping Insomniac afloat through all of the different challenges. The dance music culture has been so scrutinized and beaten up, and we’ve been at the forefront, holding the torch and defending it as good. So many people have tried to jump in and capitalize on it during these upswings, not even just recently. It happened in 1992, 1996 and 2000, and it’s happening again now. Each time it’s been on a different scale with new challenges, but we just always stuck through it. I am most grateful for being able to survive and continue doing what I love through the ups and downs.
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On living in the moment–without sans smartphones:
People who stand with a camera in hand for hours are missing out. I understand trying to capture a special moment at the festival but don’t want people to forget to enjoy the event first hand, and get home wishing they had. We put a lot into the shows in hopes of giving everyone the time of their lives. Living through your cell phone and social media isn’t as good as the real thing. Take a quick flick then dive into the experience. Live in the now, dance like no one is watching and explore.
On social media:
Social media and the Internet overall have been huge for the growth of dance music. People are able to connect with people. Dance music was a lot more popular in Europe before America, and when the Internet was really catching on, people were able to connect in those markets where the music was thriving and share it at home.The influence of social media has been helpful for the producers too. You’ve got kids making beats, and they can get it out there and let it grow organically. They share it with their friends and before you know it, it’s gone viral.
Social media has allowed me even more so to connect with our attendees [and] help put out fires at the events, and I can engage with the fans to find out what they like. A great example would be at EDC in New York. I kept getting tweets about the lines being too long, so I immediately met with security and the production manager in order to fix the problem right away. Before, I wouldn’t have heard about this until after the event took place and it was too late to correct. It helps to let our attendees know that I care about their experience and learn how to become an even better producer. It’s not about making money for me.
On nourishing new talent:
We created the Discovery Project because my team of Insomniac Owls and I feel there are too many shows that include the same DJs featured over and over again. The plan is to discover new talent that we can create partnerships with by bringing the Insomniac platform to the table and using our resources and experience to help develop and manage their careers. Featuring them at our festivals, clubs, and concerts will only be one part of what our side will offer.
On what’s next:
I want to build out my own festival venue that is perfectly tailored to our unique needs as a music and arts festival producer. Our team is developing some new event brands. Plus, I hope to expand into new markets, including Brazil – which we’ve been talking about for a while. We’re getting close.
Image By Erik Kabik