EDM's not dead. Not in Texas, anyway, and certainly not in Dallas. For all of last year's talk about the genre's supposedly waning popularity and predictions of a bubble that's about to burst, Lights All Night — Dallas' biggest EDM festival — is still in rude health. In fact, this year it will be expanding in Texas for the first time, with a second New Years Eve party set to launch in El Paso.
So take that, naysayers.
"We've been targeting El Paso for the last couple years," says Lights All Night co-founder Scott Osburn. "It's just been blowing up and growing so much culturally and music wise, and it's just a great opportunity to expand the brand that's been established in Dallas the last seven years."
Both the Dallas and El Paso events will be happening on the same nights, Friday and Saturday, December 30 and 31, with Deadmau5 and RL Grime scheduled to play both cities on alternating nights. Also revealed in the partial Dallas lineup announcement this morning are Above & Beyond, ZEDD, A$AP Ferg and NERO.
Holding the two events on the same nights makes sense for Osburn and his co-founder, Hank Keller.
"Over in west Texas, there are a lot of fans during New Years Eve who honestly just aren't able to make the drive to Dallas," Osburn says. In fact, setting up an outpost in west Texas makes a lot more sense than expanding in the east side of the state: "We're able to tap into essentially Mexico and Juarez, as well as El Paso and certain parts of Arizona. In Dallas, we really rely heavily on Austin and Houston, so we didn't want to do anything to cannibalize those markets or that fanbase."
Lights All Night previously hosted a one-time event in Mexico City back in 2013. But while Osburn and Keller's promotion company, Highland Concerts, hosts other events such as Dallas' Mad Decent Block Party, this is the first time they've made a push to expand Lights All Night into that region.
"Central and South America, from day one, that's something that's always been very intriguing to us," Osburn says. The February bankruptcy filing of promoter SFX Entertainment, which operated massive EDM festivals like Brazil's Rock in Rio and Mexico City's Electric Zoo, has opened new doors as well. "There are a lot of companies that were put into exclusives and now are getting out of those ties. Now they're becoming more flexible to work on other stuff, so we're trying to take advantage of different marketplaces."
Back in east Texas, though, Lights All Night is preparing for its second year in its new home at Dallas Market Hall, having previously taken place at the Dallas Convention Center and Fair Park. That indoor setting has likely helped in building the brand.
"A lot of EDM venues are prohibited because of the weather," Keller points out, referring to Lights All Night's timing over New Years. "So being an indoor venue, we're able to take advantage of a time of year where electronic music wasn't being promoted on a large scale."
With high-earning artists like ZEDD (who ranked as the 8th-highest-earning DJ in the world in 2015, making $17 million) and Deadmau5 (who was 11th at $15 million), getting to see them indoors makes for an experience that's hard to come by for most EDM fans.
"We've booked pretty much every headliner in the electronic dance music space, all the way from Calvin Harris to Avicii," says Osburn. Deadmau5, for instance, hasn't played Dallas since his last appearance at Lights All Nights in 2013. "He hasn't really played a club tour in seven or eight years. He only plays major, major music festivals. So to be able to have him come to what we consider our boutique music festival, on Saturday on New Years Eve in Dallas, is incredibly exciting for us."
With that "boutique" festival now setting its sights on other markets, it's tempting to wonder whether they might expand in other areas as well — say, to booking or even owning their own venue. Osburn leaves the door open to such developments.
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"We're pretty open to anything entertainment. If there were an opportunity to work on daily booking in an operated venue, we'd def look into [it]. That's something want to be a part of in the near future, for sure," he says. "[Lights All Night] has been something that's helped us get a bit of credibility in the bank, so now we're hoping to utilize it to not only expand this asset but to start working on other projects as well."
Either way, Osburn and Keller only see room to grow for EDM in Texas — no matter how many people elsewhere have tried to predict that the sky is falling.
"Texas, in general, is an incredible marketplace," Osburn insists. "You have so many different fan bases throughout the state. There's no telling how many fans are out there buying tickets for EDM, but we definitely know it's got to be in the half-million-plus range in a year... It's exciting to be a part of it."