Identity Electronic Tour Set For Summer
- by Gil Kaufman
- Published: May 4, 2011
Kaskade Headlines this year's Identity Tour
For years, veteran electronic artists such as the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim and newer stars such as Deadmau5 and Booka Shade have kept the profile of their computer-based music high by touring the globe nonstop. Whether playing DJ club gigs or main stage extravaganzas with giant LED-splashed effects at festivals such as Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, the genre has managed to stay vibrant for more than 20 years without a major touring festival.
All of that could change this summer with the launch of the Identity tour, a traveling electronic music fest that will play major sheds in 20 cities. The North American tour will hit stages in August and September and feature a slew of major acts, including Kaskade, Pretty Lights, Rusko, Steve Aoki, Disco Biscuits, DJ Shadow, Skrillex, Pete Tong, Booka Shade, Modeselektor and the Crystal Method.
Identity is the first-ever attempt at mounting an electronic festival in the U.S. and promoters are promising a “full electronic music experience” on multiple stages beginning in the afternoon and continuing into the night.
So, after years of trying to build a market for this style of music in America, Joel Zimmerman, head of the WME (William Morris Electronic) department at William Morris Endeavor (also WME), said the timing is just right this summer.
“Part of it is timing and part of it is awareness,” said Zimmerman, who was brought in to head the WME division more than three years ago in anticipation of this kind of critical mass.
“Everyone is a bit smarter than we were about this area of music, and I knew mainstream promoters wanted to get into this world but didn't know how,” he said. That three-year education process for rock promoters reached its peak with the crossover success of WME’s Deadmau5, who has grown from a club play to a potential amphitheater or arena act.
Seeing lots of potential in second and third tier markets that are hungry for this kind of music in the summer – when there is little electronic music for fans to see outside of a few spots at major festivals – Zimmerman said he focused on college markets and major cities as potential markets for Identity.
The key, he said, is three stages of music at a low price point. Tickets sell for an average of $50 in most markets — a major come-down from the $100 or so charged by such big one-off destination fests as Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival. Since the announcement of the lineup, Zimmerman said the fest’s Facebook page has been adding fans at a clip of one every five seconds.
Expecting to attract an audience in the 16-35-year-old range, Zimmerman said social media will be a big part of the hype machine driving Identity. From May 12-17, the tour’s Facebook page will “unlock” the names of four markets which the show will hit. Though the venues are set, in order to drive traffic and excitement, the dates will be unlocked based on audience demand. The lineups for each show and set times will then be revealed on May 20.
“I’m expecting that this will be a slam dunk,” Zimmerman said when asked what his attendance goal is. “This is the first festival that’s going into amphitheaters that are all GA (general admission) and we’re going to offer an early bird ticket that’s even less than the one we discussed.”
While he declined to discuss the costs of mounting the tour or the expected grosses, Zimmerman said he has “20 opportunities to get it right,” so there is some headroom for dates that hit and ones that miss. “If we hit our averages, it shouldn’t be a money-losing proposition,” he said, noting that in addition to the 6,000-8,000 seat pavilions and their ancillary lawns, plans call for setting up stages on the concourse and in adjacent parking lots and fields for a potential 20,000-25,000 draw in some markets.
One of the headliners, Kaskade (born Ryan Raddon), said the launch of
Identity is the culmination of years of slow, steady buildup of the electronic fan base in the U.S. Remembering the first wave of electronic superstars who never quite reached the expected peaks more than a decade ago, Raddon said he’s seen this new wave slowly break from clubs into larger and larger venues over the past two or three years. “Back then, there wasn’t enough depth, whereas I feel like this second time around there are so many more artists who have been developed in America on the underground and it’s had time to soak in … I feel like this is it and I’m really super excited for this tour.”
He said that within the first 72 hours after the April 28 announcement of the lineup his Facebook page was inundated with messages from excited fans, a key to the tour’s success. “Most of the acts on this tour are not on a major label and we all have direct communication with our fans through Facebook and Twitter,” he said of his and his fellow artists’ primary means of setting up a grassroots fan base. “I've already set up those systems and it’s easy to reach out to that audience and tell them that this is something cool and different.”
Because not all the venues are in urban areas, Zimmerman is encouraging parents of underage attendees to drive their kids to Identity and will make a concerted effort to have information online about making the events safe, with shows ending at 11 p.m. “Most of that bad stuff happens after midnight,” he said. “We will go above and beyond to make it safe. Drug taking is rampant at any concert, not just electronic music events. That won't change, but we can beef things up so not only is the festival protected, but everyone can have a good experience. “ — Gil Kaufman
Interviewed for this story: Joel Zimmerman, (310) 859-4000; Kaskade, (818) 380-0400 x223
- by Gil Kaufman
- Published: May 4, 2011