HARD Haunted Mansion

Once upon a time concerts were cheap. Three, four and five dollars, you’d go on a whim, for the experience. That was the genesis, in San Francisco. Get high and dance. Then some acts got famous, the Fillmore brand spread to the east coast, and in less than half a decade the whole country was concert crazy. A network of promoters sprung up to fuel this frenzy, Frank Barsalona doled out talent and kept everyone in check and then, decades later, Bob Sillerman rolled all these fiefs together to create what is now called Live Nation. And with the decline in record sales as a result of Napster and the need to pay off all that Live Nation debt ticket prices skyrocketed and now most people only go to a show once or twice a year, buying their tickets on StubHub, you can’t get good ones through Ticketmaster, and enduring overpriced talent dancing to hard drive. And you wonder why there’s a revolution…

Concomitant with the change in the business, there was a change in the audience. Baby boomers are all about excelling, rising above, standing on a pedestal, anointed as spectacular. Whereas their progeny are completely different. First and foremost, late teens and twentysomethings want to be a member of the group. And that’s how they function. They go out in groups, they date in groups, they party in groups, every teenager in Los Angeles knows every other teenager. That’s what the Internet will do for you. It connects people! And they connect in real life, at events like HARD.

It’s not your father’s concert business. Which is why Live Nation and AEG and the usual suspects just don’t get it. They’ve been left out. And just maybe, electronic music is the new hip-hop. You remember hip-hop, right? The music everybody pooh-poohed, said was a fad, which killed rock and roll?

You remember rock and roll. Pouffed-up hair and written by committee power ballads. Whatever it took to extract money from little kids’ wallets. It was just like today’s modern music business. Solely about the money. And if you don’t think the audience can tell, you probably still believe in the Easter Bunny. Today’s music business is tolerated, not embraced. Sure, there are prepubescents lapping up the Top Forty fodder and twentysomething shoegazers extolling the qualities of barely listenable indie acts, but just possibly the new mainstream is electronic music.

Gary Richards, promoter of HARD, isn’t sure. He believes electronic music is like the flu. It comes and goes.

I think it’s here to stay!

It was a party. The energy was palpable. Everybody came dressed for fun. And fun it was. With pulsing music and lasers and the best people-watching in memory. It was the younger generation on parade. Not only was there nobody there my age, there was nobody within TWENTY FIVE YEARS of my age. The generational divide is just that stark. But if you go, you get it. You get caught up in the energy, you start bopping your head, your body starts moving involuntarily. You’re in a trance.

We couldn’t stop looking at the girls. If you’re a dirty old man, go to an electronic music festival. Throw out the porn, this is the real thing. Young, nubile females on parade, wearing barely anything. So skinny, you think they hardly eat.

And it’s a rainbow coalition. Every ethnicity. From African-American to Korean to Latino to white. If you’re a racist, electronic music is not for you. Their parents might be racist, but the children are not. They’ve seen the different colors on television, they’ve seen the spawn of intermarriage, they’re all in it together.

Speaking of a revolution… Ticket prices go up as the concert nears. Buy early and they’re $60, buy late and they’re $75. This is everything the big time concert business wants to institute, but can’t. Something about the acts, the agents, you’ve got to do it the old way, the way it’s always been done.

And the ticketing company can send reports to your mobile device. You can get counts in real time. You can change the price on the fly. This ain’t Ticketmaster.

And you don’t need ticketmaster.com to get the word out. One e-mail and the audience is reached. HARD’s got an e-mail list in the multiple hundreds of thousands. They only took one ad, in the L.A. "Weekly", and only because Skrillex was on the cover. Meanwhile, the paper failed to mention his appearance at HARD! That’s old media, they just don’t get it. Whereas the target audience visits the Facebook page, social networking takes the idea and spreads it. Because if people want to know, they find out.

I’m still recovering. This was so different from the rock show. I saw no fat cat promoter uninterested in music ripping off the public. Instead I encountered passionate people putting on an event, looking forward to more, HARD’s got a cruise coming up. Three days in the Bahamas. Sold out.

As for the vaunted safety issues… Backstage was like a war room. they literally had a map on the wall. Detailing all the security measures. There are multiple checks, ferreting out glow sticks, the authorities said no backpacks, they wanted to eliminate drugs. And Gary wants the audience to embrace this message. If people party hearty and pass out there will be no more shows, the scene will die and everybody will be for the worse.

Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo…

EDC, Ultra..?

Yes, there’s room for a few more destination electronic music events. Maybe they’re best there, where the crowd can be controlled.

HARD was everything the music business used to be. While oldsters are clinging to old models, bitching that they just can’t get paid, that they just can’t make the money they used to, the electronic music scene is rising from the ashes. Built upon the new paradigm. It’s not about making money on recordings, they’re traded freely. It’s about the show. Which is different every night. It’s about being there. It’s the way it used to be. It’s thrilling.

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