[Update, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 6:10 p.m.: Gary Richards has released a statement confirming that he is leaving Live Nation and will not be involved in the 2018 edition of HARD's annual Holy Ship! cruise. You can read his full statement below.]
Concert behemoth Live Nation and its electronic dance music event organizers are moving on without one of the scene's key movers and shakers, Gary Richards, sources tell L.A. Weekly. Richards' contract with Live Nation ended after five years and was not renewed, sources said. He will move to a competitor, LiveStyle, and start anew as Live Nation keeps the valuable, groundbreaking HARD Events.
It's not clear who will take over the day-to-day duties and artist bookings at HARD. The brand's embrace of more hip-hop–flavored EDM — electro-house, trap, G-house, future bass — proved enticing to a new generation of ravers and distinguished it from its corporate overseer, Insomniac, which is 50.1 percent owned by Live Nation and which has dominated the EDM festival world with events including Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and Nocturnal Wonderland in San Bernardino.
Sources for this story include three concert industry veterans with deep knowledge of the EDM scene and with verifiable connections to the figures and institutions in the story.
Richards, a Los Angeles rave pioneer, tapped into DJs like Steve Aoki and Diplo and grew HARD from a money loser 10 years ago to a juggernaut that drew an estimated 146,000 attendees over two days at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana last summer. However, sources say this weekend's HARD Summer saw weak ticket sales and was moved to the smaller Glen Helen Amphitheater and Regional Park venue, run by Live Nation, over Richards' head. Last year's event also saw three ecstasy-caused deaths and long lines, which concerned some involved, sources said.
In L.A. Weekly's recent cover story on Richards, he confirmed that Live Nation made the decision to move HARD Summer to Glen Helen but seemed to indicate that he agreed with the move. "They were just like, 'We think it's a better fit.' I'm just following their lead on that," he said.
It's not clear if Richards — known for his forward-thinking talent bookings — will be replaced by a new chief at HARD or if Insomniac Holdings and its founder, Pasquale Rotella, will take over the events. Live Nation reportedly purchased HARD in June 2012. (Representatives for Live Nation could not be reached for comment.)
LiveStyle is essentially the rebirth of SFX Entertainment, a concert promoter that gobbled up brands across the nation and Europe in a so-far failed effort to take over live EDM. SFX founder Robert Sillerman launched the brand in 2012 by borrowing heavily and pledging to spend $1 billion on EDM takeovers. But in 2015 SFX filed for bankruptcy, and last year it emerged with new leadership as LiveStyle.
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Fans of HARD's Holy Ship! have started a Change.org petition asking Live Nation to restore Richards. "At the end of the day, if you choose to give Gary the boot, or otherwise force him from Holy Ship!, we pledge to make this hurt, and not physically but financially," according to the petition's introduction.
[Update: After this article was originally published, L.A. Weekly received the following statement from Gary Richards via his publicist:
To all the HARDfam & Shipfam:
I am leaving Live Nation after this week's HARD event to pursue an incredible new opportunity that I will share with everyone in the weeks to come.
Accordingly, I will not be attending or curating the next Holy Ship cruise event in 2018.
I have the utmost respect for Michael Rapino and Live Nation.
Let's make this week's 10th anniversary show the best HARD event ever!
Gary Richards AKA Destructo
We will have more on this story as it develops.]