The bad news continued yesterday for SFX, the EDM conglomerate whose stock price continues to tank amid rumors of impending bankruptcy. One Tribe, the first West Coast event for SFX subsidiary ID&T, a Dutch company behind some of the largest dance music festivals in Europe, was canceled due to “disappointing ticket sales,” according to a statement from SFX Live managing director Jacob Smid.
One Tribe was envisioned as a gathering of various underground dance music brands at one event, including local house/techno party crew Desert Hearts, veteran rave promoters B3 Productions (the people behind How Sweet It Is) and Damian Lazarus' Crosstown Rebels. The SFX-owned brands Beatport and Awakenings would get their own stages, too. The whole thing would go down at Lake Perris State Recreation Area, just 90 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, and feature such highly credible headliners as Carl Craig, DJ Dan, Doc Martin and Guy Gerber, along with a smattering of newer acts for the EDM kids like Kygo and Gramatik.
All sounds pretty cool, right? So what went wrong?
First and foremost, One Tribe, scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26, was taken out by a near-perfect storm of competing events: the first-ever Dirtybird Campout, happening in Irvine the following weekend; Symbiosis Gathering, set for Sept. 17-20, way up outside Modesto but with a lineup heavy on similar underground acts (including some of the same ones, like Damian Lazarus and the Desert Hearts crew); and the second CRSSD Fest, happening just seven months after the first one, in San Diego Oct. 10-11. Throw in two major EDM events around Halloween (HARD Day of the Dead and Insomniac's Escape: Psycho Circus), along with this weekend's Nocturnal Wonderland (and, let's not forget, Burning Man), and you have a fall calendar too packed for even the most dedicated ravers to hit everything.
Despite such circumstances, it's tempting to connect the dots between this and other recent bad news in raver land and conclude that the multi-billion dollar EDM bubble is finally starting to burst. The Zac Efron dance music flick We Are Your Friends posted one of the worst box office openings in history; HARD Day of the Dead was forced to downsize from 65,000 attendees to 40,000 following two deaths at its sister event, HARD Summer. The sky must be falling, right?
Well, no. In fact, a closer look at the One Tribe lineup reveals that, if anything, the festival failed because it didn't book enough EDM. Apart from the aforementioned Kygo and Gramatik, most of its 40-odd acts were either too old-school or too underground to appeal to the youthful masses who flock to Nocturnal Wonderland and HARD Summer for headliners like Jack U, Alesso, Kaskade and Porter Robinson. Tried and true house and techno names dominated the bill, which makes for great press (Thump called the lineup “stellar“) but slow ticket sales, because fans of Doc Martin and DJ Dan don't get out to two-day campout parties as much as they used to.
Of course, One Tribe did try to market itself to the EDM kids, offering ticket giveaways through companies like EmazingLights, which sells light show gear to raver nation. But that's probably just because it was desperate. Between the old-school lineup and the promise of yoga, “spirituality” and “wellness” activities, it was clearly meant at first to compete more directly with events like Symbiosis and Lightning in a Bottle, whose audiences may overlap with HARD's and Insomniac's but clearly skew more towards the neo-hippie/Burning Man crowd. And that market, at least here in California, is saturated.
So while our condolences go out to everyone who was looking forward to paddle boarding on Lake Perris to the thumpin' sounds of Mark Farina and Jason Blakemore, we're not quite ready to sing any dirges for EDM just yet. Not with Nocturnal Wonderland, Symbiosis, the Dirtybird Campout, CRSSD, Escape and Day of the Dead all on the horizon. SFX's stock price may be tanking, and its events may be getting canceled, but the EDM market as a whole is still flying high.