Electronic dance music icon Pasquale Rotella shared his experience and insights of EDM culture in a room full of aspiring musicians on Wednesday night in NYU’s Production Lab. Dance music festivals have been a huge part of millennial culture over the last decade, but they did not arise out of thin air. Rotella, who produces festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival, has worked for the last 25 years to take EDM from illegal warehouse raves to what it is today.
Rotella fielded questions from Bo Pericic — who is known for his 2007 hit “Anthem” — a DJ and Adjunct Professor at Tisch’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. They spoke about teamwork, perseverance and fan interaction as keys to success in dance music.
Looking forward, they addressed issues such as the existence of a tightly-knit EDM community and the use of virtual reality in the festival experience. Most of all, Rotella harped on the importance of passion in the EDM world.
“If you’re not passionate, you’re gonna come and go,” Rotella said.
In the early ‘90s, Rotella held a rave every Friday in a different warehouse in Los Angeles, calling the parties “Insomniac.” He would go on to make this the name of his company, which he founded in 1993. Since its inception, Insomniac has put on more than a thousand concerts, festivals and club nights.
Rotella organized the first Electric Daisy Carnival in 1995 at Los Angeles and drew 5,000 people. Today, EDC in Las Vegas is the biggest dance music festival in North America, drawing 400,000 attendees in 2015.
Rotella attributes the success of the event to fan interaction through effects such as cutting-edge lighting, pyrotechnics, fireworks and theatrical performers. However, he didn’t achieve success overnight. Nevertheless, he continued to work hard to prove that dance music concerts could be more than just underground raves where people did drugs.
“I decided to stick up for the culture,” Rotella said. “It got beat up so much. People focused on the stigma, not the reality. They didn’t pay attention to the passion, to the music going on.”
Kevin Kong, a CAS senior who attended the event, said that he loves EDM because of its inclusiveness.
“With a computer, anyone can make music these days,” Kong said. “Tons of people are becoming producers and making music is no longer such an exclusive act.”
For Gill Glazenberg, a senior at the Clive Davis Institute who has DJ’d at local clubs such as Avenue and Marquee, festivals like EDC are more than just concerts.
“It’s a journey for music fans,” Glazenberg said. “A lot of people I know travel for these festivals and it’s like a holiday for three days where they get to see their favorite artists.”
Despite an aborted attempt to bring EDC to Tokyo this year, Rotella believes that EDM festivals will have continued success throughout the world, citing India as a specific country where he expects the genre will take off. In addition, Rotella celebrates the ability of festivals to bring people together.
“I love how these events connect people from all around the world, from different backgrounds, from different financial classes,” Rotella said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Email Kyle Sturmann at [email protected]