This weekend, Miami was buzzing over Lights Out Festival, a brand new EDM fest being held at Wynwood Convention Center put together by Dementia Events. The scene was set for a great time: a two-stage production, awesome lights and lasers, relatively cheap tickets, and an all-star lineup including Felix da Housecat, RJD2, Felix Cartal and DJ Icey. Unfortunately, the organizers of the event made a few serious errors in planning and everyone suffered, including the artists and the crowd.
Upon entering the venue, we were in awe of the multitude of lights and lasers filling the air. Also equally surprising was the size of the converted warehouse. The venue was massive; the crowd, however, was not as awe inspiring. Estimated at less than 1000 people at its peak, the size of the warehouse made it seem as if there was 50.
This was the first crucial error by the organizers. They must have missed their attendance mark by a few thousand. The VIP section was nearly empty for most of the show and the General Admission area could have held a crowd ten times the size. The marketing of the event is to blame for this poor showing. For an all-star lineup such as this one, more people should have known about it. As connected and involved as I am in the scene, I did not even hear about it until about a week prior, and only because a friend of mine found a $9 ticket promotion online. The event promoters need to better find their target audience by giving themselves more time to plan and promote. From the looks of it, promotion for this event began in the beginning of June. A month is not enough time to get the word out through all appropriate avenues.
The poor attendance could also have had to do with the ticket pricing. With about a week to go, the promoters decided to basically give their general admission tickets away for only a service fee of $9. This act now seems like a desperate attempt to fill the general admission space. Thankfully, this was the price that I paid for my ticket, seeing that a GA ticket was regularly priced at $45.
The second major error by the organizers was the disparity of the VIP/GA areas. The GA area was blocked off by a barricade that was no less than 30 feet from the stage. This space created a metaphorical gap between the DJ and the crowd since the VIP area was rarely filled with anyone dancing. Most VIP attendees stayed away from the dance floor and off to the side near the bar until the staff opened up the fence and let the crowd through during RJD2’s set.
The awkwardly large open space between the DJ and crowd can be seen in this photo of DJ Icey’s set:
This creates a disconnect between the DJ and crowd. As a DJ, you want the crowd as close as possible to the speakers and as close as possible to you. The energy tradeoff is what makes for the best shows. When a crowd is this far away, the DJ cannot feel their energy as much and it makes for a less enjoyable experience for everyone. If Lights Out Festival wants to attract big names again in the future, they must make it a fun place for the DJ to play. Backing up the set times by two hours and cutting off the headliner after 20 minutes is not a great way to get future business from world class DJs.
The biggest error by the organizers, in my opinion, was the sound system. The outside system shorted out multiple times throughout the day, killing the energy. The inside system crashed twice during the first 10 minutes of RJD2’s set. After the second crash, he decided he wasn’t going to play any of his harder or more bass heavy stuff and just played more chill and experimental tracks. And after having been pushed back two hours and having to play to a dwindling crowd, I don’t blame him. The speaker placement was also less than desirable. There were two giant PA stacks to the right and left of the stage and a smaller one in the middle, but they were 15 feet in front of the stage, on the other side of the lighted LED dance floor. If they want to have people going crazy close to the stage, you need to be able to hear the sound directly and not a muffled, reverb-filled version of the sound. There were also no back speakers to fill the entire warehouse space, which ended up not being a problem because of the small crowd size.
It was a valiant attempt to bring a big-name summer festival into Miami, but the experience of this one was marred by these major hiccups. The organizers plan to bring back Lights Out very soon and hopefully they will have learned from this inaugural festival. This Saturday proved that a successful large scale production is possible at Wynwood Convention Center. We all know that there is money to be made in the EDM/rave scene in Miami. Lights Out Festival is a great idea that can work with better planning and more promotion.