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Live Nation adds Los Angeles' Hard Events to its playlist

The purchase of the local electronic dance music promoter for an undisclosed sum solidifies the genre's move into the mainstream.

June 27, 2012|By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
  • Producer Gary Richards, a.k.a. DJ Destructo, is Hard Event's founder and owner.
Producer Gary Richards, a.k.a. DJ Destructo, is Hard Event's founder… (Genaro Molina, Los Angeles…)

On Wednesday, Los Angeles-based electronic dance music promoter Hard Events, which presents some of Los Angeles' biggest and most successful events of its kind, announced its sale to Live Nation Entertainment, one of the world's largest concert and ticketing conglomerates.

The deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, offers further confirmation that electronic dance music and its many subgenres, including house, techno, dubstep and electro, have crossed over into the mainstream and now earn enough to warrant corporate interest. In an otherwise declining music industry, dance music shows are a highly profitable bright spot, attracting an audience from the coveted teen and twentysomething demographic.

The purchase will result in Hard Events becoming part of the company's Live Nation Electronic Music division. Hard's founder and owner Gary Richards will retain the title of CEO of Hard Entertainment, and will continue his role in booking and overseeing Hard's events, the most prominent of which are its annual Hard Haunted Mansion during Halloween, and the Hard Summer party at downtown's Los Angeles State Historic Park.

Last year's Hard Summer drew upward of 30,000 people. This year the party, also downtown, will take place on Aug. 3-4, and feature Skrillex, Chromeo, Nero and dozens of other DJs and EDM producers. Richards says that the company's plans include expanding to Europe and beyond. Hard already has a presence in Australia and Canada, where it holds annual festivals, not to mention parties in New York, Toronto, Chicago and elsewhere throughout the United States. This year the company added the successful Hard Holy Ship! cruise to its roster, which sold out in its inaugural voyage last January and has already reached capacity for its 2013 event.

Richards, who was reached by phone on Wednesday morning after a late-night DJ gig under the moniker Destructo, said that he'd been searching for potential partners since he started his company in 2007.

"I never really went into this whole thing thinking I could finance all this stuff and do everything I want to do," said Richards, 41, who learned his trade by throwing raves at Knott's Berry Farm in the early 1990s. "I've just thrown myself into it, and in the past five years it's grown and grown and grown."

Live Nation's purchase of Hard Events comes a few months after it acquired the successful British promoter Cream Holdings, whose Creamfields dance music events in theU.K.grew to be one of the most successful touring festivals in the world, with stops in cities such as Moscow, Buenos Aires, Abu Dhabi, Santiago and Istanbul.

In Europe, the music eased its way into the mainstream after young British "ravers" discovered Chicago house music and Detroit techno in the late 1980s and used it as the building blocks of a worldwide phenomenon. In the U.S. the music has had its peaks and valleys of popularity, but seldom has it been such a central focus of the music business' most powerful players.

When Live Nation purchased Cream in May, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino also brought into its ranks Cream Holdings' founder, James Barton, and named him the president of Live Nation Electronic Music.

Barton said that after he took the job, Hard Events became the focus of conversations with Rapino almost immediately. "There were discussions about what other aspects and what other people we would like to involve in this plan moving forward, and obviously Gary Richards and Hard was at the top of both our lists." He called the decision "a no-brainer."

Live Nation's acquisitions come a month after Robert F.X. Sillerman, who masterminded SFX Entertainment's profitable acquisitions of many of the nation's regional rock promoters in the 1990s before selling it to Clear Channel Communications for $4.4 billion, announced his intention to employ a similar strategy with electronic dance music, and acquired New Orleans-based Disco Donnie Presents.

In a statement, Live Nation's Rapino said: "Live Nation is committed to empowering the electronic dance space with resources and a network of some of the best talent in the industry. Hard Events joins a portfolio of electronic dance music and festival promoters and creators including Cream Holdings. We welcome Gary Richards and his team, and look forward to helping him continue to expand the reach of this dynamic genre for fans and artists alike."

Richards says that Hard's new position shouldn't affect this year's Hard Summer, and is committed to keeping the event alive. "My plan is to try and [make] that park into a proper venue," he said. "It's one of the best spots, I think, in downtown L.A., that works for what we do. "

randall.roberts@latimes.com

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