How Lights All Night Became Dallas' Biggest EDM Festival
There's one week until Lights All Night, and co-founder Scott Osburn is sick. It always happens this way, right when you can ill afford time spent laying around, recuperating, foggy from medicine. Things are ramping up quickly now. They're already working on the massive, elaborate staging inside the Dallas Convention Center -- this year DJs will play from stages nicknamed "The Mothership" and "Boombox." The EDM festival has grown each year since its 2010 inception, up from 30,00 attendees in 2011, and expectations are high. So Osborn is powering through, visiting the site, dealing with last-minute logistics. Sleep will have to wait.
Roderick Pullum Last year at Lights All Night
LAN, which takes place tonight and tomorrow (you can buy tickets here), was started by Osborn and Hank Keller, both Dallas natives in their 20s. After one year at Plaza of the Americas, the festival spent two years in the Convention Center before moving to Fair Park last year. It's back to the Convention Center this year -- the environment is a little more contained and they decided it made more sense for what they wanted to do.
The rapid growth of Lights All Night makes it the largest EDM festival in Dallas, and Osborn thinks there's still room to get bigger. "I think that Texas lends itself to have the number of people to show up for the shows," Osborn says. "And I think that other promoters in the market have done a fantastic job of growing the dance culture in this market." He thinks the proximity of Dallas to Vegas makes it an easy sell to many big-name DJs, who are either spending their time in Nevada anyway or can plan an additional stop as they head this way.
This year's lineup follows the same basic formula as the previous years': A couple top-tier all-stars, and plenty of the flavor-of-the-month up-and-comers elsewhere. "I try to appeal to all the different demographics," Osborn says. "There are so many different subgenres, and every year there's a new kind of sound that everyone latches onto."
The most common criticism he hears about the talent is that it's too mainstream. "Dallas, Texas, is a big music entertainment town, so we always try to put together a show that has the hits," he says.
This year's headliners are Deadmau5, who plays tonight, and Kaskade, who will close out the night tomorrow. Osborn says that new sound everyone's latching onto this year is trap music, and he thinks Diplo and his Major Lazer project deserve a lot of the credit for introducing that sound to the dance music crowd. That group is on the bill for tomorrow.
Osborn and Keller have kept busy with a few other events around town. They helped produce the Mad Decent Block Party earlier this fall, for example. And they plan to do a little more in 2014. Plans for a Mexico City edition of Lights All Night fell through this year, but they still plan to take the festival global. We might see a version in Australia or Asia as soon as next year.
For now, they're content to let people come to them. Osborn estimates that 25 percent of ticket sales are from outside of Texas -- as of last Friday, they'd sold 200 tickets in San Francisco alone. He credits a strong word-of-mouth promotional campaign, as well as a college ambassador program. "Our grassroots campaign is definitely the foundation of our marketing," he says.