LAS VEGAS — Having purpose is the new currency today, helping drive consumer interest and inevitably, value for a business. As the Life Is Beautiful Music & Art Festival prepares to begin its sixth year in September, organizers aim to keep moving the needle as the event continues to gain steam.
Last year marked the first time Life Is Beautiful sold out in 90 minutes, with attendance over the three days totaling more than 175,000. The festival this year surpassed that figure so far in sales and is expected to sell out once again with expanded capacity, countering the thought among the executive team that last year was a stroke of luck where they nabbed the right lineup of musicians and artists, said Life Is Beautiful chief executive officer and partner Justin Weniger.
The Weeknd, Arcade Fire, Florence and the Machine, Travis Scott, N.E.R.D. and Odesza are just some of the artists performing for the festival’s run Sept. 21 to 23.
The festival has focused on building a brand aimed at uniting people around artistic experiences ranging from music to street artists such as Shepard Fairey, brands pooling together for experiences, small businesses and food, among other things.
“The idea was to build this festival that was somewhat idealistic, as in, this is what the city of Las Vegas could look like,” Weniger said. In other words, an alternate narrative to tell beyond gaming on the Las Vegas strip.
Downtown Vegas has grown into a scene that’s no longer just about the spectacle that is Fremont Street, but offers a mix of bars, restaurants, music venues and the Downtown Container Park.
“Six years ago, it was crazy to think that you could walk a block down there,” Weniger said.
Today, downtown and the festival are growing up, with the latter taking a measured approach to scale. Weniger is quick to point out Life Is Beautiful is not beholden to outside investors or Wall Street analysts. “We don’t do the festival as a profit center,” he said. “Our only real metric, our only real KPI, is how much we’re developing a community.”
Life Is Beautiful is maturing at a time when festivals have become profit centers because they’ve managed to captivate an audience of consumers who’s grown tired of traditional forms of entertainment, such as the mall. Brands — Zappos and Amazon have participated with the festival in the past, with a deal inked with New Era for this year — smart enough to see that now want in. Even something such as a WWDMAGIC, which comes to Vegas in August, is has the potential to speak directly to the consumer, Weniger said.
“What we’re seeing is that there is more and more of this intersection of festivals being more than an event,” Weniger said. “When you go to a festival, we can have so many elements of culture running through it that it does become about fashion and artists. There’s this point of does it always have to be b-to-b or can it be b-to-c? With the growth of downtown Las Vegas as this cultural place, there’s now amazing bars, amazing restaurants and cool little music venues.”
Though Life Is Beautiful seeing success, Weniger said that doesn’t necessarily mean expanding to other cities and having multiple Life Is Beautiful events. But it could mean more on the merchandise side of things as well as potential partnerships with brands on product that could be sold beyond the festival. Plans also call for boosting the daily content on the Life Is Beautiful site.
“We have an opportunity now to do something with that,” Weniger said of the momentum. “We’re holding ourselves accountable to see what can be done. At the same time, [we’re] looking at it from a business perspective and saying, how do we build resilience around that so we’re not always beholden to one event being our entire year and there’s not just a single touch point for us.”