By Jem Aswad
Originally Published in Variety on September 4, 2017
Hard Events and Holy Ship! founder Gary Richards, who recently parted ways with Live Nation after five years, has been named North America president of LiveStyle, the company formed from post-bankruptcy SFX, LiveStyle president/CEO Randy Phillips announced today. In the newly created position, Richards will be responsible for working with all of LiveStyle’s current U.S. festival operations, developing and launching new brands and activities on the West Coast.
Phillips commented, “When Chuck Ciongoli and I took over the former SFX, the global leader in electronic music festivals and the parent company of Beatport, we rebranded it LiveStyle to signal that a new vibrant business was emerging debt-free with some of the greatest assets in the live entertainment industry. To complete our executive suite, we wanted to bring some real authenticity to the management of LiveStyle, and no single candidate to be the President of North America fulfills this role better than Gary Richards, of Hard and Holy Ship fame. In fact, this is a delayed goal for me since I tried to make a deal with Gary 10 years ago while I was running AEG Live. Not only is he an accomplished working DJ (DJ Destructo), he is a very astute businessman with an affinity to his fellow artists.”
Richards said, “Randy Phillips has been a trailblazer in the music and entertainment industry for as long as I can remember. Having known Randy personally for many years, I’m excited that the stars have aligned and I’m able to build a new platform for live music with him. I look forward to coming on board as President of LiveStyle and have a much larger role to play in the music community. Their portfolio of brands such as React, Made Event/Electric Zoo, DDP and Beatport to name a few is an incredible place to start from and build. In addition, I plan to create new festival concepts and cruises at LiveStyle.”
Richards broadly hinted in an interview with Variety earlier this year that he’d be leaving Live Nation, and he made the announcement days before this year’s Hard Summer festival, which featured Snoop Dogg, Justice, Migos, Dog Blood (aka Skrillex and Boyz Noise), Bassnectar and many others. The festival had been marred by deaths in its two preceding years, but this summer’s installment — which underwent a last-minute venue change, moving from the Fontana Auto Club Speedway to the Live Nation’s Glen Helen Amphitheater — went comparatively smoothly, despite 19 hospitalizations and 107 arrests (actually those numbers are down from previous years). However, the festival drew just 77,500 people over two days, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department — a dramatic drop from 2016’s tally of around 146,000. However the festival received many positive reviews from media and attendees and Richards, who is a widely respected DJ operating under the name Destructo, played a well-attended valedictory set during the festival, which may be his last (owing to the terms of his deal with Live Nation).
Richards’ influence on the contemporary dance-music scene has been vast — Hard is of one of the genre’s biggest promotion companies and he’s a veteran of several record labels, as well as his frequent work as a DJ. After launching the original Electric Daisy Carnival in 1991, he handed off the brand to fellow dance maven and (sometimes) friendly rival Pasquale Rotella to take a job as Rick Rubin’s dance-music A&R at Def American Records. (Rotella has since developed Electric Daisy into North America’s biggest dance-music festival.) After several years at labels and a period of working with his brother Steven (who managed Slipknot and died of a brain tumor in 2004), Richards launched the first Hard show on New Year’s Eve, 2007. Over the ensuing years, the company’s rocket-like growth matched that of dance music, and it was purchased by Live Nation in 2012 for an undisclosed price; Rotella’s Insomniac Events came under the same roof the following year.Yet for all the success, Richards’ stint at Live Nation was rocky. Two concertgoers died of drug overdoses at 2015’s Hard Summer and three died last year; MDMA (aka ecstasy) toxicity, the main culprit, was exacerbated by heat of the Southern California summer sun. And his situation at Live Nation was complicated enormously by his ferocious rivalry with Rotella, which has flared into the open many times over the years.
From left: Chuck Ciongoli, Randy Phillips, Gary Richards & LiveStyle/Made Event’s Michael Julian at “Electric Zoo: the 6th Boro” at Randall’s Island Park in NYC. (Photo by aLIVE Coverage on behalf of ElectricZooFestival.com)