Life In Color’s Many Hues

Life In Color CEO Sebastian Solano talks to Pollstar about how his company grew from college students putting on spectacular shindigs to creating “The World’s Largest Paint Party.”
Painting the town like it’s never been painted before.

Solano and his Life In Color partners are the embodiment of a great American success story.  Born and raised in Colombia, Solano moved to the U.S. when he was 16 and lived in Miami.  But it wasn’t until he went to Florida State University in Tallahassee where he and his friends threw the biggest parties around that he found his true calling.

Life In Color’s mission of combining EDM with mountainous quantities of paint attracted the attention of Robert Sillerman and became one of the first acquisitions for the financier/entrepreneur’s EDM-based company, SFX Entertainment.

In August Life In Color hosted the halftime show during the Guinness International Champtions Cup Final at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium.  Solano and his partners Lukaz Tracz, Paul Campbell and Patryk Tracz will return to the stadium for two nights of paint and EDM Dec. 26-27. 

How did you and your partners go from being students to becoming Paint Party masters?

We started throwing house parties.  Then my brother, David Solano [became] our DJ.  So we had this little crew of people and we used to throw these super extravagant house parties.  Guys would have to pay $200 to come to our house parties.  Private list only.  These parties became really famous throughout Tallassee.  People started calling us The Committee because we would get together in a roundtable and discuss the next big party.  There would be one every month and they would be the parties everybody would talk about.

That’s how it started [in 2006].  It was just for fun.  We were making $15,000-20,000 a party.  We would spend it on the actual party. There was no profit … we weren’t interested in that.  We just wanted to put on the biggest, craziest party you could ever imagine.

We themed-out the houses.  We were renting party buses.  We would actually rent out half of a nightclub.  We’d say, “Friday night’s your busiest night?  We want half of your nightclub. Here’s 10 grand for 300 bottles.”

And the owners would be like, “What the hell?”  It would be like our own private party that we would have in our house.  We would rent five limo buses, shuttle everyone to the nightclub, after the nightclub bring everybody back to the house.  Full-service, the whole nine yards.

That’s how we got our name going … our love for parties and, more importantly, our love for dance music. …  In those days dance music wasn’t that big in the U.S. yet.  Especially in a college town like Tallahassee.  One big thing about our parties was ours were the only ones that had dance music.

We started getting interested in bringing DJs. Then nightclubs started coming up to us, saying, “You guys throw such big parties, how about if I pay you to come party in my club and bring your friends?”

And we were like, “You want to pay us to go to clubs? OK. That’s cool.”  That’s how we got started. 

When did paint enter the picture?

One day I got a call from a friend who said, “There’s this party called Dayglo, you need to come and check it out. … It’s this party where everyone wears white and people throw paint all over each other.”  And I was like, “What the hell is that?”

It was at a house.  There were 300 kids throwing paint all over each other.  And house music was rockin’ the whole place.  I will never forget this moment.  A light bulb went off and [I thought] this is a multi-million dollar idea.

At the moment I was a big fan of Sensation [events].  I would watch the Sensation videos and I would see them fill up stadiums and everybody was wearing white.  It just kind of hit me, thinking [these parties] are the Sensation of America.  In college everybody wants to get really crazy and wild with the paint and the music.  [I thought] this is really huge.

I started doing research about who invented Dayglow.  Is there a copyright or trademark on this?  I wanted to find them and tell them about the idea I had about bringing this party all over the country and calling it the “Dayglo” tour.

We found out that the parties started as a fraternity and sorority tradition at FSU.  There was no founder; it was kind of a generic thing.  So we said, “OK. Let’s do it.  Let’s see if this works.”

How did the concept first play out?

We did our first one in Miami in 2007 [at] this nightclub in Miami called “Allure.” It held like 600 people.  Seven years later we’re planning the same party for 60,000 people.

The Allure party did well.  Then we called Orlando, Tampa, Gainesville, we started calling all the cities in Florida saying, “We got this party called Dayglo.  It’s frickin’ huge.” We hyped it up.  We created videos.  My partners, each one has his own unique skill.  We had a website that made us look like a big deal even though we were not at that moment.  We claimed we had a trademark even though we had just filed for it, and hadn’t received [approval] yet. And people believed us, said, “Let’s do it.”

So we started partnering locally in different cities.  We started doing the party for the nightclubs.  And in the first year and a half we went from putting 1,000 people in a nightclub to 1,000 people in a nightclub and 3,000 people outside trying to get in.  And we were like, “Wow.  This is turning into the monster we thought it could be.  But now it’s time to start transforming it into the vision of a Sensation-style event.

We decided to rent out the UCF Arena.  We had no idea how to do a real concert.

Were you or any of your partners business majors?

I was a public relations and advertising major.  Lukasz (Tracz) was going to the same school.  Patryk (Tracz) was a business major. 

We all dropped out during our last semester.  Nobody graduated.  In our last semester, we were going to class and we were like, “We have 10 shows in 10 cities right now.  Why the hell are we going to school?”  We couldn’t even think straight in class.  Not that you shouldn’t go to school but it took over our lives.  So we decided to drop out of college.

When did Robert Sillerman and SFX come into the picture?

I was speaking to a few different companies that were trying to buy us.  We were in quite a few cities throughout the country and in a few other countries in 2011.

Then there was Disco Donnie, who I was very close friends with. He was kind of like a mentor to me.  He’s actually the biggest [dance music] promoter, if not just in North America, probably in the whole world.  He’s part of SFX.  The first two SFX acquisitions were Disco Donnie and Life In Color. 

Donnie kept telling me, “Don’t sell to anybody.  We got something big coming, and we’re going to need you guys to get it going.”

So we waited. Then he finally came to me in Miami and said, “Let’s go to Los Angeles.  I have this meeting I want you to go to.”

[The meeting was at the] “American Idol” office, and I met Bob Sillerman for the first time.  At this time SFX was just an idea on paper.  We all sat down and he told me what he has done in the past and what he wants to do.  To me, honestly, that sounded so much better than any other purchase opportunity that was presented to us.  It wasn’t just about the money but it was about the people we were going to be working with.  It could take us, on a business level, to be associated with people like Shelly Finkel, Bob Sillerman and Mitch Slater, to work with them and learn from them. … The idea of SFX being global and being able to expand throughout the world.  For us, this was it.  This was where we wanted to go.

We negotiated a lot with them and finally came to a deal.  When we closed with SFX, and when Donnie closed with SFX, SFX didn’t even have an office.  SFX was working out of a conference room in New York.  Now they have two, three complete floors in a huge building on Park Avenue.

Did you have to make changes to the basic Life In Color format when you took it outside of Florida?

Yes.  There were significant changes but it was more like enhancement and making it bigger and better.  When we were in Florida we would just drop paint bottles.  We had screens in the nightclubs and when the screens went to zero in the countdown, people would start throwing paint on each other.

When we took it outside of Florida, we built custom-made paint cannons [and] paint guns.  We brought décor.  We hired a guy from Cirque du Soleil that runs our whole performance department, designs the costumes and everything.  The show is now a full-scripted show.  It went from being just a party to a real concert … like a show.

Where did you first stage Life In Color in Los Angeles?

We’ve only done it at the Shrine Auditorium.  We’ve done it there a few times.  L.A. for us, at the moment, there are issues with finding the right venues for our events.  So we’ve stayed outside of L.A.  We’ve done Sacramento.  We go to San Diego every year.  We’re planning San Francisco, hopefully, for the end of the year.  I’m sure we’ll do L.A. again.  Hopefully, by next year.

You’re staging Life In Color at a pretty big venue coming up in December at Sun Life Stadium.  Is that going to be the biggest show you’ve done so far?

Absolutely.  We’re there for two days, 60,000 people.  That, is what we call the flagship event of our company.  Like EDC (Electric Daisy) has EDC Vegas and TomorrowWorld’s [festival] in Belgium. We have the Life In Color Miami festival.  The goal is that this festival will be so successful that we’re going to plot one in every continent starting next year.

For example, our first show in Chile we did 18,000 people.  So next year they already want to move into a festival.  Mexico City is the same thing – we’re doing 20,000 people. … We want to have, at least, five to 10 festivals worldwide.

“The show is now a full-scripted show.  It went from being just a party to a real concert … like a show.”

When hiring DJs, are you constantly moving up in name recognition as Life In Color expands?

Yeah. Normally, for the festivals, you have to get the best of the best.  We do everything.  We work with the mid-level guys, the smaller guys.  And we work with the ones at the top – like Calvin Harris, Kaskade, Diplo. … For the other shows, we work with top of the line artists, but we don’t always have to book a Calvin Harris or Kaskade or something like that.  In Chile we had Chuckie and David Solano.

How many people will you need to present the Miami Life In Color at Sun Life Stadium?

Including outside services like security? I’d say about 600 people.

And how much paint will you use?

About 100,000 gallons.

What will you bring to the party in terms of lighting and sound?

We plan on introducing our newest paint technology.  We’ve spent, throughout the years, millions of dollars figuring out how to shoot paint. … Paint is a very tough thing to work with when you’re trying to come up with ways of shooting it at the crowd without hurting anybody, keeping it safe, keeping it affordable so you can travel with it. … It definitely challenges you to get creative.

For Miami we plan to introduce our newest paint technologies.  The way our cannons shoot right now is pretty cool. But the cannons we’re going to have for Miami are going to shoot about 10 times the amount and 10 times the distance. … Paint is going to shoot from points where we’ve never shot paint from before.

We’re going to have cool activities that will incorporate paint.  Like carnival-style stuff for people to do during the day, when people want to go and do stuff with friends and not just look at a stage and listen to a DJ.  We’re going to step up our game, like we always do for Miami.  There’s going to be a lot of interaction with the crowd.  We’re going to have cool areas where you can just go and hang out. … We want people to come in and feel that they are in a different world even though we’re set up in a parking lot in a stadium.

We’re going to have, by far, the best lineup Life In Color has ever had … and surprises.  We’re going to surprise the hell out of our fans.  Our idea is to blow their minds away.

What age groups are your audiences?  Are Life In Color events all-ages shows?

It varies.  Most of our events are 18-plus.  The Miami show is 16-plus.

Don’t you wish there were Life In Color events when you were a teenager?

I think, “If I was 18 or 19 and all this stuff that’s happening today was happening then … It would have been amazing.”  Even for my party, when it got to a certain level, I was already too old to be a part of it.

But you had an advantage in that you were in Miami when you were a teenager, a place that was ahead of the country in regards to dance music and related trends.

Agreed.  That brings up a point, too, that I feel is something that we’ve never received credit for.  We truly are the ambassadors of dance music in all the colleges in America.  We were the first dance music brand, including DJs, to ever do a college tour.  Once we did our first college tour, 25 colleges, and sold out every show in about five minutes, every single agent took notice of that.  They were like, “Wow.  There is a lot of money to be made at these colleges and there are a lot of fans out there.”

When we did our first college tours, most of the kids didn’t know what dance music was, but they came because they wanted to experience the paint and how crazy our shows are.  Once they came in … and found out how freakin’ awesome it is to party to dance music, they came out of our shows as dance music fans.  We were the first ones do to any of that stuff in the U.S.

I remember I used to put in offers for artists to play in Gainesville, Fla.,  or in East Lansing, Mich., and they were like, “No.”  They used to call them “C markets” and they just did not care for them. They just cared about playing Chicago, Miami, Dallas, New York and L.A. We let people know – the agents and artists – that these college markets are the ones that drive the music more than anyplace else. Obviously Miami, New York and L.A. are essential but when you look at the top charts and track where all the sales are coming from in the iTunes downloads, it’s college kids that are driving the revenues.  It’s definitely our niche.

Where do you see Life In Color five years from now?

We have a company goal – to be the first EDM brand to sell a million tickets worldwide in one year.  We’re trying to accomplish that, if not by next year, the year after.  You know how Cirque du Soleil has a show in Russia, in Miami, in Columbia, in Brazil … all on the same day?  We want to be like that.  We’re already doing that. On Dec. 6 we have shows in the U.K., in South America, and in the U.S. … Because of the different time zones, there [won’t be] one minute that a Life In Color show isn’t going on.  I want to be in every country possible [and] have, at least, five to 10 music festivals.  I believe we have the potential to be the biggest EDM-branded ticket seller in the world. 

It’s very tough for EDC, Ultra, TomorrowWorld or even Sensation to have multiple shows on the same day.  For us, we’ve created our show to be able to do that.

Also, I want to be able to say we’re one of the most revolutionary events in the music industry. Our theme is quite different, quite crazy.  We’re drawing fans from everywhere in the world.  I just want to be one of the biggest EDM global brands.  I feel like we’re kind of there already, but in the next five  years there shouldn’t even be a question.

From left to right: Lukasz Tracz, Paul Campbell, Sebastian Solano and Patryk Tracz.

Upcoming dates for Life In Color:

Sept. 12 – Nashville, Tenn., LP Field
Sept. 13 – St. Louis, Mo., Old Rock House
Sept. 13 – Vancouver, British Columbia, P.N.E. Pacific Coliseum
Sept. 13 – Raleigh, N.C., Red Hat Amphitheatre
Sept. 19 – Ottawa, Ontario, EY Center
Sept. 20 – Columbia, Md., Merriweather Post Pavilion
Sept. 26 – Columbus, Ohio, The LC Pavilion
Sept. 26 – Providence, R.I., Dunkin’ Donuts Center
Sept. 27 – Fort Worth, Texas, LaGrave Field
Oct. 3 – Bogota, Colombia, Castillo Marroqiui
Oct. 4 – Eugene, Ore., Cuthbert Amphitheater
Oct. 4 – Worcester, Mass., DCU Center
Oct. 4 – Medellin, Colombia, TBA
Oct. 10 – Umea, Sweden, Nolia
Oct. 11 – Linkoping, Sweden, Cloetta Center
Oct. 17 – Kalamazoo, Mich., Wings Stadium
Oct. 18 – Grand Rapids, Mich., DeVos Place / DeVos Performance Hall
Oct. 24 – Milwaukee, Wis., Eagles Ballroom 
Oct. 25 – Oklahoma City, Okla., Cox Convention Center
Nov. 7 – Phoenix, Ariz., Cityscape
Nov. 8 – Duluth, Ga., Wild Bill’s
Nov. 8 – Reno, Nev., Reno Events Center
Nov. 21 – Las Vegas, Nev.,  Cashman Field Center
Nov. 22 – Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S. Bank Arena
Nov. 29 – Magna, Utah, The Great Saltair
Nov. 29 – El Paso, Texas, El Paso Convention Ctr.
Dec. 6 – Buenos Aires, Argentina, Estadio Mandarine Park
Dec. 6 – Rotterdam, Netherlands, Sportpaleis Ahoy
Dec. 13 – Lima, Peru, TBA
Dec. 13 – Jakarta, Indonesia,”Djakarta Warehouse Project”
Dec. 20 – Atlantic City, N.J., Atlantic City Convention Center
Dec. 20 – Santa Cruz, Boliva, Sonilum
Dec. 26 – Miami Gardens, Fla., Sun Life Stadium
Dec. 27 – Miami Gardens, Fla., Sun Life Stadium 

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