Gary Richards On Launching All My Friends Festival in DTLA: ‘I’m Trying to Find New Ways to Present Dance Music to the Masses’

Gary Richards
Brian Ziff
– Gary Richards

One of the pioneers of promoting electronic music as founder of Hard Events, which was acquired by Live Nation in 2012, Gary Richards was hired as President of LiveStyle North America by the company’s CEO Randy Phillips.  
This weekend, Aug. 18-19, he’ll launch a new music festival dubbed All My Friends (presented by LiveStyle’s newly launched brand AMFAMFAMF) in downtown L.A. at the corner of 7th and Alameda at the newly constructed retail complex Row DTLA.  Richards is expecting 10,000 per day at the event – which will sport three separate stages for EDM, hip-hop and R&B with headliners like R.L. Grime and Gucci Mane Saturday night, and M.I.A. and Jamie XX on Sunday, and a lineup that also includes Jhene Aiko, Smokepurpp, Armand Van Helden, Yo Gotti and, of course, Richards’ DJ alter ego, Destructo. 
Pollstar spoke to Richards just as trucks began unloading equipment down at the site.
This is one of your first promotions since joining LiveStyle last year.
We did an All My Friends stage at Sunset Music Festival in Tampa, Spring Awakening in Chicago, a party in Miami called Breakfast Club. This is the first stand-alone All My Friends in L.A.
What does All My Friends mean?
 I thought long and hard about a name that actually means something.  All My Friends is really a reflection of all the people I’ve met over the years through music and all the people who have met at these festivals and parties because of the music. I’m always running into people when I DJ who tell me they met their wife at one of my events, or they got married on my boat.  Music brings people together, and those that like a similar kind of music tend to like each other. There’s a communal, family aspect to this.
What’s the Row DTLA site like?
This used to be the American Apparel factory.  It’s sort of quintessential Los Angeles.  There are these three massive buildings, and there’s a new owner, with tons of retail and new restaurants. The whole area is turning around and we’re going to christen this bitch. 


It’s a large outdoor space?
There’s a street that goes straight down the middle, called Center, which is the heart of the event.  There’s a tree at one end, a parking lot at the other, with three performance in between.
How are the advance ticket sales going?
Good. It’s picking up.  All of a sudden, today, seemingly everyone I know in the city is calling to get on the guest list. 
Electronic music shows in Los Angeles have a rather checkered past, with violence and even deaths. What have you learned from your past experience in promoting this event?
When you’re doing these large-scale events, and bringing in massive amounts of people, it doesn’t really matter what genre of music you’re presenting. I’ll say this, 10,000 people is a lot less than 150,000 people.  When you start doing 50,000-60,000 people per day, the numbers are stacked against you. This is smaller and a lot more manageable. I don’t blame the genre; I blame human beings who do dumb shit.  It’s not the music.
How did you put together this lineup?  Is there an overall theme to the curation?
We broke the three stages down into R&B (Jhene Aiko, Ravyn Lenae, Abra), rap (Gucci Mane, Smokepurpp, Sheck Wes) and my kind of crew, the bass-house heads (Chris Lake, Wax Motif, Chris Lorenzo, Justin Martin). Destructo will be playing at 9:30 Saturday night in the Friends Zone by the big tree.
How do you feel about the so-called festival glut and a number of high-profile cancellations including FYF here in L.A.?
When you come up with a good idea that works, everybody tries to copy it. I like to say, often imitated, never duplicated. You got to give people a compelling reason to spend their money; there are just so many options. For me, starting something new is a little tough, but at the end of the day, if we manage it correctly, and give the audience something they’re not getting, we’ll stand out as something different and unique. My formula remains good music.  I try to A&R and find good, new acts, and new ways to present dance music to the masses. I’m pleased we didn’t bite off more than we could chew. It took me 10 years to get HARD to what it became. Rome wasn’t built in a day. There has to be more of a reason to do this than just making money. I’d want to come see this event myself. That’s why I’m doing it.

This is like starting over for you, in a way, with the knowledge and experience you’ve gained.
That’s exactly what it is.  There are so many people that associate me with the HARD brand, which I’m not involved with anymore. Little by little, I’m trying to let everyone know this is my new thing, and hopefully, they’ll figure it out.
What did it mean for you to put on this festival in L.A.? 
Absolutely.  I’m standing right now at Alameda and 7th, which is where I heard electronic music for the first time when I was 19. It’s important to be downtown. I grew up and went to high school here, learned about music here … This is where I want to be.

How healthy is the EDM scene these days?
We have festivals in our company that just do straight-up EDM shows and sales are on the rise.  Electric Zoo in New York is 80% ahead of last year’s ticket buys, with headliners like Martin Garrix and Tiesto. All My Friends is not a strict EDM festival; it’s something a little different. 
Electronic music is thriving all around the country. But it all comes down to the artists. If the artist is amazing, it doesn’t matter what you call the genre. 
Any second thoughts about selling your company to Live Nation?
I’m always up for new challenges and a new beginning.  I’ve never been about yesterday, I’ve always been about tomorrow when it comes to music. I’m trying to make the news rather than read about it. Having the opportunity to start something new, and not have to fit into a certain mold, is best for me. 
You don’t promote these events just so Destructo can perform?
I did realize at one point, if I didn’t, I wasn’t going to get a chance. The analogy I use is the guy on the bench for his basketball team. “Put me in coach,” and no one ever did, so I had to create my own league.  I did, and it’s been all good. Now, I can actually DJ. I know what I’m doing.  But I’ve never really taken advantage of it like some promoters do. I really wanted to earn it. Even when I started HARD, I was the last name on the bill.