Illenium ‘Ascends’ To Arenas
Nainoa Langer / @nainoalanger – Illenium
Late last year, Nick Miller, the melodic bass music producer who performs as Illenium, revealed in a heartfelt message to fans that he had overdosed on heroin years ago and has struggled with addiction from a young age.
“I’ve been clean since that overdose and I owe that to finding my passion and being surrounded by the most loving people I could ever ask for,” the San Francisco Bay Area-born and Denver-based musician shared while dropping the song “Take You Down.” He specifically mentioned his mother, who “never gave up on me and always continued to see the good even though all I was doing was fucking up.”
Another loving person who’s been with Illenium from the beginning is one-time roommate Sean Flynn, who first took on tour managing duties “but I really had no idea what I was doing” before growing into the day-to-day manager role.
“It’s a huge asset having someone on the team who came before all the success and recognition,” Miller told Pollstar via email. “I know I can trust his opinion and he’s just as supportive personally as he is professionally. We both had similar issues with drugs and alcohol growing up so it’s nice having someone so close who’s been through the same struggles as me.”
With that trust came the business responsibility as well. Flynn said there was a bit of a learning curve as the music blew up, largely after a remix of The Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down” got traction in 2016.
“When we first started touring, everything felt kind of crazy,” said Flynn, who quit his day job to do Illenium full time. “But when things really felt like they were snowballing was on our last tour,” Flynn added of the “Awake” run in 2017. “When we sold out the 1stBank Center, that’s when we also premiered a whole new live show, more than anything we’d ever done before, a completely new system. It was crazy.”
That show was especially notable to Flynn for being in Broomfield, Colo., rather than Denver or Boulder, meaning they were drawing real fans from outside the home market. That show sold 6,522 tickets and grossed just under $190,000 as reported to Pollstar.
“A more recent highlight would be selling out Red Rocks last fall,” Miller added. “My passion for producing began after seeing a show there so it was kind of surreal to go from that to headlining of a show of my own.”
The momentum builds, with a new single just released with Jon Bellion called “Good Things Fall Apart,” the No. 1 most added track at alternative radio and with 21 million streams, and other recent collabs both onstage and in the studio with Excision, Ekali and a potential upcoming Kayzo+Illenium project being teased on Twitter.
Electronic artists have played the biggest stages in the world, with events like Ultra and Electric Daisy Carnival hosting hundreds of thousands of fans and branching out worldwide.
However, Illenium is doing what few DJ/producers have done in recent years, let alone someone whose style is a nod to the type of EDM popularized by dubstep pioneers like Skrillex and Bassnectar: arenas. He kicks off his just-announced “Ascend” tour in September, a mostly AEG Presents run with stops at multiple arenas including Madison Square Garden, Staples Center and Yuengling Center, along with three already-sold-out nights at the outdoor Red Rocks.
“MSG has always been a dream of mine,” Miller says. “It’s an opportunity few electronic artists get and I couldn’t be more grateful to be part of that history.”
“Stepping up to arenas allows us to reach our maximum capabilities in production and really give fans the optimal Illenium experience that you can’t necessarily do in even a 3,000-ticket club,” UTA’s Steve Gordon and fellow agent Guy Oldaker told Pollstar. Oldaker joined leading electronic music agency Circle Talent in 2018 right before the company helmed by Gordon and founder Kevin Gimble was acquired by United Talent Agency. Gordon credited Oldaker’s strategy in the earlier days getting Illenium to this point.
“From the beginning we approached this as trying to be unique in the dance music vein and focusing on selling hard tickets, starting in smaller rooms playing real hard-ticket touring theatres and smaller club-style rooms you’d see full bands in more,” Oldaker says.
Illenium performs with two other members on stage and drum pads for himself, allowing for more live moments than a lot of electronic music. With the Ascend tour taking in rooms of various sizes, some of the production details are still being worked out.
– Steve Gordon and Guy Oldaker
“We want to be able to do it everywhere,” manager Flynn adds. “We don’t want to say here’s one show for Madison Square Garden and here’s one for something like The Pageant in St. Louis. We have an idea of some of the elements we want to include but it’s definitely a big process.”
As many artists are launching their own festivals, Illenium’s case is even stronger as UTA and Gordon in particular have been aggressive on that front developing multiple events for Excision while Kaskade’s Sun Soaked is in its third year and expanding with rapper Logic added this year, among still others.
Despite the touring strength of many electronic artists, there has been some chatter about that style of music being on the downswing following a recent IMS business report saying the electronic music business has dropped 1% in 2018-2019 after growing 60% in the early 2010s.
“Maybe people see a little bit of a lull because there was this huge hyped thing all at once, and everybody was jumping on the bandwagon,” Flynn says. “It’s maybe lost a little bit of the hype because it’s been around, but it’s definitely not going anywhere.” Any downswing may be regional, as Illenium has seen strong demand in Asian markets like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and even topped an event in the relatively remote Wuhan, China, in front of 18,000 people.
ILLENIUM North American Tour Dates:Tickets: ILLENIUM.com*Non-AEG dates6/14/2019 George, WA Paradiso Festival6/16/2019 Manchester, TN Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival6/29/2019 Las Vegas, NV Wet Republic Ultra Pool7/5/2019 Las Vegas, NV Hakkasan Nightclub8/24/2019 Las Vegas, NV Hakkasan Nightclub9/18/2019 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE9/19/2019 Rochester, NY Main Street Armory9/20/2019 Boston, MA Tsongas Center9/21/2019 New York City, NY Madison Square Garden9/26/2019 Portland, ME State Theater9/27/2019 Montreal, QC Place Bell9/28/2019 Toronto, ON Coca-Cola Coliseum10/9/2019 Oklahoma City, OK The Criterion10/10/2019 Morrison, CO Red Rocks SOLD OUT10/11/2019 Morrison, CO Red Rocks SOLD OUT10/12/2019 Morrison, CO Red Rocks SOLD OUT (Throwback Set)10/17/2019 Nashville, TN Municipal Auditorium10/18/2019 Atlanta, GA Coca-Cola Roxy*10/19/2019 Tampa, FL Yuengling Center11/2/2019 Detroit, MI The Masonic Temple11/5/2019 Indianapolis, IN Egyptian Room*11/6/2019 St. Louis, MO The Pageant11/8/2019 Chicago, IL UIC Pavilion11/9/2019 Minneapolis, MN The Armory11/10/2019 Madison, WI The Sylvee*11/15/2019 Austin, TX Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater*11/16/2019 Dallas, TX Toyota Music Factory*11/17/2019 Houston, TX Revention Music Center*11/20/2019 Kansas City, MO Arvest Bank Theatre11/22/2019 Salt Lake City, UT The Great Saltair11/23/2019 Reno, NV Reno Event Center11/24/2019 Boise, ID Revolution Center*11/27/2019 Seattle, WA WaMu Theater11/29/2019 Seattle, WA WaMu Theater (Throwback Set)11/30/2019 Vancouver, BC PNE Forum12/01/2019 Portland, OR Veterans Memorial Coliseum12/6/2019 San Diego, CA Pechanga Arena San Diego12/7/2019 Los Angeles, CA STAPLES Center