James ‘Disco Donnie’ Estopinal, Jr.
James “Disco Donnie” Estopinal, Jr.’s love of music and live events started early on thanks to his father, who he calls his mentor.
“My father had a large effect on my interest in the music world. He quit his law practice to become a disco DJ and some of my earliest memories of him were in the club, where he would let me sleep in the office,” Estopinal says. “He used to do over-the-top skits before – and during – the songs, so it showed me the importance of the ‘do whatever it takes’ mentality to entertain the crowd.”
After going to his first rave and being inspired to “let everyone know about the experience they were missing,” Donnie got into the music business as a hobby. It became his job, he says, after “someone offered to pay me.” Of course, it became much more than a job. Disco Donnie Presents, founded in 1994 in New Orleans, grew into a regional powerhouse with a festival portfolio that includes Ubbi Dubbi, Sunset Music Festival and Freaky Deaky Texas. Prior to COVID, DDP was doing close to 1,000 shows a year, “everywhere from 400-cap to 2,000-cap, and a lot of special events in 4,000-to-5,000-cap rooms.”
DDP was the first company acquired by SFX in 2012, and was one of the company’s most treasured assets when it emerged from bankruptcy and rebranded as LiveStyle in 2016. In April, DDP became fully independent again as Estopinal bought out LiveStyle to regain sole ownership.
Estopinal points to selling his company to SFX and buying it back from Livestyle as the most impactful successes in his career.
“The sale helped us grow and learn a lot from a variety of global leaders in the space, but it’s also an advantage to go back to our independent roots. We’re much more nimble and can focus on the fans,” he says.
DDP has adapted during the pandemic by being one of the first companies to put on socially distanced shows at drive-ins, dubbed “No Parking On The Dance Floor.” Estopinal says DDP is also working on its “R.A.V.E. voting initiative to encourage young people to vote in the 2020 election … and developing other outdoor concepts that feature physical distancing.”