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Disco Donnie Discusses $1 Million Ticket Donation Initiative, Expanding Into Seattle, & What His Company Hopes To Inspire [Interview]

Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Parry/Shoot People

If you ever get the honor of speaking to James “Disco Donnie” Estopinal in person, you will experience how undoubtedly passionate he is for creating epic and memorable live events. Clearly, his passion has translated throughout his success as he has pioneered in this space for the last 26 years.

Since his company’s inception in 1994, Disco Donnie Presents has sold over 17 million tickets producing over 17,000 live events, arena shows, and outdoor festivals in over 100 markets around the world including the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Panama.

In 2020, Disco Donnie announced he re-acquired sole ownership of DDP. This historic acquisition concluded an epic eight-year journey through being the first company acquired by SFX, surviving SFX’s subsequent bankruptcy, becoming a part of LiveStyle, and finally buying his company back.

Since the return of live shows, DDP has implemented novel COVID-19 protocols for their festivals including COVID-sniffing dogs and event specific smartphone health screening mobile applications. Creating safe and immensely fun environments has no doubt been a challenge, but DDP has gone above and beyond in accomplishing just that.

Whether it is through initiatives encouraging people to register to vote, expanding into new markets like Seattle, and, most recently, pledging to honor first responders, veterans, and gold-star families with $1,000,000 ticket donation throughout 2022, Donnie’s passion for creating iconic events while also focusing on leaving a lasting legacy and positive impact in the world is obvious and incredibly inspiring.

I had the great opportunity to speak with Donnie to get a behind-the-scenes look at his unstoppable drive in creating these meaningful experiences. Enjoy this exclusive interview with Disco Donnie!

I want to re-wind real quick to the start of this pandemic and you make the announcement that not only are you are buying back your company, but you’re going fully independent. That’s a decision that takes a lot of courage. Can you walk us through what your process was like reaching this decision and then going through with it?

Luckily the conversation was already in process, which is why it was able to happen so fast. I saw that agencies were firing agents almost over the weekend as soon as things started shutting down. I could see the writing on the wall for people that had worked for me for 15-20 years. I had tweeted at one point that everyone would get a refund to a specific event and was reprimanded for that. I had no choice: either I would take back control of the company and be able to make those decisions, or I would let someone else make them for me.

Me buying back my company was a real head scratcher for everyone, but it was something I had to do.

It was really fascinating to see your passion behind your voting initiative last year. Can you tell us a little more about your R.A.V.E. (Register And Vote Everywhere) initiative? 

We’ve been engaged in the last two elections cycles (2016 & 2020) in trying to get people to register to vote. We know we have a platform and a voice. I’m under the mindset of not trying to influence anyone how to vote because I have a 20 year old and if I tell him what to do, he’s going to do the exact opposite!

I’m trying to push people to get involved, to register, and to be engaged in that way. I try to keep it really non-political. I think voting is important and we’re going to be continuing this initiative for every election cycle as long as I’m around.

What prompted Disco Donnie’s expansion into Seattle? How has response been thus far?

I had actually done shows with USC Events in the early 2000’s. At the time, I was doing nation-wide tours, bringing artists like Paul Oakenfold and Tiesto. I also helped produce the original Beyond Wonderland at WAMU, the one that nobody talks about (laughs). We were doing Freak Night, Lucky and all the USC events that were going on. Eventually our partner at USC wanted to change the terms of our partnership, so I ended up pulling out of Seattle.

The Higher Ground show coming back was great. The venue was great, the artists loved it. It’s unfortunate because I never wanted to leave Seattle so when I had the opportunity to go back, I made sure we could do something big on the way back in!

News just came out last week about your amazing initiative to donate $1 million towards first responders, veterans, and gold-star families. Can you share more about this?

We have a large community of veterans and first responders that attend our events. Usually, promoters will unload tickets to them to fill seats for shows that aren’t doing well, which is still admirable and a great cause. I was like, well, why don’t we give them tickets to shows that are selling well, too? That’s where the idea came from. I wanted to honor everything they have endured and done for us over the past couple of years.

My little cousin (PFC Jason Hill Estopinal) actually died in Afghanistan in 2010 and I had been wanting to do something big like this for a while. After seeing everything happening over in Afghanistan this year, it brought it back to my attention that now was the time for this initiative to both honor him, and honor our first responders, veterans, and gold-star families.

I think it’s important and I’m asking all other promoters to do something similar. These are people that keep us safe and we need to recognize that.

How do you see your company progressing in 2022 as opposed to 2021? Are there things that you’ve learned/or new ideas to implement for next year?

2021 was a strange year. There were a lot of great unknowns. We were working the whole time but we were only to really start working in April. There are still a lot of unknowns for 2022, but we want to keep growing and doing new stuff that’s interesting to us. We want to continue to build out new brands, new partnerships and see where that takes us. 

You’ve stepped into another new space, offering your first all-inclusive destination music festival, Ember Shores, with Illenium this December and then Paradise Blue with Excision next April. Is this something you plan to do more of in 2022?

Yeah, its definitely interesting to me and I’m learning as much as I can. I had one set up with Pretty Lights about 4-5 years ago but it was canceled due to a hurricane. I don’t see myself doing a lot of them, it is definitely a lot of work. But, who wouldn’t want to do a show on the beach in Mexico?

When I grew up, I didn’t know what I wanted to be but I knew I wanted to be on the beach! (laughs) I got my dream right there. If I can figure out the formula and do 4-5 of these a year, that would be great.

You’re undoubtedly a legend, a leader and pioneer in the live events industry. What do you hope your company inspires among fellow promoters and even artists in the space during these times?

Well I think legend is a little much…legend means old! (laughs) I’ve worked with a lot of different people and talked with a lot of promoters, artists, managers, agents throughout the years. I’ve always tried to keep a positive attitude, encouraging them that if they keep fighting, work really hard, get a little lucky, and not give up, they can succeed too. Hopefully, I’m showing people that someone like me can be successful in this industry.

When I started I didn’t know anything and people weren’t teaching me, so I had to learn it all myself. It’s a long lesson and I’m still learning everyday. I just hope people take away from this is that it’s a good story, there’s been so many ups and downs, but here we are today, still doing shows, and making people happy. I’m happy doing what I’m doing and I’m going to keep doing it until people tell me to stop.

Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Parry/Shoot People

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Beyond Wonderland at The Gorge Lineup: Alison Wonderland, The Chainsmokers, Rezz, Tiësto & More

The debut lineup for Beyond Wonderland at The Gorge has been revealed, bringing the festival’s magic and fantasy to the Pacific Northwest for the very first time.

The two-day event features Alison Wonderland, The ChainsmokersRezz, Tiësto, Steve Aoki, Benny Benassi, JOYRYDEMalaa, G Jones, Whipped Cream, Moore Kismet, Kayzo, Lucii and so many more. With over 65 acts across the electronic/dance music spectrum, there’s plenty to get excited about.

Beyond Wonderland goes down at The Gorge over October 1 – 2, 2021, with three nights of camping and two days of live music / art exploration in Washington. Tickets go on sale this Thursday at 11 AM PT here.

Meanwhile, the Beyond Wonderland SoCal lineup is just as stacked, if not more. There’s some crossover, with Alison Wonderland, Tiësto, Dr. FreschKendoll, etc. — but overall, it’s one of the most versatile lineups we’ve seen this year.

The flagship event features DiploSubtronics, Flosstradamus, Infected Mushroom, Lady Faith, DJ Diesel, Paul Oakenfold, Nicole Moudaber, and so many more. Plus, takeovers from Space Yacht, Diplo’s Higher Ground, Insomniac Records and Factory 93, among others.

It all goes down over August 27 & 28 at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino. Tickets for Beyond Wonderland SoCal are available here.

Check out both lineups below experience Beyond Wonderland in 2021.

Beyond Wonderland at The Gorge 2021 Lineup

Beyond Wonderland SoCal 2021 Lineup

 

Original Photo via Insomniac

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Pasquale Rotella Shares Update on Insomniac Events, Drops Beyond Wonderland Lineup

After hosting an Electric Daisy Carnival AMA on Reddit, Pasquale Rotella has taken to social media to share a massive update on various other Insomniac events.

He thanks those who have shown support through the EDC date change — “You give me the strength to keep moving forward.” As of now the event is set to take place over October 22 – 24, 2021 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Next up, HARD Summer is scheduled to move forward in SoCal over July 31 – August 1, 2021. Beyond Wonderland is set for August 27 – 28, 2021 at the Nos Events Center, also in SoCal.

Most notably, the lineup “leak” for Beyond Wonderland has been revealed, featuring Diplo, Alison Wonderland, Subtronics, Tiësto, Flosstradamus, Mija, Dillon Francis, Dr. Fresch, Kayzo and so many more. Swipe below for the full lineup reveal.

Rotella shares, “A bunch more lineups TBA in the coming weeks, including Escape, Day Trip, Beyond Wonderland Gorge, EDC Las Vegas & Audio Bay Area. Countdown is planned for NYE & Okeechobee is set to return in 2022.”

Rotella also recognizes the challenges that may still exist. He says Insomniac has back up dates for all events just in case, which will be communicated in advance. Ticket refunds or transfers will be issued in case of a date change, and he makes special note to encourage all hopeful attendees to “take the uncertainty of these times into consideration when planning travel arrangements for upcoming shows.”

He also thanks the 250,000 people who ventured through Electric Mile and the 85,000 who pulled up to more than 70 Park ‘N Rave drive-in shows. Plus, the millions of viewers who tuned into Rave-A-Thons and Insomniac TV.

Rotella says, “Our goal this past year has been to continue to bring happiness during uncertain times.”

Read the full statement from Pasquale Rotella below.

 

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A post shared by Pasquale Rotella (@pasqualerotella)

 

Photo via Insomniac

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Insomniac Teases New Florida Festival as Ultra Miami Cancels for 2021

Insomniac reveals what appears to be a new music festival coming soon to Florida.

Promo for the unnamed event details a UFO sighting and looming alien abduction, keeping the tone playful and mysterious as Insomniac readies for its latest festival installment. Still, no info on prospective dates or location — though rumors of an East Coast Beyond Wonderland are swirling, even though the alien theme is closer to their Countdown festival.

“Prepare to be abducted,” an email blast reads, followed by “Lineup incoming!!” The anticipation continues with with a just-posted “breaking news” alert:

ALIEN LIFE FORMS APPEAR TO BE TARGETING THE SUNSHINE STATE?! LOCAL AUTHORITIES ADVISE TO COVER HOMES IN REFLECTIVE TIN FOIL & BRACE FOR A SHOCKINGLY STACKED LINEUP!

This news comes as Ultra Music Festival in Miami recently and officially canceled for 2021. Whatever Insomniac has planned could be in direct competition with the flagship event, depending on time and location. The company also has ownership stake in Club Space and its promo group Link Miami Rebels.

Watch below and check out the online flyer here.

Unidentified Insomniac Festival Targets Florida 

 

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Photo by Doug Van Sant for Insomniac Events

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JOYRYDE Delivers Live Set Atop Moving Car for Insomniac’s Electric Mile [WATCH]

JOYRYDE recently threw down at Insomniac‘s drive-thru Electric Mile — and the live set is available now!

In true JOYRYDE fashion, the DJ/producer goes full throttle atop a hot set of wheels. The hour and a half set is filled with JOYRYDE favorites “The Box,” “I Ware House,” “Agen Wida” with Skrillex, “Speed Trap,” “Hot Drum” and more. Plus, music from Knife PartyHabstrakt, i_o, Tchami & Malaa, Virtual Self and more.

JOYRYDE shares via tweet: “I had the honor of being invited to perform at @insomniacevents ELECTRIC MILE. If you don’t already know, Electric mile is a drive through rave with mind blowing set designs & performers of insomniac.”

Electric Mile delivers music fans (aka headliners) and their families with a musical, light-synchronized journey as they navigate through seven magical worlds. The drive-thru highlights staple Insomniac events — EDC, Beyond Wonderland, Nocturnal Wonderland, Escape and Countdown.

Check out the live set below and book your trip down Electric Mile here.

JOYRYDE at Electric Mile

 

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Insomniac’s Beyond Wonderland Virtual Rave-A-Thon Goes Down This Weekend

Insomniac‘s Virtual Rave-A-Thon series continues with Beyond Wonderland at The Gorge.

Following up wildly successful series of livestreams for EDC Las Vegas, Countdown, Escape Halloween, Nocturnal Wonderland and Middlelands, fans are excited to experience Beyond Wonderland in its online form. Over two days, this Saturday and Sunday, TESTPILOT, YehMe2, Good Times Ahead, Lucii, Habstrakt, SAYMYNAME and many more will take the stage.

Insomniac will be transporting fans down the virtual rabbit hole through a combination of Alice in Wonderland-themed decor and stunning visuals of the scenic venue located in George, Washington. The event is hosted by Insomniac Founder Pasquale Rotella, who always keeps the party going.

All proceeds from the livestream will benefit the Equal Justice Initiative and Rave Recovery.

To encourage fans to “Stay Home, Stay Safe and Stay Positive,” Rotella continues to broadcast Insomniac REWIND, a 24/7 livestream where fans can relive performances and watch archive festival footage from EDC Las Vegas, EDC Orlando, EDC Mexico, HARD Summer, and the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival. Watch here.

Check back this weekend for Beyond Wonderland’s livestream details.

Beyond Wonderland Virtual Rave-A-Thon

 

 

Photo via Jake West for Insomniac Events

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Watch All The Sets From This Weekend’s “Escape Halloween” Virtual Rave-A-Thon

This past weekend, for the fifth week in a row, Insomniac hosted their Virtual Rave-A-Thon series, this time showcasing the dastardly horror of their annual Halloween festival, Escape.

Once again, the decorations and vibe made us feel like we were (nearly) there at the festival ourselves. Yultron, No Mana, Slushii, Dillon Nathaniel, Duke Dumont, and more took control of the decks over eight hours and two nights, donning their best costumes — or at least what they could manage in the off-season.

For those keeping track, Insomniac has now featured Beyond Wonderland, Countdown, HARD, Nocturnal Wonderland, and Escape brands. Still left are Audiotistic, Dreamstate, and EDC. Though they’re not festival brands, they could even feature Basscon and Bassrush, as well.

Stay tuned for the announcement for whatever this coming weekend will bring. In the meantime, check out all the sets from this past weekend below!

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SVDDEN DEATH Shows Off Six Mindblowing IDs From Insomniac Live Streams

Insomniac has invited SVDDEN DEATH to their Los Angeles headquarters twice in the past month for both the Beyond Wonderland live stream and the HARD live stream. On both occasions, he dropped some serious filth and six wild new IDs that have us wanting so much more.

Rather than have us dig for them, he compiled them all in a single video and asks: which one is your favorite? Honestly, that #5 drum & bass has us absolutely thriving, but we want to know what yours is, too! #6 is also pretty fire.

Check out all the drops below!

HI HEY WHATS UPWHAT ID IS YOUR FAVDROP THE #

Posted by Svdden Death on Friday, April 10, 2020