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Inside HARD SUMMER 2013 Part I - HARD & Gary Richards Remaining True To The Music
HARD founder Gary Richards once again proved himself a pillar of the music-first mindset by throwing an exemplary festival last weekend

This past weekend we attended HARD SUMMER, where an estimated 70,000 attendees took over the Los Angeles State Historic Park in downtown Los Angeles for one of the best music festivals of the year. The two-day sold out event featured a variety of artists in the electronic and hip-hop worlds: Justice, Bassnectar, 2 Chainz, Empire Of The Sun and Knife Party were just a few acts that filled this stacked lineup.

HARD Events began in 2007 under the direction of Gary Richards, known widely by his stage name, Destructo. Long before his start as a DJ, Richards became deeply imbedded in the music industry. Richards' father worked with radio and concert promotions in Washington, D.C., and gave him his first insight to the scene at a young age.

By the early 1990's, Richards organized his first two major music events. In 1991, his team put on "Magical Mickey's Holy Water Adventure" at Wild Rivers in Irvine, CA, and in 1993 "Rave America" at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA. His love for dance music led to the creation of a weekly event titled, "The Sermon," which began at 6 am on Sundays. The early start stemmed from the culture surrounding the Los Angeles warehouse parties that ran till the early hours of the morning.  "The Sermon" not only filled the void for those who didn't want the party to end, but it also became the birth place of his stage name, Destructo, which describes the sound of his hard techno beats.

Richards continued his work within the music industry when he was hired by Rick Rubin as an A&R in the electronic-music division of Def American Recording. Richard's ability to find new music and expand within the industry led to the establishment of his own record labels - Nitrus Records and 1500 Records. After focusing on his career as Destructo, Richards returned to concert promotion with the first ever HARD Events festival in 2007.

Since it's beggining, there have been massive changes made - both in the music industry and within the company. Electronic dance music, better known as EDM, has exploded in the United States over the past few years. This eruption has carried the music from underground warehouses to massive festival main stages, turned DJs in modern day rockstars, made shows and festivals priority destinations, and created a constantly growing multi-million dollar industry. Given the extreme amount of growth over the past few years, major corporations like SFX Entertainment and Live Nation have made moves to cash in on a market that up had previously been ignored.
 
Live Nation became one of the first major corporations at the dance party when they purchased Cream Holdings Limited, a major player in the EDM circle in May 2012. With this acquisition, Live Nation also gained the rights to Creamfield Festivals, which have been held worldwide since 1998. Soon after, Live Nation struck a deal with HARD Entertainment in June of 2012. Live Nation's deal with HARD came only a month after Robert F.X. Sillerman announced his plan to spend $1 billon in acquisitions of local and regional dance-music promoters to rival Live Nation within the EDM market.

Sillerman, the media executive who started SFX Entertainment, was famous for changing the music industry by using this same idea of acquiring local and regional promoters under SFX Entertainment during the 1990’s. Surprisingly enough, he is now rivaling the company that he started, before he sold it to Clear Channel Communications for $4.4 billion where it later became Live Nation.

Sillerman first acquisition after SFX's revamping was Louisiana's Disco Donnie Productions, a company that was started by legendary rave promoter, Donnie Estonpinal. In a New York Times interview in June 2012, Sillerman explained his intentions to negotiate with the upwards of 50 different companies, 15 of which he had already struck unconfirmed deals with. Following Disco Donnie Productions, he acquired the tour Life In Color (previously known as Dayglow), as well as the Miami Marketing Group which owns eight nightclubs including LIV and Story.

While Live Nation and SFX have been duking it out for control over the rising market, many EDM advocates, including some DJs, are concerned with some of the decisions that are being made in the industry. Some believe these acquisitions may too heavily commercialize the once underground scene, and hinder the creativity of the music and its culture.

World-famous DJ and producer Deadmau5 explained his frustration in 2012 by posting the statement, "E.D.M has turned into a massively marketed cruise ship, and it's sinking fast. Not because of all the passengers, but perhaps there are too many cooks in the kitchen," on his Tumblr page. He finished by stating, " All I'm trying to do, is put on my life jacket and swim as far away from this ship wreck as I can."

Likewise, Richards describes how the term "rave" differs in Europe from America in a 2012 interview with Pure Volume by saying, "Rave has a different meaning in Europe -- a raver in Europe is not a 15-year-old girl flying out of her head wearing a G-string and furry boots. A raver over there is an average music who wants to go out and have a good night, listen to cool music, and dance or whatever." Richards continued, “I feel like the culture in America around dance music has always given it a bad name, between what people wear, how they look, and the drugs."

Closing the interview he says, "I just wanted to bring it back around and have it be more about the music and the artists, and not have it be about little kids getting wasted. I thinking that's always overshadowed the music in America and I think that's a big reason why it never went to the next level. So just when it's about to peak and break through, then it gets shot down by whoever because the kids act stupid that are going to these things. They're not responsible, so I am trying to change that."

After attending HARD SUMMER we are sure of one thing, Gary Richards and HARD haven't forgotten about the music. They have been leaders in helping to reverse the commercialized sinking of the EDM cruise ship. HARD is evidence that being acquired by a major corporation does not mean your company has to lose it's character. Richards’ and HARD's ability to provide a diverse lineup has served as the foundation for their success, proving that music will remain the heart and sound of their festival.

With the growing popularity and the money that surrounds this scene, we should be extremely thankful for people like Gary Richards who keep originality feeling alive. His dedication to creating his own path through pushing passed generic boundaries has not only resulted in successful and unique events, but also has also made him one of the most powerful people within the dance music world. Richards is a staple in making sure this movement breaks through to the next level and becomes so much more than just a fad of the decade.