Reaching an audience: EDM promoter’s latest concert experiments with over-21 crowd

When local music promoter Paul Magee headed to downtown McAllen Friday for his event featuring DJ Cedric Gervais, he already knew the show was a financial success.

This isn’t always the case. It’s more likely promoters are anxiously awaiting returns for last-minute ticket sales to learn if their gamble paid off.

Magee’s GlobalGroove Events has brought some of the most popular DJs in the world. This year, they opted out of hosting a number of their annual branded electronic dance music concerts to observe the market, Magee said. Over the last few years, he noticed a reduction in EDM concert turnout.

Friday’s set at Cosmo, an “up-scale, bouquet Vegas-vibe type venue,” represents Magee’s experiment to appeal to an older demographic. He speculates this market may have skipped previous EDM events due to their bass-heavy genres and younger crowds.

Magee said this was the first time a top EDM artist was booked locally for an over 21 show.

“I need 400 people to break even,” he said of the 500-person venue. This is a departure from a lot of his events which require thousands of tickets sold to get into the black.

Some artists are becoming more receptive to playing smaller venues for a smaller price to give an up-close-and-personal gig, Magee said.

“We don’t need to be a mathematician to say we’re going to be charging this much a ticket, this is how much I can offer and make a little bit of money,” he said.

Magee’s biggest event of the year is South Padre Island’s multiple-day music festival, Ultimate Music Experience, during Spring Break. However, only 15 percent of UME’s audience is local, he said.

Spring Break transforms the Island, attracting visitors from around the world and providing the opportunity to attract the biggest names that perform in the Valley.

But even UME is cutting down on programming. This is partly in response to separate national trends which see less concert goers showing up to festivals, Magee said.

Event promoter Jerry Leal spoke on the “inconsistency” of the local EDM market.

“We’re taking losses and artists are coming in for cheap to provide affordable entertainment,” Leal said.

Because of the lack of shows tailored for an over-21 audience, Leal said there isn’t an established market that Magee is attempting to tap.

Leal has a different strategy than Magee. He’s focused on bringing sports figures for events and camps. He’s betting families are more likely to spend the cash on experiences for their kids.

“People are making more responsible decisions based on their lifestyle,” Leal said. “They are prioritizing entertainment. Not like before.”

Nine years ago, Magee put up his house in order to pay for Tiesto. Today, that risk would be unheard of because of the scene’s volatility.

Magee said there will always be a space for electronic dance music in the community, but trends are cyclical. He’s noticed a resurgence of hip-hop and reggaeton.

Magee hopes to use the success of his recent show to launch a series of over-21 shows to help build the market.

Leal said the Valley’s concert market is too small to really compete in, and described the interaction between promoters as cooperative.

The EDM scene is going through “a wave” and is “in a different phase,” Leal said. “It’s only a matter of time until the market hopefully comes back up.”

“It’s difficult mathematically to justify big investments in this market when it’s just not in the numbers.”