November’s first-year Emerge Music + Impact Conference will showcase 100 music acts and cap attendance at 10,000. And though founder Rehan Choudhry hopes to grow the crowd as large as 100,000 for future editions, he vows the musical lineup will never cross the century mark.
“South by Southwest, CMJ [Music Marathon] and other similar conferences have lineups of 2,000 or 3,000 artists, but if you said you were showcasing the top pizzas in the world and you had 3,000 different types of pizza, you’re not just showcasing the best,” says Choudhry, former entertainment director at the Cosmopolitan and founder of the Life Is Beautiful festival. “We believe that by booking 100 artists, we can say: These are the very best emerging artists you should be paying attention to, because they’re going to really matter in the next 18 to 24 months.”
From November 16-18, Emerge will place those 100 acts, along with 30 speakers, across stages on and near the Las Vegas Strip—spots like Brooklyn Bowl, the Joint and Vinyl at the Hard Rock Hotel and Caesars Palace’s Absinthe Tent and Cleopatra’s Barge—for what Choudhry calls a “well-rounded experience” for musicians and attendees within and outside the music industry.
“My frustration with existing conferences is that you have to choose,” he says. “Do I listen to a speech today or a bunch of bands? All of our showcases will include live music and learning. You go in and get everything you need in one place.”
Tickets for Emerge go on sale Thursday, June 22 at 10 a.m. through emergelv.com. Three-day general admission passes will cost $195 for 60 days before increasing to $225 and eventually $250; VIP passes, which provide the same access as GA but also come with unlimited beverages, will sell for $425; and Industry VIP passes, which grant holders use of working lounges on site, will be priced at $485.
There’s an added incentive to buy early: For the first 48 hours, GA passes will be two-for-one, dropping the price per ticket under $100 before fees.
On Tuesday, Emerge revealed the first of three batches of participating acts, including Bay Area vocalist K.Flay, Philly punks Beach Slang, LA garage outfit L.A. Witch, North Carolina electronic musician Machinedrum, Pennsylvania folk-rocker Mondo Cozmo (aka Josh Ostrander), Chicago rapper Sir the Baptist, noisy Austin rockers Residual Kid and two Las Vegas bands: punk trio Mercy Music and hip-hop/jazz combo The Lique.
They were chosen by a curation panel that includes well-known artists Imagine Dragons, Kaskade and ex-My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way; Matt Pinfield, longtime host of MTV's 120 Minutes; industry heavyweights like Tom Windish of Paradigm Talent Agency and former Warner Bros. Records CEO Rob Cavallo; and such Vegas kingpins as Brooklyn Bowl owner Peter Shapiro and Live Nation Las Vegas President Kurt Melien. With assistance from partnering Spotify—which is providing data about bands’ real-time popularity—that group has been busy selecting acts poised to reach the next level, Emerge talent buyer Mike Henry says.
“From grimy little punk bands to hip-hop MCs, they all want the same thing: access. They want access to industry, access to a show that matters, access to an audience that matters,” Henry says. “They play because this is what they feel they were put on this planet to do, and they want to be able to do it without having two other jobs.”
Confirmed speakers include musician women’s rights activist Madame Ghandi; Nusrat Durrani, founder of MTV World; visual artist Miru Kim; and interface designer Aza Raskin. “We want Emerge to be anchored in socially relevant themes,” Choudhry says. “All the programming we’re presenting is very anchored in the world of today and the world we are trying to shape for tomorrow.”
(Disclosure: Greenspun Media Group, this paper’s parent company, is an Emerge sponsor.)
Lauren Ruth Ward
Sir the Baptist
The Federal Empire