A PRESS CONFERENCE on the dangers of "club drugs" put the spotlight on a downtown rave over the weekend, but one of the things that seemed most remarkable was the venue for the all-night dance party—the massive Stadium Exhibition Center. Gone are the days when raves were underground affairs, held in warehouses and garages. In the past couple of years, raves have become big business.
The cost for tickets to last weekend's event, available through no less corporate a source than Ticketmaster, ranged from $30 to $100, with most tickets going for $40. Given the roughly 10,000 people who showed up, that's a gross of at least $400,000. No wonder the production company that put in on, the United State of Consciousness (USC), could afford the Exhibition Center, as well as a slew of high-priced DJs and costly gimmicks: The USC hauled in dirt to construct a BMX bike-riding course and brought in professional riders from around the world. These days, electronic music "festivals," as their promoters like to refer to them, offer all sorts of things to pack the kids in. In case they have any spare cash left over, attendees can also choose from a range of goods being hawked, including BMX wear.
The homegrown 5-year-old USC intends to unveil its own clothing line later this year. Not only that, it plans to debut Conscious Records. The biggest production company of its kind locally, USC has ridden the wave that brought techno music into the mainstream, according to its staff publicist Bart Leland. "You have to remember that Chad's 26," Leland says, referring to USC founder Chad Anderson. "He started out like anybody else handing out fliers for friends," Leland says. As the parties grew and grew, Leland says, Anderson "became the real deal."
Raves in L.A. draw as many as 40,000 participants. Berlin's annual Love Parade, dwarfing Woodstock, attracts over a million people and pumps $114 million into the city's economy.
Corporate America is also singing along. Ford Focus crowed about being the exclusive sponsor of this year's Detroit Electronic Music Festival, and made strained comparisons between the music and its new model in a marketing campaign aimed at under-35s.
Techno's audience is, for the most part, way under 35. Kids as young as 13 show up for raves, where ecstasy and other drugs can indeed be found. Harborview Medical Center treated seven attendees from the weekend rave, five for problems relating to drug or alcohol use.
What about Seattle's Teen Dance Ordinance, you ask, effectively prohibiting all-age events?
That's where the Exhibition Center comes in handy. Seattle's ordinance has never been enforced against publicly owned venues.