At the onset of 2020, Devin Lezama was feeling optimistic that it was going to be a good year.
As the founder of EDM Maniac—a multimedia company that specializes in organizing, promoting and writing about EDM events around the country—he had spent years building up the infrastructure to pull off mind-melting live events, ones that would bring folks together to enjoy the cathartic pleasure of dancing freely alongside hundreds of like-minded music fans. It was going to be exciting and beautiful… but then, the pandemic hit.
As a result, Lezama and his team at EDM Maniac had to quickly adapt and innovate. As any working musician is well aware, the sheer impact of something like a pandemic—which requires a significant limitation of in-human interaction—was a frightening and unexpected predicament. Making it even worse for Lezama was the fact that just two weeks before the pandemic hit, he had taken one of the biggest leaps of faith any creative could possibly take: he quit his day job.
“The pandemic was insane,” he told American Songwriter. “I was doing EDM Maniac full time, but I still had a job just to pay the bills and student loans and all that good stuff. Right before the pandemic hit, an opportunity came up where another company wanted to partner with us. It was a partnership that, basically, would’ve allowed me to leave my job and focus on EDM Maniac full time.”
Ecstatic at the opportunity to finally turn his passion into a bread-winning profession, Lezama got his affairs in order and handed in his two weeks notice… then, just days later, everything started to shut down.
“I got a call saying ‘Hey, actually… we can’t do this right now. We can’t make any business agreements because we don’t know what the state of our business will be after COVID,’” he recounted. “That’s when it hit me that it was real. Businesses were changing their plans and budgets… and I was out of my job. So, it became very real. But, I basically said ‘Look, this is an opportunity to focus on EDM Maniac and get creative.’”
And that’s exactly what he did—within weeks, EDM Maniac was hitting the drawing board and coming up with innovative ideas left and right. “We started doing drive-in events—we were the third drive-in event in North America,” Lezama said. “We were also doing virtual livestreams, merch and a little bit of everything. In October, we started doing a social-distanced show in Texas every weekend.”
And now, with more and more folks getting vaccinated, even more opportunities are popping up. “This past weekend, we did a festival in San Antonio and a pod-style event in Fresno, California,” Lezama continued. “’Pod-style’ just means that you have a certain amount of people who stay together as a ‘pod’ for the entire show. You don’t, unfortunately, intermingle with other people, you have to stay with the ‘pod’ you came with. This helps with cutting down on COVID contractions and, thus, contract-tracing. The shows are open-air and you basically stay inside this ‘dance pod’ where you can dance with the people you came with.”
See, for as anxiety-inducing as the pandemic was at first, Lezama was lucky enough to not only find a way to survive, but bring EDM Maniac to thrive. “It allowed me to be more creative, honestly,” he explained. “It pushed me to find ways to make it work and keep the dream alive. The pandemic spurred a lot of innovation—I think it’s important for aspiring artists and musicians to think of that in their personal craft. Always be creating, always look at what you can do to stand out. As a creative professional, think of ways you can interact with your audience differently. People really recognize stand-out experiences. So, we’re busy and I’m hopeful that the world is moving towards a better place. I think we’ll get there soon.”
It’s true—with live music slowly coming back in summer 2021, the world does seem as if it’s moving towards that “better place.” Already with the few bigger events EDM Maniac has done this year, they’re seeing just how powerful the live music experience is. For people who are returning for the first time in a long time, it’s a beautiful moment. But even for those who might be a little hesitant about venturing out just quite yet, Lezama explains that a lot of the health precautions are here to stay.
“People want to get back outside,” he said. “People want to hear live music again. At this most recent festival we did in Texas, we partnered with CLEAR—it’s like a health pass where people can answer a little questionnaire and upload their negative test into the app. Once it’s confirmed, they can roam freely throughout the festival. It adds an extra layer of safety, which is going to be a feature of festivals for quite a while. I know a lot of stadiums are using it too. We’re just excited to bring people back outside and they’ve been really receptive of the safety measures we’re taking.”
Lezama speculates that innovations like CLEAR are part of the new status quo for live entertainment, but the possibilities don’t stop at functioning as a “health pass.” What we’ll see will likely be something along the lines of a more integrated experience between the event and your mobile phone. Going hand-in-hand with this are new technologies and methods of utilizing virtual reality.
“People have had time to create new immersive experiences,” Lezama said with a smile. “Hopefully, everyone used this downtime to look within themselves and find more things they’re passionate about. I hope that people recognize the value of live experiences and will not take it so much for granted as we did before the pandemic. Human connection is important, and live events offer us that vital connection, as humans.”
To that end, Lezama is feeling hopeful about everything on the horizon, both for EDM Maniac and for the live event industry as a whole. “You’re definitely going to see more live events from EDM Maniac,” he said. “I think you’ll see us looking at more mobile development. You’ll see some merch. We also do livestreams every Thursday night with Insomniac TV, which are always fun. It’s been the best ride of my life to be able to share my passion for dance music with the world and I’m excited for all that’s ahead.”
Devin Lezama is the founder of EDM Maniac—learn more about what they do and check out upcoming events HERE.