Jesse Waits on Las Vegas’ Electronic Renaissance

In a city built on excess, Las Vegas’ XS nightclub raised the bar. I once described it as the Godzilla of nightclubs. That was meant as a positive description. Jesse Waits remains firmly in charge of this Wynn hotel mega-masterpiece. He has weathered the competition, the daily grind, and other distractions, which might have dampened the spirits of a lesser man.

XS has won a ton of nightclub awards, but in Vegas, the bottom line is the bottom line. XS is a moneymaker on a scale unforeseen before its entry into the fray. Jesse Waits took Vegas to another level, and is here to talk about improving the perfect storm of accolades, fun, and moneymaking he helped create. The pairing of Vegas-style service with huge international DJs brings a sort of undeniable credibility to Nevada’s wonderland. The residencies of world class DJs at the club add another layer of excitement to a city that seemed to have an excess of it already.

What brought the shift of marketing strategies to focus more on electronic artists? I’ve been a fan of electronic music for some time now, and it’s something I’ve been closely keeping my eye on, from both a personal interest and business perspective. The shift of focus for our marketing efforts came solely based on demand. We experimented with bookings for a while, and once we saw the return, we knew this was where our attention needed to lie, on bringing in the biggest and best talent in the world to XS. What can club-goers expect when they see one of these performers? Electrifying energy. It’s all about the exhilarating atmosphere when we have an electronic headliner performing. I walk on stage and look out on the dance floor, and everyone is absolutely entranced, dancing in synchronization to the beats, exuding pure bliss as they let these DJs take them on a journey throughout the evening. Who is the game changer right now? I think Tiesto and Deadmau5 are the two superstars right now. I love what Afrojack is bringing to the scene, and I see a lot of potential in R3HAB, who is a major talent on the rise. What kind of crowds are you seeing (numbers-wise) when booking these artists? On a busy weekend, XS will pull in about 7,000 people a night. We have focused on bringing in a lot of these artists to our Sunday Night Swim and Monday industry night parties. On what would normally be an off-night, we’re pulling in close to the same numbers as a Friday or Saturday during our busy season. For holiday weekends like Memorial Day, we packed our lineup with A-Trak on Friday, Afrojack on Saturday, Deadmau5 on Sunday, and Feed Me on Monday. The reaction from fans was like nothing we’ve ever seen before and blew every other holiday weekend completely out of the water. Do you think this genre is facing the same push into the mainstream as rock ‘n roll in the ’70s or hip-hop in the ’80s? DJs are the new rock stars. They’re going through the exact push we saw with hip-hop in the ’80s. They are taking it mainstream, collaborating with everyone from Black Eyed Peas to Rihanna. We had Afrojack perform the night after he won a Grammy for his remix of Madonna’s “Revolver” with David Guetta, and it felt like a historic moment to celebrate in the club. What kind of reaction do you see when announcing a new performer? When we have major announcements on new performers, we like to push it through social media first, so our fans and followers feel that they have an insider’s advantage. We announced that Deadmau5 was going to be performing at our two year anniversary in February, and he was trending on Twitter in Las Vegas within an hour and a half. When we broke the news he’d be back for Memorial Day Weekend, it was 45 minutes. Nevada leads the country in Twitter usage, so obviously to have something like that trending, it’s a major topic of discussion. Where do you see this going in the future? The genre is only going to get bigger. We saw the popularity first explode through dance music, but now that there is interest, the fans are really ready to explore further. When Deadmau5 performed over Memorial Day, the crowd went crazy when he transitioned into a dubstep set. The enthusiasts only want to hear more, know more, and experience more at this point. They’re hooked. What does an event like Electric Daisy moving into the city do for the credibility of the scene? When North America’s largest electronic music festival decides Las Vegas is where it needs to be, it gives major credibility to what the nightlife scene has been building over the past year. The Insomniac team saw that the interest was here, and the city was ready, and having a festival in Las Vegas made a lot of sense logistically. But more than anything, it just goes to show that what we’ve been building and working on with these artists was absolutely the right strategy and investment for our venues. Are old spaces being retrofitted for sound proofing and new ones engineered with sound isolation? Wynn and Encore are more recent developments that took into account sound when developing the nightlife venues inside the hotels. How does a casino determine revenues from a club? Are projected incomes from nearby restaurants, rooms, and other services figured into value evaluations of a clubs bottom line? XS and Tryst naturally have a higher-end clientele because they are located inside Five Star, Five Diamond resorts at Wynn and Encore. The revenue from the nightclub is completely separate, and our venues have really excelled in offering immaculate service and innovative marketing to attract these customers. Since opening, XS has been voted the #1 nightclub in the country on Nightclub & Bar’s Top 100 contest consecutively, both years of operation based on revenue. Tryst came in this year in the #9 spot as well.