Off the Strip Poll Suggests Waning Satisfaction with Downtown’s Main Event
By Jason R. Latham | Las Vegas, NV
It’s widely accepted that you don’t fix something that’s not broken, and judging by the tens of thousands of people that swarmed Life Is Beautiful’s stages during its eighth year, one could assume there’s nothing defective about downtown’s biggest annual music festival.
But a poll of Off the Strip readers suggests otherwise, as those who deemed the 2021 event “not that impressive” outweighed the more positive responses 2-to-1. The poll is a small sample size, of course, but it suggests waning satisfaction with Life Is Beautiful despite the excitement it generates on an annual basis.
It’s impossible to diagnosis everyone’s displeasure, and by no means should the festival’s organizers attempt a top-to-bottom overhaul, but any good post-mortem would identify gaps that need to be addressed. We’ve already made some hot take suggestions here at Off the Strip, but after some additional contemplation, here are some thoughts on what could be done to win back some of the less-enthused fans.
It’s Not the Money, It’s the Lineup
More, more, more seems to be the mantra for Life Is Beautiful. More headliners in more locations so the crowd is never bored. The lineup, however, is often comprised of 75 percent unknowns, 20 percent knowns, and 5 percent A-listers. It needs to be revamped, to be at least 50 percent knowns, and that also means upping the A-list quotient. Yes, it’s a matter of availability of the artists and what they charge for an appearance. That’s a big factor, but also take into consideration what you’re charging festival-goers. Paying top dollar (and LIB is top dollar no matter what’s on your wristband) for a lineup of artists you’ve never heard of does not make for a happy patron. If the size of the lineup needs to be trimmed in order to secure a larger group of A-list performers, so be it. It will make the ticket prices worth it.
Keep in mind, the last five Life Is Beautiful festivals have also run up against competition from the iHeartRadio Music Festival on the Strip. Having both in town the same weekend does allow for artists to play more than one event – as Billie Eilish did this year – but it forces many fans to choose between one or the other. When faced with that choice, are you going to spend top dollar for the show with more A-list headliners that you’ve heard of, or the one with more unknowns?
Suggestion: Put the A-listers on a single stage – Downtown Stage, preferably — and charge a premium price to get into that section of the festival. Yes, that’s exclusivity, not inclusivity, but LIB is a money-making venture, and that’s a money- making idea. If it helps, stream the Downtown Stage shows throughout the rest of the festival so those with lower-tier tickets can see it too.
At the same time, it would be wise to consider the original audience at Life Is Beautiful will be nearly a decade older in 2022, and although people change, musical tastes rarely do. So increasing the number of “known” artists and maybe throwing in a few nostalgia acts would make it more appealing to Life Is Beautiful lifers. Fans loved seeing Modest Mouse this year, and it wasn’t because they got to hear the new album.
BTW, don’t be offended by the 75 percent unknown comment made earlier. Your favorite artist is obviously known, if that makes you feel better.
Shrink the Map
Life Is Beautiful consumes 18 blocks of Downtown Las Vegas, but why? At the end of the day, you’re going to be exhausted, your feet are going to hurt, and you’re going to hate making that last trek from Bacardi Stage to Downtown Stage just so you can stand around some more.
Suggestion: It’s time to bring it in a little bit. Move some of the stages (or eliminate one with your well-manicured lineup) and cut things off at 9th Street.
That leaves a lot, including Bunkhouse, Fergusons, and Atomic, outside the festival grounds, but a smaller map makes it easier to navigate and discover things you might have missed because you didn’t have the energy to hike to the ends of the universe. At the very least, the signage needs to improve, so people know where they’re going and why.
If you’re not going to shrink the map, see above and consider moving the A-List talent to a single location. That will make it easier for fans that don’t want to walk back and forth between sets.
It’s the Heat, My God the Heat
September is still summer in Las Vegas, and summer means triple-digit temperatures. That is a nightmare during the day at Life Is Beautiful, and you can add all the water stations you want, but people are still gonna complain about the heat.
Suggestion: Say goodbye to September, or at the very least add some picnic tables at Life Is Beautiful. Seating should not just be a VIP thing. The “Chill Garage” is a good idea, but why not make it easier for people to cool off in a location where they can actually see the stage.
Moving the event to early October (or later) not only makes it more tolerable, but it opens up a world of fashion possibilities. Life Is Beautiful is as much a social event as it is a music and arts celebration, and by September a lot of people are itching to ditch flip flops and tees.
Those are just some starting suggestions. What say you? Were you among those left unimpressed by Life Is Beautiful? Tell us why on the Off the Strip Facebook page. Even if you have nothing to complain about, do you have any suggestions for improving the experience? Let’s hear ’em.
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