7 Changes Coming to This Year's Life Is Beautiful Festival

Under new leadership, the Las Vegas event continues to grow attendance and update its programming and footprint.

By Alesandra Dubin September 21, 2016, 7:15 AM EDT

More than 131,000 people attended last year's festival; this year's event should surpass that figure.

Photo: Definate Films

Since the Life Is Beautiful festival debuted in Las Vegas in 2013, the festival has met—and exceeded—its lofty goals. The event for music, food, speakers, and art has demonstrated measurable attendance growth, for one. It has also continued to play a significant role in the revitalization of downtown Las Vegas as a center of business and creativity, a central purpose in the event’s beginnings when it started as the centerpiece of the Downtown Project, led by Zappos C.E.O. Tony Hsieh and founded by Rehan Choudhry.

This year, Choudhry is out at the helm, but Life Is Beautiful, slated for September 23 to 25, continues to grow and evolve. Life Is Beautiful C.E.O. Justin Weniger talked to BizBash about seven new and developing things to look out for this year. 

1. A reformatted lineup poster and rare appearances
“The goal of music programming has always been to feature the biggest and best musicians of today and the future stars of tomorrow. Our goal with Life Is Beautiful is to appeal to all genres and encourage a sense of discovery, and we feel as though people leave Life Is Beautiful every year with a new favorite band. All of that remains intact this year, and we really focused on balancing the lineup from top to bottom. We reformatted the Life Is Beautiful lineup poster this year, and what we found was that to different people, we had different headliners. The reaction to this year’s lineup was by far our best yet.

As Las Vegas locals, we also take great pride in bringing incredible music to our city that our community might not otherwise get to see. This is the first play for Mumford & Sons since their debut album came out five years ago. The Shins have not played here in five and a half years and selected this as their only North American tour date. The Lumineers and Leon Bridges have never been here either.”

2. Expanded learning content 
“The Ideas series has also grown. Actually, so much that it has outgrown the venue in which it took place in last year. For the first time in the festival’s history, a portion of our Ideas series will take place on one of the festival’s main stages when RuPaul Charles—now an Emmy winner—takes to the Troubadour Stage on Saturday afternoon to deliver his incredibly inspirational talk.”

3. Continued logistical improvements 
“We feel like we really nailed the festival experience last year. To have that kind of growth and not feel any strain is a testament to our incredible team of producers. This year we expanded the festival footprint a block and a half east to add in some experiential elements. We made a few adjustments to our re-entry policy to further insure the safety of the footprint and our guests. Our food and beverage experience continues to evolve and provide more opportunity for guests to get a real taste of Las Vegas.”

4. A wild new attraction
“We added a 100-foot waterslide.”

5. Attendance growth
“People around the country have aligned with the festival purpose—it is something that we live year-round. As such, the festival has grown into a national brand and we are seeing increased attendance from out of Las Vegas. We grew from 87,000 people in 2014 to 131,000 people in 2015. We surpassed last year’s attendance number a month out from the festival, officially making this the most attended Life Is Beautiful yet. We are pacing toward our first sellout of the event, which would mark about a 30 percent year-over-year growth.”

6. New art
“We always say that the festival footprint, 18 city blocks of downtown Las Vegas and the incredible art that happens within it, is the star of the show. Every year we are adding 10 to 12 murals that transform downtown Vegas into an open-air art gallery—and have a lasting beautifying effect on our community. As we start to run out of walls, we have begun adding installations. I don’t want to give them all away just yet, but I will tell you that Big Rig Jig has made its way from Burning Man to Coachella to Banksy’s Dismaland, and has now been erected in downtown Las Vegas, where it will live permanently. We also added an art show where guests will be able to purchase and ship home art from artists like Brandon Boyd, Shepard Fairey, Frances Bean Cobain, Colin Christian, Shag, and more.”

7. Continued community engagement as part of the downtown revival
“I will just add that this is one of the most rewarding and amazing projects that anyone can work on and be part of. The growth in the community around us in the past four years has been staggering. There is a real power in music, arts, and culture and its ability to bring us together and transform a community.”

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