It’s not unusual to see large groups of punks, ravers or country music fans walking around to and from venues during music festival weekends in Las Vegas. But one local tech company is taking the festival experience — and the fans’ wallets — beyond the audience and to the clubs, restaurants and VIP spots across the city.
The global music festival market size is expected to reach $30 billion this year, according to market research firm Statista. Inspired by destination events in its back yard, Fuse Technologies wants to help promoters further cash in on the economic revenue generated from festivals and other travel-based events with its embedded payment platform selling hotel and experience bundles to travelers.
Fuse, founded by Las Vegas event and nightclub industry veterans Andrew Citores, Daren Libonati and Sonny Smith, partners with festival producers and promoters on its white-label software. It provides the platform, sources the hotels and curates the experiences based on the festival’s demographics.
“When you’re talking about bookend nights, the city loves that, but the event producer doesn’t benefit at all,” Smith said. “That’s our business concept. We’re empowering the event producer to make money through our platform as the travel agency for the individual.”
The consumer’s purchasing experience is a familiar online shopping cart. The concertgoer can buy ticket and hotel packages directly from the festival’s website, keeping the platform under a familiar brand. The packages are offered at different price points that can provide a discount for bundling. Then, the consumer can also buy additional experiences a la carte such as pre- and post-event nightclub deals, brunches or even helicopter trips above the Strip. Split group payment and layaway options are available, and consumers who have already bought an event ticket can still buy bundled hotels and experiences.
Born out of the pandemic
Libonati said the idea came to the three founders when they weren’t working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Libonati is a former UNLV football player who rose through the promoter world at the Thomas & Mack Center and MGM Resorts International, while Smith spent much of his career leading club promoters at stops with TAO and Hakkasan groups. Combined with Citores’ background in building travel experiences and their software, the three started Fuse in November 2020 and had its software launched roughly eight months later.
The team said the platform makes the consumer’s travel experience simpler while giving another revenue stream to event producers. A destination traveler coming for an event usually has to navigate through several different websites to create an itinerary outside of the festival or main event. Meanwhile the producer can get a cut of the business generated outside of the festival grounds from the crowd it brought to the destination.
“There’s a lot of greed in the industry,” Libonati said. “All the promoters and producers, people who bring events, need money, but we only chase (a few things) when we wear those hats. We want our ticket money, we want food and beverage money, we want merch money and we want parking money. But we never really thought through when we were running those venues, what about all the people we bring here?”
Fuse tells its clients that they should be watching their “traveler per cap.” Just like a producer may measure the food and beverage revenue generated per head, Libonati said the festival producers could chase a larger portion of the wallet share of a traveler in town for their experience.
Plans to expand
The company says it has sold roughly 130,000 packages in the two years since the software launched — with more than 70,000 in Las Vegas. Its staff of about 100 software engineers, sourcing specialists who find hotels and experiences and customer service, sales and marketing representatives work in their Las Vegas headquarters or at offices in Shanghai and San Francisco.
Smith said the company plans to expand to other events, like concert stops during a tour or sporting events, and to resort-casinos.
Clients say the software takes a unique approach to package sales. Nic Adler, vice president of festivals for producer Goldenvoice, said his company’s destination events in the Southern California desert — like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival — have long had hotel and shuttle service bundles available for sale.
Adler and Goldenvoice first began working with Fuse when it produced hip-hop festival Day N Vegas because of the co-founders’ background and connections in the Las Vegas market. Adler credited the team with its ability to extend the event’s presence to other parts of the city, giving travelers a better festival experience that will want them to come back.
“We need either a returning customer or someone to talk about how much fun they had,” Adler said. “If we can extend that beyond just the festival hours, that’s extremely important because while there’s a lot of marketing and promotion that go into festivals, we know people want to hear from their friends, ‘I had the best time. I did this and that, I can’t wait to go next year and you should come too.’ That’s really strong within the festival space.”
Adler said the revenue gains are incremental, pointing out the concept is fairly new to the consumer. But it adds to the bottom line by allowing the promoter to spend more on production or talent, he said.
“We’re not putting in the work sourcing the hotel rooms or putting together these experiences,” he said. “That’s really on Fuse to figure out. What we’re doing is turning on a revenue switch.”
McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.