Robert F.X. Sillerman on Why He "Loves to Dance" and Only Cares About Fans
Robert F. X. Sillerman in front of Graceland.
AP Photo/Greg Campbell
In Miami to announce SFX Entertainment's near $100 million acquisition of the producer of TomorrowLand and Sensation White, ID&T Worldwide, Robert F.X. Sillerman held court Thursday afternoon in the shade of a cabana at the Delano Hotel.
So we here at Crossfade sat down with Sillerman to discuss what drives him in this latest endeavor, which has been categorized as a monopolization of EDM, what killed the Opium Group deal, and what comes next.
Few names seem to be dropped more this Winter Music Conference and Miami Music Week than Sillerman's. Up to this point, he's remained a bit of mystery, drawing the ire of electronic music purists who argue he'll commercialize and homogenize the once-underground genre.
Sillerman's all-black attire at the Delano added to the mystique. He wore pointed- leather boots and a crisp black button-up shirt, cinched all the way to the collar. A black handkerchief stamped with "Fuck You" in dozens of fonts dangled from his back pocket and he sported a black baseball cap with embroidered grey flames that simply stated "No Sniveling."
Crossfade: So how as a company does SFX operate?
Robert F.X. Sillerman: Who does what? This is for attribution: It beats the shit out of me. Here's what's going to happen: We're going to get a room somewhere isolated and we're going to bring in the 20 or 30 key people. They're all going to describe what they do, why they do it, what they wish they could do and what they think we all collectively should do. Then we'll have some fun and the next day I'll speak for 60 seconds. I'll ask what did you learn, what do you want to do and how we're going to do it. They'll figure it out, and what will come out of it is somebody who will say, "Yeah, I'll do this, I'll do that" and they'll come up with a way of extending this and of course people will say I'm a genius, but I won't have said another word.
Is the plan similar to the old SFX where you built an advertising platform for companies to reach huge audiences?
The first SFX had no relationship to the fan... This is a new generation and I think it's going to be perpetuated by fans that are connected by a love of this music. Sure, I think we'll be able to offer global access and we've had conversations with multinationals where they said we want to spend this huge amount of money. I listen politely and I say, "You, of course, understand that if I was willing to do that you shouldn't be willing to spend the money because I actually don't care what you need." The only thing I care about are the fans. And if you can provide a way to make their experience better, it's worth it for you to spend the money to associate.
What's motivating you in all of this?
My father went bankrupt just before my bar mitzvah. And on my bar mitzvah, he said: "I unfortunately can't give you anything, but I will always give you my love, my time, my wisdom and it's going to begin right now." And he said something very simple to me, which is to live a full life where you feel self-worth. No more tomorrow, think about today -- pretty simple. I said I would've preferred a savings bond, but that's how I've lived my life. My enjoyment is experiential learning. And when we did what we did in live entertainment, I'd never been in it. It was a perception, a conversation, great first partners, and I learned pretty quickly.
Can you elaborate on why the deal with the Opium Group fell through?
I still like them. I have huge respect for them, and it's still possible that something might happen.
Are you looking at any other nightclub owners or operators?
Electronic music is late to the U.S. and [Miami] really is a true melting pot and the DNA of house music. It was pretty simple -- you look and you go to the source. There are great clubs in Vegas, but there's no place that has the breadth, the diversity [of Miami]. So it made sense to us.
A lot of people have spoken harshly of you, how do you respond?
The same thing happened the first time with SFX and every promoter, every business that we bought will say the opposite. We have to prove it to them, and I have no interest of anybody who buys a business and then says: "I now own the two burger stands in town and I'm going to jack the price up." The fact is if you buy great and successful businesses, you try to empower them to do what they do. And in this case, what they do is provide great entertainment. If you or anyone can ever find an example of someone from SFX telling them how much to charge for a bottle of Cristal at LIV, I'll give you my shares of SFX.