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Life is Beautiful’s head of music talks about festival’s evolution

Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.

The sun is bright, the colors behind him brighter still.

It’s an unseasonably hot, syrup-sticky Thursday afternoon, and Craig Asher Nyman is standing in front of Spanish painter and sculptor Okuda San Miguel’s “Rest of the Three Graces” mural tucked off Seventh Street and Ogden Avenue.

The artwork is dazzling: A prismatic blend of luminous greens, blues, reds and more colliding with polka-dotted reindeer.

And it wouldn’t be here if not for Life is Beautiful, the art, food and music festival that commissioned the piece and for whom Nyman serves as the head of music and live performances.

It’s just around the bend from where the Life is Beautiful main stage will stand five months from now.

Come Sept. 20 to 22, hip-hoppers Chance the Rapper and Post Malone and rockers the Black Keys will take to the stage as this year’s headliners, along with dozens of other acts.

Nyman and his team helped assemble this year’s lineup, which was announced last week, with Another Planet Entertainment, the Bay Area-based agency that also books the Outside Lands and Treasure Island music festivals as well as numerous venues in California and elsewhere.

A Vegas PR veteran who also runs his own entertainment and communications firm, CAN Media & Entertainment, Nyman has been with Life is Beautiful from the get-go. He’s seen it develop from a fledgling two-day festival that drew 60,000 fans during its inaugural run in October 2013 to a three-day event that brought in more than 175,000 concertgoers last year.

On the day that tickets for Life is Beautiful 2019 went on sale, Nyman took a minute to catch us up on this year’s festival and more:

Review-Journal: What is the entry point for you when it comes to helping to conceptualize the lineup. Where does it begin?

Craig Asher Nyman: The biggest thing is that we work headliners down, taking a look at what worked for us in prior years, what headliners might be out there. In festival culture, there’s a lot of crossover, based on who’s touring, who’s available. Obviously, we’re going to have that crossover, but at the same time, we want to try to differentiate ourselves from other festivals and give a different makeup of a lineup.

We do always work on our targets. Chance the Rapper is our first repeat headliner. His album’s coming out in July. The Black Keys are back (in Vegas) for the first time in six years. Right now, we’re set to be their first date. Post Malone, he’s the second biggest artist in the world right now streaming-wise after Billie Eilish. He’s playing Fire Fly and Bonnaroo, but he’s not doing a world tour, and we’re the West Coast festival date. Vampire Weekend are putting out their first album in six years, and now they’re coming back (to LIB). We want to have our rock bands, we want to have EDM, we want to have a little reggae, some throwback artists. We try to mix in everything and find what’s that right balance for our fans.

We consume music so much differently these days than we did even a few years ago with the rise of streaming, does that affect your mindset from a programming perspective?

I think it makes us look at different metrics of an artist. At the same time, you can’t just focus on streaming numbers, because there’s more to it. You’re looking at the whole package. OK, you have streaming numbers, but you’re looking at socials, are they interacting with their fan base? What kind of messaging do they put out there? Do they align with the ethos of the festival? How did they do on their last play in the market? How are they doing in other markets? What’s their tour schedule like? When’s the album cycle?

The amazing thing about the streaming services is what they’ve done in terms of accessibility. No longer are you told, ‘Hey, these are the 10 songs you’re going to listen to and they’re going to be on repeat because that’s what’s being pushed.’ Now, it’s a buffet. You have your a la carte choice of what you want to hear. From a booking standpoint, that’s more exciting than it is scary.

The festival circuit has grown increasingly crowded. How much attention do you have to pay to what else is out there?

A hundred percent you have to pay attention to the industry and what’s going on. For me, it’s all about moving things forward together. Is it tough competing with other festivals in the landscape? Of course. Everyone’s fighting for the same market share. But at the same time, we’re going to stick true to who we are as Life is Beautiful. We’re going to continue to work to develop our brand and for the event to be the best experience we can get for our fans. As an industry, we want everybody to succeed. That’s the best-case scenario.

In terms of the size of the festival footprint and total capacity, are you where you want to be at this point?

We’re in a good spot right now. The festival was the busiest it’s ever been last year. We’re hoping to replicate that.

What are some favorite memories from Life is Beautiful over the years?

In 2014, we did the Beatles’ ‘Love’ by Cirque du Soleil and the Las Vegas Philharmonic. Putting them together and having that come to life was a career highlight for me. It’s one of those moments that I’ll forever cherish. Also in 2014, it was Outkast. That’s why I love hip-hop: Outkast. And we got the second-to-last Outkast show ever.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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