Denise Truscello / WireImage / DeniseTruscello.net
Wednesday, June 10, 2015 | 2 a.m.
In the ultra-competitive and one-upmanship industry of Las Vegas nightlife, it hasn’t been without foresight, thought, ingenuity and, frankly, a lot of money that Surrender Nightclub and Encore Beach Club at Steve Wynn’s Encore Las Vegas are celebrating their fifth anniversaries this week.
Sean Christie — managing partner of Surrender Nightclub, Encore Beach Club and also Andrea’s, the adjoining restaurant named after Mrs. Wynn — has been at the helm of the dayclub and nightclub properties since Day 1.
“(Mr. Wynn) hired me, and he let me do my job. The risk on DJs has paid off in the outcome, and it has been a huge success,” Christie said. “It was uncomfortable at the time, but the instincts kicked in.”
Here is our Q+A in which Christie addressed the growth of dayclubs and superstar DJs, a more inclusionary nightlife industry, The Eagles, Taylor Swift and more:
Congratulations, Sean, on five years of Surrender Nightclub and Encore Beach Club. Why do you think both have continued to be successful, especially with the onslaught of competition in daylife and nightlife?
First and foremost, we work at a great place at the Wynn and Encore. Culturally, we are all about service and entertainment — beautiful products and great entertainment. And we stay ahead of the curve by identifying the best in entertainment.
How do you stay ahead with your properties and respond to competition?
Coming from the nightclub perspective and dayclub perspective, people are there to hear what is hot in Las Vegas right now. We are the Entertainment Capital of the World, and my team and Jesse (Waits’) team bring the best entertainment in the world to Wynn and Encore, from the programming to the DJs and artists. We continue to get better and learn from experience.
Nearly 20 DJs, many whom are superstars now — among them Kaskade, Steve Aoki, Afrojack, Lil Jon, Calvin Harris, Skrillex, Will.I.Am, Tiesto, David Guetta, Deadmau5 and Avicii — had their first residencies at Surrender and Encore Beach Club. Was this luck or foresight?
Back in 2010 when XS was not doing DJs, I was tasked by Mr. Wynn to open Surrender and Encore Beach Club with 60,000 square feet of dayclub and nightclub space. We partnered up with Kaskade for 16 of 21 consecutive Sundays and put Encore Beach Club on the map.
Surrender hearkened to my days in Boston booking DJs. The electronic dance music trend was bubbling, and we were feeling it in the market. We had Steve Aoki at Surrender with Aoki’s House on Fridays. They were our anchors. Steve was the music director of Surrender, and he helped us identity up-and-coming talent like Afrojack, Chuckie, Groove Armada, Pete Tong.
Kaskade programmed his own sets, and it became apparent through that year that the EDM trend was here and happening with Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Aoki and Kaskade. Doing residencies with these guys came to the forefront. Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto had a successful run at the Palms, and we looked at that format.
Kaskade’s residency in 2010 helped launch or really boost the dayclub phenomenon. Was it a risk to sign him and focus on dayclubs?
Yep, it was. I met with Kaskade and his manager. They believed in the vision in what we were creating. I wanted a monthly commitment. He came back to me and said weekly, like what he had seen in Ibiza.
Andrew Pascal, the hotel president at that time, was looking at a big sum of money to pay for DJs, and there was no comparable risk, as Mr. Wynn had never paid for entertainment.
But there’s a reason why Mr. Wynn has been successful for 40 years, and he listened and took in the information. He hired me, and he let me do my job. The risk on DJs has paid off in the outcome, and it has been a huge success. It was uncomfortable at the time, but the instincts kicked in.
Much has been made about the EDM bubble bursting. What are your thoughts, and how competitive — and expensive — is it to land a DJ for a residency?
The EDM bubble, it’s not bursting, as it has infiltrated mainstream pop culture. You hear the music during NBA, NFL and NHL games. It’s just music. People get caught up categorizing music, but Frank Sinatra, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Kaskade — at the end of the day, it’s music.
It makes people have an emotional experience. This generation is EDM. In the ’90s, it was grunge. In the ’50s and back to the ’30, it was jazz. It’s the old generation vs. the new generation.
Rather than bursting, it’s more of a peak, and it will come back down, but it isn’t going anywhere. The bubble bursting is an overstatement. The question is have we reached the peak — and will it level off more?
Expensive? Yes! It’s millions of dollars a year. We spend the most money of any company landing artists and DJs, tens of millions of dollars. We’re the No. 1 talent buyer for DJs in the world. But if that’s what people want, that’s what we’ll give them.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in five years of overseeing Surrender and Encore Beach Club?
The star DJs by far is the biggest thing. And over the last five years, Las Vegas has become more inclusionary. You can buy a ticket to get into a venue; it’s a new phenomenon.
Five years ago, people weren’t buying a ticket to get into a nightclub, but now with the advent of technology and social media, there is no anxiety of, “Will I get in?” It’s guaranteed admission. I grew up on the East Coast, the nightclubs in Miami in the ’90s, and the only way to get in was getting in early or tipping the doorman.
Do you prefer dayclubs or nightclubs?
I prefer nightclubs. I’m 41 years old, and I’m used to going out at night, not during the day. I work during the day (laughs).
What music do you like outside EDM?
I’m a Sirius XM The Bridge fan — ’70s mellow rock, The Eagles. I like ’70s and ’80s music. I like to chill out. I like Frank Sinatra. I don’t discriminate against music.
My 10-year-old daughter had me buy Taylor Swift’s new album “1989” when we were at Whole Foods. I like some of the songs — I’d only heard one or two on the radio — now that I’ve heard “1989” 20 times in a row (laughs). They’re catchy; I like them. But I prefer ’70s mellow rock.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments in the five years of Surrender and Encore Beach Club?
We have a lot of staff members who have worked here from Day 1, so five years, about 30 people from opening day.
Do you have a prediction for the next daylife and nightlife trend in Las Vegas?
Yeah, I do. Daylife will continue to grow. We are having our best year ever at Encore Beach Club. Somebody will do something outside EDM. It will be bold and change things up in the next year and a half.
People are waiting for a different offering, a more intimate environment. There are people who don’t care about superstar DJs. Tryst is not DJ reliant. I hope we do it first.
What does the future hold for Surrender and Encore Beach Club?
Encore Beach Club isn’t going anywhere. We’ve had the best month ever in terms of gross and profitability. The scale of the business is so big. We don’t usually talk about money, but we’ve had $1 million in revenue on Saturdays.
We have another five years of continuing to wow people at Encore Beach Club. Retail stores, you can knock them out for a nightclub, but to build a pool, so many more mechanics are involved. But it all comes down to can we make the model work with the entertainment costs.
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For the first time at Surrender tonight, the pool will be open (no platform) for swimming during the DJ set at Surrender. For EBC at Night, the DJ stage is outside.
Surrender Nightclub and Encore Beach Club commemorate their fifth anniversaries tonight with DJ Skrillex leading the celebration.
Don Chareunsy is the Las Vegas Sun’s entertainment and luxury senior editor and has been a journalist for nearly two decades.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous fame” has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.