Noah Kessler of AREA15 took time ahead of his appearance at Pollstar to give us insight into his role as Head of Entertainment, upcoming events, and more!
AREA15 is a hub for all forms of creativity. Whether it’s Omega Mart, Meow Wolf’s flagship interactive experience, or the variety of rides and attractions, or a plethora of music events, this expansive venue has an abundance of offerings to stimulate your brain. Since its doors opened in 2020, AREA15 has become a staple in Las Vegas by producing unparalleled events while simultaneously enriching the community. Anyone who ventures into the campus leaves with memories of intrigue and awe as well as a cup full of inspiration. As the business has grown, so have its ambitions, and with the new year underway, there are a lot of exciting projects and events brewing.
It takes a dedicated team of hard-working and like-minded individuals to pull off these large-scale gatherings, which have featured artists like Boris Brejcha and CloZee. That’s why we were thrilled about the opportunity to speak to Noah Kessler, the Head of Entertainment at AREA15. Having spearheaded many events over the course of his career in the music industry, he joined AREA15 in 2022 and hit the ground running.
Ahead of his appearance at Pollstar, we had the distinct honor of catching up with Noah as we touched base about his role within the organization, how he got involved, and what attendees of AREA15 can look forward to this year. Read on for the full conversation.
Curiosity piqued? Don’t be shy! Visit AREA15’s website to dive into the wondrous offerings available within this venue.
What drew you to AREA15 initially, and how has it grown since you have been involved?
I met Winston, the owner and CEO of AREA15, while running events and entertainment for Meow Wolf. I started to build a relationship with him and learn about AREA15. I admired his vision upon first meeting him. I felt there was a limited opportunity to help drive a powerful music and entertainment strategy forward within Meow Wolf because they were/are so hyper-focused on the experience and ticket sales for their immersive art exhibits. I was impressed with the work that AREA15 was doing. They had built a few major event venues. They had locked in Meow Wolf as an anchor tenant at the time and many other cool experiential offerings around the campus. I was impressed with the mission for innovative design and purpose-built entertainment and strategy.
I saw an opportunity to help drive an emerging concert and event music promoter business forward and the potential to become a leader in space, nation, and globe! So, that’s what drew me to AREA15 initially. AREA15 is one of a kind in the country, and even the world, as a leader in immersive entertainment. It’s a sector of the business that’s growing significantly, and AREA15 is a leader in that. It’s a very exciting place to be.
In such a fast-paced industry like entertainment how do you stay hyper-relevant and on top of current trends in the scene?
Working with artists keeps us hyper-relevant. Whether they are larger, smaller, or local, music is incredible in that there is this consistent stream of new content coming out. People are always searching for new music and that new sound. They are hungry for it – it’s a never-ending pipeline! Playing into that, on the music and entertainment side of things, we stay on top of current trends by working with all types of artists. We are always looking at who is emerging and who the new rising talent is.
Diversity is key when it comes to AREA15. Can you share why this is so important for the brand’s success and its impact on the community in Las Vegas?
On the campus-wide aspect, there are a lot of offerings and diversity that appeal to different age groups and interests. There are all kinds of offerings, making for an entertaining and inclusive safe space to come together with loved ones, friends, and family to celebrate and enjoy life. On the music side of things, and entertainment specifically, we’re very adamant about offering a diverse, eclectic range of programming while tapping into different communities in the Las Vegas market and nationally.
Appealing to different audiences through various channels helps us cultivate diverse programming, which ultimately brings many different people together and creates a really fun and safe space for people to gather and share experiences.
For curated nights, what goes into the artist selection process, from headliners to support acts?
We definitely focus on offering a diverse range of programming, but we want to represent a positive sound spectrum. Of course, there are all kinds of vibes, styles, genres, and ideas in the world, and we really want to embrace that, but we also tend to come back to curating a positive, uplifting experience.
So, that’s broadly speaking, but we also have different themed events, and we lean into those themes. We will curate specific stages based on the genre with major attention to detail. Our lineups are carefully curated from top to bottom. We love to support local artists. We also usually offer counter-programming, a different style of music in the other rooms, so we’re creating a broad patchwork of sound.
Last year, AREA15 hosted a plethora of Massives for dance music lovers. Is there one themed event that stuck out as special? What’s in store for 2024?
They’re all fun, special and unique. We’ve done quite a few of them over the past couple of years—more than we expected or set out to do. The team has worked together to pull off some incredible Massives with curated bills and vibrant experiences.
This year, we are focused on We’re All Mad Here, an Alice in Wonderland-themed event happening in the Spring. Then we have Secret Garden in May. It’s an uplifting “summer is coming” vibe where we’ve been booking more house music. Galactic Zoo is in September, and SCAREA15 is for Halloween. Those are our four Massives this year, and we might add a fifth with New Year’s Eve, but that’s a little up in the air right now.
Our monthly Goth-themed party, Goth & Glam, has begun to sell out consistently and features different Las Vegas residents. Additionally, we’re continuing to showcase more female-led events. We have a great LGBTQ party coming up at the end of this month with HE.SHE.THEY. We are also working on more hip-hop shows and are eager to lean into the Latin scene, the K-pop scene, and many others. We are open to ideas and collaborating with all sorts of different artists and also promoters/event producers.
The task of building such a large space filled with intricate art, activations, and music seems daunting. Do you have a piece of advice for anyone aiming to enter the entertainment industry?
A big part of things is timing. Being in the right place at the right time and connecting with people is key. Connection is missing in this day and age, which is a huge mission of AREA15 and is something near and dear to my heart. I encourage those looking to enter the entertainment to stay open for connection. Much of the music industry, film industry, and glamor industries are very much relationship-based. A part of it is who you know, which is a way to get into it, but it can be discouraging to somebody who is eager to get into the industry but doesn’t necessarily have that network.
I started by pushing crates, checking folks in, standing in as security, assisting as a stagehand, and putting together small community events early in my life. It’s through applying ourselves to those roles that are very important to a show’s success and the journey of becoming a larger member of the industry. The “no job is too big or too small” attitude helped me get where I am.
Things will be challenging at times, but stay positive, keep your cool, and work hard. Being solution-focused and building those relationships over time is extremely important.
With 2024 underway, are there any specific events you are particularly excited about that you can divulge details about?
Yeah, we have Ganja White Night coming back to AREA15. Last year, we did AREA420 with them, which was one night. This year, they’re coming back for two nights. It is an artist-branded and curated event specifically for AREA15 with multiple stages.
We also have exciting things coming during the Super Bowl with Rod Wave. 50 Cent is coming out for a rental event at AREA15. Good to note, we rent the venue to outside promoters to come in and put on their shows to bring their ideas and visions to life. We’ve also created a wellness program that is an excellent counterbalance to all the nightlife we are doing. It includes meditation, sound healing, breath work, and yoga, and we are working with various local partners to curate these events. We will have one a week, culminating in the Radiance Wellness Festival in the spring. It’s very exciting because it’s at the intersection of wellness, music, technology, and art, which are all very important to me.
You’re also speaking at Pollstar Live next month. What can attendees look forward to hearing?
I’m looking forward to the opportunity and am very honored to be invited to speak at Pollstar. I will share a lot about how much collaboration it takes to produce, operate, and make a safe and fun event and experience happen. It takes many hands working together to create an incredible experience and moment in time where artists can share their magic. That’s going to be the main focus of that conversation for me.
I will also talk about how we are breaking the paradigm with our “collaboration vs. competition” ethos. Historically, promoters are very cut-throat and competitive. We are taking a very different approach at AREA15 that’s highly collaboration-focused and inclusive. It’s exciting because we are focused on creating, making things happen, and bringing people together rather than entirely competing with people blocking, hardcore radius clauses, and things along those lines.
Is there any additional information about AREA15 you want to share with us to make fans or people who have never been to the space more excited to check it out?
Yeah. AREA15 is this super complex of uplifting offerings with innovative design and purpose-built entertainment. This sets us apart from the rest of the landscape in Las Vegas. We are passionate about continuing to evolve and being the best in class, technology, art, music, and one-of-a-kind audio-visual experiences.
We are always looking for opportunities to grow and level up and are excited to collaborate with artists this year and in the future. We aim to constantly wow our guests and ensure that their expectations are exceeded, and we want to continuously raise the bar of what is possible in music and entertainment. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m just really grateful to be part of AREA15 and to speak with you today.