+ By Brenda Wintrode + Photos by Evan Weinstein
For the past five Augusts, roughly 30,000 guests per day have ascended on Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course to absorb their fill of sound and visual stimulation at the two-day Moonrise Festival, the area’s largest electronic dance music (EDM) festival. The sensory filled weekend, produced by event company Steez Promo, features live EDM bands, DJs, hip-hop artists, and rappers, all who enchant the audience with hypnotic beats while light artists mesmerize with digital light shows and pyrotechnics. Costumed dancers bedazzle onlookers in neon rainbow costumes, futuristic makeup, and glitter—lots of glitter. With virtually every sense activated, showgoers just might feel that they are being transported to a fantasy-like escape, perhaps even sent into another orbit.
“It’s a privilege that I get to do events of this size and work with artists that I really believe in,” says Steez Promo president Evan Weinstein. Electronic and dance music performers Marshmello, Illenium, and Excision are just some of the 87 acts that played on the four stages at the 2018 festival. Weinstein describes what motivates him to market and produce what, to some, might be a monstrous undertaking. “It’s realizing these bands are going to be big, finding new music that’s going to cross thresholds, and break boundaries,” says Weinstein.
Weinstein’s festival world is one of many interests within his orbit. He turns marketing plans into revenue for the nonmusical clients of his separate marketing consulting business. “I love creating the architecture for a program and helping a brand penetrate a certain aspect of their marketplace,” says Weinstein. The social media virtuoso illuminates a path between his clients and their prospective customers. “There are opportunities to help people follow their dreams or just build a local private business,” he says.
Weinstein heralds the importance of social media platforms for all of his clients and encourages musicians and businesses alike to keep their minds open to all such channels. “Even if you’re a band, you’re a media company first, then you’re a musician,” says Weinstein. “There are no shortcuts,” he says. “Marketing yourself is the work—actual posts, creating content, and being active on all social media platforms.”
The industrious 36-year-old says he has always had an entrepreneur’s mind-set. “I always had a summer job. As a camp counselor, I had to ‘sell’ an activity to get kids to show. I was always making something, like a craft—eyeglass holders to sell to my mom’s friends. I flipped baseball cards. Even now, I go to yard sales and see what I can pick up and flip,” he says.
Weinstein attended college for a time to study financial economics and history but left early and began working. He sold cars and ran nightclubs, and the latter led him to the world of promoting shows for those clubs. He not only had a passion for marketing and promoting but also knew he was onto a trend with full-time EDM festival marketing and show promotion. “Things took off with dance music globally, then domestically,” says Weinstein, whose company hosts events in 12 markets from Vegas to Miami and Virginia Beach to Boston.
Weinstein understands that every guest’s festival experience is personal and can involve more than just the music. The Moonrise Festival also features products and ads of its sponsors, food and merchandise vendors, and even a booth for tie-dyeing one’s skin. The avid environmentalist and animal lover plans his events to minimize their environmental impacts. He reports that the 2018 Moonrise Festival event used only 100-percent-compostable plastics.
When he’s not traveling for work, Weinstein spends time at his Highland Beach home, just south of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation building. He loves to go crabbing, experiment with cooking, and, inspired by one of his culinary heroes, Anthony Bourdain, search for his next gastronomic experience. He can be found dining a few times a week at his home-base bistro, Vin 909 Winecafé.
In the early 2000s, while at a hip-hop show at Baltimore’s 13th Floor, Weinstein met Kenny Liner, the founder of Believe in Music, a Baltimore-based after-school program at Green Street Academy. The program provides middle school and high school youth with an authentic studio space to create music and matches them with mentors from the music industry. “You can really see the difference in the kids,” says Weinstein, who watched this transformation firsthand when he was paired with a vulnerable youth. “He now works for the program and is becoming a rapper,” says Weinstein.
The fan’s happiness remains at the forefront of Weinstein’s creative and business endeavors, but so does his own happiness. “Happiness is more important. I’ve had moments recently, periods where I’m wondering, ‘Am I happy doing this?’ I would give it all up tomorrow if I wasn’t,” he says. █