By Dani Deahl
Pure Entertainment president Jay Prasad is a walking, talking business plan. With every answer to my questions yielding a monologue of sell, sell, sell material on Pure, he can be a bit overwhelming. Then again, the powerhouse persona seems to be working to Pure’s advantage, which now operates with a full-time staff of fifteen and makes major moves like purchasing Chicago publication UR.
What is now on its way to becoming a media conglomerate started out in 1996 as a modest promotion group founded by Charles Little and Chad Sommer. The two seemed to have a knack for event production and the Pure name quickly grew synonymous with bringing in worldwide talent. Coupled with a keen sense for branding, the Pure label skyrocketed in recognition and reach. From scrutinizing every last graphic to featuring unusual items at their parties like lightboxes to hosting the original Pure message boards (the officiation of online Chicago-raver gossip), the duo cultivated the name into more than just a stamp on a flyer.
The modern face of Pure formed in 1998 when DJ John Curley was invited to be a partner, and the group re-formed. Jay came into the picture in 2003 and put his DJ career on hold to focus exclusively on further developing the Pure brand. With the accomplishments he’s achieved for the company thus far, it’s no wonder it’s hard to make him stop talking. “The strategy that I came on board for—and why John let me end up running his company—was to diversify and extend the brand,” he says, “which we did by organizing the company into three divisions: Purefuture, the live entertainment and online community; Pure Promote: Experiential Branding and Marketing; and in March we acquired UR Chicago.”
He doesn’t shy away from mentioning their impressive web stats (the site exceeds 1.5 million unique visits a month) and the audience they garner from their weekly XM Radio show/podcast. What’s more, they organize events in Minneapolis, Phoenix, The Dominican Republic, Mexico and South Korea. For most, that would be enough, but for Jay, it’s just the beginning.
As the company itself moves into an office more than twice the size of its current one, they’re also gearing up to expand the site. With visions of offering the site in four-to-five languages with audio, video, and blogging capabilities, Jay muses, “Think about being at a show in Korea or Miami, taking pictures and video and then uploading it to your channel on the site where your friend in Germany picks it up, which you then respond to from your phone, and you both listen to a streaming mix from a favorite DJ at the same time!” Whew.
For now though, the focus is back here at home with PureNation, a festival that has been in the works for almost four years. It finally became achievable partly because the city of Chicago became notably more receptive to outdoor events and partly because Live Nation (formerly Clear Channel) approached the company about doing the event at the Charter One Pavilion.
Immediately going into high gear after getting the green light, Pure booked topnotch talent and has been going full blast ever since overseeing every aspect from advertising to lighting. The endeavor is a bold move, especially considering the poor turnout at July’s house-music festival, MOVE!, held at the same location. “It makes us nervous of course,” says Jay, “but MOVE! relied almost exclusively on print publicity while we are pushing a very intense grassroots strategy.” He adds, “I will say this, we have already sold more presale tickets than MOVE! had in total attendance.”
With a lineup ranging from classic headliners like Tiesto and Bad Boy Bill to band-of-the-moment The Juan Maclean and local favorites Justin Long and Matthew Dear, PureNation seems to be gearing up to be a Midwest version of New York City’s dance-music festival Ultra. Despite the $75 ticket price and the MOVE! festival certainly lingering in the group’s mind, Jay feels confident that the tried and true Pure method of bringing worldwide talent that appeals to every music lover will win Chicago over.
PureNation features DJ sets by Tiesto, Deep Dish, Bad Boy Bill, Dave Clarke, Benny Benassi, Akufen and Derek Plaslaiko and live performances by Junkie XL, The Juan Maclean, Matthew Dear and Telefon Tel Aviv at Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island, 1300 South Linn White Drive on September 2 from 11am-11pm. $75 presale or $125 for VIP.