Agenda Founder Aaron Levant is hard at work on a new event called ComplexCon, a street culture convention that merges art, food, music, fashion, design, retail and more.
Open to the public via paid tickets, the event will be like a street culture ComicCon with music. ComplexCon will be held Nov. 5-6 at the Long Beach Convention Center.
Music performers include Kanye West, Skrillex, Travis Scott, Kid Cudi and more.
Pharrell Williams and artist Takashi Murakami are helping to curate the event in partnership with Complex Media and Reed Exhibitions.
I was intrigued by the consumer-facing nature of the show, and asked Aaron Levant, SVP of Reed Exhibitions, if something like ComplexCon could be a new evolution for trade shows.
What is the thinking behind creating a show like this?
Aaron Levant: I have been thinking about doing something like this for years. But it wasn't until I got to talking with my friend Marc Ecko, the founder of Ecko Unltd and Complex Media, that the idea really became a reality as we saw the full potential to create ComplexCon with his company, Complex Media.
I think I could have always done a consumer-facing version of Agenda, but this idea that we had became much bigger than anything I could have dreamed up on my own. Marc is a visionary entrepreneur and he really helped shape this project into something that is next level.
Marc connected the event with top-level talent like Pharrell Williams and artist Takashi Murakami to take it to the next level again.
I think of ComplexCon as a street culture ComicCon with music. We want to create an event that tears down the walls between the consumers who love this content and give them direct access to it.
There are many events like SXSW, Agenda, Art Basel that are all amazing, but the general consumer is largely left out. The tag line of our event is to "Bring URL to IRL (In Real Life).” So to bring the internet or all your digital obsessions to real life is our goal.
Is this potentially a way to update trade shows?
Aaron Levant: Yes and no. Yes, it’s an exciting new format, but the trade show is not in competition with this event at all. I think trade shows need to be updated for sure, and I’m always working on that, but this is for consumers, not the industry.
What kind of brands have signed on, and how will they interact with consumers?
Aaron Levant: There will be over 150 exhibitors activating there.
But don’t just think brands, as its not limited to just brands at all. There will be retailers, art galleries, food vendors, experiential installations and activations, and yes, brands, too.
They will be doing a range of things. Some will be selling retail on the spot, some will be doing activations to introduce people to new products, some will be taking part in panels and content sessions like you have seen with our Agenda Emerge events.
There are many ways that a brand or retailer can integrate into this event. It's very multi-dimensional.
Does the public buy tickets to attend? If so, how much?
Aaron Levant: Yes, the public buys tickets to attend. Tickets range from $45 for a day pass all the way to $150 for a pass that will also include prime seats for nighttime music with huge headlining acts.
We are also partnering with different sponsors and retailers for ticket giveaways.
Do you envision expanding the event to other cities?
Aaron Levant: For now we are focused on the one annual event in Southern California, but much like the ComicCon events that Reed Expo/Reed POP owns, we have taken those events all around the world.
So yes, there is long term thinking to expand.
Will this event influence/impact Agenda in any way?
Aaron Levant: My experience on ComplexCon will have a huge positive effect on Agenda long term and short. My network of contacts has expanded well beyond anything I have ever done with Agenda. I have learned so much and challenged myself to grow and get out of the same Groundhog's Day I have been doing for the last 13 years with Agenda.
I have worked with brands in a whole new way and created new relationships with brands that I never had before, and worked with retailers and sponsors that I have never worked with before. Not to mention non-endemic sponsors, and media companies. It’s a whole new world for me.
So if anything with my new skill set and contacts, and overall reinvigorated state, I think good things are to come for the whole Reed Fashion Portfolio that I run from this experience.