Snapchat, sponsoring Santa Monica Pier Twilight Concerts, announces lineup

The ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier.
The ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

Snapchat Inc. was something of a hit at last year’s Santa Monica Pier Twilight Concert Series, attracting throngs of festival-goers hoping to win towels, bags and plushies featuring the chat app’s “Ghostface Chillah” logo from its booth.

Expect an encore from Snapchat this summer. The 5-year-old, profit-less Venice start-up is taking over as the top sponsor of the free all-ages concerts, with plans to bring new attractions for listeners on the pier and for onlookers at the adjacent beach. Snapchat-funded additions will include games, carnival-like booths and art installations.

Acts booked include the vintage-tinged soul of Mayer Hawthorne on opening night July 7, veteran new-wave act Psychedelic Furs and the colorful synth-pop group Unknown Mortal Orchestra, according to Snapchat and the nonprofit Santa Monica Pier Corp. that organizes the series.


Tuesday’s announcement about the sponsorship deal and initial lineup come a week after the Santa Monica City Council authorized a five-year, $15-million lease with Snapchat that could see the technology company house 300 employees on city airport land.

Snapchat has been furiously adding workers around the world as it seeks to grow its ad sales business and spread beyond its core self-destructing messaging feature. It has hired in New York City, Seattle, Chicago, Toronto, London, Sydney and perhaps soon San Francisco.

The company has intended to keep as many employees in Venice as possible. But finding space in the tight neighborhood hasn’t been easy, especially to accommodate plans to double to 1,600 beachside workers by 2020. The Santa Monica lease for 80,000 square feet across 10 clustered buildings, which hadn’t been drafted or signed as of Monday, provides an alternative two miles inland.

Snapchat’s large presence in Venice makes it an easy foe for critics who want to slow gentrification in the artsy enclave. But in Santa Monica, funding the 32-year-old tradition of pier concerts could help the company introduce itself to new neighbors.

Snapchat is “proud to be a Los Angeles company,” spokeswoman Mary Ritti said, referring broadly to the region when asked about the new real estate.

Snapchat’s financial commitment wasn’t disclosed, but event sponsorships accounted for more than $1 million in Santa Monica Pier Corp. revenue in 2013, the most recent year for which its tax filing was available online. Myspace was the presenting sponsor in 2013. The 2015 series sponsor was car-shopping app TrueCar.


Myspace tried to create buzz by live-streaming concerts, and TrueCar turned to a cutting-edge LED display.

Officials declined to reveal exact details of what Snapchat has in store, but among the plans are showing off art from the collective FriendsWithYou. And those giveaway-yielding games, including “Grab-A-Ghost,” “Whac-A-Boo” and “Bye Bye Ghost” that attracted the long lines a year ago seem poised to make a return in some fashion.

Snapchat Chief Executive Evan Spiegel is an avid music listener and has talked of devising a new business model for the industry. For now, his company generates some revenue from placing ads in between short, user-filmed concert videos.

The Thursday pier concerts, which run from 7 to 10 p.m. and conclude Sept. 8., attract crowds into the lows tens of thousands. This year’s series could prove more popular as the Expo Line light-rail extension opening Friday starts carrying trains full of people to Santa Monica from downtown Los Angeles.

Among other performers are buzzy acts such as Børns and Porches, which share a bill. There’s even a hint of an international flair, as Latin pop artist Natalia LaFourcade will perform on the same night as the jazzy Monsieur Perine. Remaining acts will be announced mid-June.


Twitter: @peard33, @Toddmartens