The idea to build this weekend's Billboard Hot 100 Music Festival on Long Island was, oddly enough, born on the Great Wall of China.
John Amato, co-president of Guggenheim Media's Entertainment Group, which includes the music industry trade magazine Billboard, was in China earlier this year as part of the Brooklyn Nets' advisory board and met another board member, Alan Ostfield, president of Live Nation's North Atlantic operations, at the Great Wall.
"It was quite serendipitous," Amato said. Though Billboard has had a strong music industry reputation for decades, especially through its charts, it has only recently started building its brand as a creator of live events.
"We sort of Forrest Gump-ed our way into finding out that people are really interested in our perspective on music," said Amato, citing the success of the Billboard Music Awards. What the company wanted next was to create that kind of event "that 50,000 people could show up to."
This weekend, that event arrives at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, with 46 acts on three stages. Saturday's headliner is The Weeknd, who currently holds the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Hot 100 chart with "Can't Feel My Face." Also on the bill: Fetty Wap, the trap sensation who currently has three songs in the Top 20. Sunday's headliner will be chart queen Nicki Minaj.
"The Hot 100 chart is such a great muse to draw from," Amato said. "There are a lot of festivals in the area, but we thought there was a pretty big hole in the market in terms of pop music."
Billboard teamed with Live Nation, which operates Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, to produce the festival. "We're excited to create a world-class pop music festival," said Jason Miller, Live Nation's president of its New York operations. "It's going to be fully epic."
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater will be transformed to create more of a festival atmosphere on its grounds, including adding a stage on the beach, which will increase the venue's capacity to about 25,000 each day. To handle the increased crowd and the expansion of access to its grounds, the venue will add both security and support staff for more concessions.
Both Amato and Miller are already looking at long-term prospects for the festival. "This is and should be a signature event that New Yorkers can enjoy," Miller said. "It is unique in its location and unique in its programming."
American Authors singer Zac Barnett said the festival's lineup made the Brooklyn-based band, best known for its smash "Best Day of My Life," jump at the chance to be part of it.
"The lineup is insane," Barnett said. "Music has all sort of melted together. Musicians with different styles are collaborating together. I think it's great."
American Authors will take a break from working on its new album, due out in October, to show off its new single "Go Big or Go Home" at the show.
The New York DJ/producers The Chainsmokers, the duo best known for the dance hit "#Selfie," may be even better-suited to the festival's focus on hit singles.
Alex Pall and Drew Taggart haven't released an album and have no immediate plans to do so. Instead, they hope a string of great singles, including their latest "Roses," will build their fan base.
"We know that a lot of people haven't dug deeper than "#Selfie," Pall said. "That's OK. We like proving people wrong. We're prepared to do that at Jones Beach."
WHAT TO EXPECT
To accommodate the supersized festival, the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater grounds will be more available for roaming around than ever before. Here's a look at some of the changes:
BEACH STAGE For the first time, a stage will be on the beach west of the amphitheater, incorporating some sandy fun into the Nikon at Jones Beach experience.
FESTIVAL VILLAGE The plaza behind the amphitheater will be filled with new food vendors and various interactive booths to add to the festival atmosphere of the show.
MEMBERSHIP AREAS Got a Citi MasterCard? You're in luck. Bring it along for access to a private entrance, premium viewing areas, and the VIP Oasis -- where you can recharge your phone and find separate concession stands and bathroom facilities.
ULTRA-VIP Tired of that Jones Beach traffic? Take a helicopter to and from the show. Wanna get closer to Nicki Minaj? Sit on the stage. Yes, if you buy the "Poser VIP" (for $5,500 a seat) you get that access and more.
With 46 artists packed into two 10-hour days, music will be on three stages, including the main amphitheater of Nikon at Jones Beach Theater. "We're fans of every single artist on the bill," says John Amato, of Billboard.
SATURDAY Headliners will be Mr. "Can't Feel My Face' himself The Weeknd (10 p.m.), rapper Lil Wayne (6:30 p.m.), R&B singer Jason Derulo (5:15 p.m.), and EDM titans Axwell & Ingrosso (8 p.m.). Don't miss rockers The Faint (5:30 p.m.), rapper Santigold (8:40 p.m.), pop sensations Little Mix (3 p.m.) and breakthrough artist Halsey (4 p.m.).
SUNDAY Headliners will be rapper Nicki Minaj (7 p.m.), EDM king Skrillex (8:40 p.m.), upcoming Norwegian DJ Kygo (5:30 p.m.) and a special appearance from Justin Bieber (9:40 p.m.). Don't miss rockers New Politics (9:30 p.m.) and X Ambassadors (2 p.m.), trap king Fetty Wap (3 p.m.), DJ producers The Chainsmokers (4 p.m.), and pop sensations Tori Kelly (7:35 p.m.) and MKTO (3 p.m.).
WHAT Billboard Hot 100 Music Festival
WHEN | WHERE 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh
INFO $75; 516-221-1000, livenation.com