As debate persists over the corporate courtship of EDM, few players are being watched as closely as James Barton. The 20-year veteran of the dance music game was enlisted by Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino to lead the live events giant's expansion into the EDM market. He's certainly got the right credentials for the job: Barton helped set a precedent for brand expansion in dance music by evolving his weekly UK club night Cream, which served as the Nineties stomping grounds for the likes of Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox, and the Chemical Brothers, into a globally-recognized trademark with a record division and a presence in more than a dozen countries, including the popular Creamfields festivals. Live Nation bought Cream Holdings in 2012, and Barton has since convinced formerly corporate-resistant peers Insomniac Events and HARD Events to join him, inking deals with both last year.
His and Rapino's instincts have paid off: Live Nation saw a record year in 2013, with revenue jumping 11 percent to $6.5 billion following the previous year's loss of $22 million. Going forward, Barton's choices at the helm of one of EDM's most powerful new underwriters will prove whether companies like Live Nation will contribute to dance music's commercial cash out and demise, or facilitate its breakthrough after decades spent teetering on the verge of mainstream success.