Electronic dance music is already the defining youth culture of the 2010s, but it’s slowly taking over all aspects of modern music: Skrillex is on the cover of Rolling Stone, Daft Punk are at the Grammys, Baauer is atop Billboard and Avicii is on Country Music Television. From the people behind the decks to the people behind the scenes, here are the 50 people poised to chart its path going forward.
The Boiler Room, dates back just four years, when Blaise Bellville edited a magazine called Platform and Thristian Richards spun at the hippest warehouse parties in über-hip East London. Bellville invited Richards, who spins under the name bPm, to create a live-streamed mix for the magazine. That project's popularity led to more streams, with Bellville ultimately spinning off the concept into the Boiler Room, a series of mix sessions broadcast from too-cool-for-school, invite-only club nights now spanning the globe. The hallmark of a Boiler Room session is creativity in music selection and technical skill. Both its listeners and guest DJs demand surprises and proper set creation, bringing back DJ sets to the notion of a proper dance floor journey rather than a hit parade.
What started as a news site about Australia's dance-music scene has grown to become an exhaustive authority on the global dance industry. Part webzine, part database, and part online community, the site offers up information ranging from news and reviews to event listings to artist profiles to club directories, in addition to accoutrements like ticket sales, films, and podcasts. RA has doubled its traffic in the past three years, averaging more than two million users, and shows no signs of slowing, with Clement and Sabine unveiling a major redesign in January, expanding the site's reach and interactivity. Beyond the web, the RA name has been attached to club nights, festival collaborations, and other events around the world. The site ultimately remains more influential overseas than in the U.S., but as dance music scenes and subgenres like deep house continue to take off with American audiences, RA is poised to become the top media brand for electronic music.
Dublin-born DJ Annie MacManus – better known as Annie Mac – helms the power hours of Radio 1's dance-music programming, delivering cutting-edge tracks to a legion of devoted followers around the world on her eponymous Friday-night show (in addition to hosting a number of other specialty programs). Since hitting the air a decade ago, she's extended her influence as both a musical curator and DJ in her own right, dropping sought-after compilations, headlining top clubs and festivals, and building her "Annie Mac Presents" showcases into a global-events brand noted for fresh, diverse lineups (at SXSW 2014, she spotlighted Kelis, electronic producer Tourist, and rapper Le1f). Mac's AMP DJ tour expanded to the U.S. in March, bringing her current slate of faves to clubs across the country.
In the shadow of EDM's untz-untz domination, former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy still carries the torch for dance-music's disco roots, representing the best of the cerebral, intelligent realm of the genre's styles and production in an era saturated by lowest-common-denominator beats. Murphy, who has consistently spoken out against the commercial side of dance music, is responsible for inspiring a generation of stiff-shouldered indie kids to bust a move, thanks to his rock-inflected beats and droll, incisive songwriting. His work as one half of now-defunct production duo DFA, meanwhile, has produced some of the most distinct yet versatile sounds in the industry. In the wake of LCD and DFA, Murphy remains an influencer behind the scenes, leaving his BPM fingerprints on last year's outputs from Arcade Fire and Yeah Yeah Yeahs and remixing the likes of David Bowie. DFA Records continues to be recognized as a top name in electronic music and dance-punk, helping launch the careers of left-of-the-dial genre heroes like the Rapture and Hot Chip, as well as newcomers like Factory Floor, Sinkane, and Larry Gus.
Funktion-One is the speaker system prized by every dance-music promoter in the world. Founded in 1992, after Tony Andrews, a veteran sound engineer, left his job as developer for Turbosound, It's become the go-to set-up for any venue that wants to advertise how serious it is about quality sound, from Seattle's Q to Brooklyn's Output, not to mention a few F1-outfitted stadiums. Andrews constantly fiddles with his product, aiming to bring it that elusive one step closer to perfection.
Cake throwing or no cake throwing, Aoki has made himself a dance-biz force by sheer virtue of his methodical, workin'-every-angle partying. The Benihana scion's move from spinning hip-hop to fusing it with house music in mid-2000s L.A. clubs propelled a surge of ground-up interest in what eventually became known as EDM. His label, Dim Mak, formed in 1996, was an art-punk label until he started earnestly focusing on dance music in 2008. With a nonstop stream of singles in recent years from a wide range of festival hitters (Datsik, Zedd, Infected Mushroom, Borgore), the imprint's compilations have become consistent bangers at parties and events. With his restaurant and nightclub ambitions plus endorsement deals with Olmec Tequila, Trident Gum, and Scion, he's a tastemaker, for real – even if the flavor often resembles frosting.
Getting their start throwing raves in mid-Nineties Detroit and then becoming early digital dance-music archivists (their SoundCloud page is a jaw-dropping trove of sets from 2000 forward), Paxahau's Huvaere and Fotias are now gearing up for their eighth year of the Movement Festival. Located in Hart Plaza on Memorial Day weekend, the annual showcase for Detroit techno and its global offshoots is now a serious festival player. (Carol Marvin, who originally founded the event as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, will be reviving DEMF this year to compete with Movement.) What's perhaps most impressive is Movement's global fan base, which has helped push the festival's numbers way up – from 45,000 in 2006 to 100,000-plus each of the last two years. All this with only one stage dedicated to EDM.
A Detroit native who wound up in Seattle the old-fashioned way (his van broke down), Sean Horton's first Decibel Festival in 2004 attracted 2,500 attendees. The tenth edition, held this past September, drew ten times that. This steady climb reflects the city's rapid growth, but it's nowhere near as unnerving: Decibel is still heavy on underground DJs, but Horton has expanded its scope without abandoning his core philosophy. Anyone interested in dance music's next big thing looks closely at his lineups – Horton booked Deadmau5 in 2007 and multiple dubstep showcases in 2009, shortly before both blew up, while still bringing in big headliners (last year included Moby, Zedd, and Lorde)
Interscope's A&R man for dance music has a stacked roster: Nero, Zedd and Eva Simons, not to mention Will.i.am, who's done as much to popularize EDM as anybody. Rene's management style is hands-on; an impressed Nero told an interviewer: "We're one team. We all do everything together, everyone is part of the marketing, everyone is part of the video decisions." Interscope is also behind the Divergent soundtrack, which functions as an EDM primer thanks to tracks by Skrillex, Zedd, and Pretty Lights.
Who said the kids only loved brostep and confetti house? Starting as bedroom-producing teens, Disclosure's Guy and Howard Lawrence bucked their peers' favored trends and instead dug a decade-and-a-half back into dance-music history for inspiration. Refurbishing U.K. garage – a funky, skipping dance-pop hybrid flavored with R&B – Disclosure concocted a gold debut album and a string of international chart hits. Their version is a craftily melodic blend that is especially adept with live vocal performance, satisfying both festival ragers and dance-pop doubters, bringing soul back to the main stage.
Afrojack has been behind a passel of hits, from "Pon De Floor," which he co-produced with Major Lazer in 2009, to a fruitful partnership with Pitbull peaking with a featured appearance on "Give Me Everything," No. 1 in 2011. But he's also a fan favorite at the festivals, and his forthcoming Forget the World – his first real album (like many EDM artists, it's been mostly singles, EPs, and remixes) – is a step beyond "I didn't want to make it a festival banger," as he recently told Rolling Stone. Guests include Wiz Khalifa and Sting.
Mendlinger arrived at Astralwerks just as things were smoking the first time around – in 1998, when he became a project manager for Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers. He rose to general manager in 2007 and began shifting the label's sales emphasis to fit the changing digital market, marketing singles as much as albums and helping drive David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia outside of the live realm. Astralwerks' spate of recent signings (via A&R men Ryan Murphy and Jeremy Vuernick) has been both scene-driven and commercially savvy: Tensnake, Mat Zo, Deadmau5, Porter Robinson, and Duke Dumont join the Chems, Eric Prydz, and Empire of the Sun, not to mention the most formidable dance-music back catalog of any major-label affiliate.
At 51, Carl Cox has one of dance music's longest CVs. He provided the sound system for Shoom, the London club where acid house took off in 1987; he headlined the early giant outdoor raves, such as Sunrise in 1989, where he rocked crowds with three turntables; and he's been a key figure for more than a decade at Ibiza's famed Space nightclub as resident DJ, promoter, programmer, and host. The ebullient Coxy has long parlayed his live popularity into other realms, from issuing some of the first and most popular DJ mixes (like 1995's F.A.C.T.) to hosting Global Radio, a syndicated two-hour radio show on 40 stations worldwide. Most visibly, he's the proprietor of his own stage – Carl Cox and Friends, with three hours given over to the man himself – at Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Belgium's Tomorrowland.
The owner of Chicago-based Biz3 Publicity, Frazier has been championing dance music for decades, and has watched it turn into big business from a front-row seat. In a field where flacks wield more power than ever before, Frazier hovers over all, thanks to a high-powered client list topped by Daft Punk (she handled press on Random Access Memories), Bassnectar, Disclosure, and Skrillex – she also co-runs the latter's label OWSLA, a subdivision of Atlantic/Big Beat.
Critics like to skewer big-name DJs for just pressing play on their "live" shows, but A-Trak is untouchable. A former turntable battle-circuit wunderkind, he parlayed his cutting and scratching skills into a 2004 slot as Kanye West's tour DJ. But in the ensuing decade since, his genre-hopping, crate-digger's sensibility continues to inform both his gigs and the curation of the tastemaking record label he co-founded with Nick Catchdubs, Fool's Gold. Closing the gap between the dance-music and hip-hop worlds, A-Trak's picks maintain a tiny bit retro while still sounding futuristic.
It takes more than a mirror ball and some lasers to make a lasting impression on today's EDM crowds, and that's why production pioneers Martin Phillips and Vello Virkhaus play such a vital role. The former, along with collaborator John McGuire, transformed EDM's audiovisual future with Daft Punk's 2006 pyramid show, incorporating narrative, reactive visuals that elevated dance music from a genre into an immersive sensory experience. Phillips' and McGuire's production studio Bionic League continues to create live spectacles today for the likes of Deadmau5, Kaskade and Kanye West. Virkhaus, meanwhile, is the VJ behind every great DJ; his innovations in multimedia content production – from animation to projection mapping to live video mixing – have made his V Squared Labs the studio of choice for Insomniac Events, Ultra Music Festival, Skrillex, Amon Tobin, Krewella, and more.
Dance music is full of multi-taskers, but few have worn as many hats as well as Richie Hawtin. One of Detroit techno's crucial second wave of talent (albeit from across the Canadian border in Windsor, Ontario), Hawtin has been one of its most artful producers and creative party-throwers for decades – his mid-Nineties events like Heaven & Hell, Spastik, and Jak's Bak are legendary. But he's also one of the dance scene's shrewdest entrepreneurs – investing in online retailer Beatport and early digital-DJ software Final Scratch, bridging the older techno world with the younger EDM generation, throwing a party series called ENTER. in Ibiza this winter. Bro-ing down with Deadmau5 one minute and playing the Guggenheim's rotunda the next, Hawtin is also making time for the first Plastikman album in 11 years, due any day now.
Whatever its crossover appeal, EDM is driven by what the DJs play. And much of what they play is released by Spinnin' Records. In 1999, Spinnin' pushed its Dutch-house sound (hard and clipped, its beats and riffs a series of clean, cartoonish punches) onto the radio in Holland and then set its sights globally – see Martin Garrix's worldwide No. 1 "Animals." Spinnin' is also a hub for the imprints of artists including Tiësto, Afrojack, Sander van Doorn, Sidney Samson, and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. Now, Spinnin' is the go-to label for Universal's big-name remixes, such as Cedric Gervais' touch-ups of Lana Del Ray and Miley Cyrus.
What started as a smart bit of marketing for the ubiquitous nightclub drink has grown to become an education platform and a new means of bankrolling an evolving music business. Launched in 1998, the globetrotting main event features public concerts and lectures with invite-only workshops and recording sessions for a select group of up-and-coming producers, DJs, and musicians in what Ameri and Schmidt tout as a strictly no-strings-attached environment (Flying Lotus, Aloe Blacc, and Tokimonsta are among the notable alumni). Though its scope has widened beyond DJ culture in recent years, the program continues to honor electronic music's roots, with recent lecturers including Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers, and Brian Eno. Beyond the annual five-week "term," the RBMA brand has expanded to partnerships with international festivals, an Internet radio station, artist compilations, and a documentary, with RBMA's first ever music festival – focused on New York dance music and culture – kicking off in May. Strings or none, Red Bull's sponsorship model highlights an increasingly unavoidable role of corporate involvement in supporting the music business, proving to be an early leader among youth-centric brands in the now common practice of subsidizing subcultures.
Need a frisson of alternative edge for your pop star's next single? Head straight to the cool kids' No. 1 tastemaker, Diplo, the rare producer/artist who manages to maintain street cred while regularly visiting the Billboard Hot 100. Chalk it up to his globetrotting, networking, and constant search for undiscovered sounds, dating back to his days of DJing as part of duo Hollertronix. Now, when megawatt stars like Beyoncé or No Doubt are feeling stale, he's where they turn for an intro to U.K. funky, kuduro, dancehall, moombahton, or whatever else the world at large is behind on. And now, with his electronic dancehall-pop act Major Lazer a serious proposition, his label Mad Decent having worldwide success with Baauer's "Harlem Shake," and his high-profile stint as a spokesperson for Blackberry, Diplo is more influential than ever.
It speaks volumes when one of dance music's great talent scouts – Big Beat Records founder Craig Kallman – brings you in to guide the A&R for a dance-label relaunch. Kallman tapped Miller as general manager when he relaunched Big Beat under Atlantic's auspices. It wasn't the first time that she was on the ground floor of a booming dance-music business: She was part of the start-up team for Beatport, managing its British label interests. These days, Miller oversees day-to-day operations for acts ranging from Chromeo to Martin Solveig and – oh, yes – Skrillex. Figuratively and literally, nothing gets by her.
The full scope of Nile Rodgers' career is still hard to fathom, and it's not just ongoing, it's in overdrive. He hasn't been this visible since Chic's "Good Times" left the charts in 1979, and he's leveraged that notice smartly, learning a thing or two from Pharrell (not to mention those robots) about branding and marketing himself. That means when he plays guitar on a track, he now gets a featured credit, where he once just got listed in the liner notes. At a time when disco throwbacks are legion, it's good to see the music's greatest practitioner get his.
"We don't discover artists. We create them." That's mighty tall talk to put on the homepage of a music-management website, but it's fully justified by At Night leader Ash Pournouri's track record. Pournouri is the man behind Swedish dance-pop idol Avicii and dubstep duo Cazzette, and he's implemented a strategy based on networking, marketing, and musical savvy – he works closely with Avicii in the studio, as well as in the boardroom. Pournouri got his prize client an opening slot with Madonna (the two are now collaborating on her next album), launched his single "Wake Me Up" to Number 1 in 22 countries, and transformed Avicii from track-maker to pop star inside seven years.
As the gap between EDM and pop narrows, management and production company Three Six Zero is facilitating that cross-pollination. Launched in 2007 by talent booker Mark Gillespie and manager Dean Wilson, the company built on the success of its first artist – a Scottish electro-house dabbler by the name of Calvin Harris – to ink a partnership deal with Roc Nation in 2010. Not long after, Harris teamed with Roc Nation artist Rihanna, and "We Found Love" took over the charts, giving rise to further collaborations, including Sebastian Ingrosso and Alesso with OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder on "Calling (Losing My Mind)." Today, Three Six Zero counts close to 30 artists on its international roster, including Deadmau5, Nero, R3hab, and Gareth Emery.
Who says a jam band can't play dance music? Not the revelers who flood upstate New York every year for the annual festival thrown by Philly's Disco Biscuits and the Denver-based events company MCP Presents. A post-hippie gathering is one thing, but Bisco's lineups showcase EDM's heavy hitters – last year included Bassnectar (his fourth straight festival appearance), Zeds Dead, and Flux Pavilion, as well as a tent co-hosted by Boys Noize and OWSLA (Skrillex co-headlined in 2012). Bisco's ticket sales have been capped due to safety concerns – fluctuating in recent years between 13,000 and 20,000 – and difficulties with the upstate New York site of Mariaville caused the festival to take off this year. But expect Bisco to start afresh and go large in 2015.
One of Los Angeles' early-Nineties promoter kingpins, Richards went into the record business mid-decade, but came back into the live game for real with HARD Events in 2007, bought by Live Nation in 2012. Richards still runs HARD, and has found a cash cow in Holy Ship!, the – yes – EDM cruise, which is so popular it's going out twice next year.
Mr. Get the L.E.D. out would have to do something catastrophic to slip too far from headliner status, just on the steam of his catalog. He's typically put his money where his fans are – back into the live shows, which have always been a priority. So the fact that he's readying a double CD, his first for Astralwerks, is especially intriguing: Maybe he'll even give it an actual title this time? (He hasn't come up with one yet – cover art, either.) Until then, expect a creative rollout, not to mention bigger shows than ever.
"It was good for [Los Angeles-based company] Goldenvoice when the Lollapalooza tour was around because we promoted it," Tollett said in 2007. "But when it went away, there was no big festival for us to promote." So, in 1997, after visiting Glastonbury, Tollett decided to create his own. Two years later, Coachella was born – not just becoming the premiere American destination festival and the most closely watched showcase of the year, but the most dance-friendly. The dance tent, of course, is where Daft Punk premiered their glowing pyramid in 2006, symbolically ushering in the EDM era; this year, the top-lined acts include Zedd, the Knife, Disclosure, Skrillex, and Chromeo.
Sound designer Alexander Ljung and artist Eric Wahlforss, Swedes in Berlin, wanted to make something like a Flickr for the electronic-dance musicians they loved. Prior to launching SoundCloud in 2007, they handed out free accounts to several influential DJs and producers in hopes that they'd upload tracks and mixes – and that number has continued to balloon ever since. So has SoundCloud, under Ljung's direction – the company now employs more than 100 people and is the go-to for every record label and artist, in every conceivable style, to showcase their goods. More to the point, it's impossible to imagine EDM's rise without the instant streaming (and easy downloading) that the platform made possible. With one cleverly designed page, SoundCloud made collecting DJ sets, once a minority pursuit, into something anyone could do.
Maria May's roots in dance and electronic music run deep, with nearly 20 years under her belt representing DJs and producers including David Guetta, Paul Oakenfold, and 2manydjs, as well as less flashy, more quirky artists like Hercules & Love Affair and Róisín Murphy. It's little surprise, then, that May was tapped by CAA in 2012 to lead the high-powered Hollywood talent titan's expansion into dance music. The veteran agent currently sits on the board of advisors of the Association For Electronic Music (AFEM), a trade body created last year that reads like a roll call of the industry's behind-the-scenes heavyweights. Under CAA head of music Rob Light, May and her team have developed her division into a crucial EDM player, with a roster including Guetta, Empire of the Sun, Pretty Lights, Skream, and Jamie Jones.
A one-time A&R man for TVT Records (he signed the KLF for their first U.S. release) and ex-vice president of Napster, Chicago native Matt Adell has run digital download store Beatport for four years, expanding its growth both monetarily (it recently sold to SFX for a reported $50 million) and in terms of awareness. Early last year, Beatport teamed with Shazam to add 1.5 million dance tracks to the latter's information database, making it easier for fans to find (and buy) their favorite DJs' killer tracks, and early this year, Beatport cut a deal with Clear Channel to syndicate a Top 20 countdown show to major-market radio stations. The company's sale to SFX hasn't budged Adell from his perch, suggesting he's as valuable to his new bosses as they are to Beatport's bottom line.
As the only EDM figures iconic enough to get referenced on The Simpsons (unless you count Baron von Herzenberger hurrying back Stuttgart in time to see Kraftwerk), pretty much everything Daft Punk does seems to break ground – from the giant pyramid that made DJs change their festival game, to bridging the gap between clubkid cool and Kanye cool, to making an advertisement that became the most talked about thing at Coachella 2013, to releasing an album with live drums, to being the first EDM artists to get an Album of the Year nomination at the Grammys. Reclusive and media-savvy, no one can ever predict what their next step will be, but it will definitely be watched closely.
During the Nineties, Disco Donnie Estopinal had a lock on the American South's rave scene – he sold tickets to his New Orleans events, at the State Palace Theater, in 14 states. In the wake of a DEA raid of one of his events in August 2000, and the subsequent R.A.V.E. Act's decimation of the U.S. underground dance scene, Estopinal re-established himself as a booking force by linking together the remnants, laying the groundwork for the EDM explosion. Now, Disco Donnie Presents is a partner with EDM megalith SFX, and the veteran promoter puts on events throughout the South – even venturing into Mexico City with Electric Zoo (Made Events' New York stalwart) and Lights All Night (his Dallas New Year's Eve bash), the first step in his plan for a greater international presence.
After making his fortune revamping distressed assets in the U.K. food and beverage industry in the 1990s, music and nightlife entrepreneur Neil Moffitt tore his way through Europe's electronic music scene with his Godskitchen superclub brand, producing sold-out dance events in the U.K. and Ibiza, and launching the popular Global Gathering festival. Now, he's settling in Las Vegas to try his hand at U.S. nightlife through his Angel Management Group. (He also purchased a $50.9 million New York penthouse, causing Curbed NY to crack that he "seems to channel everybody from Gordon Gekko to to that guy from RoboCop." Today, he's at the helm of the 75,000-square-foot Hakkasan Las Vegas at the MGM Grand, the nightclub juggernaut with a reported $100-million price tag, noted for luring A-list DJs away from Steve Wynn's stable of headliners and taking artist price points to new, unprecedented heights with contracts reported near $250,000 per show (Tiësto and Calvin Harris return as residents this year). The club expects to make a record-breaking $90 million in its first year of operation. Hakkasan Group's February acquisition of AMG came as little surprise as Moffitt's ascension continues, with the CEO poised to lead the brand into new markets.
Since its start in 1995, New York-based Ultra has been one of the largest U.S. independent dance labels, thanks to the guidance of Moxey (a former exec at Virgin and Polygram). Ultra's voluminous catalog has stayed on top of club trends, from Sasha & John Digweed's classic Northern Exposure mixes; to Alter Ego's electro-house hit "Rocker" in 2004; to festival favorites such as Calvin Harris, Kaskade, Benny Benassi, Wolfgang Gartner, Steve Aoki, and Deadmau5, who released four albums with the label before defecting to Astralwerks. Ultra artists have been nominated for, and won, Grammy awards, their YouTube channel has more than 1.5 million subscribers, and now that they've been annexed by Sony, Moxey is the big label's president of Dance/Electronic Music – effectively making him Daft Punk's boss. That's power.
With their marketing outfit Strategic Marketing Group, high-school buddies Strauss and Tepperberg brought a handful of top-grossing, splashy nightspots to New York City, from resto-lounge Lavo to dance-club Marquee. But it's due to their expansion into Las Vegas that the duo's profile has exploded exponentially. The Vegas version of Marquee, in particular, has transformed the gambling city's once-cheesy nightlife scene into the driving force of mainstream EDM clubbing in the U.S. (One need only to see billboards for the club in former top club cities like New York and Miami to note the change.) Last year, both Marquee and Tao Las Vegas scored in the top five of the 100 highest-grossing nightclubs, raking in more than $130 million combined in 2013.
Few dance-music businesspeople are as deeply rooted as Craig Kallman, who founded the New York house label Big Beat Records in 1987, sold it to Atlantic, and gradually climbed the ladder to become CEO. Four years ago, he revived Big Beat and signed an ex-emo kid named Sonny Moore after listening to his demos in a hotel room till 4 a.m., giving Atlantic the jump on the EDM boom by a full year. If Skrillex were all Big Beat had, Kallman would still be on this list – his roster also includes David Guetta, Flux Pavilion, Knife Party, Martin Solveig, and Icona Pop ("I Love It" may be the most ubiquitous dance track of the last three years).
Few DJs have monopolized an EDM style quite the way Armin Van Buuren has with trance. If you've heard of a trance act, chances are they record for his label, Armada. If you want to catch up with what's going on in the genre, you can do so via his weekly radio show/podcast, A State of Trance. That's also the name of his regular global road-showcase for his voluminous label roster. The tour's current stretch, which includes sellouts in Moscow, Santiago de Chile, and the Dutch province of Utrecht, concludes at Miami's Ultra Music Festival, featuring Aly & Fila, Dash Berlin, and Paul Van Dyk. He's flown the trance flag high and proud his entire career, and it's paying off hugely.
Windish's booking agency started in the early Nineties with an indie-rock roster, but his Warp Records and Ninja Tune fandom led him to ally himself with the labels' rosters by the early 2000s. His always-evolving agency – particularly via dance-music tastemaker Steve Goodgold – built its EDM roster one brick at a time, from Diplo to M83 to a present-day list of some 600 live acts and 200-plus DJs. In addition, they've started a music-licensing business; though the roster is small, that's likely to change if Windish's track record is any indication.
This self-made megaclub kingpin crawled his way up the nightlife ranks, starting as a South Beach bartender and eventually winding up as head of Miami Marketing Group, operators of superclub LIV. If anything signifies the big-money, mainstream breakthrough of dance-music, it's this two-story cavern in the glitzy Fontainebleau Hotel. Think Ibiza-style go-go dancers/contortionists, ticker tape explosions, and a parade of sparkler-topped liquor bottles. Playing here is a rite of passage for any breakthrough EDM star – LIV raked in more than $40 million in 2014, according to Nightclub & Bar magazine's annual Top 100.
The tail that wagged the dog on Swedish House Mafia's stunning ascension was their manager Amy Thomson. Aside from a six-month interruption when the trio of DJs – Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Axwell – tried new representation, Thomson steered the group's ship into unprecedented terrain: They sold out Madison Square Garden without even a gold album. She understood that the Swedes were primarily a live phenomenon – and post-breakup, a legacy act, as commemorated on the documentary Leave the World Behind. Driven by her leadership, ATM also has been essential to breaking Afrojack and Alesso in Las Vegas, while Thomson now wields power in yet another way – as Musical Director for Light, the Cirque du Soleil-designed nightclub inside Vegas' Mandalay Bay.
Consider Steve Wynn the reason that events titans like Insomniac and ID&T are now competing with casinos for patrons. The 72-year-old magnate saw value in EDM's bottom line while others were still focused on the beats and glowsticks; and his ethos of glamour and decadence, which transformed the Las Vegas Strip in the Nineties, has carried over into his fleet of opulent nightclubs, strategically helmed by industry tastemakers like nightlife vet Zee Zandi (who's now at ATM Artists) and current Wynn nightclub managing partners Jesse Waits and Sean Christie, who gave Avicii, Afrojack, and Swedish House Mafia their first breaks in Vegas. Wynn has thrown down the big bucks accordingly, and today his EDM empire has grown to include compilation albums, podcasts, a recording studio, and a slate of more than 40 exclusive DJ partnerships – not to mention the top-grossing venue in the country – XS, at $80-90 million.
Tightly coordinating a weeklong series of shortly announced hit-and-run small shows in New York and San Francisco recently, Skrillex turned a bunch of get-close opportunities for the die-hards into a mass preview of his new music. Then, boom, new album – the most of-the-moment release of the year so far. The biggest surprise, given the clear hyper-productivity of EDM's most visible face, is that it's only 11 tracks long.
The Internet has given Essential Mix, the Saturday-midnight BBC Radio 1 stronghold (it turned 20 in October), a global currency and historical weight that had once been far more scattered. The show's creator and host, Pete Tong, has been adroitly responsive to his new, Web-based audience: The Essential Mix roster has never been so varied, ping-ponging this year alone from EDM (Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano, R3hab) to house (MK, Deep Dish) to techno (Magda) to a Lady Gaga collaborator (DJ Snake) in a way that feels natural. Tong is also one of the powers behind the International Music Summit, and he's been increasing his own DJ appearances in the States following his move to L.A.
A Nineties rave kid made good, Miami native Faibisch (along with then-business partner Alex Omes) staged the first Ultra Music Festival as a relatively low-key, daytime beach party with a small handful of stages in 1999. But by its third edition, Ultra had outgrown its old sandy spot, moving to mainland Miami and offering a stage for nearly every genre. It soon grew into a beast that became America's first massive, outdoor all-dance-music festival, and in its current, three-day incarnation remains the largest, boasting more than 330,000 attendees in 2013 (over two weekends). The spate of contenders in its wake – Electric Daisy Carnival and company – only spotlights Ultra's savvy foresight. These days, Faibisch presides over an international chain of branded festivals, including editions across Europe, Asia, South America, and now Africa, plus radio broadcasts and film premieres.
DJ booking in the United States has two eras: Before and after AM Only. The English-born Paul Morris began representing DJs in mid-Nineties Miami, but his agency solidified in 1996, from an office in the back of New York City drum'n'bass shop Breakbeat Science. Some rave promoters from that period grouse that Morris wrecked their profit margin by demanding better deals for his clients. No wonder Morris handles well more than 200 acts, including all manner of legends, up-and-comers, and festival royalty. Under "D" alone: Dada Life, Danny Tenaglia, David Guetta, Disclosure, and Dog Blood – a.k.a., Skrillex and Boys Noize, both clients as well. AM Only is heavily credited in the rise of Skrillex, especially via the work of agent Lee Anderson, who is now trying to engineer similar success for Laidback Luke, Zedd, and SBTRKT.
Since taking the reigns of William Morris Agency's newly launched electronic music division with Pete Tong in 2008, Zimmerman has lead William Morris Electronic to the top of the dance-music talent agency game. Starting out with a lean but modest roster, Zimmerman and his team – which includes veteran DJ booking ace and current WME partner of music development Samantha Kirby Yoh – have gone on to build a list of more than 150 artists. Their clients ranging from elder statesman James Murphy to superstar DJ/producer Afrojack to promising youngbloods like French house producer Madeon. The self-described "Darth Vader" of the EDM bidding wars, Zimmerman has managed to cut through the noise – and competition – in a market saturated with money and interest, landing clients lucrative deals at Las Vegas' top clubs and raising both the DJs' and the Strip's profiles in the process.
Another season, another SFX mega-deal. In January, Robert Sillerman's biz-gobbling EDM juggernaut announced a new partnership with Clear Channel – the company to which Sillerman had sold his earlier company, also called SFX Entertainment, for $4.4 billion in 2000 – to work on EDM-themed radio programming. It's another giant slice of the pie scooped up by Sillerman and his old-pro head of acquisitions Shelly Finkel (whose clients have included everyone from KISS to Mike Tyson). Last fall, they purchased, in full, for a reported $136 million, Dutch events powerhouse ID&T – creator of gigantic festivals Sensation (now in more than 20 countries), Tomorrowland (Belgium), TomorrowWorld (Atlanta), Mysteryland (Amsterdam, and this year, Woodstock), plus the Q-dance series of events, which have made successful stops in the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, and Los Angeles. Led by relentless CEO/founder Duncan Stutterheim, ID&T was already expanding rapidly, and with SFX's backing, that expansion continues apace.
Live music mogul Pasquale Rotella is the prime mover of EDM's tidal rise, helming the most powerful events brand in the fastest-growing dance-music market in the world. That means more than a dozen festivals (Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Forest, Audiotistic, Bassrush, Nocturnal Wonderland, Beyond Wonderland, Escape from Wonderland, White Wonderland, etc.), nightclubs (Los Angeles' Create being the latest), and various multimedia events bearing the Insomniac name. Boasting a massively influential and active social-media following, as well as Hollywood ties, Rotella has become a star in his own right, outshining his high-powered industry peers as the poster boy for EDM’s fans and fortunes alike.
Even when facing tragedy and controversy – including the 2011 death of a teen at EDC Los Angeles and an embezzlement lawsuit – Rotella has consistently grown his brand, with EDC’s main-event attendance more than doubling since relocating to Las Vegas, while his fleet of satellite festivals has continued to expand. The rave entrepreneur had quite a 2013, featuring a Kaskade-DJ’d wedding to Hugh Hefner consort Holly Madison (the mother of their daughter Rainbow Aurora); the international development of Insomniac Events; and most critically, his partnership with Live Nation, in which the global entertainment giant took a 50 percent stake in Insomniac for a reported $50 million.
The new injection of capital and infrastructure has Insomniac poised to attempt even dizzier heights of scope and spectacle in 2014. This February, Rotella debuted the Crush festival, an expanded industry conference and dance-music awards show at Las Vegas' EDC in June, in addition to announcing a forthcoming record-label launch and a partnership with a yet-to-be-named Las Vegas venue.
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.