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50 Most Important People in EDM

The movers, shakers and speaker-quakers shaping dance in 2014

skrillex

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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.

By Arielle Castillo, Andrea Domanick and Michaelangelo Matos

A-trak

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A-Trak

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.

daft punk pyramind

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Vello Virkhaus (V Squared Labs) and Martin Phillips (Bionic League)

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.

Richie Hawtin

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Richie Hawtin

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.

Spinnin Records

Courtesy of Spinnin' Records

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Eelko van Kooten and Roger de Graaf, Spinnin’ Records

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.

Red Bull Music Academy

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Many Ameri and Torsten Schmidt, Red Bull Music Academy, Founders

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.

Diplo

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Diplo

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.

Big Beat

Courtesy of Big Beat Records

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Liz Miller, Big Beat Records, General Manager

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.

Nile Rodgers

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Nile Rodgers

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.

Ash Pournouri

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Ash Pournouri, At Night Management, founder

"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.

three six zero group

Courtesy of Three Six Zero Group

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Mark Gillespie and Dean Wilson, Three Six Zero Group, Founders

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.

Disco Biscuits

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Disco Biscuits

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.

Gary Richards

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Gary Richards, HARD, Founder

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.

deadmau5

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Deadmau5

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.