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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

LIV

Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

11

Dave Grutman, Miami Marketing Group, Founder

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.

Amy Thomson

Chelsea Lauren/WireImage

10

Amy Thomson, ATM Management, founder

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.

steve wynn

Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty Images

9

Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts, Chairman of the Board and CEO

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.

skrillex

C Flanigan/FilmMagic

8

Skrillex

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.

peter tong

Brian Killian/WireImage

7

Pete Tong

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.

Russell Faibisch

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6

Russell Faibisch, Ultra Music Festival, Founder

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.

am only paul morris

Courtesy of AM Only

5

Paul Morris, Founder/President, AM Only

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.

Samir Hussein/Getty Images; Helene Wiesenhaan/Getty Images for MTV

4

Joel Zimmerman, William Morris Endeavor, Head of Global Electronic Music

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.

Robert Sillerman

Robin Marchant/Getty Images

3

Robert Sillerman, SFX Entertainment, Founder

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.

Pasquale Rotella

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2

Pasquale Rotella, Insomniac Events, Founder/CEO

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.

james barton

Mark McNulty/Photoshot/Getty Images

1

James Barton, Live Nation, President of Electronic Music

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.

 

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