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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

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

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

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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