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Last night a DJ saved music biz.

Taste makers and moguls keep the $6 billion beat bumping.



The Dutch Grammy-winning EDM DJ/music producer has become one of the top DJs in the business in rather short order. His 2011 hit "Take Over Control" was only the start of his success. Now, Afrojack, aka Nick van de Wall, is only the second DJ to join Hollywood's Walk of Fame. He is a resident at Las Vegas nightclub Hakkasan and in May he released his debut album with Island Records, "Forget the World," which includes his latest hit "Ten Feet Tall." He runs an imprint label named Wall Recordings and headlined the Ultra Music Festival in Miami in March.


Trance music producer and DJ, Van Buuren has been making waves in music since 1995. With the latest EDM craze, Van Buuren is still in the game earning a No. 2 spot on DJ Magazine's 2013 Top 100 DJs, after five years topping it. Last year, Van Buuren released "Intense," his fifth studio album, featuring his single "This Is What It Feels Like," which was nominated for the 2014 Grammy Award for dance recording. The Dutch DJ is also co-founder of Armada Music.


Swedish DJ and producer Avicii, aka Tim Bergling, hit mainstream success with the 2011 release of "Levels." But it was his song, "Wake Me Up!" featuring Aloe Blacc, that gave him worldwide recognition. The song is the first electronic dance track to sell over 4 million copies in the U.S. and it also spent 53 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100. His follow up album to "True" will debut later this year and will include collaborations with Jon Bon Jovi, Coldplay's Chris Martin and Billie Joe Armstrong.


30-year-old Scotsman Calvin Harris has sold upwards of 50 million records in his brief career as a DJ/ producer/songwriter. He was the first DJ to score a residency at MGM Grand's superclub Hakkasan, and now he's trying his hand at developing an electronic music-centric comedy with HBO, all the while continuing his aggressive multi-country tour. Harris' newest single, "Summer," has spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.


Cuetta has been a DJ for more than 30 years and has become one of the most popular EDM artists with hit after hit. The French DJ and music producer has crossed over into pop radio with hit songs like "Titanium," "Sexy Chick," "Memories" and "Without You." Guetta has collaborated with Rihanna, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Sia and Kelly Rowland. He is responsible for producing the Black Eyed Peas' chart-topper "I Gotta Feeling" that was nominated for a Grammy for record of the year. He recently released his four-track EP "Lovers on the Sun" and continues his residency at Pacha in Ibiza.


Though he's one of the most endearingly acerbic and outspoken of top tier DJs, Deadmau5, born Joel Zimmerman, is also one of its savviest marketers, with his trademarked mouse-ears headgear providing plenty of licensing opportunities, ranging from apparel and headphones to toys and computer accessories. He's also plenty prolific as a producer, having released his "Godfather"-length seventh album "while(1<2)" to a top 10 debut on the Billboard album chart this summer, while still making time to play plenty of fests and a maintain a residency at Las Vegas' Hakkasan.


Well known for creating the electronic music project Major Lazer, Diplo, aka Thomas Pentz, is a successful producer who has worked with Beyonce, No Doubt, Usher, Shakira and Bruno Mars among others. He set up his own record label, Mad Decent, in 2005. Despite constantly touring around the world, Diplo has had DJ residencies at the Wynn Las Vegas and its Encore Beach Club this past year and has performed at major festivals including Tomorrowland in Belgium. Some of Diplo's hits include "Express Yourself" and "Revolution," which are featured on his most recent compilation album, "Random White Dude Be Everywhere."


British born brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, better known as the electronic music duo Disclosure, burst onto the U.S. dance scene with "Latch." Their pop hit, featuring burgeoning talent Sam Smith, sat for seven weeks at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart before falling to its current No. 10 slot. The siblings, 22 and 20 years old respectively, were Grammy-nominated for "Settle," their debut album, but lost to Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories." Merging their guitar and keyboard skills with layered electronic beats, Disclosure has had success playing the festival circuit, appearing at Indio's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Chicago's Lollapalooza and San Francisco's Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival.


The youngest man to top DJ Magazine's annual Top 100 DJs list, the 25-year-old Dutchman has registered a clutch of firsts over the past 12 months. The past year also saw the premiere of the DJ's first film with an accompanying tour that took him from a Hakkasan residency in Las Vegas to Indonesia, Vietnam and beyond. The DJ has yet to release a proper debut, something he plans to remedy this year, though his Revealed Records label has been churning out compilations and singles since 2010.


Kaskade, aka Ryan Raddon, has had quite a year. The Chicago-born DJ and record producer released his 10th studio album, "Atmosphere," in September 2013, was subsequently nominated for Grammy awards for dance recording and dance album, and is wrapping up a nationwide stadium tour and his residency at Las Vegas daydub-cum-nightdub Marquee. "I think my proudest moment of the past year was receiving a Grammy nomination for 'Atmosphere,'" says Kaskade, who's begun writing tracks for his as-yet-untitled next album.


Though he's a six-time Grammy winner, it was not until March that the 26-year-old Skrillex dropped his debut album, "Recess." An amalgamation of pop, dubstep, EDM and the brass and bass tracks that brought him early club fame, the album was praised by critics, who also hailed Skrillex as a kind of collaborate-or-die A&R mastermind. Spring also marked the DJ's maiden movie partnership; he worked on the sound design for "Transformers; Age of Extinction."


A DJ, producer and record label owner, Steve Aoki has never lost track of the simple fact that dance music is supposed be fun. This has often caused consternation among some of the more beard-stroking types in the dance world, and Aoki recently wrote an editorial in defense of his outlandish stage shows. But behind all the stagecraft remains a hard-working performer who somehow maintains residencies at Hakkasan in Las Vegas and in Ibiza while running his 18-year-old Dim Mak label, with record "Neon Future Vol. 1" due out later this year.


Zedd had been kicking around the margins of the mainstream for several years, eventually signing to Interscope Records. But it was Zedd's 2012 single "Clarity" that finally pushed him all the way through. It charted in the U.S. top 10 and won a Grammy. Songs on the "Divergent" soundtrack and the upcoming Ariana Grande record have further established Zedd as the pop-friendly dance producer to beat.



Dance music is a genre that hardly lacks for characters, but Amy Thomson--a veteran of London's storied Ministry of Sound --evinces a particular flair for the dramatic. Not only did the founder of ATM Management turn supergroup Swedish House Mafia into reliable pop hitmakers Stateside, but she also managed to cast their amicable breakup as a sort of rave culture "Last Waltz," with a farewell tour and documentary "Leave the World Behind" hitting festival fields and cinemas across the globe. Her Las Vegas club venture, Light, also exhibits an eye for the theatrical, blending the new breed of DJs with that most reliable of Vegas attractions, Cirque du Soleil.


He is perhaps the only major American festival mogul to be as familiar with the view from behind the decks as he is from behind the desk. Gary Richards had a long and colorful history as a promoter and a DJ--he still records under nom de dance Destructo--before starting Hard Events in 2007, which Live Nation acquired in its EDM expansion in June 2012. Anchored by the flagship Hard Summer fest in Los Angeles, Richards has taken the show on the road across the U.S. and Australia.


Like hip-hop, grunge, new wave and any number of youth culture scenes before it, electronic dance music recently hit the tipping point at which congloms were bound to want a piece of the pie. It's to concert giant Live Nation's credit that in seeking to establish a foothold in the music, it turned to Brit James Barton, a multi-decade veteran of the scene whose Cream nightclub, started in Liverpool in 1992, gradually grew into the enormous global Creamfields festival. Taking on a post at Live Nation created specifically for him, Barton consolidated the live events giant's hold on the Stateside fest business, inking deals with Insomniac and Hard, among others. Since then, both Live Nation's EDM offerings--and its portfolio in general--have blossomed dramatically.


A pioneer of leading dance music from the agency side, WME's EDM group partners Joel Zimmerman and Samantha Kirby Yoh have amassed a truly impressive roster of talent. Zimmerman's clients range from Deadmau5 to Calvin Harris, Afrojack, Steve Aoki, Kaskade and Martin Garrix. Kirby Yoh corrals veterans like the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, as well as Alesso, Ingrosso and James Murphy.


Tapped by Creative Artists Agency head of music Rob Light in 2012 to spearhead the agency's first major push into the EDM ring, longtime dance music dealmaker May has given it far more than just a foothold with David Guetta, Steve Angello, Pretty Lights, Empire of the Sun and even electronic pioneers Kraftwerk among the agency's most notable clients.


It takes a big gesture to really make a splash in the arms race that passes for the club scene in Las Vegas, and Angel Management Group entrepreneur Neil Moffitt executed a full cannonball with Hakkasan. Located in the MGM Grand, the club immediately became a local fixture. The club has also been aggressive in nailing down marquee name DJ residencies, with Afrojack, Tiesto and Deadmau5 among those lured into regular gigs.


As an indie agency repping the likes of Skrillex and Tiesto, it seemed a matter of time before AM Only, which Morris started in 1996 in the back of a New York City record store, was courted by a big player. Paradigm was the first to step up, forging a joint venture with the agency in 2012. Since then, the longtime player has helped oversee the rise of Disclosure, Hardwell, Dzeko & Torres and Laidback Luke.


Having sowed the seeds of what became Live Nation through the '90s, it took the rise of electronic dance to entice mogul Robert Sillerman back into the live music fold. Reigniting his live events presence with company SFX Entertainment in 2012, Sillerman amassed an impressive array of partnerships with great haste, nabbing the Electric Zoo, Tomorrowland and Stereosonic tests, as well as ubiquitous online music store Beatport, before going public. The 2014 partnerships with MasterCard and Clear Channel have further solidified his lofty perch.


While the Electric Daisy Carnival may have been the megafestival that really turned mainstream heads, Miami's annual Ultra Music Festival is a thriving grandfather of the modern dance fest scene. First held in 1999, the festival has expanded relentlessly over the past 15 years, and last year's edition attracted 900,000 over two weekends. Organizers Russell Faibisch and Adam Russakoff also make space for performers outside the EDM fest circuit, with M.I.A., Pusha T and Madonna having recently graced the stage.



A dance club is nothing without a sound system, and the louder the better. At least, that tends to be the prevailing motto, though it's not one that Avalon owner and audiophile John Lyons is comfortable with. Having handled sound for major Vegas clubs, Lyons recently renovated the Avalon, and notes that sometimes the most valuable aspect of a sound system can be restraint. "A really strong, clean powerful bass note," he says, "gives a palpable sensation that's unachievable anywhere else. Now, if you take that same experience and do it every second for 12 or 30 or 90 minutes, it becomes the biggest headache you could ever imagine. So you've got to pull it off in the right way; if there's no relativity, it doesn't work."


"For years, people used to tell me that I had the worst clients in the world. Why would I ever want to deal with nightclubs and raves?" So recalls Steve Lieberman, who parlayed his childhood love of dance music into a thriving business doing elaborate lighting and stage design long before the gold rush. Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra are repeat customers, as is Live Nation and clubs like Drai's, XS and Marquee Vegas. "I kind of created my own industry, it didn't really exist until I started doing it," he says. "I remember the early days of EDC when I might have had $250,000 to produce seven stages. I spend that on structure for one stage now."



While YouTube, Soundcloud and Beatport have caused seismic changes in the way DJs, producers and remixers first break through to the mainstream, one ignores pubcaster BBC at one's peril. Irish-born DJ Annie "Mac" MacManus wields a particularly potent tastemaking cudgel with her eponymous weekly show on BBC Radio 1, while her club nights and "Annie Mac Presents" series of mixes remain potent real estate for established acts and launching pads for new ones.


Decades into his career, Pete Tong is still one of the Godfathers. Being invited as a guest DJ/producer on his "Essential Mix" on BBC Radio 1 is akin to landing on the cover of Rolling Stone--a sign that you've arrived. Tong's stature is such that he was named MBE by Prince William in the spring, but his impact extends beyond the U.K. His syndicated weekly radio show reaches more than 90 stations Stateside. Of his proven track record in helping launch younger talents, Tong says: "I don't turn water into wine --all I ever saw myself doing was fanning the flames of something that I thought was inevitable."

Tiesto traffics in hits on 'Paradise'

A CONSISTENT PRESENCE NEAR THE TOP OF FORBES' rankings of the most fiscally successful DJs, and a tireless performer at fests and residencies, Dutch veteran Tiesto released "A Town Called Paradise" this summer, his first proper album since 2009's "Kaleidoscope."

On the importance of albums: An artist album five or 10 years ago had a lot more impact than nowadays. Nowadays I feel most people just do one-off singles all the time. No one really seems to be making real albums anymore, and people don't take the time to listen to them either. That's hard to fight against, when you have people who are surrounded with music all the time now. I just try to make the album as interesting as possible, to make every song the best song I can. When I think of this album, there's 14 hits on there. It's not a journey like the old albums used to be.

On audience expectations: It all depends on what kind of gig it is. When I play Las Vegas, people just want to party, they just want to hear great happy music. And I'm fine with that, of course. And then a lot of festivals like Outside Lands ... it's a very indie-based audience, and I feel like there I can go a lot deeper and play some really weird stuff. But I'm not sure where I can go super deep anymore, because people expect Tiesto to play the sound of Tiesto. So even when I play a deep festival --a deep house festival in Germany or something --people still want me to play my own style. So you're kind of stuck in that world.

On mentorship: A lot of DJs are not in the situation I'm in. For me, it doesn't really matter if someone (I mentor) gets big or not. But there are a lot of DJs out there that want themselves to be the biggest, and the younger guy has to be the warm-up act and that's it. I don't really have any ego in that sort of way.

--Andrew Barker

Steve Angello Visits His 'Wild Youth'

During his years as one third of supergroup Swedish House Mafia. Steve Angello did as much as anyone to mainstream EDM in the U.S., becoming the first dance act to headline Madison Square Garden. Yet Angello's roots go far beyond that project, with his label Size Records celebrating its 10th anniversary by releasing its entire catalog for free and his album "Wild Youth" scheduled to roll out this fall with its first video premiering in Times Square last week.

On "Wild Youth": There's something about organic instruments and musicians that I could never let go of. Here I've been working with more strings, guitars and bass, real drums, arranging songs differently and stripping them down. In the few years I've been trying to break out of the ordinary function of a dance song.

On adapting his evolving style into live sets: There are a lot of pieces from the album that I can't play live right now. So what I have to do then, is rethink my whole live setup, I have to rethink how I book tours. I'm not necessarily stuck in the idea that I have to go and play all of the big festivals out there. It's very important not to become a slave to the finances of the dance music industry.

On the future of Size Records: We had a goal that after 10 years we would make a lot of changes. 1 wanted to bring Size wider into other genres and subgenres and really rethink the way we're structuring everything. We're gonna let go of some of the artists that we have today, we're going to sign new artists. We've survived 10 years in the music industry, so now it's just about expansion and growth.

On watching Swedish House Mafia's breakup play out in docu "Leave the World Behind": Sometimes when people ask me about it in private, I say, "how would you feel if your parents broke up and it went on iTunes?" It can be kind of awkward. But it's a story that was better to tell now, rather than wait another 10 years and bring it up. The story's told, it's behind us. No harm done.

--Andrew Barker

Pasquale Rotella Looks Beyond Daisy

THOUGH HARDLY THE FIRST to stage a huge scale fest on these shores, Insomniac Events' Pasquale Rotella, and his Electric Daisy Carnival, did much to herald dance music's explosion. Of late, Insomniac has expanded into recorded music via Interscope, and bowed docu "Under the Electric Sky" at Sundance.

On partnering with Live Nation last year: We are still completely autonomous to Live Nation proper, but we do have access to their resources, and I'm kind of still learning what they are. As a fan, unless you're overseas, you're not going to see too much of a change. But it gives us security, and definitely takes the level of stress down a little bit when you're an independent promoter. I am a guy who takes calculated risks, and when you're solely a mom-and-pop operation, it's a completely different ballgame.

On launching Insomniac Records: We'd been doing something called the Discovery Project, which came out of the frustration that the same few guys seemed to be playing over and over again, not only at our festivals, but other festivals too. We wanted to give new producers the opportunity to get known, and to get them on our stage as soon as we could. We wanted to be able to take them to the next level, and that's where the partnership with Interscope made sense.

On ventures into film: When we were closing ("Under the Electric Sky") up, an opportunity came out of doing a deal with Fox 2000; it's not a done deal yet, not signed, but we're in talks to do something. I'd like to do more of the "Electric Sky" movies. Not every year, but maybe every three or four years we do something.

--Andrew Barker

Gerber Breaks the Mold With Diddy

DANCE MUSIC BROKE so big, so quickly, that it often feels normal to talk about artists solely in terms of earnings or major festival bookings. Yet EDM's big tent allows for plenty of producers and DJs who would still be making the same music even without the brand partners and major agencies involved.

Israeli techno whiz Guy Gerber is one such figure. A former rock musician, Gerber spent years as a sort of Frank Zappa of the Ibiza scene, with last year's "Wisdom of the Glove" and this year's "Rumors" shows introducing a touch of the avant-garde into the resort island's soundwaves. Next month, his counterintuitive album-length collaboration with Sean "Diddy" Combs, "11:11," looks to spread the confusion even further.

On collaborating with Combs: Part of my idea, when he wanted to do something with me, was to do something that would be shocking. Because he's so famous and known for what he does, I thought if we did something kind of emotional and deep and not at all in your face, that would be the most shocking ... I come from the more cutting edge underground world, so doing something with Puff, people might think it would be very commercial and not so easy to support. But I was determined to do something that someone like my mom could understand, but also some afterparty guy who plays only vinyl in Berlin can see that it's cool.

On getting attention from brands and fashion houses (Fendi and Givenchy are among the brands that have recently reached out): I think the medium is the message. I like when things touch a lot of people and bring them together. But at the same time, how ridiculous is it to have me, with my personality, which I would say is not the most conventional, get to the point where these people are approaching me? I don't compromise at all. Like zero. So when these people were coming, I did think of it as a little victory. Not only for myself, but also for the people in the genre that I'm coming from.

On the rise of mainstream EDM: This business may be booming in the U.S., but this music comes from all different kinds of styles and sounds, yet a lot of people only hear the (mainstream) EDM stuff. Me personally, all of the EDM bullshit doesn't really upset me, because I feel like it's something else completely than what I'm doing. Most of the time I can't even call it electronic music, it's just like, really shitty pop. Because pop can be great: Justin Timberlake has great producers, and sometimes he's really funky. But this other stuff is just music to bang your head to and get fucked up and scream.... It's like this permanent spring-break music. There's just nothing there.

On dream projects: I have this inspiration to do a beautiful ballad with Chris Isaak. That's my out-of-the-blue idea.

--Andrew Barker



Incorporating heavy elements of classical music, such as live strings--its first prominent single, "Mozart's House," seemed to describe the band's own personal genre in its title--Brit quartet Clean Bandit offers an alternative to the common solitary EDM producer. Last January's single "Rather Be" topped the British singles chart for several weeks, reaching No. 22 in the U.S., while the group's debut LP "New Eyes" reached No. 6 on the U.S. dance album chart, and secured it a performance slot on NBC's "Today."


Never underestimate the importance of a memorable catch phrase, whether it makes any grammatical sense or not. French --spinner DJ Snake, aka William Grigahcine, had been bubbling up on a number of major projects for years, touring with Skrillex and producing for Lady Gaga. But it was the past year's breakout track "Turn Down for What," with a refrain distinctively hollered by Lil Jon, that thrust his name into the mainstream conversation, with the Columbia Records release reaching No. 4 on the U.S. singles chart.


Introducing a welcome dose of estrogen into the often male-dominated world of EDM headliners, sisters Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf make up Krewella, along with their DJ/producer Kristopher "Rain Man" Trindl. The newcomers released their debut album, "Get Wet," last fall, and it landed in the top 10 of the Billboard album chart featuring their platinum song "Alive." The group has played the major festivals including Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra Music Festival, Coachella, and most recently headlined in the trio's hometown at Chicago's Lollapalooza.


Norwegian remixer Kygo, 22, is still a relatively new name to the dance scene, having been all but unknown 12 months ago, but his list of suitors points to a bright future ahead. Tapped by Coldplay and Avicii to remix the former's "Midnight," Kygo, aka Kyrre Gorvell-Dahll, has attracted a blossoming following on Hype Machine and YouTube with remixes of Ellie Goulding's "High for This," Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and Ed Sheeran's "I See Fire," with the latter racking up 40 million views on YouTube. The DJ is poised for further exposure with a few scheduled dates as Avicii's opening act.


MB Having only recently turned old enough to drink--in Mexico --Dutch producer Martin Garrix, born Martijn Garritsen, follows Porter Robinson, Madeon and Zedd on the list of precocious teenage talents to emerge out of bedrooms onto the circuit's biggest stages, yet his rise may have been even more arresting. His signature track "Animals" might have been the most instantly ubiquitous dance track of the past 12 months, appearing multiple times in any daylong dance fest, with an official video accumulating well over 300 million YouTube views. A five-song EP collecting his previous singles landed in the top 10 of the U.S. dance album chart this summer.


British outfit Nero is hardly a newcomer to the scene: the trio broke big in 2011 with its U.K. No. 1 debut, only to take an abrupt hiatus. It was certainly a productive hiatus, during which the threesome contributed to "The Great Gatsby" soundtrack and won a Grammy for a Skrillex collaboration. But with a sophomore album scheduled for release this year on Cherrytree, Nero is poised to pick up where it left off. (Profiles by Nikara Johns, Andrew Barker, Alexandra Cheney, Malina Saval, Steve Chagollan)

Life in Color Makes a Splash

Started under the name Dayglow at the U. of Florida in 2006, the humble paint party later renamed Life in Color is rapidly becoming a full-blown institution. Acquired by Robert Sillerman's SFX Entertainment in 2012, the event--in which attendees are sprayed with paint in a sort of Pollockian circus act--has recently attracted topnotch headliners like Hardwell, Calvin Harris and Steve Aoki, expanded to such far-flung locales as Brazil, South Korea and Paraguay, and packed in more than 25,000 at its flagship Miami event last winter. Over the past 12 months, it has staged 160 events in more than 40 countries. The company also registered an unusual milestone, as the first EDM promoter to stage a U.S. halftime show performance, at the Guinness Intl. Champions Cup soccer final on Aug. 4.
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Date:Aug 19, 2014
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