How big can dance get? The superstars speak

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A couple of weeks back, inthemix took the long haul to Las Vegas for EDM Biz, billed as ‘the business conference for electronic music’. Taking place in the Cosmopolitan Hotel (home to Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub, where you could always find a bustling queue), the conference happened in the lead-up to Electric Daisy Carnival, the largest dance festival in the States. After two days of panels with promoters, label reps, talent agents and other industry types, the final panel turned the spotlight on the most important players of all: the artists.

It was certainly an all-star line-up that gathered in the ballroom. At one end of the panel sat Richie Hawtin, a figure in dance music who seems at odds with all things Vegas. That night, though, he was set to play a rare Sin City show at Drai’s After Hours, an infamous club on the Strip. At EDC on Saturday night, he was bringing his ‘Enter’ stage to the cosmicMEADOW with Magda, Gaiser, Loco Dice and Dubfire (sadly, those desert winds called it short).

Next to Hawtin sat Steve Angello in shorts and backwards-baseball cap. Friday night at EDC was his chance to curate a stage, bringing his Size Matters family including Thomas Gold and AN21 & Max Vangeli. Next on the panel was Kaskade, who couldn’t have been more mellow throughout the discussion (the thongs added to the San Fran Zen vibe). Finally at the far end: Swedish big-room house specialists Rebecca & Fiona and trance gurus Above & Beyond. The moderator was L.A. radio DJ Jason Bentley. Here’s how it went.

Jason Bentley, moderator: We've spoken to event promoters, managers, agents, publicists, new media, record labels, and it's this whole economy that's based on you [points to panel] and what you do. This is the first time we're speaking with artists: the creators. It's really important what you think about everything that's going on. I'd love for anyone to chime in on what's going on in the U.S. right now.

Kaskade: To me, it's just fascinating just to watch everything that's been going on. I grew up listening to and loving this music, but as an American kid, I thought it was more of a European thing. It was happening in Chicago and Detroit, the hot-spots, but to see where it's at now is mind-boggling really. I'm still amazed when I go to EDC.

Jason Bentley, moderator: Richie, I'm curious about your take on it.

Richie Hawtin: Yeah, I've been in the scene 25 years, and it's incredible how vibrant it is right now. In some ways it's a little bit scary. We spent the last 25 years believing in what we do, and building this. So, it had to get to this point. But the challenge now is to make sure it doesn't slip out of our fingers. Keep it in control.

Jason Bentley, moderator: Can you compare it to anything you've seen before? Any waves of interest?

Richie Hawtin: Sometimes it reminds me of the early '90s in California. The whole rave scene. I was actually on a bus tour around 1991. It was the band I was in, Cybersonic, Moby and The Prodigy. It was the first electronic rave bus tour across America.

At that moment, it looked like it was going to pop. But it didn't. Things happened in L.A. and other places with people not understanding the music fully. That was probably the right thing to happen then. It wasn't ready. I guess what I'm trying to say is now the people behind the scenes have matured and if it had happened 20 years ago, we would've lost control of it. Now we can – I don't want to say 'take it to the masses', 'cause I don't believe it should go to the masses – but go to a wider field.

Jono, Above & Beyond: “There’s a danger now that artists will evolve into businessmen.”

Jason Bentley, moderator: I want to throw the question down to Above & Beyond. You guys have done really well on your own terms. You recently had three sold out nights at The Shrine in Los Angeles. But your success is off the grid. Do you think it's important for you to be in the bubble of that scene?

Tony McGuinness, Above & Beyond: I remember the time when you just went to clubs to look at the girls. You never worried about the DJ. I miss that. [Laughter]. What we're trying to do is be like a band, actually. The fact that we make electronic music is just the way it's come together.

We're about writing songs and bringing that to the audience, and the club side is just one side to what we do. So, the whole explosion of EDM now is just something the mainstream media has noticed. We've been coming to the States since 2002 doing the same kind of thing as now. But in the last three years it has got bigger quickly.

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