The 50 Most Powerful People In EDM 2013
Mon 25th Mar, 2013 Featuresin
Just ask the readers of DJ Mag: Armin van Buuren is as revered as ever. But the four-time consecutive winner of the Top 100 DJs poll hasn’t done it by himself – from the early days of his career, longtime manager David Lewis has been vital to the star’s success. Together with Maykel Piron, Lewis and van Buuren founded Armada Music in 2003 and ten years down the track, it remains arguably the leading trance label worldwide.
But Lewis’ history in dance music goes back further than that. In 1995, he founded niche artist management company David Lewis Productions which as well as van Buuren, boasts a roll-call of mainstage-leading names (Markus Schulz, Sander van Doorn and Jochen Miller, to cherry-pick a few) under its umbrella. The business has grown with trance’s increasing international appeal – originally Netherlands-based, David Lewis Productions now has offices in Amsterdam, Hong Kong and most recently, New York. It’s a fitting launchpad for a man who has the clout and the know-how to take his clients to new heights in the U.S.
How do you captain one of the world's most recognisable brands? For James Palumbo, it's all about staying the course. In 2013, Palumbo returned to operational duties at Ministry Of Sound following the departure of its CEO Mark Rodol. Having built the company from its roots as a London club in 1991 to the multi-million-dollar entity it is today, the founder is focusing on his next moves. The continent-spanning label continues its lucrative run, with its ubiquity as strong as ever.
The Ministry Of Sound club in London remains an iconic institution, despite threats from a property developer. ”Yes, there’s a VIP room. Yes, famous people come here. But this club has always been about the music, the dancing, the big audience,” Palumbo has said. As Fedde Le Grand writes: “You speak to any DJ anywhere and ask where he or she dreams of playing, and Ministry Of Sound in London is always up there right at the top.”
Longtime manager to Kaskade, for years Stephanie LaFera excelled running the one-woman company Little Empire. She’s the manager that inthemix Power 50 leader Pasquale Rotella singled out as a special talent. As the woman behind an enduringly popular and big name artist who has evolved from deep house to prime-time at EDC, LeFera was a force to be reckoned with on her own.
When she joined music management group Atom Factory in 2011 to head up the new electronic music division Atom Empire, she became a commanding name in the industry. “Together, we are eager to build a department that will be nothing short of disruptive in the explosive electronic DJ world,” Atom head Troy Carter announced at the time. Last August, LaFera moved on from Atom Empire to focus full-time on Little Empire Music, using her expertise to work independently as owner and artist manager.
CAA knew what they were doing when they poached Maria May last year. “She has a deep understanding of the electronic music landscape,” the agency put it at the time of the hire. Sure enough, prior to joining the Creative Artists Agency, May worked for 17 years as a representative for DJs and producers all the way up to David Guetta. She’s worked with 2many djs, Paul Oakenfold, David Morales and Frankie Knuckles, right through to the likes of Azari & III and Hercules & Love Affair, two of the most lauded crossover acts in recent years. Now, she’s at the forefront of CAA’s expansion into dance music – and between the power of the one of the biggest agencies on the planet and one of the best minds in the business, it’s set to be a powerful pairing.
Ben Turner is a strong believer in keeping a full portfolio. As founder of Graphite Media, he's worldwide manager for Richie Hawtin and Rob Da Bank, and the mind behind a suite of high-profile brand partnerships. Together with Pete Tong, Turner also launched the International Music Summit, an annual industry conference in Ibiza that continues to grow each summer. He's also a partner in the renowned Bestival weekender and its offshoot Camp Bestival, as well as playing a key role in the Sunday Best Recordings label. In 2013, he introduced the Association for Electronic Music, a new not-for profit trade body, alongside long-serving entertainment industry lawyer Kurosh Nasseri. With AFEM, Turner's mission is to “ensure electronic music gets the recognition and status it deserves". That's a powerful position to be in.
It’s hard to imagine how dance music would operate now without Soundcloud. The music streaming platform, adored by listeners and artists alike, now boasts well over 20 million users to its name. It’s been one of the few companies leading the charge of music’s move away from traditional label models and towards internet-based listening options. All that in mind, it’s not hard to see how Soundcloud founder Alexander Ljung came to be on the inthemix Power 50. Now, Ljung oversees more than 100 employees across three international offices. But what really makes the audio guru powerful? The fact that at only 30, this is just the beginning of his career.
Hard Haunted Mansion, HARD Summer Music Festival, Hard L.A., Holy Ship!: just a few of the reasons Gary Richards has risen up as one of the leaders of dance music in North America. As the head of HARD Events, Richards has helped grow the careers of plenty of big name stars, formed tight bonds with DJs from Diplo to Dillon Francis and come to own the left-of-mainstream style of dance music his events have become synonymous with. But of course, Richards isn’t just a savvy promoter – his success comes from having been inside the scene (and clubs) he’s helped grow, DJing under the moniker Destructo for over 20 years. “We’ve proven over the last five years in L.A. that we can run festivals safely,” Richards told the Electronic Music Conference. “We can work with the city, the local authorities and have a good show. I like to think of it as an electronic music concert, as ‘rave’ is a bad word in America.”
“We don’t discover artists,” At Night Management’s slogan declares. “We create them.” For once, it isn’t just PR hype. Ash Pournouri’s management agency currently has just two artists on its roster: one is fast-rising Swedish duo Cazzette, the other is Avicii. Pournouri and Tim Bergling’s relationship is far more involved than that of a regular artist and manager. Sure enough, as the company slogan proudly boasts, Pournouri didn’t just discover Avicii, he transformed Bergling from bedroom producer to the mainstage headliner he is today in record time. In Avicii’s own words, Pournouri is “the man with the plan”. Combine his reputation for going above and beyond with the clout and contacts the behind-the-scenes mastermind has now, and any other artist taken under Pournouri’s guidance is on the fast-track to success.
Jimmy Iovine isn’t the only man at Interscope that matters. A&R representative Dave Rene has been integral in helping the traditionally hip-hop-focused label stake a claim in the EDM boom, swooping in and signing big-ticket acts like Nero, Zedd and Sebastian Ingrosso. “Dave has an affinity for young record producers; a feel for finding them,” Iovine advocated. “It's rare. He's really helping me in this whole EDM world." With a history in the remix commissioning department, Rene’s also got a knack for pairing the rights artists together, so expect to see him establish a position as the exec behind big-selling collaborations.
Asked for his picks for the inthemix Power 50, Insomniac’s CEO Pasquale Rotella was quick to highlight Samantha Kirby from WME as a “big player”. Having joined the William Morris Agency as a VP in the contemporary music department back in 2004, Kirby has helped manage an imposing electronic roster alongside Joel Zimmerman since 2008. From her previous post at Evolution Talent, Kirby brought across clients like Basement Jaxx, Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada and The Crystal Method. While she keeps a low media profile, the New York-based agent is instrumental behind the scenes.