The 50 Most Powerful People In EDM 2013
Welcome to the first inthemix Power 50 – the 50 most powerful people in EDM globally. To compile this inaugural list, we conducted an exhaustive process that included speaking to many of the industry’s key figures to help us form a view on where the foundations of power in EDM exist. Not over the course of history, but right now, today, in 2013. The list is peppered with quotes, both attributed and anonymous, from the people who helped guide the construction of this year’s inthemix Power 50.
It’s worth noting this list is not about DJs or artists. Sure, there are some names like Gary Richards and Pete Tong who do make music, but they’re included because we believe their DJing is secondary to their business interests.
So why this list? Why now?
America has woken up to dance music. EDM is suddenly big business. EDM events are some of the most lucrative and fastest growing on the planet. In a recent study of over a million people by EMI, they estimated there were 73 million EDM fans in America alone, an increase of nine million on the previous year. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about events. According to Nielsen Soundscan, of the five most popular genres of music worldwide in 2012, in terms of total tracks sold, the fastest-growing was Dance/Electronic, with sales surging 35.6%. As the Wall Street Journal put it: “Music’s centre of gravity is shifting again. Like rap and disco before it, the latest surge is electronic music.”
Big business has woken up too. The EDM arms race is well and truly underway. At time of writing, SFX’s purchase of Beatport has been made official, and rumours swirl of the imminent completion of some key acquisitions in the festival space by both Live Nation and SFX, the most prized being Insomniac Events.
So what better time than now, to mark this momentous time in the history of the music we know and love? For many of us who have committed our lives and careers to EDM, this is a golden period when there is the potential to realise your dreams and get the recognition that the industry thoroughly deserves. The spotlight burns brightly on the incredible artistic talent in EDM, but we rarely peek behind the curtain to see the deal-makers at work.
This list marks the start of inthemix.com’s global expansion. From humble beginnings in Australia, inthemix has grown into one of the world’s biggest and most influential EDM communities and content platforms online, viewed by over six million unique visitors in the last year.
Our vision is to unite the industry behind a legitimate, trusted and influential media platform that elevates the quality of conversation around all things EDM.
We look forward to providing the global EDM community with a central home and an independent, credible voice online. So come with us on a journey, as inthemix takes you ‘inside EDM’.
Introducing, the inthemix Power 50.
It’d be easy to focus on the long-established dance hubs in Europe, the UK and Australia, or the booming scene in North America. But take a look at the 50,000-odd people who flock to Sunburn Festival in Goa every year and the message is clear: there are a lot of dance fans in India. Behind what’s become Asia’s biggest dance festival is Shailendra Singh, Joint Managing Director of Indian media company Percept.
Recently, Singh and co. have been responsible for orchestrating mammoth tours like Swedish House Mafia’s visit to the subcontinent, but Sunburn will always be their top priority. “Sunburn is so much more than a music festival,” Chinapa said ahead of the festival last year. “It started as a small musical festival on the beach in Goa. But, now, Sunburn is the face of dance music in Asia. Percept is also looking at taking the Sunburn experience to global destinations like Bali, Dubai, Canada.”
With trailblazing acts like Diplo, Magnetic Man, A-Trak, Dillon Francis, Duck Sauce, Flosstradamus, Lunice, Katy B and Skream & Benga on its growing roster, the Teamwork, or TMWRK, family lives up to its name. Spearheading the operation are Kevin Kusatsu and Andrew McInnes, two sharp minds who work hard for their artists. From his background as an A&R man for Warner Music Group, Kusatsu joined dance music’s renaissance man Diplo in creating the Mad Decent label, bringing it to its current standing as one of the most forward-thinking imprints around. Diplo’s of course gone on to score a hard-earned Grammy nomination for ‘Producer Of The Year’. There’s clearly a smart, clued-in pair at the centre of the Teamwork family, and Kusatsu and McInnes surrounded themselves with acts who will be everywhere in 2013 (and beyond).
As the programming chief at Clear Channel Communications, the U.S. radio giant that owns and operates more than 1,200 stations in the United States, Tom Poleman holds a powerful position. He hasn’t ignored the pull of dance music, either. Clear Channel’s online brand iHeartRadio launched the 24-hour Evolution channel, with shows from Pete Tong, Diplo, Wolfgang Gartner and Fatboy Slim, establishing a direct competitor to the entrenched Sirius XM Radio.
Poleman has also championed the top-end of EDM via his iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It’s testament to the enduring influence of radio that the Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris and Deadmau5 signed up to play in 2012. “We’ve been finding more of EDM showing up on the stations,” Clear Channel entertainment president John Skykes told Billboard. “In our eyes it’s one business. We love EDM, we want it to be a big part of the [iHeartRadio] festival, we want it be a big part of our listeners’ lives. It could be more fun for both as well. We know all about multi-platform and we’re gonna deliver whatever we can.”
For the past twenty years, Jason Ellis has been at the forefront of the UK dance scene. As the head of long-running label Positiva and A&R man at Virgin Records (both labels now of the EMI family), Ellis has long called the shots of dance signings and releases. Over his career, Ellis has driven deals like Positiva’s alliance with management company F&G, been integral in signing top-tier acts like David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia, overseen the development of Deadmau5 and built Positiva’s reputation as one of the world’s leading dance imprints.
Kevin Lee, Seth Combs and Scott Hix certainly raised eyebrows when they announced the launch of SOL REPUBLIC, a competitor brand to the wildly successful Beats By Dre headphones. No one doubted that it was a winning idea: capitalise on a proven concept (fashionable, well-marketed headphones) and sell it at a lower price point. What sets SOL REPUBLIC apart is its dedicated focus on dance music, with big-ticket names like Steve Aoki and Benny Benassi signing on to rep the brand. Combs, Lee and Hix have also aligned SOL REPUBLIC with key EDM events, and the future is looking bright. This team will be making some decisive moves in 2013.
Future Entertainment began life as a collective of party promoters with big plans for the scene in Melbourne, Australia. Now, it’s a well-oiled machine responsible for the farewell to the Southern Hemisphere summer, Future Music Festival. In 2013, the line-up was typically extensive, led by a headliner steeped in dance music history, The Prodigy, and a leader of the new school, Avicii. Future Entertainment has also expanded to Asia, aligning with the ‘A State Of Trance 600’ tour to stage Armin van Buuren in Kuala Lumpur.
The company’s lasting relationship with artists stretches back to the late ‘90s, working consistently to bring just about every A-list dance act to a demanding market. With a tenacity that’s needed in Australia’s ultra-competitive festival space, Future Entertainment endures.
To earn the trust of inimitable artists like Carl Cox, you have to be a savvy operator. Lynn Cosgrave is certainly that. As founder of Safehouse Management, Cosgrave has evolved her business from a DJ management and booking agency into something more comprehensive. Together with her star client, she has been responsible for running the Carl Cox And Friends arenas at some of the key festivals in the world, like Ultra Music Festival, Stereosonic and Global Gathering.
Safehouse and Space Ibiza also collaborate closely on Cox’s legendary summer residency, which is one of the White Isle’s enduring highlights. “Lynn Cosgrave has been an inspiration to me,” Ultra Music Festival’s Russell Faibisch tells inthemix. “She’s great at what she does, and I’ve learned a lot from her.”
In the dance label stakes, Big Beat is nothing short of legendary. Way back in 1987, the then-house centric label was launched from New York club roots and later bought by Atlantic Records. In 2010, Big Beat relaunched as Atlantic’s dance-focussed imprint with artists like Skrillex, Martin Solveig and Chromeo on its roster. To guide the relaunch, Big Beat brought Liz Miller on as General Manager.
Overseeing everything from A&R to marketing and budgets, Miller has been an integral part of the re-launch’s success and Big Beat’s continued growth. “I’m involved with everything,” she’s said of her role. “It’s kind of a do-it-all position overseeing everything and being the centre point of the planning.”
In 2002, Lawrence Vavra began managing the late DJ AM. Long before the EDM boom hit North America, he and AM began to sell the idea of the DJ as a superstar. In ‘06, artist management company Deckstar was born with Vavra at the helm. Seven years down the track, with partner Matt Colon by his side, Deckstar is one of the most important artist management companies in electronic music. Today, the company boasts Dim Mak head Steve Aoki, Nervo, Infected Mushroom, Holy Ghost! and more among its roster. In step with the mainstream explosion of dance music in North America, Aoki has been positioned as a no-holds-barred flag-bearer. Vavra is an opportunist with big ambitions, which is demonstrated by his instrumental role in the creation of the roll-up that is now SFX, having originally conceived the idea with collaborators Paolo and Gabriel Moreno.
Rob Da Bank is dance music’s triple threat: festival promoter, Radio 1 host and label head, the man born Robert Gorham certainly keeps busy. His biggest venture, though, is Bestival, one of the UK’s best-regarded festivals. Since 2004, Gorham and creative director wife Josie da Bank have been bringing an all-star cast to the Isle of Wight, bagging top-festival accolades at a suite of Awards. He’s got the clout to attract iconic headliners like Elton John, Stevie Wonder and The Cure, and the exhaustive knowledge to book a truly inspiring line-up undercard. In part, the reason for Bestival’s success has to be down to how well Gorham knows his stuff: hosting a weekly early morning show on the legendary BBC Radio 1 certainly helps him keep on top of new music. Then there’s his music company and label Sunday Best, who’ve released music from cult heroes The Cure and David Lynch.
A pioneering figure in the growth of dance music in North America, Jason Bentley is in EDM for the long haul. Back in the ‘90s, he co-founded the legendary L.A. club night bossa:nova that hosted sets from DJs all the way up to Daft Punk, in the mid-2000s he was part of the group that successfully lobbied for the addition of a Best Electronic/Dance Album category at the Grammy Awards and now, he’s the host of one of the industry’s biggest conferences, EDMBiz. On top of that, Bentley has a long history in radio, pushing dance music on the airwaves well before it was popular. Currently, he’s the Music Director of Californian station KCRW where he doubles as a presenter, hosting tastemaking show Morning Becomes Eclectic and playing hot-off-the-presses dance music long before it’s on the radar of other programmers. Bentley is a longtime champion for electronic music, and a powerful one at that.
Dubbed “the most powerful man in the South American dance industry” by DJ Mag, Martin Gontad is the mind behind what’s become one of the biggest Creamfields franchises in the world. Buenos Aires was the first international location the UK-based festival juggernaut expanded to – and it wasn’t the obvious choice. Coming to Argentina during the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history, it wouldn’t have been a shock for Creamfields BA to crash and burn. Instead, Gontad turned the festival into a South American success story, bringing tens of thousands through the gates each year and cementing his reputation as South America’s go-to promoter. Now, Creamfields BA continues to soar and big name DJs who head to the continent on solo tours do so almost exclusively through Gontad. Monopoly or not, Martin Gontad is the name you need to know if you want to do business south of the border.
Consistently voted #1 in DJ Mag’s annual Top 100 Clubs poll, Space Ibiza is the stuff of lore. At the helm of the Ibiza institution is Pepe RosellÃ³, one of the White Isle’s best known identities, who is known to show up alongside Armin van Buuren or Carl Cox in that fabled booth to survey the scene. As being voted the world’s best club year on year would suggest, Rosello knows a thing or two about nightlife. He’s kept things focussed on the flagship club – so far, only one official franchise has opened, in Barcelona. Rosello isn’t intent on building an empire, his focus is on doing one thing brilliantly. And for over 45 years, that’s what he’s done. It’s testament to the standing of Space Ibiza that Carl Cox has done a mammoth 12 seasons there.
Skrillex might look like a self-made star, but there’s at least a couple of very industrious names behind his rise. Lee Anderson, agent for EDM-focussed booking agency AM Only, is one of those names. His status as a booking agent took Sonny Moore from small, dingy clubs through to the festival mainstages he’s playing now. “The crowd was as far as you could see,” he told Billboard of Skrillex’s star-making turn on the Bonnaroo stage.
Anderson is also responsible for innovative approaches to artist bookings like 2012’s Full Flex Express, the Canadian by-rail tour that saw Skrillex team up with fellow heavyweights Diplo, Grimes and TokiMonsta for a one-of-a-kind tour in homage to Janis Joplin’s 1970 Festival Express. Not that Anderson’s efforts are concentrated on Moore: he also works with the likes of Laidback Luke, Foreign Beggars, Zedd, SBTRKT and Tommy Trash. In short, he’s a good man to know in the business.
As General Manager of Astralwerks, Glenn Mendlinger oversees a formidable roster of dance music talent. The NYC label is home to two of the biggest-selling crossover names in EDM – Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta – and its stable runs deep from electronic pioneers Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and the Chemical Brothers to Eric Prydz, Fatboy Slim, Hot Chip and Royksopp. Mendlinger described his business philosophy to Billboard like this: “Artist first, trust your gut, work collaboratively with your team, know the numbers, and be decisive.” With dance music now ensconced in the pop mainstream, Astralwerks is in a powerful position.
As the boss puts it: “Our label was a reaction to and a recognition of the rise of electronic music in the mid-’90s and we laid the foundations for ourselves by releasing some of the most groundbreaking electronic artists (Photek, u-Ziq, Future Sound Of London, Spacetime Continuum, to name just a few). In 1997, the growth and commercial success of the mighty Chemical Brothers was something of a milestone for us, which lead to our involvement with Kraftwerk, Fatboy Slim, Air, Basement Jaxx, Cassius and other artists loosely connected to the global dance music scene.”
Armed with a reputation as ‘Miami’s marketing guru’, Dave Grutman founded Miami Marketing Group in 2008 alongside partners Brian Gordon and Ryan Schinman. MMG haven’t wasted any time getting going – since then, the group has come to manage an impressive portfolio of Miami’s most exclusive clubs, including Grutman’s turnaround success story LIV Nightclub. He’s got a knack for perfecting clubs right down to the last detail, building buzz and bringing celebrities to his venues. Grutman, in sum, has conquered Miami’s nightlife – and you can bet the empire won’t be limited to Florida. “I love to dominate and be the best in the business,” he once asserted. “I want my clubs to be where everyone wants to see and be seen.” He’s been helped in that mission by wide-ranging financier Robert F.X. Sillerman, who bought in to Miami Marketing Group, adding some club clout to SFX Entertainment’s portfolio.
To say Cris Hearn keeps a full slate is an understatement. The Primary Talent International stable includes a long roll-call of DJs and live acts. As the agency’s spiel puts it: “Since the very beginning, Primary has prided itself on the wide and ever increasing spectrum of musical styles and nationalities that its roster encompasses.” That wide-reaching list sees Hearn in charge of A-Trak, Amon Tobin, Booka Shade, Dada Life, Hudson Mohawke, Sebastien Tellier, Zeds Dead, Wolfgang Gartner, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Fever Ray, to name just a few. Hearn is also helping guide some serious mainstage contenders, Porter Robinson and Tommy Trash included. Primary Talent’s “personal style of working” has paid dividends.
Before Skrillex started sweeping the Grammys, he fronted the hardcore/screamo band From First To Last. Guiding him all the way to the top was long-time manager Tim Smith, a key player in the producer’s rise. In 2013, Skrillex occupies a rarified position in the EDM ranks, able to hold his own on a rock festival mainstage like Outside Lands and sweep all the Electronic categories at the Grammys, then happily roll up for a set at a 300-person club. “We turn down shit every day,” Smith has said of Skrillex’s steep rise. Smith’s artist management business Blood Company now represents a swag of the OWSLA crew: Alvin Risk, Kill the Noise, Nick Thayer, Zedd and the label itself all looked after by Smith and his team. Meaning if you want to work with the new generation of dance stars, it’s powerful to have Tim Smith on your side.
The founder of Ibiza superclub Pacha, septuagenarian entrepreneur Ricardo Urgell was calling the shots in dance music years before many of the industry’s other big names were even born. Since opening the doors to the first Pacha club in Barcelona in 1967 and the world famous Ibiza institution in the early ‘70s (which now consistently ranks in the Top Three of DJ Mag’s annual Top 100 Clubs list), Urgell’s been in a constant state of expanding the empire. In 2013, Pacha has outposts everywhere from Brazil to Australia and it’s more than a club: it’s a global brand with shops, hotels, restaurants, a magazine and most importantly, legendary status.
The Windish Agency remains a collective of the most forward-thinking booking agents in the U.S. While labels continue to fall on hard times, The Windish Agency has grown exponentially as the company behind tours for DJs and live acts like Justice, Amon Tobin, Skream, Hot Chip and Aphex Twin. Steve Goodgold is the company’s dance music specialist, and an invaluable asset. “When Electric Daisy first did 100,000 tickets, it was the shock heard around the world,” he told the EDMBiz conference. “But electronic music had been a big touring business for a long time.”
What sets Goodgold apart from other booking agents is the savvy to match the business skills: signing buzz acts right before they explode and guiding their rise, earning tastemaker status in the industry. Then there’s the Windish Agency’s successful expansion to music licensing – and on the empire grows.
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.
Columbia Records chairman/CEO Rob Stringer is in his coveted position with good reason: he’s recognised the singular talents of Adele, Foster The People, Katy B and even the all-singing cast of Fox’s Glee. On the dance side of things, the label also holds an ace card – the most anticipated album in years. After a series of cryptic clues, Daft Punk has re-entered the limelight, with the thrilling news that a new album, Random Access Memories is coming soon on Sony/Columbia. It’s hard to imagine any other act engineering its return so expertly. With Stringer at the helm, the French duo can expect strong returns.
Another seminal act to make a new start on Columbia is Depeche Mode (“their best album in ages,” according to Stringer) – then there’s Calvin Harris, Passion Pit and DJ Fresh. With the combined might of Calvin Harris and Daft Punk in his corner, 2013 is looking up for the man in the top job.
Australia has been one of the world’s leading dance music markets for over a decade, with more than 750,000 Australians visiting dance festivals each year. Summer begins with Stereosonic, a giant tour covering five cities across two weekends. While the line-ups are led by A-list names, a key part of Stereosonic’s strength is pushing new talent.
Stereosonic Directors Richie McNeill and Dror Erez have built the festival from a strong start in 2007 to the juggernaut it is in 2013, so it’s no surprise that industry talk suggests an SFX buyout is imminent, giving Robert Sillerman’s empire a vital Australian connection. “We have had a lot of interest from overseas,” McNeill told Mixmag. “But we’re not interested in taking over the world like some brands seem to be. We do have plans in discussion and you’ll just have to wait and see.”
The pulling power of Stereosonic was no bolt from the blue, either. The bosses have held a sizeable stake in the Australian dance industry for decades, from techno flagship Hardware through to the Totem Onelove Group, which oversees a label and roster of high-profile dance tours together with Frank Cotela, Simon Coyle and Peter Raf. In 2013, Totem Onelove partnered with Swedish House Mafia to bring One Last Tour to Australia, as well as staging sell-out Above & Beyond shows in capital cities.
How does a 60-something New Yorker, who is one of the most powerful men in the world of boxing and a former manager of Mike Tyson, end up as one of the biggest deal-makers in EDM? A good question. The answer is simple: he’s a promoter at heart, and with EDM he sees an opportunity to make a tonne of money.
But Finkel has a history in music going way back to the seventies. In 1973, Finkel was behind the Summer Jam, a NYC rock festival which pulled one of the biggest crowds ever for a music event, approximately 600,000 to see the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead. Finkel also promoted concerts for KISS, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and Elton John.
Finkel is a natural storyteller who has seen it all. He simply loves doing deals and can sniff an opportunity a mile away. That explains why Sillerman has placed Finkel at the epicentre of his acquisition-hungry SFX operation. Finkel is the good cop in the SFX deal machine and you need his stamp of approval to get in front of the big man himself. A master negotiator, Finkel’s boxing days serve him well, as he scours the globe looking for the next big deal, ready to spar hard for it.
In his three-and-a-half year tenure as Beatport CEO, Matthew Adell has made bold moves. Already in 2013, Beatport has aligned with song identification app Shazam (adding 1.5 million EDM songs to its database) and announced its sale to Robert F.X. Sillerman’s revived SFX Entertainment empire. Although both parties declined to name the price, New York Times reporters put it at slightly more than $50 million.
What started as a project for a team of DJs in Denver has risen to Sillerman-magnet status under Adell’s direction. Adell came to the role at Beatport with over 25 years of music industry experience, from running a house label in the ‘90s right through to his position as Napster’s Vice President Of Music Services. “Our customer isn’t buying the music just to listen to it themselves,” he put it to Bloomberg. “Literally as soon as a track is mastered and ready for the clubs, we want to have it for our customers.”
SFX clearly has grand plans for Beatport as they attempt to switch focus from being predominantly a place DJs go to buy music, to becoming a media and content platform that brands want to engage with. This is perhaps Adell’s biggest challenge yet.
The dance music acumen of Michael Cohen runs deep. Coming from a background of labels, having served as head of Pete Tong’s seminal dance imprint, FFRR, in North America, Cohen formerly helped lead North America’s wide-reaching AM Only as General Manager and continues to consult the company in strategic areas. In 2007 he formed Complete Control Management in partnership with Josh Neuman, the company helping develop the careers of Tiesto, Dada Life, Tommy Trash, Pierce Fulton and Bingo Players amongst others.
In 2011 CCM became part of the Control Music Group umbrella of management companies that now includes Undocumented Management, United Management and Mixed Management, bringing together a diverse roster of artists like Phoenix, Bloc Party, Hudson Mohawke, Baauer and Clockwork. In 2012 CCM launched another company: Re-Creation Worldwide in partnership with AM Only, to focus on bringing brands into the electronic music space – and doing it with finesse. Under Cohen’s eye, Tiesto launched a new career phase as a touring and social media juggernaut, including the showpiece of a U.S. college tour.
From Godskitchen head to club tsar, the founder of the Angel Music Group and the man behind festival mainstay Global Gathering, it’s little wonder Neil Moffitt has been named one of the Top Five Most Influential People in British Music. His influence, however, extends across the Atlantic too. From his base in Las Vegas, Moffitt’s expansions also saw him establish the Angel Management Group, offering artist management, event production and nightlife consulting.
He’s also a tenacious creator of clubs and restaurants, including the enormous, five-level, 75,000-square-foot Hakkasan at the MGM Grand, which is opening in suitably extravagant style. Keen eyes were on where Tiesto would announce his Vegas residency for 2013, and Hakkasan is the place: although the Dutch titan went one better and signed a 20-month deal, with 40 shows planned in the 7,000-person-capacity club. He’s in illustrious company, too, with Calvin Harris and Steve Aoki also signing on the dotted line. Moffitt has pull.
Nightlife impresarios Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg know their market. Having built an impressive portfolio of clubs in New York with the Strategic Hospitality Group, the longtime business partners spent the first minutes of 2011 welcoming a lavish new addition to the family: Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. In the years since, Marquee Vegas has held to the title of North America’s highest-grossing club, with annual earnings topping $80 million. With a high-profile 2013 residency from Kaskade and a revolving door of A-list talent, those fortunes don’t look likely to change.
In early 2013, Strauss and Tepperberg re-energised the flagship Marquee Nightclub in New York, giving it a multi-million dollar facelift. Then there’s the other top-earners under their umbrella, like Lavo, Tao and Avenue. Marquee also launched in Sydney at The Star, with regular one-night-only appearances from its Vegas residents like Kaskade, Avicii and Afrojack, who’ll gladly take the long haul flight for a quick round of Marquee hospitality. Needless to say, Strauss and Tepperberg know how to corral talent around them.
The trajectory of the Swedish House Mafia from knockabout DJ team to stadium-filling behemoth has been one of dance music’s most convincing success stories. Amy Thomson has powered it. The trio’s manager has proven to be a virtuoso of marketing. Since the Swedes set up the Masquerade Motel on Miami Beach in 2011, selling out all 12,500 tickets in a flash, it’s been a steady climb. The partnership between Thomson and her star clients did sever for six months when the trio moved across to Three Six Zero, but the gang got back together with spectacular results.
The trio’s farewell tour has seen blockbuster returns. Additionally, send-off single Don’t You Worry Child was the Swedish House Mafia’s biggest hit in the U.S. and earned a Grammy nomination. “We were playing in Sweden, but no one really gave a fuck,” Sebastian Ingrosso told inthemix of the trio’s early days. With Thomson on their team, things change fast. “She’s the driving force for any of this to ever take place,” Axwell told Billboard. “She was the reason we found ourselves in the studio making One together. She’s definitely an equal member.”
Thomson has also been appointed music/marketing director at LIGHT, the new Las Vegas club venture created in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. With Vegas bidding wars at a peak, Thomson’s influence helped secure an impressive cast of DJs to try something new. Her guiding philosophy? Think of the fans first, not the VIPs. “I have my own view on how electronic music will go, and I really believe that the General Admission is key to the survival of it,” she told Billboard. It’s a well-tuned instinct.
71-year-old casino magnate Steve Wynn may seem like an incongruous fit for a list of EDM’s power players. However, as one inthemix Power 50 player put it: “He’s the number-one talent buyer in the world.” Money to spend on DJs is not a problem for Wynn. Like Sillerman, he’s entered the equation as a businessman first. Credited with bringing high-gloss glamour back to The Strip in the 1990s, his lavish approach now extends to dancefloors and club VIP booths.
‘New Ibiza’ or not, Las Vegas is setting a new precedent for DJ pay-cheques. In a Rolling Stone cover feature on Deadmau5, Wynn hinted that the producer’s Vegas fee was “more than Sinatra at his peak”.
In 2013, Wynn Casino’s clubs – Encore Beach Club, Surrender, Tryst and XS – have signed up over 40 residents (or ‘exclusive partnerships’), from Eric Prydz and Loco Dice to David Guetta and Skrillex. It’s a unashamedly showy list from an all-in character. A crack team has been built to lead the clubs, led by powerful players Jesse Waits, managing partner of XS and Tryst, and Sean Christie, managing partner of Encore Beach Club and Surrender. In 2012, Wynn also announced an alliance with Ultra Music to release a series of EDM compilation albums and new releases. “Now we’re competing with casinos,” admitted ID&T’s Duncan Stutterheim at Amsterdam Dance Event. Wynn wouldn’t have it any other way.
Calvin Harris and Deadmau5: it’s a double-bill that announces a formidable artist management company. Add to that mix the ear of music mogul Jay-Z, and you have a powerful alliance. Three Six Zero Group directors Mark Gillespie and Dean Wilson have made decisive moves in the company’s run, and those plays have paid off. In 2007 when he came on as Three Six Zero’s first client, Calvin Harris was an electro-house hopeful with a debut album, I Created Disco, and a few support slots. Now he’s an A-list gun-for-hire with a direct line to the likes of Rihanna. The pairing of DJ and pop superstar on We Found Love went stratospheric, and Harris is poised to keep the hits coming.
Over the years, the company’s roster has upsized to include producers like Fred Falke, Nero and Feed Me, as well as the labels of EDM powerhouses Sebastian Ingrosso and Chris Lake. Crucially, July 2010 saw Three Six Zero ink a partnership with Jay Z’s Roc Nation, who simply offered this endorsement of the operation: “They have their finger on the pulse of the future of the music industry.” The alliance bolsters the fortunes of both companies, opening up the potential for musical pairings and wider marketing.
Veteran promoter Donnie Estopinal, the namesake behind Disco Donnie Presents, is one of the godfathers of American dance music. He presents over 1,000 shows a year across America and earned this ringing endorsement from a fellow inthemix Power 50 player: “He’s the largest EDM promoter in what is currently the largest EDM market in the world. What more is there to say?”
Estopinal’s power lies as much in his unifying and infectious personality as his business prowess. Universally liked and respected, he’s seen by many as one of the seminal figures who devoted their lives to EDM, long before the term was coined. So much so, Donnie came close to giving up the formative years of his life, almost serving a prison sentence for his troubles. In 2001, he reluctantly played the central role in the U.S. Government’s battle against ecstasy, and prevailed.
Estopinal’s speciality is taking dance music outside of the major cities, promoting events like Nocturnal Wonderland in Texas and Alive Music Festival in Mexico. Disco Donnie Presents was the first EDM company bought by billionaire entertainment mogul Robert F.X. Sillerman on his much-publicised spending spree. While some criticised the sale, it has helped fortify the company’s prospects. “Since selling my company, I can’t see into the future, but I feel great,” Estopinal told the room during ‘The United Of States Of EDM’ panel at the 2012 Amsterdam Dance Event. “I don’t have to wake up in the morning and figure out where that money is gonna come from. It had become a nightmare basically – we spent 50 percent of our time chasing money, or people chasing us; now I can just concentrate on creating things. It feels good.”
With Russell Faibisch and Adam Russakoff at the helm, Miami’s Ultra Music Festival has grown into one of world’s leading dance music festivals. Its 2013 plans were nothing if not exhaustive, taking over two weekends with a line-up that went big (Deadmau5, Tiesto, Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia in their final show, to name just a few) and niche.
The UMF empire has also expanded to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Ibiza, and Korea, where it set a new record for number of attendees at a dance festival. The Ultra bosses also signed a “global alliance” with Ultra Music, the authoritative label spearheaded by Patrick Moxey. “We are in a time when corporations are aggressively buying their way into our scene ‘brand by brand’,” Faibisch told Billboard at the time. “And we choose not to sell out, but instead are coming together to strengthen one another.”
When inthemix speaks to the founder in the days before Ultra Music Festival 2013, his position is unchanged. “We’re not even having those conversations,” he says. “Ultra is 100-percent independent. We’re only interested in what we do and how we do it.”
Often the unsung heroes of the American EDM explosion, whilst Ultra’s ringleaders may not crave the spotlight and attention of some of the competitors, their power and influence stretches far across the globe, with a festival rumoured to be arriving in the highly competitive Australian market in 2013. As Faibisch tells inthemix, the company has come a long way. “Where we’ve got to over the past five years, compared to where we were at the start, it’s like night and day. When we started, we were a group of young kids. I started when I was 19. At the beginning it was a bit chaotic, but through the years we’ve built an incredible team.”
With the news in January that Sony Music had inked a deal with Ultra Music, the USA’s leading independent dance label, it represented EDM finally being welcomed into the major label establishment. In the process, Ultra founder Patrick Moxey has achieved a stunning rise up the industry ranks, now assuming the title of Sony’s president for electronic music. To put it in perspective, he recalls founding his label in 1995, on the back of pressing a single Roger Sanchez vinyl plate, at a time when dance music was effectively a dirty word.
“Radio stations and MTV didn’t want to know about it,” he tells inthemix. “I got involved though because I could feel the pulse of the music, a real pulse; that’s something you can’t manufacture. I’d go to a club like Twilo in NYC, and I’d see the whole place packed, heaving, new records being broken. I always knew this music would be huge; it just took a long time to get here. Now we’ve gone from being the bastard stepchild, to needing the best kind of marketing and promotion we can get for our artists. Ultimately, we’ve prevailed.”
The new partnership awards the distribution rights to Sony for Ultra Records’ North America catalogue. While there might have been endless talk of how the major labels’ power has diminished, Ultra boasts a daunting roster that includes Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, Tiesto and Steve Aoki among others. Moxey still sees plenty of benefits to be gained from joining an organisation with the global reach and infrastructure of Sony.
“As much as it’s not what it was a decade ago, in order for a major international act to really hit a superstar level, that concrete foundation of label support on a global basis is still essential. We really understand the nitty gritty of the marketing, Soundcloud and Beatport and everything else, and the nuances of what goes on from a fan’s perspective in electronic music. And ultimately, this is the level you need to be playing at.”
There’s a strong case to be made that Paul Morris presides over the most powerful artist roster in EDM. As CEO of AM Only, Morris leads a company that does it all: established names (Above & Beyond, Carl Cox, David Guetta, Tiësto), fast-rising stars (Hardwell, Julio Bashmore, Knife Party, Madeon) and hotly sought-after acts like Dog Blood, the pairing of Skrillex and Boys Noize. Speaking of Skrillex, he’s proven to be a stellar client for the agency, with six Grammys to his name. But he’s far from the roster’s only luminary. Take, as a snapshot, the line-up for AM Only’s 2013 SXSW showcase in Texas: next-gen headliners like Baauer, Zedd, Krewella and Alvin Risk alongside justly-hyped crossover stories Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Disclosure, Rudimental and What So Not.
AM Only began life in New York’s creative hub the East Village back in 1996, with Morris building a reputation as a leader in DJ bookings. In early 2012, he consolidated his position by taking on, as his partner, Paradigm, a full-service agency boasting some of rock’s biggest names on its books. Together, Morris and Paradigm are now positioned to execute whatever plan an artist has in mind, treating them as holistic brands and finding avenues outside touring in TV, film and endorsements, as well as unique opportunities in music. The key to Morris’ power? He has the long game in mind. As Ultra’s Russell Faibisch succinctly put it to inthemix: “Paul Morris is at the top of his game.”
While to most dance music fans he’s the instantly-recognisable voice of the Essential Mix and Essential Selection on BBC Radio 1, Pete Tong’s influence behind the scenes is just as ubiquitous. For over 20 years, Tong has exercised real influence in breaking and championing talent. His ace-card is leveraging the might of his radio shows, which reach millions of listeners each week through live broadcast and syndication.
Tong’s business ventures have included a central role alongside Ben Turner in the International Music Summit, an alliance with Pacha in Ibiza and perhaps his most powerful move, forming a partnership with William Morris Agency to create the much-feared WME Electronic.
In a widely-shared column for Music Week in 2012, Tong warned that big money could corrupt the scene. “Success inevitably attracts attention – and now numerous extremely wealthy individuals, big business and VC funds are eager to buy into the EDM action,” he wrote. “If allowed to run riot with their corporate machinery, these same people will destroy the scene.”
However, as We Love promoter Mark Broadbent countered, “Pete is ‘big business’, in my opinion. He is a director of big businesses within our scene, plays a part in the biggest agency – WME – in the world right now and DJs on our oldest national radio station, the BBC.” However you cut it, Tong is one of a rare few whose power reaches to both sides of the Atlantic, with intersections into all aspects of the business. He is a key connector of the scene on a global level.
Black is the colour of power, and Zimmerman is always dressed in it from head to toe. If the location of your office on the building’s floor-plan denotes your influence, then Joel Zimmerman’s corner position at the WME compound overlooking Beverly Hills tells all. It’s a clear indication of his status and influence at one of the most powerful talent companies in the world.
From humble beginnings, Zimmerman started on the ground floor, answering phones for Paul Morris a decade ago. Fast forward ten years and he is running WME’s electronic division, only a few years old and already one of the most powerful EDM agencies in the world.
In compiling this list, Zimmerman was described by a fellow inthemix Power 50 contender as “a shark, in the best and worst ways – which are both compliments”. He has a canny way of weaving success stories at WME. As U.S. booking agent for a suite of hugely-successful acts, Avicii, Deadmau5 and Afrojack among them, he’s a tenacious dealmaker to have in your corner. Zimmerman has also led his stars – both the sure-bets and the next-big-things – to lucrative deals at Las Vegas mega-clubs, raising both the profile of the DJs and Sin City as a dance music destination. “It feels like the dot-com era,” Zimmerman told The New York Times in 2012. “There’s a little bit of a gold rush going on, with outsiders looking in.” It’s a good time for clear heads like his own.
As the ‘D’ in ID&T, Duncan Stutterheim helped launch his company in 1992 through fairly modest beginnings – the tough-as-nails Thunderdome brand, showcasing the abrasive sounds of hardcore, which went on to shift 4.5 million CDs worldwide. Of course, it was the tip of the iceberg for what evolved into the world’s biggest festival promotions company.
ID&T can unquestionably boast the most recognisable, diverse and lucrative portfolio of brands of any events promoter. Mysteryland has been an Amsterdam institution for 20 years, setting the template for multi-genre day events. The all-white Sensation is the benchmark for spectacle-first stadium parties, touching down in the USA last year alongside nearly 20 other countries. The Q-dance brand inspires a fanatical following, and then of course there’s Belgium’s Tomorrowland: possibly the world’s most enigmatic and over-the-top event, scaling new heights in slick marketing, social networking hype and punter demand.
Stutterheim and his partners have always defined ID&T through a mantra of looking beyond the DJ line-up, and seeking to create unforgettable “experiences” for ticket purchasers. This is consistent with the description of Sensation as “Cirque du Soleil meets EDM” and the unforgettable “end-show” extravaganzas the Defqon.1 Festival and other Q-dance events are known for.
Last year at Amsterdam Dance Event, Stutterheim was coy about selling his baby to cashed-up investors. ‘We used to joke to each that we would sell the company for a hundred – a hundred thousand guilders,” he said. “Then, a few months ago, suddenly someone from America wanted to give us a hundred. A hundred million dollars. The choice was very difficult. But we didn’t do it.”
However, by February of 2013, Stutterheim was obviously brought around to Sillerman’s way of seeing things; with the news SFX had formed a joint venture with ID&T to create a North American division. This was followed by the announcement that Tomorrowland would cross the ocean in September for a new ‘TomorrowWorld’ event, outside Atlanta, Georgia. Then, in the days before the inthemix Power 50 went online, ID&T announced its sale to the SFX empire to the tune of $130 million.
Live Nation’s purchase of the iconic Cream brand last May signalled the beginning of the ‘EDM gold-rush’, with extravagant cash values entering the picture. For dance music stalwart James Barton, though, it represented the moment he stepped down as managing director of Cream in the UK, and stepped on a plane to L.A. to become the president of the Live Nation Electronic Music division; and operate on a scale he’d always dreamed of.
When asked if he feels as if he’s on the cusp of executing on a scale that dwarfs any of his achievements in the past, you can hear the exhilaration in his voice. “I do, about two million percent,” he tells inthemix. “This music has crossed many, many international boundaries. We know there is a real passion for EDM in the four corners of the globe; so having this opportunity, and having the resources, the people behind what I’m trying to do; it’s amazing, it genuinely is amazing.”
Live Nation made an impressive shot out of the gate with Swedish House Mafia’s ‘One Last Tour’ (which Barton claims is the “biggest electronic music tour that’s ever gone around the world”), and he says he spent the latter half of 2012 putting his Live Nation team together, and developing the strategy. Last year he oversaw the purchase of California’s HARD Events, and there’s more to come.
“This year will be about rolling out our strategy, acquiring a couple of other promoters along the way, winning some tours, and looking to get Live Nation to the top of the EDM tree as quickly as possible. The plan here is to build a fully functional EDM business, like a souped-up version of what I did with Creamfields, except on a much larger scale in terms of resources. Our intention is to be market leader, not just in the U.S., but globally for electronic music.”
If the Live Nation march into EDM raises concerns, it’s difficult to stay cynical in the face of Barton’s overwhelming optimism. “I know we’re living in a world now where there’s talk of billion-dollar investments in electronic music,” he says. “I think my track record speaks for itself though; my time in electronic music is as long as anybody else working in the industry. Once we move into 2014, people will be able to judge us on the sort of shows we’re gonna produce. Hopefully people look back to this period of time and make the judgement that Live Nation did it the right way.”
Like a bootleg of a classic house tune from the nineties, Robert F.X. Sillerman has come straight out of leftfield into the EDM mainstream. Waving around his almost endless golden chequebook, Sillerman has become one of most talked-about names in dance music – in one short, headline-grabbing year.
In June 2012, he revived his company SFX Productions, telling the New York Times he planned to spend $1 billion on acquisitions within a year. His original SFX powerhouse of the ‘90s, now the behemoth Live Nation he is competing against, was a roll-up of U.S. promoters and radio stations that he flipped for $4.4 billion. In a repeat of perhaps his best party trick, Sillerman is looking to flip all over again.
This time he has sharpened his focus on the booming EDM market. His first acquisitions, Disco Donnie Presents and Dayglow Productions, were just the beginning. The first months of 2013 saw Sillerman add Voodoo Experience, Beatport and ID&T (a joint venture for North America only), the Dutch-made powerhouse with untouchable brands like Sensation, Mysteryland and Q-dance. Add to that Miami Marketing Group, the promoter of nightclub hotspots LIV, Story and Arkadia, and Huka Entertainment. Then, just as the inthemix Power 50 went online, his boldest move yet was revealed at a plush media event in Miami: an outright purchase of ID&T for the price of $130 million.
Amongst all the cheque signing, Sillerman doesn’t pretend to know much about EDM. Quite the opposite. In a Billboard interview he famously quipped, “I meet the people whose places we’re buying, and I haven’t a fucking clue what they do or what they’re talking about. Not a clue. And I love it. I just love it.”
Sillerman declined to comment for this article, so to get some insight into the man, we spoke to several people whom the mogul personally shared his vision with. Phrases they used to describe our inthemix Power 50 wildcard included “more than a little crazy”, “bold and brazen”, “dumb money” and, simply, “fucking nuts!” Nuts he may be, but there’s no doubting his track record and that he has made himself and many music players, past and present, very, very rich.
Until the ink dries on his much-rumoured contract with Live Nation, Rotella holds the keys to the leading festival brand in the fastest-growing EDM market in the world. If he decides to sell Insomniac, the suitor he chooses will surely have the upper hand in the EDM ‘arms race’. Electric Daisy Carnival will be the jewel in the crown of a multi-billion dollar business. For that reason alone he is more powerful than Live Nation’s James Barton or Robert F.X. Sillerman at this point in time, because both are after what he has built. “We’re exploring partnerships, we have been for a year now,” he tells inthemix. “I’m not looking to sell the entirety of my company. If I can sell a percentage of my company and in exchange for that, I can be stronger and offer more to fans as part of a partnership, I’m definitely going to do that. But I’m yet to finalise a deal that totally makes sense.”
The flagship EDC event at the Las Vegas Speedway drew around 300,000 attendees across three nights in 2012, with satellite festivals in New York City, Dallas, Chicago, Orlanda and San Juan, Puerto Rico. ‘You Are The Headliner’, the Insomniac website urges, and it’s a philosophy that the CEO stands by. “I don’t want to be a promoter,” Rotella told the EDMBiz conference in 2012. “My passion is not selling tickets and making money. I want to create an experience. You don’t need to book the big acts who sell out arenas.”
Despite the experience-first mentality, those ‘big acts’ are on the Insomniac books, from Tiesto and Armin van Buuren to under-25 superstars Zedd and Porter Robinson. What stands out about his fantasia in the Las Vegas desert, though, is everything that happens away from the mainstage, from the roving performers to the art installations at every corner of the site. Electric Daisy Carnival is the shining beacon of the new EDM-focused Sin City and a major tourism driver there. Moving the event from L.A. to Vegas proved to be a masterstroke.
So, why #1? While ID&T has a foothold in Europe, it is yet to concertedly enter the booming festival market in the U.S. Rotella holds the power card. Insomniac also launched the EDMBiz conference, which attracted the world’s dance music industry to Las Vegas in its first year.
Rotella has strong connections within Hollywood and has achieved a celebrity status in his own right, with a huge and influential social media following. He has become the pin-up boy for EDM – both the good and the bad. His struggle with authorities are seen as symbolic of the broader growing pains EDM is engaged in, moving beyond its rave roots in America and entering into the mainstream consciousness.
“I’ve always got satisfaction and happiness from what I do,” he tells inthemix. “Financially, it didn’t always work. It was a struggle, for sure. It’s hard sometimes, looking around at people who are jumping into this now – from other countries, from different industries, from everywhere. Part of it’s cool, but when you’ve been at the forefront, in the trenches, through the ups and downs, you kind of want to say to these people, ‘Where have you been?’ But then, I get it. People jump at opportunities, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’ve put my heart and soul in.”