Who are the masters of the $6.2 Billion EDM universe? These tastemakers are dazzling the industry with the intensity of a stunning laser show.
DJ; founder, Owsla
At this point, Skrillex — born Sonny John Moore in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles — isn’t just an EDM power player; he’s the genre’s patron saint. Despite winning six Grammy Awards in two years, the 26-year-old DJ, producer and label chief just released his first full-length album this year, Recess. (Since 2010, he has been releasing only singles and EPs.) At OWSLA, he has signed some of the biggest names in EDM, like Zedd, Porter Robinson (see story, page 57), Jack Beats and Kill the Noise, and launched a fan-friendly membership program called Nest HQ, giving subscribers advance releases, early ticket sales and unreleased remixes.
Plus, his mainstream credibility couldn’t be higher. He landed the cover of Rolling Stone in 2014, and The New York Times called him “the savior of dance music in this country.” From his three-hour set at Bonnaroo — where he hosted the Superjam with Mystikal and Lauryn Hill — to recent sellouts at Governors Ball in New York, Skrillex and his touring OWSLA crew are the hottest ticket of the year. Recess debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart in March, selling 47,000 copies in its first week (a record for him), according to Nielsen SoundScan.
DJ; founder, Mad Decent Records
He’s a Grammy-nominated producer (Usher, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars, No Doubt, M.I.A.), one of the world’s top DJs (he played 210 gigs in 2013, including shows with his group Major Lazer), a highly visible brand representative (ads and syncs include BlackBerry, Fiat, Doritos and Cosmopolitan Hotel) and (briefly) a rumored Katy Perry paramour.
Less obvious is Diplo’s burgeoning Mad Decent empire, which includes a label that had a Hot 100 No. 1 single in 2013 with Baauer’s “Harlem Shake”; the booming Mad Decent Block Party, which has grown from an actual block party in his native Philadelphia to a 22-date, Diplo-curated touring festival and cruise in 2014; and associated licensing, publishing and merchandising interests.
Mad Decent was ranked at No. 5 on Fast Company’s list of the 10 Most Innovative Companies in Music. Diplo, 35, is talented, savvy and pretty, with unusually diversified skills and interests, including an upcoming gig as host of VH1’s Questlove-produced show "Soundclash." With a manic work ethic and many irons in many fires, he generates enviable DPMs (dollars per minute). 3.8 million SoundCloud followers
Armin Van Buuren
DJ; owner, Armada Music
Armin Van Buuren
As the head of Armada Music, a leading dance label with over 25 sublabels that was founded in 2003, van Buuren, 37, is the first name in trance, a genre underappreciated in America but dominant in Northern Europe, Southeast Asia, India and Israel. Indeed, van Buuren’s own global dominance in the trance and house spheres — he once played five shows on two continents in three days — can be traced alongside that of the genres. Now five albums into a decade-plus career, the Dutch DJ is a perennial top name of DJ Mag’s influential Top 100 DJs poll (he was ranked No. 1 in the world five years in a row and has consistently placed in the top 3 during the past decade).
In 2014, van Buuren scored a Grammy nomination for best dance recording, only the fourth trance artist in the history of the category to do so. With EDM’s crossover appeal only growing, it’s tough to see how van Buuren could get any bigger. Enter Armada, home to such acts as Dash Berlin and W&W, which was named best global dance label by the International Dance Music Awards in Miami from 2009 to 2013, rivaling The Netherlands’ other big dance imprint, Spinnin’ Records, for a different subset of dance fans. Ranked No. 2 on DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs list in 2013
DJ, BBC Radio 1; Founding Partner; William Morris Electronic
There is no more esteemed tastemaker in the world of electronic music than Tong, who has had his finger on the pulse for over 30 years. Tong, 53, rose to prominence as a DJ in Ibiza, Spain, and the United Kingdom before hosting the culturally definitive "Essential Mix" and "Essential Selection" radio series. In 2008, he added another title to his calling card: founding partner of William Morris Endeavor’s electronic division. After setting up shop in Los Angeles, he’s reaching a new audience as a DJ, label head and essential curator.
"Essential Mix" is nearing its 700th episode.
Annie Macmanus & Danny Howard
DJs, BBC Radio 1
Annie Macmanus & Danny Howard
Irish DJ MacManus, 35, is one of Britain’s key EDM tastemakers as host of her Friday-night program Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1. She also regularly appears on TV on BBC 2’s The Culture Show, opining on the latest music offerings, and DJs at such big clubs as London’s Fabric. Howard, 26, won the BBC Radio 1 Superstar DJ competition in 2011 and has hosted the Saturday show Dance Anthems since 2012. The 2013 launch of Danny Howard Presents Nothing Else Matters on Sirius XM’s BPM channel is establishing his name in the United States. MacManus reportedly attracts over 1 million listeners to her radio show, with Howard reaching 1.8 million, according to his Facebook page.
DJ; Smog Records Founder
12th Planet (far left)
In the mid-2000s, dubstep was still very much an underground phenomenon, and wasn’t all that well-known outside of London’s underground dance clubs. But that all changed thanks to John Dadzie. After discovering the music — which he described as “slow drum’n’bass” — during a U.K. tour, he started recording his own dubstep compositions under the moniker 12th Planet. Today, the bass-heavy dance music is hugely popular at clubs and festivals, and 12th Planet, 32, has been called the “Johnny Appleseed of dubstep.” His reputation as a trend-setter didn’t end there. He was mentoring Skrillex back when he was a nobody with a weird haircut.
And in 2007, he co-founded the Los Angeles-based record label SMOG, whose roster features cutting-edge talent like Flinch, Protohype, Mayhem and DLX. While 12th Planet may not dress like an EDM power player — he rarely is seen in anything but jeans, a T-shirt and baseball cap — he’s got the clout and the raw ambition of the genre’s true superstars. SMOG already has put out 50 releases, and by record label standards, the imprint is still in its infancy.
Whatever the next trend in EDM, 12th Planet will likely spot it first. 12th Planet has averaged 200 shows per year for the last five years running, and is a mainstay at Electric Daisy Carnival, having performed at nine of its festivals across the United States and Puerto Rico. He’s also a hit online: The DJ’s videos have had 20 million plays on YouTube and 5 million on SoundCloud.