EDM Power Players: The Executives
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.
Founder/CEO, Insomniac Events
More than a year ago, Live Nation Entertainment finalized a deal to buy a piece of Insomniac Events, the premier EDM festival brand that CEO Rotella, 39, a visionary in the electronic sector, built during the last 20 years. The deal was valued by some to be as high as $80 million for about a 50 percent stake, though most observers peg the value at about $50 million. “His passion for fans and music drives Insomniac to innovate and deliver the most immersive music experiences in the world,” says Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino. “He has raised the bar for Live Nation’s entire festival business.” Describing the joint venture as a “creative partnership,” Rotella said last June at the EDM Biz conference that the partnership would allow Live Nation to access Insomniac’s loyal and ever-growing fan base while providing Insomniac access to Live Nation’s massive infrastructure, capital and scale.
Insomniac’s flagship event is Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival, the largest EDM festival in the world and a cultural touch point for a generation. A critical component of the deal with Live Nation was Rotella maintaining his autonomy in running Insomniac. The deal largely is viewed as an investment by Live Nation as opposed to an acquisition. “We still run the show,” said Rotella earlier in 2014. “But I definitely asked for help on managing the budget, because I’ve been terrible with budgets. I love what I do and always want more, more, more. We’re still delivering more than we did last year, but it’s all being managed more efficiently.”In 2014 Insomniac will produce nine festivals with a combined attendance of more than 2 million in three countries: Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States.
President Of Electronic Music, Live Nation
As president of Live Nation’s EDM division, Barton, 46, oversees the global electronic dance business for Live Nation and played a key role in critical acquisitions like Insomniac and HARD Events. With thousands of events and dozens of festivals, EDM is Live Nation’s fastest-growing genre. In North America, Live Nation produces six of the top 10 EDM festivals on the continent, and the firm, the largest promotion/ticketing/management company in the world, now boasts 18 international EDM festivals in its portfolio, including the wildly popular Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. In 2013, Live Nation produced 472 EDM events that drew 2.5 million fans, topping the 382 events and 1.3 million fans it managed in 2012.
Founder, AM Only
After founding booking firm AM Only in 1996 in New York in the back of an East Village record shop, Morris has grown the company into one of the most respected talent agencies in the EDM space. AM Only joined forces with Paradigm Talent in January 2012, and now boasts a roster that includes David Guetta, Tiesto, Skrillex and Above & Beyond. “Having the ability to tap into the ideas and experiences of the people at Paradigm has made us stronger and will continue to help us progress,” says Morris, 42. Adds Paradigm music head Chip Hooper, “It was our goal to help [AM Only] grow and evolve their business, but in the end we make each other better, and we have fun doing it.” In 2010, Tiesto was the first EDM act to crack Billboard Boxscore’s list of the top 25 tours.
Head Of Global Electronic Music, William Morris Endeavor
Not only does Zimmerman represent some of the biggest names in EDM in Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, Kaskade and Afrojack, but the agent has played a critical role in cultivating and galvanizing the crossover success of the genre. First as an independent agent and later in launching WME’s electronic music division in 2008, Zimmerman, 36, helped spur the genre’s hyper-growth by working with mainstream-festival talent buyers to integrate EDM into these events, raising the profile of the music and building careers to the point where DJs now frequently serve as headliners.
Zimmerman also was instrumental in building markets as EDM hubs, specifically Las Vegas, where he was a pioneer in booking residencies for DJs like Kaskade and Deadmau5. “Taking an unknown bedroom producer that you really believe in and mapping out a two-year plan, executing it and seeing them flourish is why I do what I do,” says Zimmerman, “and why our department is so excited about what we do every day.” With 50 agents booking a diverse lineup of some 200 EDM acts (more than half working at any given time), WME’s electronic division is on a run of 300 percent year-over-year growth in EDM.
Russell Faibisch and Adam Russakoff
Co-Founder/President/CEO; Executive Producer/Director Of Business Affairs, Ultra Music Festival
Faibisch, 36, and Russakoff, 44, partners at Ultra, oversee Ultra’s nine festivals worldwide, including the landmark Miami event that launched in 1999 and played a vital role in EDM’s globalization. From a tiny beach fest to a global megabrand, Ultra is a key destination for the stars and an essential launch pad for new DJs. There’s no sign of slowing down, with two new festivals in 2014 (Japan and South Africa) and a return to Miami despite bad publicity following a security incident. In 2013, Ultra festivals attracted 583,000 attendees worldwide.
Founder, HARD Events
If anyone deserves the title of EDM renaissance man, it’s Richards. Since 1991, he has been a concert promoter, superstar DJ, record label executive, festival founder and dance music icon. As an A&R man for Def Jam in the 1990s, Rick Rubin teased Richards, 40, about his devotion to “electronic crap that doesn’t sell.” Richards is having the last laugh. He went on to launch Electric Daisy Carnival and develop his own DJ persona, Destructo — whose upcoming EP, "West Coast," introduces a new sound he calls “G-house,” a combo of hip-hop and deep house. He also founded HARD Events (sold to Live Nation in 2012), which throws some of the most popular music festivals and club shows in the United States. 70,000 attended last August’s HARD Summer festival in Los Angeles, more than double the 2011 festival, which brought in 30,000 fans.
Founder, ATM Artists Management
As manager of Swedish House Mafia, Thomson helped legitimize EDM’s touring viability in the United States with her landmark booking of Madison Square Garden in December 2011 — and rewrite the artist playbook in the process, refusing to release a proper Swedish House Mafia album aside from the 2012 farewell compilation "Until One." For her next act, Thomson, 39, is expanding her empire with clubs like Light in Las Vegas, and embracing the dreaded “A” word with highly anticipated albums from Axwell & Ingrosso and fellow Swede DJ Alesso later in 2014. Swedish House Mafia sold 13,000 tickets in nine minutes to its Madison Square Garden show.
CEO, SFX Europe
In the early 1990s, Amsterdam resident Stutterheim co-founded ID&T and as CEO built it into one of the largest EDM event organizers in the Netherlands and beyond. It now operates in 19 countries and on four continents, and its events include Sensation, Mysteryland, Q-Dance and Belgium’s three-day Tomorrowland, one of the biggest EDM festivals in the world. In 2013, Robert Sillerman’s SFX Entertainment acquired ID&T in a $130 million deal, making Stutterheim, 42, a key player in the company’s global expansion. More than 400,000 tickets were sold for two weekends of Tomorrowland 2014 before the lineup was announced.
Music Agent, Creative Artists Agency
Nashville-based Williams has helped identify and develop the touring careers of such artists as Pretty Lights (aka Derek Vincent Smith), whom Williams, 36, has represented since Smith began performing live; Gramatik; 3LAU; The Chainsmokers; MiMOSA; and GriZ. Since joining CAA in 2012, Williams has, with agent Maria May, helped guide the growth of the agency’s dance music department, and his nontraditional approach to booking EDM acts beyond dance clubs provides opportunities for artists to perform in theaters and arenas. CAA’s dance division will book an estimated 5,000 dates in 2014.
Founder, Size Records
A founding member of Swedish House Mafia — the EDM supergroup that sold out New York’s Madison Square Garden in 2011 in just minutes — is now a solo act and producer, collaborating with superstars like Will.i.am and Usher. Size Records — which Angello, 31, founded in 2003 because, as he once explained, “no one wanted to sign our music” — has grown into an industry powerhouse, with a roster of more than 80 acts, including hitmakers like Qulinez and Junior Sanchez. In March, the label celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a month-long campaign called #DECADE, giving away its entire catalog for free. It resulted in 480,000 downloads and more than 2 million listens.
Angello’s latest single, “Payback” (recorded with Dimitri Vangelis and Wyman), has amassed 4.6 million global Spotify streams since its release in late April.
Owner, Blood Company Management
As manager of marquee names like Skrillex, Zedd and Boys Noize, Smith, 39, wields the kind of soft power other managers can only dream of. But instead of using a heavy hand to get deals done, it’s often said that Smith kills rivals with kindness. The well-liked Blood Company honcho is content to keep playing Mr. Nice Guy, despite crossover success in America, particularly with Zedd, who scored a pair of recent radio smashes with “Stay the Night” and “Clarity.” Zedd’s Clarity album has sold 185,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Partner, Reed Smith
Shapiro, a partner in the New York office of the Reed Smith law firm, landed Kaskade as a client more than a decade ago, and has since represented a dozen top DJs including Eric Prydz, Above & Beyond and Adventure Club. Shapiro, 47, negotiates Las Vegas residency deals for his biggest DJs, sets up brand endorsement deals and handles the more traditional music-industry lawyer chores like negotiating record and music publishing agreements. As DJ clients achieve more mainstream success, so grows the power of Shapiro. Kaskade has sold 2.3 million track downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Mark Gillespie and Dean Wilson
Co-Founders, Gillespie, 32, and Wilson, 44, represent the cream of the electronic crop. The products of diverse backgrounds that include artist management and festival talent booking, their Three Six Zero signed EDM superstar Calvin Harris early in his career, just before he released I Created Disco in 2007, which reached No. 19 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart. Three Six Zero has since taken Deadmau5, Nero and Sasha (of Sasha & Digweed fame) under its wing. Thanks, in part, to a 2011 partnership with Jay Z’s Roc Nation, the company swiftly has risen to top-tier power-broker status. With an upcoming HBO comedy set in the electronic music world, Higher, developed by Harris and Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, the company is expanding its media presence. Harris has 4.4 million Twitter followers.
Founder, At Night Management Three Six Zero Group
Pournouri discovered an 18-year-old Tim Bergling (later known as Avicii) in 2008, while balancing law school with club promotion. His empire has since expanded from At Night Management and the AshAlliance booking agency to the PRMD label and studio in Stockholm — and then there was the $800-per-night Avicii Hotel in Miami during the Ultra Music Festival. The legal skills of Pournouri, 32, have played no small role in his charge’s financial success — he has no exclusive Las Vegas residency, and tested all the majors with singles before placing True with Universal — and his marketing savvy and musical skill suggest he’s in for the long haul. In February, Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” was the first song to reach 200 million streams on Spotify.
Astralwerks celebrated its shocking-for-a-dance-label 20th anniversary in 2013 — and Mendlinger, GM since 2007, was onboard for 15 of them. Mendlinger, 45, joined at the peak of the label’s first gold rush (as a project manager for The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim) and presided over another with (since disbanded) Swedish House Mafia and (since departed) David Guetta. The label is poised for yet a third, powered by dance-leaning signings Deadmau5, Porter Robinson and Mat Zo, while its longstanding diversity continues to thrive with Empire of the Sun and Parade of Lights. Mendlinger’s A&R team, marketing savvy and customized deals — Swedish House Mafia was a 360 before the group exploded, while Robinson’s deal is “long term and multifaceted” — have rebooted the label, and Deadmau5 and Robinson alone re-established it as a leader in the dance marketplace. Astralwerks had 63 songs in the top 10 of Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart since 1999. Of those, 28 were No. 1s.
Eelko van Kooten and Roger de Graaf
Co-Founders, Spinnin’ Records
In 2014, Spinnin’ Records reached into the heart of America, and won it. Founded in Holland 15 years ago, the label’s breakout global success is due in large part to 18-year-old DJ Martin Garrix, whose track “Animals” went from underground anthem to U.S. radio hit as a dance instrumental. With an artist roster that reads like a who’s who of EDM, Spinnin’ and its family of sublabels are propelling many different genres of electronic dance music.
Nearly 6 million YouTube subscribers, up from 1 million in April 2013.
Owner, Ultra Records; president of electronic music, Sony Music
Moxey helped break Calvin Harris into the mainstream when Ultra single “Feel So Close” started getting mainstream radio play in 2011. Now, as Sony’s head of electronic music, the influential Moxey, 48, will oversee new releases from major players Steve Angello, Steve Aoki and Zeds Dead later this year. He is also ushering in the melodic house movement from Europe, led by global hit “Changes” by Faul & Wad Ad vs. Pnau and Mr. Probz-Waves. Ultra’s YouTube channel has a sizable 2.4 million subscribers.
Chairman/CEO, SFX Entertainment
Few individuals have affected live entertainment as much as Sillerman, 66, and his legacy was assured well before he zeroed in on the EDM space two years ago. Once he did, he built an empire at lightning speed, acquiring many of the culture’s most high-profile brands. SFX produces a growing portfolio of live events that includes Tomorrowland, TomorrowWorld and Mysteryland, as well as the ticketing service Flavorus. SFX operates Beatport, the principal online resource for electronic music DJs and a destination for EDM streaming music, news, information and events. It also manages FX1, an internal marketing solutions agency for consumer brands targeting the millennial culture. SFX controls more than 60 branded festivals and events, which sold more than 4 million tickets in 2013, resulting in $314 million in revenue.