Dutch producer/DJ Tiësto is already ahead of many of his contemporaries: He has corporate sponsors, a Grammy Award nomination, a touring market that spans five continents and sales of more than 538,000 albums domestically, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But even though he's achieved success that usually eludes electronic artists, Tiësto has an even loftier goal in mind: cracking the North American mainstream. While his U.S. sales are nothing to scoff at, they're small potatoes next to his global sales -- 2.5 million-plus, according to his management.
"Tiësto as an electronic artist may be seen as established; however, we all know how hard it has been for electronic artists to get the respect they deserve in the mainstream music world, particularly in North America," says Michael Cohen, Tiësto's co-manager at AM Only, his worldwide booking agency. "Considering he has played stadium shows in Europe, including a recent headlining show in London's Victoria Park for 25,000 people, there is still a long way to go for all of us in terms of replicating those achievements in North America."
Tiësto is hoping to achieve that success with "Kaleidoscope" (Ultra), his fourth studio album. It will be released Oct. 6 in the United States on Ultra and Oct. 5 elsewhere by Musical Freedom, a collaboration between Tiësto's management company, Complete Control, and PIAS. While it features collaborations with big names in art rock (Jónsi Birgisson from Sigur Rós), indie rock (Kele Okereke from Bloc Party) and even pop (Nelly Furtado, praising late-night partying on "Who Wants to Be Alone"), the collection never loses its essential Tiësto-ness: massive synth riffs, uplifting melodies and high drama.
For Ultra, the diversity of the collaborators means targeting a number of audiences. "We're connecting the music and message of 'Kaleidoscope' with the indie audience from Pitchfork to modern rock radio," Ultra president Patrick Moxey says. The label is also leveraging its large fan database with sales and Google Analytics data to focus the digital marketing campaign in key areas. "We're well aware that Tiësto needs special attention in Miami, for example, and we have a stepped micro-marketing campaign in that city to activate his fan base for street date," Moxey says. In-stores are scheduled for HMV in Toronto and Amoeba in Los Angeles, and Ultra has successfully sold the album in all of its U.S. retail accounts, including major chains for all 35 U.S. tour stops.
Tiësto, who turned 40 this year, will play a few large venues for the first time on the tour, which kicked off Sept. 24 in New York: Tsongas Arena in Boston (capacity: 7,800); Arrow Hall in Toronto (9,000); UCF Arena in Orlando, Fla. (10,000); Cohen Stadium in El Paso, Texas (11,000); and two shows at the Big Four Building in Calgary, Alberta (4,000).
"His touring profile has grown steadily and consistently, moving from sold-out club shows to sold-out theater shows to sold-out arenas now in some major markets," Cohen says. "As the size of venue has grown the ability to bring in Tiësto's signature production has grown with it, and I think that's the key to his continued success: investing in the live show." The Tiësto experience includes lasers, pyrotechnics, floor-to-ceiling video screens and an eye-popping customized DJ booth.
Heineken is onboard to sponsor some of the major-market shows. Tiësto is also working with Nokia in the Netherlands on a "performance and content partnership" and with Smirnoff and Manchester United Football Club on an Asia Pacific campaign. His long relationship with Armani Exchange will continue as well.
"In North America, we have done about all that an artist and brand could hope to achieve together, including a tour sponsorship, exclusive record release, clothing line and product endorsement," says Josh Neuman of Complete Control, Tiësto's worldwide management company. "We have started doing additional campaigns together in the U.K., China, Dubai and are exploring other territories to work on for 2010."
Additional reporting by Richard Smirke in Manchester, England.