Top 10 EDM Moments of 2012

Music Photos of the Year 2012

March 29: Avicii is joined by Madonna of Ultra Music Festival 14 in Miami, Florida.

From Madonna hitting a rave, to a billionaire financier buying one, 2012 was full of unbelievable moments for EDM and its artists. Here we touch on 10 top moments in the genre's most formative year thus far.


Best of 2012: Billboard's Year-End Charts & More | The Year in EDM



10 Hardstyle, Deep House, Trap

"When will the bubble burst?" DJs and industry-ites have been wringing their hands and asking the heavens this question since EDM went from zero to hero in 2010. But 2012 gave a glimpse of a potential future that doesn't involve CD bonfires (ala Disco Demolition) or a Luddite shift back to string instruments. Hardstyle, the 150-BPM beat onslaught currently packing arenas overseas, made its way to the U.S. in the form of a dedicated stage at Electric Daisy Carnival, and the charismatic figure of Headhunterz, the genre's most popular DJ who happens to be boy-band-level adorable. Deep house, a throwback to the early days of house and disco, is being embraced anew by hip figures like Jamie Jones. And trap, a hip-hop/dance hybrid clogging the Mad Decent release schedule, found its own emissary in Brooklyn producer Bauuer, who had a lightening rod with 93-BPM "Harlem Shake." (He's hitting the road with Just Blaze in January.) Bubbles, you say? Only in the champagne.

Headhunterz - "Dragonborn"

9 Epic Sell-Outs

TIESTO In October 2011, Tiësto became the first solo headlining DJ to sell out the 27,000-capacity Home Depot Center in California. A great feat, to be sure. But while bigger than Madison Square Garden, Home Depot didn't loom as large as The World's Most Famous Arena. So when SHM sold out MSG in nine minutes, it was more than just a sell-out; it was an epic moment. In pursuit of his own "first DJ to sell-out X-awesome-venue" title, Avicii played Radio City Music Hall in September, and Kaskade sold out Staples Center, celeb-dotted home of the L.A. Lakers, in July. Don't be surprised if 2013 doesn't yield a "first DJ to sell-out" the Grand Canyon, the Kremlin, or the moon.
8 Madge Goes Ultra

MADONNA AND AVICII Kanye West and Flux Pavilion, Pitbull and Afrojack, Rihanna and Calvin Harris. EDM had its share of high-profile collaborations in 2012. But none created as big a stir as Madonna's surprise walk-on during Avicii's headlining set at Ultra Music Festival. Yes, she might have said some things ("Has anybody seen Molly?," i.e. MDMA) that might have gotten some people (i.e. Deadmau5) more than a little miffed, and yes, a high-profile Twitter war might have followed. But Madonna's an icon, not just a star. Hitching her wagon to Avicii - a 23-year-old from Sweden, barely known 18 months prior - showed just how potent EDM had become in representing American youth culture. READ MORE

17 From The Laptops of Babes

Madeon is on's 2012 "21 Under 21" ranking.

It used to be that Porter Robinson, 20, and Zedd, 23, were the little bros of EDM. But 2012 unveiled a new crop of even younger up-and-comers, like suit-wearing French wunderkind Madeon (18), out-of-nowhere Danny Avila (17), and Armin Van Buuren prodigy Erik Arbores (15). As one promoter said, "It's like supermodels: The younger, the better. Soon these kids are going to get discovered on playgrounds." He was nearly proven right when Ultra Music announced the signing of eight-year-old DJ Kai, who recently released his first compilation, School Sessions, featuring the grown-up sounds of Deadmau5, Steve Aoki, and Calvin Harris.

6 Dubstep: Bass Goes Boom

First it turned up in nu metal, which kind of made sense. Then in video games, which seemed natural for music that sounds like dinosaurs and lasers beams. Britney Spears and Dr. Luke welcomed it to pop-land in 2011 with "Hold It Against Me" (Skrillex reportedly approved). But in 2012, American dubstep - with its nuclear-bomb bass drops and burst of synth noise - was everywhere: In the music of Justin Bieber and Kanye West (who sampled Flux Pavilion's "I Can't Stop"); being lampooned on primetime sitcoms ("Up All Night's" great rave sequence); in viral political videos (Flux again, in the KONY clip), and even declared dead by the advertising trade press, which pointed to ads for everything from Internet Explorer (featuring Alex Clare's surprise hit "Too Close," produced by Diplo) to Ovaltine as contributing to the genre's oversaturation. Will dubstep one day be like hair metal, looked upon with equal parts embarrassment and affection? Check back in 10 years.

5 Calvin-ism

CALVIN HARRIS Everyone collaborated with everyone year, but Calvin Harris played the game best. His win streak fortuitously started with "Feel So Close" featuring his own voice, and voiding the usual what-does-that-guy-do confusion when a producer gets an artist credit. Then came Rihanna's "We Found Love," the most honestly dance-y track any pop star has ever made. Then "Let's Go" with Ne-Yo, a new take on club-ready R&B, used in Pepsi ads (featuring Harris), and now, Grammy-nominated. Then "Sweet Nothing" with Florence Welch, a mark of hipster cred that still had Harris' hands-in-the-air stamp. His album, 18 Months, collects all these and more, a time capsule of what radio sounded like in 2012, and good, clean, fun dance music besides.
4 WalserGate

Prior to this year, Grammy's lowest dance music moment was in 2001, when the Baha Men won "Best Dance Recording" with "Who Let The Dogs Out." But at least that was a hit. Prior to his nomination, Al Walser's "I Can't Live Without You" had about 200 views on YouTube. Plus, it's more rock-pop than dance. But that didn't stop the Lichtenstein native from socially-networking his way into one of the five coveted "Best Dance Recording" slots, primarily by lobbying on, a closed community for members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) (of which Walser is one). That means that, just like in 2001, Grammy voters went for a name they recognized, regardless of its quality or eligibility. If Skrillex's three wins gave Grammy some EDM credibility last year, this nomination effectively wiped it out. READ MORE

3 Swedish House Mafia: Breaking Up The Family

SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA With a mere two years in the international spotlight, Swedish House Mafia announced on June 24 that after a farewell tour, the fist-pumping DJ/producer trio would be no more. No explicit reason was given, nor did it seem particularly final: The group called it "an experiment" in one interview, and left the door open for future collaborations. But Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso did more in their short time of prominence than most artists do in a lifetime, selling out Madison Square Garden, hosting their own festival in Miami (Masquerade Motel), and landing an international endorsement deal with Absolut Vodka. And "One Last Tour" sold out its first eight arena dates in a matter of minutes. Talk about going out on top.
2 Ultra Music Festival(s)

Ultra Music Festival 2012 was three sold-out days of EDM madness, with a total 165,000 fans packing Miami's Bayfront Park and its eight stages. Organizers have long said that their capacity was only hindered by the venue; that tickets sold out so quickly, they could easily sell more if they just had the room. On October 15, they announced a plan to do just that: UMF 2013 would go from one weekend to two, March 15-17 and 22-24. Coachella first used this method - creating more supply to meet increased demand - successfully in 2012. But fans complained that it made trip-planning difficult, and took away one of UMF's strongest draws: The promise of seeing every DJ you've ever liked or loved with one three-day pass. One thing's sure: March in Miami will never be the same.

1 Robert F.X. Sillerman: The S-Man Cometh

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Robert F.X. Sillerman announced himself to the EDM world with an imposing Billboard cover this September, casting him as the man in black. But was he a Sith Lord or Dark Knight? That was the question. Sillerman made his mark on music by consolidating former competitors - first in radio, then in concert promotion - into singular, powerful entities, then selling them for profit. He sold his SFX Entertainment - an aggregate of formerly independent concert promoters - to Clear Channel in 2000 for $4.4 billion, which then turned it into Live Nation. Sillerman's goal this time around, he said, was to do the same for EDM: Spend $1 billion buying promoters and other entities, starting with rave legend Disco Donnie; give them the power that combined scale and dollars provides; and grow the scene to new levels of profitability. Along with him came other adventurers with capital - supermarket magnate Ronald Burkle; Live Nation itself - taking meetings with major EDM players. But since Donnie and Dayglow party promoters Life in Color went to SFX, and Live Nation acquired Creamfields and Hard Events, the hot stove has gone cold. Will EDM entities resist takeovers and dig in their heels, like Ultra Music and Ultra Music Festival did when they joined forces after years of acrimony? Only 2013 will tell.


text by Kerri Mason


Best of 2012: Billboard's Year-End Charts & More | The Year in EDM


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