Billboard's Top 30 EDM Power Players List Revealed: Who Rules Dance Music?
From influential artists and kingpin executives to pioneering promoters and trusted tastemakers, Billboard's Top 30 EDM Power Players list were determined by an internal panel of experts, who looked at business influence and impact, money earned and overseen, chart performance, touring performance and cultural influence over the past 12 months. See who rules the $6.2 billion global industry.
1. JAMES BARTON, 46
President of electronic music, Live Nation
As the man in charge of Live Nation’s rapidly expanding electronic music division, Barton is at the top of the food chain when it comes to tours, festivals and clubs -- dance music’s biggest cash cows. A native of Liverpool, England, Barton made his name in the 1990s by establishing influential club night Cream, which spawned the Creamfields music festivals, giving EDM icons like Carl Cox and The Chemical Brothers an unprecedented spotlight. In 2012, Live Nation president/CEO Michael Rapino set his sights on dance music and brought on Barton, acquiring his U.K. company Cream Holdings and moving him to Malibu. Under Barton’s guidance, dance has become Live Nation’s fastest-growing genre, adding major players like HARD and Insomniac Events to its portfolio. Recently, Barton’s focus has shifted abroad. Live Nation has added more than 30 dance music festivals to its catalog in the past year, most of which are in such international markets as Toronto, Barcelona and Stockholm, and in March, it acquired a majority stake in SPG Live, the promoter behind Sweden’s EDM fest Summerburst.
Pinch-me moment: "When I hear what my 14-year-old daughter is listening to, it's house music. My heroes in the ’80s were Frankie Knuckles and Tony Humphries, so it’s amazing that 25 years later, house is having this huge resurgence led by guys like Disclosure and Duke Dumont."
Favorite festival: Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. "The fact that it takes over an entire city for a week --that’s historic."
Must-have travel item: "I recently bought a pair of cashmere travel trousers from James Perse for an overnight flight to London. There’s no going back."
2. DIPLO, 36
DJ-producer; founder, Mad Decent
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Diplo (real name: Thomas Wesley Pentz) named his 2014 solo album Random White Dude Be Everywhere, and with key help from managers Andrew McInnes and Kevin Kusatsu, he has more than lived up to that title during the past year. When he wasn't producing for the likes of Madonna, the prolific artist crafted two of 2015's most significant dance releases: the genre-bending Jack U EP with Skrillex (featuring "Where Are U Now" with Justin Bieber, which is No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated June 20) and Major Lazer's star-studded third album, Peace Is the Mission. The latter includes new hit "Lean On" with DJ Snake and Mø (No. 22 on the Hot 100), and is accompanied by the new Major Lazer animated series on FXX. Diplo's Mad Decent imprint continues to turn up hot new acts like Zeds Dead and Yellow Claw, and has expanded with a cruise party (the 2015 installment is already sold out) and another 22-city round of Mad Decent Block Party dates. As a BBC Radio 1Xtra curator, he was early on rising stars like Jauz.
Secret to My Success: "Always sound like you're making records for next year."
3. PASQUALE ROTELLA, 40
Founder, Insomniac Events
The founder of Los Angeles-based Insomniac Events has been in the scene since dance's early-'90s boom, and is now widely credited as the man who brought raves back. Insomniac's last two versions of the Las Vegas Electric Daisy Carnival, the biggest and most influential dance event in the world, sold out 400,000 tickets before announcing a single artist. In 2013, Live Nation bought half of Insomniac, which also runs several clubs and a dozen other key festivals, for an estimated $50 million. In 2014, Rotella started Insomniac Records as a joint venture with Interscope. He's currently in talks to expand the EDC brand to several international markets.
Role Model: Walt Disney
Best Thing About Dance in 2015: "It's not the same as in 2014, and that's a good thing. Music genres die if they get stagnant."
4. SKRILLEX, 27
DJ-producer; co-founder, OWSLA
For Skrillex, the Los Angeles producer (born Sonny Moore) widely credited with dubstep's explosion, "real power is subtle. It's generating a movement by inspiring people, not coercing them," he says. That's the mission for his label OWSLA, a division of Atlantic/Big Beat that launched the careers of Zedd and Porter Robinson, and boasts a roster of rising stars including What So Not and Yogi. OWSLA's Los Angeles offices, nicknamed The Nest, are now home to Biz3 Publicity and the Blood Company management firm, and will soon include OWSLA Studios, an in-house recording hub. When not running the conglomerate, Skrillex plays more than 200 shows a year and maintains two supergroups: Dog Blood, with Boys Noize, and Jack U, with Diplo. In March, he headlined Miami's Ultra Music Festival and brought out Diplo, Usher, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Justin Bieber and others.
Worst Thing About Dance in 2015: "Drug culture. Kids are going to do what they do, and I'm not judging them, but it wasn't ever like that for me. That's why I do a lot of mixed-genre festivals. People connect differently. I'm super into that."
5. PAUL MORRIS, 43
Founder/president, AM Only
Dance music thrives on live events, and Brooklyn-based AM Only handles tour scheduling for more than 200 DJs, including David Guetta, Disclosure, Skrillex and Tiesto. Morris, a London native, started the company in the back of a Manhattan record shop in 1995. Nearly 20 years later, the father of two (his wife is AM Only's general counsel) experienced a new career highlight when clients Above and Beyond sold out New York's Madison Square Garden in 12 hours in October 2014.
Favorite Party: "The Disco Funk and Soul Party that Carl Cox throws every year in Miami. After a crazy week of Ultra, it's a way to let your hair down. You'll see me at that party until the end."
6. CALVIN HARRIS, 31 // MARK GILLESPIE, 34 // DEAN WILSON, 45
Harris: DJ-producer; Gillespie/Wilson: Co-founders, Three Six Zero Group
With help from longtime managers Mark Gillespie and Dean Wilson, Taylor Swift's new beau recently expanded a lucrative residency deal (reported 2014 earnings: $66 million) with Las Vegas' Hakkasan Group to include the pop-leaning Omnia Nightclub. Another huge win? An endorsement contract that made Harris the face (and body) of Emporio Armani underwear. Harris, who has a minority stake in Tidal, remains one of dance's most reliable crossovers, with a recent top 10 hit ("Summer") and recent smashes for John Newman and Ellie Goulding. Meanwhile, Gillespie and Wilson's star clients at Three Six Zero also include Deadmau5 and Duke Dumont.
7. RITTY VAN STRAALEN, 41
CEO, SFX Live
On Wall Street, Robert X. Sillerman is still the face of SFX, the industry's largest pure-play EDM events and content company (the conglomerate intends to delist later this year and take the company private, in a deal valued at $774 million). But Van Straalen, a Dutch native, has long been the company's hands-on secret weapon, from his days as SFX's COO to his promotion earlier this year to CEO of SFX Live. The festival and concerts division accounted for 77 percent ($40.2 million) of SFX's revenue during the first quarter of 2015 alone, with a total of 96 festivals for the calendar year. Under Van Straalen, streaming service Beatport will soon lead the company's festival expansion by offering ticket sales.
Doesn't Travel Without: "My earplugs -- crazy important!"
8. JOEL ZIMMERMAN, 36
Partner/head of electronic music, William Morris Endeavor
Dance music's most powerful talent agent, Zimmerman counts marquee acts like Calvin Harris, Deadmau5 and Kaskade among his clients. He pioneered Las Vegas residencies, turning Sin City into a choice payday (and playground) for DJs, and paved the road for electronic acts to serve as major festival headliners. During the past year, he has overseen the growth of WME's electronic music division and kept his roster on the cutting edge -- as evidenced by the signing of rising tropical house star Kygo.
Stress Relief: "I run between five and eight miles at lunch every day to burn off stress from the morning, and I try to get home early and tuck my kids into bed."
9. GARY RICHARDS, 41
Founder/CEO, HARD Events
From his A&R tenure under Def Jam's Rick Rubin to the rise of his promotion company HARD Events, Richards has always had an ear for future sounds. His intuition keeps paying off: Flagship festival HARD Summer grew dramatically in 2014, while cruise party Holy Ship expanded to two sailings (with a European leg planned). Richards is also spearheading a new national Go HARD tour and performing at international festivals as his producer-DJ alter ego, Destructo.
Role Model: "Rick Rubin. He's such a pure music guy."
10. PATRICK MOXEY, 49
Founder/president, Ultra Records; president of electronic music, Sony Music
Moxey's Ultra Records just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and the pioneering label experienced a renaissance during the past year, with crossover chart-climbers like Robin Schulz's remix of Mr. Probz's "Waves" and new tastemakers like Alina Baraz & Galimatias. Prior to its Sony merger in 2013, Ultra put out seminal releases from the likes of Deadmau5 and Kaskade. Now, as Sony's president of electronic music, Moxey is still trusting his gut on talent. Case in point: winning the 2014 bidding war for Kygo and making OMI's "Cheerleader" an unlikely top 20 smash.
Definition of Power: "The ability to shape culture -- that's the ultimate thrill."
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11. SCOOTER BRAUN, 33
Founder/owner, SB Projects
The pop supermanager stepped into the dance spotlight in a major way this year with a powerhouse showing at Ultra Music Festival, where his clients -- former Swedish House Mafia star Steve Angello, Martin Garrix, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande -- caused a sensation. He made waves on the charts too, putting Bieber on Jack U's genre-smashing hit "Where Are U Now."
Secret to my success: "First, you're only as good as your team, and I have a great one. Secondly, being able to pull in other genres. Usher is one of my best friends; he heard [Garrix's] 'Don't Look Down' and said, 'I want to jump on that.'"
12. KASKADE, 44
Kaskade (real name: Ryan Raddon) has written some of EDM's definitive anthems, including the Deadmau5 collaboration "I Remember" and Grammy-nominated "Atmosphere." This year already has been huge for the father of three: On the heels of his main-stage Coachella performance -- one of the festival's best-attended -- Kaskade announced a partnership with Miami management firm Super Music Group, and he's finishing his ninth studio LP.
Best Thing About Dance in 2015: "How many people are paying attention."
Worst Thing About Dance in 2015: "How many people are paying attention."
13. DAVID GUETTA, 47
A fixture of the French club scene in the '90s, Guetta dreamed of combining the ebullience of house with pop vocals, a formula he honed for a decade before teaming with The Black Eyed Peas to produce the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 "I Gotta Feeling." The tune remade the pop charts in EDM's image, and the Grammy winner has helped ensure things stayed that way. His Nicki Minaj collabo "Hey Mama" is a top 10 hit, and new productions for the Peas and Ariana Grande are forthcoming.
Best Advice I Ever Got: "I don't want to sound conceited, but I created a new model in the industry. No one could advise me on how to do this, because no one did it before."
14. ASH POURNOURI, 32
Founder, At Night Management
After overseeing Avicii's rise to stardom, Pournouri faced the biggest challenge of his career when health issues sidelined the Swedish DJ for half a year. But the hiatus gave Pournouri an opportunity to focus on his PRMD label (home to Cazzette, Ishi and other breaking acts), retool his At Night Management and expand the company in both Stockholm and Beijing, positioning the firm at the forefront of an Asian market he views as "the future."
Hardest Lesson: "I was in tech and the products failed, even when I overdelivered in my partnerships. I decided I was never going to give up control of my product again."
15. KATHRYN FRAZIER, 45
Owner, Biz3 Publicity; co-owner, OWSLA
The owner of Biz3 Publicity not only represents some of dance music's biggest names -- including Daft Punk, Steve Angello and Justice -- she also co-runs Skrillex's OWSLA Records, an imprint of Atlantic/Big Beat. And the past year has been one of her biggest: After moving from Chicago to Los Angeles, where Biz3 opened a second office, Frazier landed Skrillex on the cover of Rolling Stone, promoted Bassnectar's first show at New York's Madison Square Garden and took on Marilyn Manson as a new client.
16. DEADMAU5, 34
Producer; founder, Mau5trap
Deadmau5 (real name: Joel Zimmerman) is one of electronic music's most visible boundary-pushers. In a singles-driven climate, the Canadian artist casually released his sprawling and experimental double album while(1<2) in 2014. He also is a minority owner of Jay Z's Tidal steaming service and runs his own label (the Astralwerks-distributed Mau5trap), but he hasn't forgotten his bread and butter: live shows. His 2015 summer headlining dates include Governors Ball and Bonnaroo.
17. NEIL MOFFITT, 48
CEO, Hakkasan Group
Hakkasan is arguably Vegas' most influential club, with game-changing residencies from Tiesto and Calvin Harris, and more than $100 million in revenue during 2014 alone. But Moffitt has been rapidly expanding the Hakkasan portfolio, from the December acquisition of The Light Group's Light and Daylight (valued at $36 million) to the March debut of pop-friendly new venue Omnia (whose development cost upwards of $107 million).
Best Thing About Dance in 2015: "We now have R&B, hip-hop, pop and even country people collaborating with EDM."
18. PETE TONG, 54
DJ/host, BBC Radio 1/Clear Channel
ANNIE MAC, 36
DJ/host, BBC Radio 1
Tong and Mac are the United Kingdom's premier tastemakers, but in 2015 the BBC icons conquered America. Tong, who relocated to Los Angeles in 2014, broadcasts a two-hour evening dance show to Radio 1 and 100 iHeartRadio stations every weekend, and signed new acts Thomas Jack and Matoma to his FFRR label through Warner Bros. Mac reached new heights as a touring DJ, playing to packed crowds at Coachella and Disclosure's Wild Life festival.
In 20 Years, I'll Be... Tong: "Listening to a lot more American electronic artists, I hope."
Role Model: Mac: "Kendrick Lamar. He has conviction in his own instincts."
19. TIESTO, 46
Tiesto (born Tijs Michiel Verwest) has headlined Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra many times over, but the Dutch superstar outdid himself this past year, signing endorsement deals with 7 Up and headphone brand Audiofly, topping international charts with the 2014 single "Wasted" and winning his first Grammy for a remix of John Legend's "All of Me."
How I Manage Stress: "I don't have much stress, to be honest. I love being on the road: I know at least one guy in every single city in the world I can call."
20. MARTIN GARRIX, 19
The Dutch prodigy just moved out of his parents' place into his own Amsterdam pad -- and he's still not old enough to hang out in Omnia, the Vegas club where he has a high-wattage residency. In 2015, the young producer released collabos with mentor Tiesto, Usher and Ed Sheeran, and debuted a slew of new music during a career-defining set at Ultra -- only two years after he was a fan in the crowd.
Pinch-Me Moment: "I premiered my new record ["Rewind Repeat It"] with Ed Sheeran at Ultra. As soon as I played it, the Internet was going crazy."
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21. GERONIMO, 48
Director of music programming for electronic and dance formats; host, BPM/SiriusXM
Widely regarded as the genre's most powerful tastemaker on American radio, SiriusXM's EDM guru Geronimo (born Jonathan Broth) programs the channels BPM, Chill, Electric Area and Tiesto's Club Life, and leads the company's exclusive broadcasts of major festivals like Ultra and Electric Daisy Carnival.
Best Thing About Dance in 2015: "Somebody can be in their bedroom one day, get attention via social media and be a star the next. It's an in-the-now genre."
22. TIM SMITH, 40
Founder, Blood Company
As head of Los Angeles management firm Blood Company, Smith is the hirsute mystery man behind three of the world's biggest DJs: Boys Noize, Zedd and Skrillex. The father of two spends weekends with his family in Gainesville, Fla., while managing Jack U, which released its debut album in February, and steering the campaign for Zedd's album True Colors.
Business Role Model: Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant
23. NEIL JACOBSON, 38
Senior vp A&R, Interscope Geffen A&M
Jacobson has two core philosophies when it comes to A&R: "Be as global as possible," and "Ignore the original release date." His approach paid off in spades for DJ Snake's remix of AlunaGeorge's "You Know You Like It," a two-year-old remake of a four-year-old single that is No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and led to both artists signing to Interscope for their respective next albums. "Remixes are the most undervalued commodity in the music business," says Jacobson, who also A&R'd Madonna's dance-heavy Rebel Heart and Avicii's forthcoming album. Jacobson's next potential hit? Hook N Sling's "Break Yourself," featuring Far East Movement, one of the first releases from his joint venture with Pasquale Rotella's Insomniac Records.
Best Place to Do Business: "I sold my car last year and started taking Uber everywhere. I'll set up my laptop and have an office for my 30-minute commute."
24. STEVE AOKI, 37
DJ-producer; CEO/owner, Dim Mak Records
Behind the cakes and champagne is a savvy businessman who has overseen the rise of his label Dim Mak from an indie-rock upstart to a crossover collective. (It scored its first top 20 hit in 2014 with The Chainsmokers' viral single "#Selfie.") While touring more than 50 countries in 2014, the Benihana heir still found time to release two Neon Future albums and launch a fashion line in Japan.
Business Role Model: "My father. Even after he died seven years ago, I am still constantly trying to impress him."
25. DISCLOSURE / HOWARD, 21, and GUY LAWRENCE, 24
The United Kingdom's hippest house duo is poised for a big return this year with the follow-up to 2013's breakthrough Settle. The brothers also tested their mettle as festival curators with the two-day Wild Life, which drew a crowd of 70,000 to England's Shoreham Airport. A full-band live tour is expected later this year. Caracal arrives Sept. 25 (on new label Capitol) featuring vocals from Gregory Porter, Lion Babe and Kwabs.
Favorite Club: Howard: "The MID in Chicago. The last time we played there, it was in front of all the pioneers of house. It was such an honor."
26. AMY THOMSON, 40
Founder/CEO, ATM Artists
After Irving Azoff acquired a 50 percent stake in former Swedish House Mafia manager Thomson's ATM Artists, many looked at the Los Angeles-based Brit's roster as the future of the genre. And indeed, ATM is the linchpin for Def Jam's power move into dance, with Swedish stars Alesso and Axwell & Ingrosso signing deals with the label in 2014. Both artists made a huge splash at Coachella, with the latter becoming the first dance act to close out the fest's second-biggest stage, in front of 60,000 fans.
27. DJ SNAKE, 28
One-hit wonder? Don't tell that to DJ Snake (born William Grigahcine). The Parisian skyrocketed to fame in 2014 with "Turn Down for What," which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, but his momentum has hardly waned since. He has three recent Hot 100 hits, including "You Know You Like It" with AlunaGeorge and "Lean On" with Major Lazer and Mø.
28. ZEDD, 25
"I Want You to Know," Zedd's single with Selena Gomez, became yet another top 20 smash for the producer earlier this year; it also gave Zedd (born Anton Zaslavski) a first taste of the tabloids, as he and Gomez became romantically linked. The Grammy-winning "Clarity" producer will be touring through the fall, including a show at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 2.
My First Job: "This is embarrassing: I've never had a job in my entire life. I finished school and told my parents that I was going to stay at their house for a year and make music. Then I met Skrillex."
29. STEVE ANGELLO, 32
DJ-producer; founder, Size Records
Since leaving Swedish House Mafia in 2013, the Size Records chief and superstar DJ has signed with Scooter Braun, topped festivals from Ultra to Electric Daisy Carnival and launched a residency at Las Vegas' new SLS hotel. Now he's finishing off his debut solo LP, Wild Youth.
Best Thing About Dance in 2015: "I grew up when it wasn't as professional as it is today. Half your shows, you wouldn't get paid. Now there's no weirdness."
30. A-TRAK, 33
DJ-producer; co-founder, Fool's Gold Records
A-Trak (real name Alain Macklovitch) has been at the forefront of DJ culture's rise to the mainstream for two decades, co-founding Fool's Gold Records and releasing an acclaimed album with Armand Van Helden as the duo Duck Sauce. Next up: a slate of singles, including the just-released "Push," and this year's Fool's Gold's Day Off Festival.
How I Manage Stress: "I've been doing this since I was prepubescent, so it's just how I'm used to functioning."
Contributors: Megan Buerger, Andrew Hampp, Garrett Kamps, Jason Lipshutz, Matt Medved and Jonathan Ringen.