5 Things We Learned From Billboard Dance's Matt Medved on Billboard Radio China
For the dance music world, all eyes are on Asia this month.
IMS Asia-Pacific's third edition is currently underway in Shanghai, China ahead of A2Live's STORM Festival. Ultra just wrapped eight events in South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Bali, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan, attracting more than 350,000 fans. And SFX's Made Event and Insomniac recently announced plans to expand Electric Zoo to China and Electric Daisy Carnival to India.
Matt Medved, Billboard's senior editor, dance/electronic, sat down with Billboard Radio China this month to answer 10 questions on a wide range of topics. Listen to the full interview here and below, plus see our 5 quick takeaways.
1. He's focused on expanding Billboard Dance's reach in Asia
"I want Billboard Dance to be reaching new audiences, audiences we haven't reached before. I've got my eye on Asia, absolutely. China and India are massive markets that are still emerging in dance music. I want Billboard Dance to be positioned as a global brand. I'm very interested in ensuring that Billboard Dance is a trusted and available resource in countries like China, India, Japan and South Korea."
2. On the "tragic" impact of Fabric being shut down
"Fabric and its mix series were so key to music discovery and launched the careers of so many artists... it's truly tragic," Medved says. "Its reputation precedes it as a model nightclub. And that's what I think everyone finds so disheartening and scary. Fabric was run well, by people who knew what they were doing, who were professional and took safety into account. So if a model business like Fabric could be shut down like this, it can happen to anyone. And that's scary because club culture has always lied at the heart of dance music. Dance music came from the clubs where minorities and LGBT fans could feel safe. It's sad to see the nightclub, which to many dance music fans is a sacred place, come under attack."
3. He's optimistic on dance music's current climate
"Dance music is in such an amazing place in how it's crossing over now," he says. "If you look at the No. 1 song in the country, it's "Closer" by The Chainsmokers. If you look at the the top 10, there's a ton of dance songs. You've got Major Lazer and Calvin Harris. It's a very exciting time, because it wasn't always like that."
In fact, dance music has only improved its chart standing since the interview was recorded. The genre can currently lay claim to half of the Billboard Hot 100's top 10 hits, as well as three of its top four, with "Closer" reigning for the sixth straight week.
"There's never been another time where so much music was being made and music was so accessible," he says. "With streaming and all these platforms, you are a click away from hearing different worlds of music. I think that's really inspiring."
Medved recalls first interviewing Kygo in April 2014, when the young star had barely played outside Norway, and sees his rise as an illustrative example.
"[Kygo] was just causing some noise on Hype Machine with Soundcloud remixes. And look at what he did. It flipped the script from how it used to be, where he had major labels in a bidding war for him without releasing an original song. And that's all because of those digital platforms and streaming, to be honest. He did that all through his remixes on Soundcloud and obviously became a Spotify sensation after that... that wouldn't have been possible in another era, when I think artists were more at the mercy of the major labels."
4. He believes DJing is an "exercise in empathy"
Medved started DJing in 2008 and says this ethos guided his different approaches to spinning at summer festivals this year. He describes playing more recognizable remixes at Billboard Hot 100 Fest to reach attendees who weren't dance fans, juxtaposed with delving into obscure Berlin deep house for Electric Zoo's dance floor faithful.
"It's a way of delivering a soundtrack to people," he explains. "You need to think about where they're coming from, what time of day it is, what kind of crowd it's going to be."
He also explains why he opted to ditch his previous Sicarii alias to perform using his own name.
"I learned how to curate as an opening DJ, because you can't play the hits. You actually have to dig deeper to find good songs that are going to make people move in order to set the pace for the night and warm up the crowd for the big guys. And that has helped me with music discovery for Billboard.
I decided to start playing under my own name because I really do think curation lies at the heart of what I'm doing with the project. It's another way for me to share my sounds and the sounds I'm passionate about. I've always respected what Pete Tong has done at BBC Radio 1 and what Zane Lowe is doing at Beats 1. And so I see my DJing as an extension of my curatorial role at Billboard Dance."
5. The song that got him into dance music