It's huge! No, it's dead! No, it's huge! No doubt, the debate over the future of dance music is nearly as divisive as Donald Trump. But this much is clear: Stars like Calvin Harris and Kaskade are headlining Coachella, a Bieber-resuscitating Diplo deserves to be artist of the year, EDM is now a three-letter expletive (sorry, Robert Sillerman and SFX shareholders) and -- if the bubble really is about to burst -- everyone on Billboard's third annual power list (yes, still mostly bros) has an opinion.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
DJ-producer; founder, Mad Decent
In 2015, two of our Artist of the Year's songs dominated radio and streaming-service playlists. Jack U's "Where Are U Now," featuring Justin Bieber, helped Bieber shed his tween-idol baggage (It has been streamed more than 358 million times and has sold more than 1.7 million copies, according to Nielsen Music.) And his band Major Lazer and DJ Snake's "Lean On" (with vocals by MØ) was even more surprising -- an independent release that became an even bigger hit, racking up more than 400 million streams, with 1.7 million copies sold. Now Diplo is bringing Bieber and MØ together on "Cold Water," the lead single of the fourth LP by Major Lazer. (Read the full Diplo feature here).
ABOVE & BEYOND: JONO GRANT, 36; TONY MCGUINESS, 47; PAAVO SILJAMÄKI, 39
After becoming the first British DJs to sell out New York's Madison Square Garden in October 2014, the London-based trance trio embarked on an ambitious world tour to support its new Acoustic II album, playing with an 18-piece band and featured vocalists at historic venues like the Sydney Opera House, Royal Albert Hall and Hollywood Bowl (another sellout). Their tastemaking podcast Group Therapy reaches 30 million each week.
LESSON LEARNED: Siljamäki: "Bigger isn't always better; quieter is sometimes louder."
STEVE AOKI, 38
DJ-producer; CEO, Dim Mak Records; creative director, Dim Mak Collection
Aoki may be throwing cake at his audiences in limited portions these days, but the Los Angeles-based Dim Mak label head remains in constant motion: He launched an apparel line, dropped a single featuring Walk the Moon and is the subject of a surprisingly revealing documentary, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, directed by Justin Krook, which made a splashy premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.
Last Time I Danced My Butt Off: "At Harvard: I played the Yardfest. I applied there for grad school. I didn't think I was going to get in -- and I didn't. But I got into Harvard this way!"
DJ-producer; label head, Mau5trap
In terms of visibility and the ability to steer vital industry conversations, Deadmau5 (real name: Joel Zimmerman) is not only dance music's most opinionated and polarizing figure but also one of its most powerful. The Canadian producer and Mau5trap label head is impossible to ignore: He has publicly beefed with everyone from Kanye West to Disney during the past 12 months and, like it or not, has been one of the genre's loudest voices on issues like streaming, sampling and selling out. But this may be the year focus shifts back to his music. In March, he launched his own radio show on Apple Music's Beats 1, where he has been teasing a new album that's due later in 2016.
DJ SNAKE, 29
Ever since "Turn Down for What" broke through in 2014, Snake has been on a remarkably consistent run. Four subsequent singles, which have ranged from trap to tropical to electro-soul, have gone platinum. His 2015 smash "Lean On," with Major Lazer and MØ, was the first dance record to break 1 billion views on YouTube. He has spent 35 cumulative weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart since its launch in January 2013 -- the most by any artist. A debut LP, set for release on Interscope, is 2016's most anticipated dance album.
Flume, aka Sydney native Harley Streten, has been in the spotlight since 2012, when tastemaking Australian label Future Classic released his eponymous debut and his remix of Disclosure's "You & Me" caught fire. But 2016 is shaping up to be his biggest year yet: New single "Never Be Like You" (featuring Kai) is his debut on the Billboard Hot 100, now at No. 46. It's from his just-released sophomore LP, Skin, which features an impressive range of collaborators (Beck, Vince Staples, Raekwon, Tove Lo, AlunaGeorge and more). Flume will push the project on tour through the end of the year (including a 38-date North American leg, kicking off Aug. 4).
Biggest Misconception About Dance: "That it's not real music because it's not played on an instrument. I played sax for 10 years, but electronic music is appealing to me because there's so much more control -- you can take African drums or Amazonian flutes, distort them and pitch them down, and get this whole new access to the world of music."
MARTIN GARRIX, 20
DJ-producer; label founder, STMPD
Freed of the contractual confines of Spinnin' Records and MusicAllStars Management after a December 2015 settlement, the 20-year-old Dutch wunderkind launched his own STMPD RCRDS in March and is poised to continue his pop crossover under Scooter Braun's stewardship. A confirmed Justin Bieber collaboration in the works should help his cause, as should a debut album reportedly featuring Avicii, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, Ed Sheeran and Bebe Rexha.
Biggest Weakness: "When I was young and inexperienced, I was quick to trust others in an industry full of sharks."
DAVID GUETTA, 48
Guetta won top dance/electronic artist at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, backed by two collaborative Hot 100 hits, "Hey Mama" (with Nicki Minaj, Afrojack and Bebe Rexha) and "Bang My Head" (with Sia and Fetty Wap). He has another one on the way: "This One's for You," with Swedish "It" girl Zara Larsson, is No. 13 in its third week on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs.
CALVIN HARRIS, 32
One of dance's most bankable stars, Harris maintains a lucrative Las Vegas residency at Hakkasan and a global endorsement deal with Giorgio Armani, and sources say he commands upwards of $1 million for a two-hour festival set (he headlined Coachella in April). Like clockwork, he landed two more Hot 100 hits in the past year: "How Deep Is Your Love" (which peaked at No. 27) and "This Is What You Came For" with Rihanna (now No. 9), a strong contender for song of the summer.
Growing up in Chicago made Ryan Raddon -- the future Kaskade -- into a house-music true believer. "I was in this because I loved it," he says. "Twenty years ago, we didn't understand that there was a paycheck on the other side." He certainly understood that during the past year -- his last album, Automatic, hit No. 2 on Top Dance/Electronic Albums in October 2015; he was the first dance artist to top-bill the Los Angeles Convention Center; and he drew eye-poppingly massive crowds to his headlining sets at Lollapalooza, Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival in New York and Las Vegas.
Biggest Misconception About Dance: "That we're a bunch of drugged-out buffoons with no musical integrity."
Kygo (born Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll) owes his success to sunbaked synths and slow-mo BPMs more befitting a luau than a festival main stage or sold-out arena. But in the past year, he has headlined both -- including Brooklyn's Barclays Center (which he sold out), Coachella and Ultra Music Festival. He became the fastest artist to reach 1 billion Spotify streams in December 2015 -- months before his debut LP, Cloud Nine (Sony), arrived in May. The album peaked at No. 1 on Top Dance/Electronic Albums and produced "Firestone," his Hot 100 debut.
Desert Island Dance Record: "One of the most timeless dance tracks ever made: ‘Call On Me' by Eric Prydz. I never get sick of it."
DJ-producer; co-founder, OWSLA
2015 will be remembered as the year Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore) became a bona fide hitmaker. The Los Angeles artist collected his seventh and eighth Grammy Awards alongside Diplo for their Jack U album and single "Where Are U Now" (which peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100), and he co-produced Justin Bieber's Hot 100 No. 1 "Sorry" as well as five other tracks from the star's chart-topping comeback album, Purpose. Skrillex's industry impact expanded beyond his production and DJ gigs, from breaking artists like Snails and Valentino Khan on his OWSLA label to directing videos with Chance the Rapper and Hundred Waters. With reported upcoming collabs alongside Bruno Mars, Rick Ross and Florence Welch, the hits should keep on coming.
Advice for Newbies: "Be a f--ing kid, break rules, don't care. Don't try to get people's attention. Let your art speak loud and people will find you."
Biggest Weakness: "Girls, probably. If I'm really feeling a girl, I don't want to work -- I want to hang out with her."
THE CHAINSMOKERS: ALEX PALL, 31; DREW TAGGART, 26
Jokey 2014 track "#Selfie," this New York duo's debut single, prompted many to write the pair off as a novelty act. Instead The Chainsmokers have become one of 2016's biggest breakouts, proving their status as hitmakers with "Roses" and "Don't Let Me Down," which cracked the top 10 on the Hot 100 (it's No. 5 on the June 18 chart) and has ruled Hot Dance/Electronic Songs for seven weeks. They also played a well-attended Coachella set featuring guest spots from G-Eazy, Walk the Moon, Third Eye Blind and Tiësto.
Lesson Learned: Pall: "It's easy to get caught up listening to everyone else, but follow your instincts -- because that's what got you to where you are."
The constantly touring Dutch heavyweight (born Tijs Verwest) is one of dance's most aggressive stars when it comes to branding and technology. In addition to partnerships with T-Mobile, 7Up, SiriusXM and AKG Headphones, he recently signed with Budweiser to sponsor the relaunch of his mobile app, which offers unlimited streaming of his music, exclusive podcast material and soon, sources say, a virtual reality element. Tiësto serves as an adviser to tech startups Splice, Dubset and Doppler, but he still is dropping new music, releasing compilation album Club Life: Volume Four, New York City and a joint track with Oliver Heldens ("The Right Song") on his label, Musical Freedom, with support from Republic/Casablanca Records. And that's expanding, too. In April, he announced a sublabel, AFTR:HRS, dedicated to deep house.
Greatest Strength: "I always find new talent to collaborate with, which helps me keep my sound up to date."
Biggest Weakness: "I overthink things."
PASQUALE ROTELLA, 41
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
Founder, Insomniac Events
The Insomniac Events founder has grown his company into a worldwide network of 12 music festivals, major club nights, a record label and a partnership with events titan Live Nation -- all coordinated by a 140-person full-time staff. Its crown jewel? The iconic Electric Daisy Carnival, now with annual editions in New York and the United Kingdom, as well as the Las Vegas flagship, which will feature more than 250 acts and 400,000 fans at its 20th anniversary June 17-19. With EDC India and Japan slated for 2017 on top of recent expansion into Brazil, Mexico and the United Kingdom -- and main rival SFX’s recent collapse -- the 41-year-old’s brainchild is fast becoming the first truly global rave empire, with Rotella securely on the throne. (Read Pasquale Rotella's full interview here.)
RUSSELL FAIBISCH, 38
Co-Founder / President & CEO / Chairman / Executive Producer
Ultra Enterprises - Ultra Music Festival / Ultra Worldwide
ADAM RUSSAKOFF, 46
Executive Producer / Director of Business Affairs / Talent Buyer
Ultra Enterprises - Ultra Music Festival / Ultra Worldwide
Ultra Music Festival's co-founders had their best year ever, selling out their flagship Miami edition's 165,000 tickets two months prior to the March 18-20 event (earlier than previous years) and adding Brazil and Hong Kong to their international portfolio. The Ultra Worldwide empire now numbers 35 shows in 24 cities, 19 countries and five continents. The only major dance-festival operator to resist the acquisition frenzy of 2013 (Insomniac sold to Live Nation; ID&T to the now-bankrupt SFX Entertainment), Faibisch says maintaining Ultra's independence "feels as good now as the day we decided to do it."
No. 1 Rule of Power: Russakoff: "The path to success is wrought with lessons learned from well-intended mistakes." Faibisch: "Do things for the right reasons the right way with the right people."
STEVE GOODGOLD, 44
SAM HUNT, 35
Agents, The Windish Agency
In July 2015, this booking behemoth -- which counts Jack U, Major Lazer and Flosstradamus as clients — entered into a strategic partnership with Paradigm (which cut similar deals with AM Only and Coda) that fortified its resources and muted industry snark that the agency was spread too thin. Of the company's 649 artists, upwards of 40 percent occupy the electronic genre which Goodgold and Hunt oversee. The pair played key roles in Major Lazer's historic March concert in Havana, which drew an estimated 400,000 fans, and in the Mad Decent Block Party, which has grown from a free concert into a traveling, cross-country festival that will sell 180,000 tickets this summer. Both Major Lazer and Mad Decent are fronted by Diplo, Billboard’s Artist of the Year, who has worked with Hunt for more than a decade. This summer, another marquee Windish act, Flume, will set off on a 65-stop world tour, which reportedly sold 200,000 tickets globally in a week.
No. 1 Rule of Power: Goodgold: "Be honest and trustworthy. You're only as good as your word."
Last Time I Danced My Butt Off: Hunt: "I never dance -- ask my wife."
NEIL MOFFITT, 49
CEO, Hakkasan Group
The ever-burgeoning spectacle of Las Vegas nightlife has been the most visible expression of EDM's gigabuck status, and no one has done more to raise the stakes than Moffitt. Hakkasan Group boasts the strip's most dominant portfolio of megaclubs ever, which includes its namesake, the still-sparkling OMNIA and Jewel, a brand-new undertaking at ARIA. Moffitt's grip on Vegas is so strong that he spent much of 2015 fighting off claims of monopoly in court after purchasing competing nightclubs Light and Daylight. That issue since has been resolved, and Moffitt sits comfortably atop an empire of 14 nightclubs and 14 high-end restaurants. And if rumors are true, a Hakkasan Hotel is also on the way.
Biggest Weakness: "As Hakkasan Group grows, it does at times take me away from what's cutting edge. I'm not as close to the pulse as I once was, but I entrust a team that stays on top of trends."
PAUL MORRIS, 44
President/CEO, AM Only
LEE ANDERSON, 34
Vp East Coast/agent, AM Only
MATT RODRIGUEZ, 42
Vp West Coast/agent, AM Only
Need proof that dance fans are hungry for more than the same old warehouse parties and club nights? Just ask AM Only, the New York- and Los Angeles-based agency that masterminded some of electronic music's most innovative recent tours including Dirtybird BBQ, Disclosure's Wild Life series and the infamous Full Flex Express, a concert run that traveled by train to eight Canadian cities in July 2015 and counted Skrillex, Diplo and ASAP Ferg as its cargo. The company's 200-plus client list includes Zedd, Annie Mac and Porter Robinson, and it recently established partnerships with the Paradigm and Windish agencies.
Advice for Newbies: Anderson: "Always be willing to walk away from a deal."
GARY RICHARDS, 45
CEO, HARD Events
Richards (who moonlights as DJ-producer Destructo) was Los Angeles dance music's biggest promoter in the early 1990s (older fans might remember the notorious Rave America on New Year's Eve in 1992). After a stint in the record biz, he returned to promotion with HARD in 2007, as a surging Los Angeles dance scene went national. Now in its ninth year, flagship event HARD Summer, often called a hipster alternative to the candy-rave extravagance of Electric Daisy Festival, is exploding: The 2015 edition, with Jack U and The Weeknd, reportedly doubled in size from 2014, selling 135,000 tickets.
Last Time I Danced My Butt Off: "[Record label] Boys Noize had a release party at some crazy underground warehouse -- you had to wear a ski mask to get in. The DJ was playing a lot of Prince."
JONATHAN SCHWARTZ, 33
Partner, TAO/Strategic Group
JASON STRAUSS, 42
NOAH TEPPERBERG, 40
Co-owners, TAO/Strategic Group
Claiming four of the top 10 revenue-generating nightclubs in the country (Marquee Las Vegas, TAO Las Vegas, LAVO NY and LAVO Las Vegas) to the tune of a combined $180 million to $200 million in 2015, TAO/Strategic Group continues its dominance. That total doesn't even account for other Billboard Boxscore top 100 club holdings like Marquee NY and PHD at the Dream Downtown (both $15 million to $20 million) or Avenue ($10 million to $15 million).
No. 1 Rule of Power: Tepperberg: "Return every message and email you get on the day you get them -- every single day."
HUNTER WILLIAMS, 38
Agent, Creative Artists Agency
Williams, who is based in Nashville, steered some of the biggest-selling tours and most innovative shows of 2015, including The Chainsmokers' sold-out 33-city sweep and Pretty Lights' Takeover, a festival-style camping weekend for fans in Telluride, Colo. Many of his most successful acts take cues from the jam band community, forgoing gigs at festivals and clubs altogether. "Outsiders see electronic music as a one-sided industry," says Williams, "but it has so much more depth than they realize."
Last Time I Danced My Butt Off: "Last Saturday listening to LTJ Bukem's March 2016 Soundcrash Mix."
JOEL ZIMMERMAN, 37
Partner/head of electronic music, William Morris Endeavor
Zimmerman helped pioneer Vegas clubs and corporate mega-fests as a goldmine for DJs, including clients Calvin Harris, Deadmau5 and Kaskade. And now, he's bullish about the backlash: a wave of boutique events catering to specific subsets of dance music ("one-stage stuff"). Zimmerman also is involved with noise-making dance-related films like Steve Aoki's documentary I'll Sleep When I'm Dead and the Netflix-financed XOXO, due later this year.
Dance's Biggest Challenge in 2016: "Outsiders looking in."
JULIE ADENUGA, 27
DJ, Beats 1
ZANE LOWE, 42
Creative director/DJ, Beats 1
Well-known in Britain, Lowe and Adenuga now reach a global audience of 13 million as two of three "anchor DJs" at Apple's online radio station. (Rap stalwart Ebro Darden is the third.) Lowe, now based in Los Angeles, made his name on BBC Radio 1 before being recruited to steer Beats 1 as creative director and lead personality (his interviews with stars like Drake make headlines). Adenuga, meanwhile, was a voice on Rinse FM, a pirate station gone legit, and has London underground cred -- her brothers are grime stars Skepta and JME. Through the pair, electronic music has a privileged place on one of the world's largest new platforms.
KATHRYN FRAZIER, 46
Owner/CEO, Biz 3; co-owner, OWSLA
One of dance music's most powerful marketers, Frazier runs Biz 3, a publicity and artist management firm with clients such as Alesso, Baauer, Chromeo and Bassnectar. She also co-runs Skrillex's OWSLA imprint as its marketing/PR expert and self-described "den mother." Last August, Frazier landed Diplo and Skrillex's Jack U project a pivotal piece in The New York Times, raising their profiles with a new audience.
Proudest Moment: Jack U playing the 2016 Grammys. "It's incredible when you see artists you've worked with since they started making music reach that level.".
Senior director/head of electronic dance programming, SiriusXM
With American terrestrial radio mostly ignoring dance music, Geronimo (born Jonathan Broth) is an on-air host, as well as head of EDM at the satellite giant, who programs the genre's cutting edge. Right now, that's "house, whether it's deep house or tropical house," he says. "Big-room EDM is not as in-demand as it was."
Last Time I Danced My Butt Off: "To CeCe Peniston's ‘Finally' at a wedding in Lambertville, New Jersey."
NEIL JACOBSON, 39
Executive vp/president of A&R/management, Interscope Geffen A&M
"Nobody knows what a hit is, and you can't predict it," says Jacobson, who, nonetheless, has shown enviable instincts when it comes to developing talent: Interscope's DJ Snake scored five hits on the Hot 100 in the last year. Jacobson also is riding high after the Grammys, where his management client Jeff Bhasker was named producer of the year. Next up, highly anticipated albums from AlunaGeorge and Snake.
No. 1 Rule of Power: "Power is a result -- it should not be an intention."
CRAIG KALLMAN, 51
Chairman/CEO, Atlantic Records
GINA TUCCI, 33
Head of A&R, Big Beat Records; senior director A&R, Atlantic Records
It has been a big year for Big Beat, the dance-dedicated Warner imprint relaunched by founder Kallman in 2010. Managed by Tucci, the label recently celebrated "Hey Mama," David Guetta's biggest hit to date; more than 790 million streams for Galantis' Pharmacy; and Jack U's Grammy-winning debut. Despite Kallman's broader responsibilities at Atlantic, Tucci says her team is "in his office several times a day, playing music and bouncing ideas. We can tell by his face if it's a go."
AUSTIN KRAMER, 32
Global head of electronic music and culture, Spotify
Kramer spent eight years with SiriusXM before packing off to Spotify in April 2015. During the past year, Kramer says he "dove headfirst into making sure electronic was properly represented on Spotify," growing the platform's dance footprint to more than 14 million followers on dozens of key playlists. He has turned ElectroNOW, his flagship playlist, into a fledgling event brand, booking Deadmau5 and Kaskade for a Miami Music Week party.
Biggest Misconception About Dance: "That it's a fad. House has been around a lot longer than that three-letter acronym."
ALEXANDER LJUNG, 34
ERIC WAHLFORSS, 36
Founder/chief technology officer, SoundCloud
Ljung and Wahlforss have continued to challenge the status quo of streaming, culminating in the March launch of SoundCloud Go, a subscription service that allows ad-free access to 125 million tracks -- including unsigned and derivative works -- for $9.99 a month. "It's aligning the whole industry around this view that DJ'ing and remixing are a key part of music and monetization," says Wahlforss. "That's something that is now being embraced as opposed to discouraged."
ANNIE MAC, 37
DJ, BBC RADIO 1
PETE TONG, 57
DJ, BBC RADIO 1; founder, FFRR Records, International Music Summit, WME's dance division
Meet Britain's top dance tastemakers: Tong has moved from DJ to mogul during his 25-year career, and his BBC Radio 1 cohort Mac is blazing trails of her own. Tong's BBC show Essential Mix is nearing its 750th episode, his FFRR label has earned star-making cred (Disciples, Matoma), his All Gone events brand hosts festival stages around the world and his International Music Summit conference is growing; he manages these projects from his desk as co-founder of William Morris Endeavor's dance division. Meanwhile, the heavily touring Mac has her own festival: The second Lost & Found took place in May in Malta, where she headlined alongside Disclosure.
PATRICK MOXEY, 49
President/CEO, Ultra Music
DAVID WAXMAN, 45
GM/senior vp/president of A&R, Ultra Records
When Moxey and Waxman began working together in 2000, Ultra was still an indie, and its 2016 superstar Kygo was just 9 years old. This past year, the Norwegian DJ-producer (who is signed to Ultra parent company Sony) had the year's best sales week on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart, and Ultra had its biggest international hit with Felix Jaehn's remix of OMI's "Cheerleader," which Billboard named 2015's Song of the Summer.
Desert Island Disc: Moxey: Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express.
ADAM ALPERT, 36
CEO, Disruptor Management/Records, Selector Songs
Helping The Chainsmokers overcome the novelty stigma of breakout hit "#Selfie" was a tall task, but Alpert made it look easy. One of dance's savviest managers doubles as an expert A&R rep, overseeing The Chainsmokers' follow-up top 10s "Roses" and "Don't Let Me Down." It was Alpert's idea to have rising teen pop star Daya, who landed her own top 20 hit "Hideaway" in 2015, sing on the latter. Alpert's smarts come as no surprise to Sony Music boss Doug Morris, who signed a management/label joint venture with him, Disruptor, in 2014.
Advice For Newbies: "Put out content consistently. If a consumer isn't listening to you, they're listening to someone else."
SCOOTER BRAUN, 34
Founder, SB Projects
MICHAEL GEORGE, 27
Artist manager, SB Projects
Braun's creative alliance with Jack U reinvigorated the career of client Justin Bieber, who won his first Grammy for "Where Are U Now" and topped the charts with the Skrillex-produced "Sorry." Under George's guidance, Martin Garrix has been working with Bieber and Ed Sheeran and became the youngest DJ to close out the Ultra Music Festival. Fellow clients Steve Angello and The Knocks released albums this past year as well.
Advice For Newbies: Braun: "Make great music first."
MARK GILLESPIE, 34; DEAN WILSON, 46
Co-founders, Three Six Zero Group
On Gillespie and Wilson's watch, longtime client Calvin Harris became Coachella's first-ever DJ headliner and reunited with Rihanna for new hit "This Is What You Came For." Another star they handle, Deadmau5, struck partnerships with Ultra Worldwide and live-streaming platform Twitch. Their Three Six Zero firm has expanded beyond its dance roots, adding acts like Frank Ocean, Korn and Jessie Ware and developing new film, TV and digital footprints.
KEVIN KUSATSU, 36; ANDREW MCINNES, 32
Co-founders, TMWRK; producers, Mad Decent Block Party, Fools Gold Day Off
Despite the implosion of former parent company SFX, Kusatsu and McInnes had a superlative year. The duo extricated themselves from Robert Sillerman's bankrupt company and independently released Major Lazer's smash "Lean On," which reached No. 4 on the Hot 100. They also helped Major Lazer become the first major U.S. act to play Cuba since relations thawed, co-managed Jack U and added Cashmere Cat and What So Not to a roster that already features Diplo, Dillon Francis and ILoveMakonnen.
No. 1 Rule Of Power: McInnes: "Never say more than you have to."
STEPHANIE LAFERA, 36
CEO/owner, Little Empire Music
The Atlanta native began managing bands in high school before entering the rave scene during college, handing out fliers and road-tripping to New Orleans for James "Disco Donnie" Estopinal Jr.'s storied bashes. She has steered Kaskade's career for 20 years, and 2015 and 2016 arguably have been his biggest yet: He headlined Coachella and Lollapalooza, and his 2015 stand at San Francisco's Pier 70 was Boxscore's top dance/electronic gig, grossing $1,244,473 and drawing 20,071 fans. Meanwhile, LaFera's other star client, Galantis, ruled Top Electronic/Dance Albums with sophomore set Pharmacy.
Life Lesson: "Don't freak out."
ASH POURNOURI, 34
Founder, At Night Management, Connected Artists, PRMD Music/Publishing
Despite Pournouri's star client Avicii announcing his retirement from touring at age 26, it was still a big year for the charismatic manager and entrepreneur: He added Axwell + Ingrosso to his roster; his PRMD label logged its first international hit with Deorro's "Five More Hours"; and he partnered with Spotify CEO Daniel Ek to establish Symposium Stockholm, a conference exploring creativity, technology and music.
Life Lesson: "Everything happens for a reason -- but sometimes the reason is you're stupid and make bad decisions."
MYLES SHEAR, 23
Founder, Golden Hare Group
Shear helped propel his clients Kygo and Thomas Jack -- two unknowns in 2014 -- to Justin Bieber-approved crossover stardom, along with the tropical house genre they popularized. His stewardship over Kygo paid off in particular: The producer sold out Brooklyn's Barclays Center and saw all those SoundCloud and Spotify streams pay off for debut LP Cloud Nine, which had the top sales week for a dance album so far in 2016.
Advice for Newbies: "Seek advice but go with your gut. Only you know the answer."
TIM SMITH, 41
Founder, Blood Company; co-owner, OWSLA
With a "good people, good times" motto and a background overseeing metal and hardcore bands (including longtime client Skrillex's old group From First to Last), Smith speaks the language of the musical eclectics he manages. Jack U won two Grammys for its self-titled debut album, while Skrillex's six contributions to Justin Bieber's Purpose helped the singer rediscover radio success and find new artistic credibility. Smith also oversaw high-profile album rollouts for clients Zedd and Boys Noize.
No. 1 Rule of Power: "Don't be evil."
Reporting by Megan Buerger, Jemayel Khawaja, Kerri Mason, Michaelangelo Matos and Matt Medved.