Billboard's Dance Power Players 2017: The DJs, Execs and Tastemakers Cueing Up Tomorrow

The Chainsmokers' manager Adam Alpert leads Billboard's annual list of DJ-producers, tastemakers and other movers and shakers who are driving the $7.4 billion global genre.

Adam Alpert, 37 | CEO, Disruptor Records, Selector Songs

"We are always thinking two or three chess moves ahead," says Adam Alpert, the manager and label boss who has steered The Chainsmokers to a rarefied level of pop success. As he spoke to Billboard from his memorabilia-filled office on lower Madison Avenue in Manhattan, Alex Pall and Drew Taggart had just logged their 57th week in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 -- the second-longest streak in the chart's nearly 60-year history -- with four blockbuster hits: "Don't Let Me Down," featuring Daya (which reached No. 3); "Closer," featuring Halsey (12 weeks at No. 1); "Paris" (No. 6); and "Something Just Like This," featuring Coldplay (No. 3). In March, the latter three were all in the top 10, matching a feat previously achieved by only two other groups or duos, The Beatles and Bee Gees.

It's just one reason that Alpert is 2017's Dance Power Players executive of the year. Under his guidance, The Chainsmokers have won a Grammy Award, four Billboard Music Awards and five iHeartRadio Music Awards over the past year. In April, the duo's debut album, Memories...Do Not Open, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and it embarked on a North American arena tour featuring a live band and an ambitious stage production.

The University of Pennsylvania graduate (and former nightlife director of Manhattan nightclubs 1Oak and Butter) additionally runs Disruptor Records, Disruptor Management and Selector Songs, created in a 2014 joint venture with then-Sony Music Entertainment CEO Doug Morris. In addition to The Chainsmokers, Disruptor's roster includes Lost Kings and Jocelyn Alice.

 

ARTISTS | These globe-trotting acts, 14 of them solo DJ-producers, rule the charts and the clubs.

 

Steve Aoki, 39 | CEO, Dim Mak Records and Dim Mak Collection

A savvy reader of trends, Steve Aoki holds his place in dance's top tier with tireless touring (he performs 200-250 shows a year); 175.1 million on-demand streams since the beginning of 2016; a documentary about his life, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead; and head-turning collaborations, like "Just Hold On" with Louis Tomlinson, which spent six weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. Aoki also is prepping a new album, Kolony, for a summer release. He promises "some incredible hip-hop artists" will be on the recording, including Migos and Gucci Mane.

 

Clean Bandit

Chasing the success of its Grammy-winning 2014 hit "Rather Be" -- 311.9 million on-demand streams; No. 10 on the Hot 100 -- wasn't a concern for the British trio of Grace Chatto, 31; Jack Patterson, 31; and Luke Patterson, 25. "I'm much more fond of ‘Rockabye,' " says ­cellist Chatto of the band's follow-up smash that peaked at No. 9 on the Hot 100 and has racked up 203.4 million on-demand streams since March. Added bonus: "Loads of ­children are saying they've taken up the cello or violin."

 

Diplo, 38 | Founder, Mad Decent

The Miami-raised DJ-producer and label owner had a very decent 2016. His group Major Lazer became the first major U.S. pop act to perform in Cuba since the reinstatement of diplomatic relations, reportedly drawing a crowd of nearly 500,000; he produced a song on Beyoncé's Lemonade; and hit No. 2 on the Hot 100 with "Cold Water," Major Lazer's team-up with Justin Bieber and MØ.

 

DJ Snake, 30

The French-Algerian global dance star has earwormed his way into the top 15 of the Hot 100 every year since he debuted in 2014. His latest coup: the Justin Bieber collaboration "Let Me Love You," which climbed to No. 4 on the Hot 100, amassed 388.6 million streams and became one of two platinum singles from Snake's long-awaited debut album, Encore.

 

Flume, 25

The Australia native's signature future-bass sound and sophomore album, Skin, found a mainstream audience in 2016.

Tracks from the LP have generated 518.8 million on-demand streams, and the single "Never Be Like You" (featuring Kai) climbed to No. 20 on the Hot 100 and earned Flume a Grammy Award.

 

Martin Garrix, 21 | Founder, STMPD RCRDS

The past 12 months have seen Martin Garrix evolve from DJ wunderkind to crossover success story. The Dutchman boosted his STMPD RCRDS label through a global deal with Sony Music International in July 2016 and through his collaboration with Bebe Rexha, "In the Name of Love" (481,000 downloads). He has kept the momentum going with a 2017 headliner set at Coachella and his latest single with Dua Lipa, "Scared to Be Lonely" (No. 76 peak on the Hot 100).

 

David Guetta, 49

David Guetta went to No. 1 in multiple ­European countries in 2016 with "This One's for You," then made a sharp left turn with the genre-bending 2017 collaboration "Light My Body Up," ­featuring Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne, which reached No. 13 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart. "There was a magic formula that everybody in the dance world wanted to hear all the time. It was a little bit repetitive for me," says ­Guetta, who sees that ­stagnation ending (and has a new album on the way). "I'm excited again to make music."

 

Calvin Harris, 33

Already one of the circuit's top-earning DJs, Calvin Harris began 2017 as a certified pop powerhouse. In addition to his exclusive residency with the Hakkasan Group in Las Vegas, the producer has been on a studio hot streak. Following the success of "Heatstroke," featuring Young Thug, Pharrell Williams and Ariana Grande (No. 13 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs), and "Slide," featuring Frank Ocean and Migos (No. 25 peak on the Hot 100), he's readying a new album, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1.

 

Skrillex, 29 | Co-founder, OWSLA

After producing pop hits "Where Are Ü Now" and "Sorry" with Justin Bieber, Skrillex stormed back into the top 40 with 2016's "Purple Lamborghini," a bunker-busting pairing with Rick Ross that generated 145.6 million on-demand streams and a Grammy nomination. He also co-curated his OWSLA label's first-ever house music compilation, HOWSLA, which arrived in May.

 

The Chainsmokers

Alex Pall, 32, and Drew Taggart, 27, have spent a year in the top 10 of the Hot 100 with four top 10 hits: "Don't Let Me Down," featuring Daya (No. 3); "Something Just Like This," ­featuring Coldplay (No. 3); "Paris" (No. 6); and "Closer," featuring Halsey, a No. 1 smash that topped the chart for 12 weeks. In 2017, the duo also landed a No. 1 album, Memories...Do Not Open, on the ­Billboard 200, and a Grammy.

 

Tiësto, 48

The Dutch DJ-producer's list of career achievements -- 1.1 million album sales, 3.1 million song downloads and 313.6 million on-demand streams -- keeps growing. Las Vegas celebrated Tiësto Day, now an annual holiday on Jan. 14, and the artist has headlined every major festival, including Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival.

 

Zedd, 27

Zedd took a break after an ­"overworked" 2016, then returned in February with the song "Stay," ­featuring Alessia Cara. The No. 7 Hot 100 hit earned 179.7 million streams.

"I knew it would be big when I got goose bumps listening to an early version," says Zedd, who also launched the Double Zero headphone line in April.

 

 

MANAGEMENT | These savvy strategists have guided their top artists from the dance charts to pop stardom.

 

Scooter Braun, 35 | Founder, SB Projects

Michael George, 28 | Artist manager, SB Projects

Braun's big kahuna, Justin Bieber, boosted his dance cred in 2016 with hit collaborations with DJ Snake ("Let Me Love You") and Major Lazer ("Cold Water") that reached No. 4 and No. 2, respectively, on the Hot 100. And George guided Martin Garrix -- who's riding the Hot 100 with "Scared to Be Lonely," featuring Dua Lipa -- to a new phase as label boss and one of Sony Music's strongest assets. SB Projects also added David Guetta to its roster.

 

Mark Gillespie, 35 and Dean Wilson, 47 | Co-founders, Three Six Zero Group

Client Calvin Harris is more in demand than ever and assembled an A-list cast of guests for his upcoming LP,Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, that includes Future and Migos. Deadmau5 completed his sold-out Lots of Shows in a Row Tour and launched an online merch store.

 

Kevin Kusatsu, 37 and Andrew Mcinnes, 33 | Co-founders, TMWRK

Kusatsu and McInnes' stacked artist roster made 2016 memorable. Major Lazer notched its best Hot 100 showing yet with the Justin Bieber-assisted "Cold Water" -- 947,000 downloads sold. TMWRK also made forays into film and TV with Major Lazer's Cuba concert documentary, Give Me Future, and James Van Der Beek's Viceland sitcom, What Would Diplo Do?

 

Stephanie LaFera, 37 | CEO/owner, Little Empire Music

The Los Angeles-based artist management company has guided the career of DJ Kaskade, one of dance music's top live earners for 20 years, and another client, Swedish duo Galantis, which charted on the Hot 100 in August 2016 with "No Money" and will headline Electric Zoo 2017.

 

Tim Smith, 42 | Founder, Blood Company; co-owner, OWSLA

A longtime business associate of Skrillex, Smith has an all-star client roster on Blood Company that includes Boys Noize, Jack Ü, BloodPop® and Zedd, who's on a hot streak thanks to his single "Stay" featuring Alessia Cara. As of early June, "Stay" had generated 179.7 million on-demand streams, topped the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart and reached No. 7 on the Hot 100.

 

Amy Thomson, 42 | Founder/president, ATM Artists

The press-shy Thomson continues to push her small but mighty roster -- which includes new signee Chase & Status, power vocalist Seal, Alesso and former Swedish House Mafia partners Axwell & Ingrosso, who, after a brief stint with a rival manager, returned to ATM in 2016. If the ensuing rumors of a Mafia reunion prove true, the details-obsessed Thomson will preside over each ticket on-sale and social post, as she did during the trio's 2012 farewell tour.

 

Discwoman photographed on May 23rd at Wrythe Studio in Brooklyn.

Discwoman photographed on May 23rd at Wrythe Studio in Brooklyn.Alexandra Gavillet

Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, 30, Emma Burgess-Olson, 28 and Christine McCharen-Tran, 28 | Co-founders, Discwoman

The booking agency and artist collective, which showcases cis women, trans women and genderqueer talent in electronic music, had a transformative 2016. Hutchinson, Burgess-Olson and McCharen-Tran placed their artists on significant stages -- ­including gigs for DJ-producers Volvox and Umfang at Berlin's iconic Berghain ­nightclub -- and secured ­multiple ­sponsorship deals, ­including a feature ­position in Smirnoff's Sound Collective initiative.

Beating Back the Bros: When Discwoman launched in 2014, EDM was at its bro-tastic peak, with Hardwell, Avicii and Calvin Harris dominating the charts, year-end lists and festival bookings. While the agency's focus is on underground music, its feminist influence has been trickling up, according to Burgess-Olson. "The conversation is more in the open, and a few more women are getting big bookings," she says. "Accountability within our scene is also changing. It doesn't feel as scary to call out promoters for booking only men."

Smirnoff Steps Up: The connection with Smirnoff yielded a short film about Discwoman, plus support for several ambitious gigs, including a two-day event in Mexico City that included workshops, panel discussions and performances. "[Smirnoff] gave us a lot of control and actually listened to us, which was essential to the outcome feeling authentic," says Burgess-Olson.

Safe Sounds: In the wake of the political events of the past year, Discwoman's founders say they're even more motivated to create protected spaces for artistic expression. "We feel so threatened by the government, police and general public," says Burgess-Olson. "Any place to relax is sacred."

Discwoman on giving platforms to women and LGBTQ producers: 

 

LIVE | Gigs are where the real money is, and these are the top dance bookers in the business.

 

Mac Clark, 36, Maria May, 45 and Hunter Williams, 39 | Agents, ​Creative Artists Agency

Music's top booking agency strengthened its standing in the dance genre in 2016, in large part thanks to Clark and Williams developing The Chainsmokers into a top live attraction; May's road work with longstanding client David Guetta; and Williams' efforts on behalf of Pretty Lights. "If you had told me 22 years ago what dance music would look like in 2017, I would have struggled to comprehend it," says May, who started as an agent in 1995. "Our business continues to evolve."

 

Alex Cordova, 38 | Executive vp/managing partner, nightlife, Wynn Las Vegas

Since departing Hakkasan to join rival Wynn in March 2016, Cordova has pumped up the casino giant's residency roster by adding The Chainsmokers, Kygo and marshmello to a lineup that already included Major Lazer and DJ Snake.

 

 

Russell Faibisch, 39 | Founder/CEO/executive producer, Ultra Worldwide; talent buyer, Resistance

Adam Russakoff, 47 | Director of business affairs/executive producer/talent buyer, Ultra Worldwide

Faibisch and Russakoff's Ultra debuted new festivals in Rio de Janeiro and Singapore in 2016, bringing the brand's total event count to 23, across five continents. Meanwhile, its flagship Ultra Music Festival in Miami boasted another sellout year: 165,000 attendees over three days.

 

Paul Morris, 45, Lee Anderson, 35, Steve Goodgold, 45, Sam Hunt, 36, Brad Owen, 42 and Matt Rodriguez, 43 | Agents, Paradigm Talent Agency

Paradigm strengthened its dance credentials by bringing together AM Only and Windish under one roof in 2017. And in April, the agency aligned with Europe's X-ray Touring to expand its roster's reach. "The packages we can put together and the branded event stages we can now assemble are very exciting," says Anderson, who represents Skrillex, Zedd and Disclosure.

 

Gary Richards, 46 | CEO, HARD Events

Former Los Angeles promoter Richards went national with the launch of HARD in 2007, which has since become one of the genre's premier events.

For the 10th anniversary of its HARD Summer festival, Richards is melding dance and hip-hop with headliners DJ Snake, Rae Sremmurd and Migos.

 

Pasquale Rotella, 42 | Founder/CEO, Insomniac Events

After more than 20 years of throwing some of the biggest, most talked-about raves on the planet, including Electric Daisy Carnival, Nocturnal and new festival Middlelands, Los Angeles-based Insomniac has evolved into a lifestyle brand that includes a record label, the Night Owl Radio podcast and, most recently, a streetwear fashion line overseen by artist-designer Rick Klotz. "I love wowing people. It's good for the soul, and for the mind," says Rotella, who is married to reality TV star Holly Madison. The dance-music impresario adds, "I'm most proud of just being here. I look around and I don't see the people I used to see from the early days."

 

Jason Strauss, 43 and Noah Tepperberg, 41 | Co-owners, TAO/Strategic Group

Jonathan Schwartz, 34 | Partner, TAO/Strategic Group

2017 has been a year of expansion for TAO/Strategic Group, parent company of a lucrative nightclub portfolio that includes the Marquee, LAVO, Avenue, Beauty & Essex and TAO brands. In February, the Madison Square Garden Company laid out $181 million for a 62.5 percent stake in the business, paving the way for global expansion plans. And in March, the trio opened a nightlife complex that includes TAO, Beauty & Essex and Avenue outposts at Hollywood's new Dream Hotel.

 

Joel Zimmerman, 38 | Partner/head of electronic music, William Morris Endeavor

Samantha Kirby Yoh | Partner, William Morris Endeavor

No agent has made a bigger impact on U.S. dance music than Zimmerman, who helped establish the Las Vegas residency market and built marquee clients Kygo, Martin Garrix and deadmau5 into multigenre festival headliners. In 2016, partner Kirby Yoh helped oversee LCD Soundsystem's return from a five-year hiatus -- which has led to a highly anticipated new album expected later this year -- as well as a diverse roster that includes Axwell & Ingrosso and The Chemical Brothers.

 

Marshmello and Moe Shalizi photographed on May 31st in Beverly Hills.

Marshmello and Moe Shalizi photographed on May 31st in Beverly Hills.Spencer Lowell

​Marshmello | DJ-producer

Moe Shalizi, 27 | Artist manager, Red Light Management

In less than two years, masked artist marshmello (his identity is secret) has gone from blogosphere oddity to one of dance music's fastest-rising stars. Propelled by his ­fervent "Mellogang" fan base, the DJ-producer has racked up 302.7 ­million streams and sold out 250 ­consecutive shows, ­including three nights at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium -- all without a major label or a single ­interview. (Marshmello does not speak.)

After earning coveted co-signs from Skrillex and Diplo (who tapped him for a popular remix of "Where Are Ü Now"), marshmello garnered more than 558 ­million YouTube streams for the video of his breakout ­single, "Alone."

The Tao of 'Mello: "The ethos of the ‘we are all marshmello' brand is, how do you create something that doesn't symbolize one person as a celebrity and everyone feels a part of?" says his manager Shalizi.

Social Media Mastery: The marketing brains behind marshmello's ascent, Shalizi has put special emphasis on Instagram, where marshmello commands 3 million-plus followers. "Dance music has become saturated. You need a brand to separate yourself from everyone else," says Shalizi. "We post content where he's not afraid to make fun of himself."

Sharing the Wealth: In addition to marshmello, Shalizi's Red Light roster is stacked with rising acts Jauz, Slushii and Ghastly, and his colleagues recently tapped him to join Tiësto's camp. "I'm giving my insights and strategies, and helping with A&R'ing the best record that we can find for Tijs," he says, adding: "It's an honor to work with the godfather of dance music."

Watch marshmello and Moe Shalizi play "Never Have I Ever":

TASTEMAKERS | These DJs, label execs and A&R aces have a talent for finding dance music's next stars.

 

Kathryn Frazier, 47 | CEO/owner, Biz 3; co-owner, OWSLA

Frazier's Biz 3 public-relations firm boasts a client roster that includes Daft PunkBaauer and RL Grime. She also reps Skrillex, with whom she runs the OWSLA creative collective, record label and merch operation that has brought pop-up shops to both coasts.

 

Geronimo | VP music programming (­electronic and dance formats), SiriusXM

As the programmer of six dance channels for SiriusXM, which reaches 31 million-plus subscribers, Jonathan "Geronimo" Broth is in a unique position to push new sounds. "Over the last few years, we've focused on emerging artists," says the Brooklyn native, who helped break marshmello and, recently, has given San Holo's "Light" a lot of love.

 

Neil Jacobson, 40 | President, Geffen Records

Jacobson, who has been running Geffen since March, watched DJ Snake top the 806 million streams mark this year, while rising producer Gryffin cracked the top 25 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart with his debut single, "Heading Home."

 

 

Craig Kallman | CEO/co-chairman, Atlantic Records; Founder, Big Beat Records

Gina Tucci, 34 | GM/head of A&R, Big Beat Records

Atlantic imprint Big Beat prides itself on breaking artists with "endurance and stamina," says Tucci. Examples: Clean Bandit had two hits in 2017 with "Rockabye" (203.3 million streams) and "Symphony" (54.9 million). And Galantis earned 136.9 million streams with 2016's "No Money." Kallman vows future releases will "sound competitive on every dancefloor globally."

 

Austin Kramer, 33 | Global programming head, ­electronic culture, Spotify

As Spotify's chief dance-music curator, Kramer is the architect behind playlists with a cumulative 22 million subscribers, including electroNOW, Friday Cratediggers and Stepping Out. The ex-SiriusXM BPM host/program director hunts for new sounds and contextualizes them based on mood, genre and audience reactions -- from "chill to face melt," he says.

 

 

Zane Lowe, 43 | Creative director/DJ

Julie Adenuga, 28 | DJ, Beats 1

Lowe and Adenuga have made Beats 1 a destination for dance-music lovers, securing premieres from Skrillex and Kaytranada, and establishing initiatives like the "Up Next" developing-artist campaign -- all of which have helped grow Apple Music's subscriber base to 27 million, up from 20 million in 2016.

 

Patrick Moxey, 50 | Founder/president, Ultra Records; president of electronic music, Sony Music

David Waxman, 46 | GM/senior vp A&R, Ultra Records

Moxey and Waxman have been one of the genre's most influential and successful duos since Ultra opened its doors in 1995, and the past year has not been any different. Kygo notched 765.1 million total streams (525.3 million just for his debut album, Cloud Nine), and Steve Aoki and Louis Tomlinson's single, "Just Hold On," has sold 155,000 downloads.

 

Rob Stevenson, 46 | Executive vp, Universal Republic Records

Brett Alperowitz, 45 | Senior vp A&R/GM, Republic/Casablanca Records

Casablanca's 2016 breakout was French producer Kungs, who hit No. 26 on the Hot 100 and nearly 109.7 ­million streams with "This Girl." The label also re-signed the ­legendary ­Giorgio ­Moroder, who called ­Casablanca home ­during its '70s heyday. Stevenson and ­Alperowitz plan to expand ­Casablanca's presence in the live space, building on last year's I Feel Love warehouse party. "Casablanca needs to represent all elements of nightlife culture," says Stevenson.

 

Pete Tong, 56 and Annie Mac, 38 | DJs, BBC Radio 1

Veteran BBC Radio 1 tastemaker Tong topped the U.K. albums chart, sold out London's O2 Arena and celebrated the 10th anniversary of his International Music Summit. The globetrotting Mac expanded her Annie Mac Presents event brand and brought her Lost & Found festival back to Malta.

 

Myles Shear and Kygo photographed on May 18th at Nightingale Plaza in West Hollywood.

Myles Shear and Kygo photographed on May 18th at Nightingale Plaza in West Hollywood.Christopher Patey

​Kygo, 25 | DJ-producer, Golden Hare Group

Myles Shear, 24 | Founder, Golden Hare Group

Despite being the artist to reach 1 billion Spotify streams the fastest and selling out arenas like Brooklyn's Barclays Center, Kygo found a proper Billboard Hot 100 hit ­elusive until this year.

"It Ain't Me," the Selena Gomez-assisted single, became the producer's first top 10 track in May. The ­additional star power of Ellie Goulding, who is featured on the follow-up single, "First Time," has opened airplay doors for the Bergen, Norway, native.

"U.S. radio looks at us in a different way now," says Kygo's manager Myles Shear. "It has helped take us to a new level."

New Album En Route: With his summers spent ­juggling residencies at Wynn Las Vegas and Ushuaïa Ibiza, Kygo took off for nearly five months in winter 2016 to focus on the follow-up to his 2016 debut, Cloud Nine. He hopes to release the LP soon and promises more high-profile collabs and an evolving sound that retains his melodic ­sensibility. "I have a lot of songs ready," he says. "Some of it is a lot more upbeat than what I've ­produced before."

Millennial Mind-Set: Kygo and Shear, who are both in their mid-20s, are among dance music's key ­demographic. Shear was 20 years old when he ­discovered Kygo on SoundCloud while ­studying in his ­college dorm, and he feels their youth has informed their approach, from ­building Kygo's fan base on ­streaming platforms to ­limiting his touring to ­strategic markets.

"Being super young, we know what's ­current, what's hot, what to go after, and we look at things ­differently," says Shear. "We're aligned with what's going on right now in the world."

 

HEATSEEKERS | Nine influencers and innovators who are turning heads in the industry right now.

 

Cashmere Cat | DJ-producer

In addition to coveted production credits for Ariana Grande, Kanye West and The Weeknd, Norwegian artist Magnus August Høiberg came into his own in 2017 with his debut album, 9.

 

Cody Chapman, Latane Hughes and Jay MossAgents, Paradigm Talent Agency

Chapman oversees an electic roster including DJ Snake and Zeds Dead. Hughes and Moss made their names repping Flume and ODESZA, respectively.

 

Blaise James DeAngelo | Co-owner, GM, OWSLA

Since 2012, DeAngelo has helped build Skrillex's label-collective into one of dance music's premier tastemakers, and oversaw its expansion into lifestyle with OWSLA Goods.

 

Dean Gillard |​ VP international marketing and A&R, PM:AM Recordings/Universal Music Group

A 20-year A&R vet, Gillard recently brought PM:AM -- which has had global hits with Tiësto, Avicii, Alesso, Afrojack and U.K. breakthrough artist of 2016, Jonas Blue -- to the United States.

 

Kevin Gimble and Steve GordonCo–owners, Circle Talent Agency

2016 breakout star marshmello leads a deep electronic artist roster at this independent agency, which includes Carnage, Excision and Snails. Circle expanded into rock with last year's acquisition of the Kenmore agency.

 

Ben TurnerCo-founder, IMS/AFEM; founder/owner, Graphite Media

Turner's International Music Summit celebrated its 10th anniversary in Ibiza in May and has held offshoots in Shanghai and Los Angeles. The U.K. native also founded the nonprofit Association for Electronic Music in 2013 and manages techno legend Richie Hawtin.

 

Contributors Kat Bein, Steven J. Horowitz, Elias Leight, Kerri Mason, Matt Medved, Jack Tregoning

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