KEVIN KUSATSU, 39
ANDREW MCINNES, 35
At a time when many DJ-producers are scrambling to keep up with dance music’s ever-shifting dynamics, Andrew McInnes and Kevin Kusatsu of management company TMWRK are asking a more optimistic question: What can’t they do?
It’s telling that their star artist, Diplo, is bigger and more ubiquitous than ever, continuing his evolution from meme-magnet mega-DJ into one of pop’s top innovators. In 2018, he introduced two new genre-bending side projects: pop outfit LSD with Sia and Labrinth (whose debut album will drop April 12) and disco-house duo Silk City with Mark Ronson, a 2019 Grammy winner for “Electricity” (featuring Dua Lipa). In April, Diplo will spin at Southern California’s Stagecoach country festival, and McInnes promises that soon, “Major Lazer is coming back.”
But TMWRK has never relied on one big name. By seeking out adventurous acts like A-Trak and Cashmere Cat, it built a robust roster made up of the scene’s rare career artists. “We like to throw the rule book out,” says McInnes. “The worst thing you can do is make the same record over and over again.” That approach not only protected TMWRK when former parent company SFX collapsed in 2016, but helped it emerge stronger than ever, with artists well-suited to the industry’s renewed focus on live and experimental music.
“We always felt we had people who were evergreen in their abilities to make music,” says McInnes by phone from his home in New York’s Hamptons. “There’s a difference between the bubble bursting and the market correcting itself. It feels like maybe the market now is correct.”
For McInnes, the business lead who works out of New York, and Kusatsu, the content whiz in Los Angeles, the key is signing multimedia-savvy “Renaissance men and women.” TMWRK’s current projects include taste-making record labels, traveling mini-festivals, a DJ competition (Goldie Awards), TV (Viceland’s What Would Diplo Do?) and movies (Apple Music documentary Give Me Future, about Major Lazer’s trip to Cuba).
Now, that group includes more than just dance artists. In the past two years, TMWRK signed Animal Collective, TV on the Radio and Dirty Projectors, among other left-of-center acts — “an ambitious person in every subgenre,” as McInnes puts it. In February, the company signed Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson. McInnes will manage him personally, though he stresses that expanding TMWRK’s scope doesn’t mean it’s leaving dance music behind. “Sturgill and [Diplo] are in a mutual admiration society,” he says. “We’re looking ahead.”