They make beats, rule the main stage and are climbing the charts, even if they aren’t yet old enough to order a drink at the bar. As festival season kicks off with Ultra in Miami, meet the (mostly) under-21s who make up dance music’s next generation.
Washington has election season, Hollywood has awards season, and dance music has festival season, which unofficially begins with Ultra Music Festival in Miami (March 28-30).
From Ultra to TomorrowWorld in Atlanta (Sept. 26-28), stars will be born, hits will be made, and more than 2 million fans will attend dance-dedicated festivals across the country. Thanks to pesky noncompetes and basic physics, every dance act just can’t play every festival. And while some select their bookings carefully, others forgo them entirely. Porter Robinson won’t play a big fest this season: With a new album about to arrive — in a decidedly different style of music — he’s following his artistic bliss down a different path. Disclosure is flying in for Coachella, but the duo is otherwise overseas for the summer, spreading its new gospel of old grooves. Krewella will return to Ultra, the festival that launched the band in 2012, after fronting a successful headlining tour last year.
But in the wake of these accomplished elders — all under the age of 25 — several young faces are attempting to climb a festival booth staircase to the next level of dance stardom, some with aspirations of even more. Meet the underage hopefuls of EDM — and the developing artists lighting very different paths for their potential success.
START: COLE PLANTE
Hometown: Los Angeles
Affiliations: Hollywood Records, William Morris Endeavor
Biggest moment so far: A tour with (and inspiring the new half-shaved hairdo of) Demi Lovato
Track to hear: “Here We Go Now” tweaks the standard EDM buildup/drop with a whistle and countdown courtesy of Perry Farrell.
Crossover potential: High. Not every dance upstart has this many supporters outside the genre – or supporters this varied. Working with a former Disney princess and a rock god gives Plante a leg up.
NEXT: DANNY AVILA
Affiliations: Musical Freedom, Spinnin’, Big Beat/Atlantic
Biggest moment so far: At the ripe old age of 16, he secured three residencies on the Ibiza club circuit, making some high-powered friends like Tiesto in the process.
Track to hear: “Tronco,” on early supporter Tiesto’s imprint Musical Freedom
Crossover potential: Medium. He has the heartthrob appeal and foreswept hair of an early Justin Bieber. Avila focuses on his image and his DJ sets, which feature a lot of high-energy EDM mashups, but producing more original music could help develop his profile.
DISCLOSURE’S GUY & HOWARD LAWRENCE
Age: Guy’s 22, Howard’s 19
Hometown: London, UK
Affiliations: PMR (UK), Cherrytree/Interscope (US), Method Records (their own imprint)
Biggest moment so far: A Grammy nomination in the Best Dance Album category for “Settle.”
Track to hear: “Latch,” now nearly two years old, the song continues to captivate, earning new fans thanks in part to Sam Smith’s otherworldly tenor and the freshness of the Lawrence brothers’ production.
Crossover potential: Medium. While they can be credited for a deep house revival and recruiting Millennials to dancefloors, any mainstream crossover potential lies within the content of their next album. But with discoveries like AlunaGeorge, Tourist and of course Smith, a burgeoning A&R career may be in their future.
NEXT: ELLE MORGAN
Hometown: The Woodlands, Texas
Affiliations: TalentPlus Universal, Ten in One Talent
Biggest moment so far: After Billboard.com posted an article about Morgan, emails from managers and labels poured in.
Track to hear: “Starkidz,” a standard slab of hands-in-the-air EDM, goosed by undeniable youthful exuberance.
Crossover potential: High. Though Morgan has just begun to show what she can do, she has the makings of EDM’s first all-American Girl star.
KREWELLA’S YASMINE & JAHAN YOUSAF
Age: Yasmine’s 22, Jahan’s 24
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Affiliations: Columbia Records
Biggest moment so far: Weeks after their first LP, “Get Wet,” debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200, they became the first EDM act to appear on a national morning news program when they stopped by “Good Morning America” for a special Halloween performance.
Track to hear: “Live For The Night,” an EDM generation party anthem embedded with personal credos for the group members and celebrations of universal love and drinking whiskey.
Crossover potential: Very high. Hardworking and hungry, Trindl and the Yousafs are as dedicated to their craft as they are to their rabid fans, not to mention they have a knack for writing pop hooks and monster dance beats.
Hometown: Nantes, France
Affiliations: Columbia Records, AM Only, WME
Biggest moment so far: His 2011 YouTube video “Pop Culture” is a tight shot of his dexterous hands using a blinking Novation Launchpad to trigger samples from Madonna to Daft Punk to Gossip in a danceable tapestry. It’s now up to 23 million views.
Track to hear: “Technicolor,” a cinematic instrumental with heart behind the bleeps
Crossover potential: High, very high. The suit-wearing teen produced three cuts on Lady Gaga’s “ARTPOP” and is set to release his debut album on Columbia this fall, accompanied by a tour.
NEXT: MARTIN GARRIX
Affiliations: Scooter Braun Presents, Casablanca/Republic, Spinnin’
Biggest moment so far: His instrumental “Animals,” which has defied logic by not only landing on the Billboard Hot 100 but staying there for 25 weeks, reaching a new peak of No. 26 for the week ending March 22.
Track to hear: The new and constantly peaking “Proxy” racked up nearly 1 million SoundCloud listens in just seven days, proving that Garrix has a lot more epic to offer.
Crossover potential: Medium. He is yet to show interest in featuring vocalists, which could keep him stuck in the dance music ghetto for the time being — but it’s a million-selling, six-figures-per-gig ghetto, so he can afford to stick to his artistic principles.
NEXT: PORTER ROBINSON
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC
Biggest moment so far: Signing a highly lucrative album deal with Astralwerks in Fall 2013 after a major-label bidding war.
Track to hear: “Sea of Voices,” an atmospheric and ethereal track that (softly) announces a new musical era for the producer, one that eschews “electro bangers” in favor of more downtempo electronica.
Crossover potential: High. Robinson’s legions of fans have already embraced his new sound, despite it being a radical departure from the dubby drops of his earlier work, indicating that he might be the ringleader of a new sound for those who want an electronic alternative to EDM.
Affiliation: Big Beat/Atlantic
Biggest moment so far: Getting plucked from Down Under by Big Beat in 2012
Track to hear: “First Day,” a sweet vocal with a big, progressive feel
Crossover potential: High. Like Zedd, he can dabble with pop choruses without losing any of his dance integrity, but that first hit remains elusive.
FINISH: WILL SPARKS
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
Biggest moment so far: His remix of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” came just as the song was peaking.
Track to hear: “Ah Yeah!,” a pogo-stick of a track that’s the definitive example of the bass-heavy micro-genre Melbourne bounce.
Crossover potential: Medium to low. Sparks has bro appeal to spare, but first Melbourne bounce will have to go from micro genre to the main stage.