Category: EDMBiz 2012

Kaskade, Richie Hawtin and Swedish House Mafia debate EDM's future

Fans dance and toss around a beach ball during Swedish House  Mafia's set during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

The electronic dance music conference called EDMBiz in Las Vegas saved its star wattage for the end, when KCRW's Jason Bentley led an artist panel featuring several of the biggest names in dance music, some of whom are headlining the Electric Daisy Carnival this weekend. Kaskade, Steve Angello of Swedish House Mafia, Richie Hawtin, Above & Beyond and Rebecca & Fiona all dished on their introductions to dance music, the burdens of so much money and expectations sloshing around the scene and how new attention is affecting the genre's artistry. 

"As an American kid, growing up I always thought this music was a European thing," said Ryan Raddon, who performs as Kaskade. "Every EDC now, I still think: 'I can't believe how many people are here.' "

Hawtin, a decades-long electronic music veteran under several aliases (including the avant-garde minimalist Plastikman), was enthusiastic about the career potential all the interest in EDM affords. But as an artist, he maintains profound reservations about the music going massive, and that skepticism added a welcome bit of edge to a weekend that so far had been almost uniformly positive about the genre's future.

"It shouldn't go to the masses," he said."I remember going into [Detroit's] Music Institute growing up and just standing with my eyes closed. It wasn't a shared experience -- it was more that, sonically, this was what I was looking for, and there were people around me who identified with that as well."

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Beatport's Matthew Adell sells dance music to DJs at Electric Daisy

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The most influential record store in electronic dance music is, by its CEO's admission, not really in the business of selling dance music tracks to dance music fans. He has a much more specific kind of buyer in mind.

"We don't sell to casual fans," said Matt Adell, chief executive of the dance music download site Beatport. "We sell to DJs. The question 'Is this a record people want to DJ with?' is very different than 'Does an audience want this track?' "

After hosting a panel discussion titled For the Record: Labels in an EDM World at the electronic dance music conference called EDMBiz alongside the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas on Thursday, Adell said that Beatport sales were a meter, but not necessarily like album sales. It's a temperature gauge for how many DJs want to play an artist's track, and a specialized one-stop shop for those hot singles.  

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Electronic dance business moving from field to arenas

As electronic dance music moves toward mainstream ubiquity, the logistics of EDM present problems -- how do you move music meant for fields of body-painted teenagers into sports arenas?

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LAS VEGAS -- This July, Electric Daisy headliner Kaskade will do something unprecedented in Los Angeles. He's booked to play Staples Center, the first electric dance music (EDM) act to headline at that marquee venue for top pop, rock and country acts -- and the home of the Kings and Lakers.

It's a landmark in the genre's march toward mainstream ubiquity and large-scale commercial viability, but the logistics present their own set of problems -- how do you move music meant for fields of body-painted teenagers and trippy installation art into seated sports arenas?

Two events at this week's EDMBiz conference here tried to answer that question. The first, on Wednesday afternoon, focused on a conversation with Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino and dealt with the concert-promotion behemoth's efforts to incorporate EDM artists into its stable of venues and promotion contracts, and how the existing live-music infrastructure represents potential and challenges for dance acts.

Another, held Thursday afternoon, gathered a panel of booking agents, promoters and ticketers to assess the genre's transition from joyfully commandeering public spaces to being invited into the mainstream heart of the live-music business.

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In run-up to Electric Daisy, what is the future of live dance music?

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Steve Goodgold, the dance-music czar at the booking agency Windish, remembers the moment when agents had to take notice of electronica. "When Electric Daisy first did 100,000 tickets, it was the shock heard around the world," he said Wednesday on the "Creating the Experience: The Ascendance of the Music Festival" panel at the EDMBiz conference in Las Vegas. "But electronic music had been a big touring business for a long time."

That fact -- that dance acts had become an efficient live moneymaker -- was the biggest story in live music, especially after the 2011 Electric Daisy's inaugural turn in Las Vegas, which drew around  250,000 people over three days. But the sudden popular attention raised questions about how that new interest would play out.

The panel Wednesday tried to answer that question -- is the future in self-contained, immersive festivals, or in introducing dance music into an existing live infrastructure?

"Creating the Experience" was perhaps the most anticipated panel of the conference, as it featured the usually-reticent-to-press Insomniac and Electric Daisy founder Pasquale Rotella. Hosted by Goldenvoice Senior Vice President Skip Paige, it also enjoyed the last-minute addition of Shelly Finkel, the promoter who set a record in 1973 for the largest concert in American history (the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, N.Y.,  which pulled an estimated 600,000 people at $10 a ticket). Marian Goodell of Nevada's Burning Man event and Goodgold rounded it out, and they all seemed to agree that as long as it's done right, more venue options are always better for live dance music. 

Rotella, in particular, admitted a certain frustration with the spatial infrastructure of Electric Daisy. "There are obstacles in our venues, they're not built for what we do. Stadiums are for sports, speedways are for racing. I want to build an adult Disneyland for what we do."

It sounds as if he's interested in hand-designing a venue for future Electric Daisys, on par with the Empire Polo Grounds and how it's an inseparable part of the identity of the annual Coachella festival in Indio, Calif. And for him, he said that the venue and atmosphere are just as (if not more) important than who he books as headliners. "I never wanted to be a concert promoter. I went to one concert, and it was like 'I got my ticket, found my seat, I'm waiting to be entertained.' It was boring. I'm trying to create a show."

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Electronic Dance Music conference: How to break an artist

Listening to Swedish House Mafia at Coachella

This post has been updated, as indicated below.

Andrew Dreskin, the CEO of the online-ticketing firm Ticketfly and an old-guard rave supporter, remembers a time in the sepia-toned days of the early aughts when dance acts were a tough sell for talent buyers.

"It was a very lonely world for the last nine years buying electronica acts," he said at a panel on "Circuit Breakers: Breaking EDM Artists" at the EDMBiz conference Wednesday. As a founder of the electronica-heavy Virgin Mobile FreeFest and the head of the indie-ticketing firm, he's on the front lines of the changing booking climate for dance acts. "There were like four of us back then. Now there's inflated guarantees, and we're all fishing in the same pond. But it's great."

Joel Zimmerman, the panel moderator (and as the head of Global Electronic Music for William Morris Endeavor, he's arguably the most influential figure in electronic artist management today), got his drift. "If there was a movie about bidding wars in EDM, I'd probably be Darth Vader," he said.

Zimmerman's line got hearty laughs, but it underscored the welcome challenge that this panel tried to address -- with so much money and interest sloshing around electronic dance music right now, how do you break and establish an artist for the long term? 

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