Columbia Records chairman/CEO Rob Stringer is in his coveted position with good reason: he’s recognised the singular talents of Adele, Foster The People, Katy B and even the all-singing cast of Fox’s Glee. On the dance side of things, the label also holds an ace card – the most anticipated album in years. After a series of cryptic clues, Daft Punk has re-entered the limelight, with the thrilling news that a new album, Random Access Memories is coming soon on Sony/Columbia. It’s hard to imagine any other act engineering its return so expertly. With Stringer at the helm, the French duo can expect strong returns.
Another seminal act to make a new start on Columbia is Depeche Mode (“their best album in ages,” according to Stringer) – then there’s Calvin Harris, Passion Pit and DJ Fresh. With the combined might of Calvin Harris and Daft Punk in his corner, 2013 is looking up for the man in the top job.
Australia has been one of the world’s leading dance music markets for over a decade, with more than 750,000 Australians visiting dance festivals each year. Summer begins with Stereosonic, a giant tour covering five cities across two weekends. While the line-ups are led by A-list names, a key part of Stereosonic’s strength is pushing new talent.
Stereosonic Directors Richie McNeill and Dror Erez have built the festival from a strong start in 2007 to the juggernaut it is in 2013, so it’s no surprise that industry talk suggests an SFX buyout is imminent, giving Robert Sillerman’s empire a vital Australian connection. “We have had a lot of interest from overseas,” McNeill told Mixmag. “But we’re not interested in taking over the world like some brands seem to be. We do have plans in discussion and you’ll just have to wait and see.”
The pulling power of Stereosonic was no bolt from the blue, either. The bosses have held a sizeable stake in the Australian dance industry for decades, from techno flagship Hardware through to the Totem Onelove Group, which oversees a label and roster of high-profile dance tours together with Frank Cotela, Simon Coyle and Peter Raf. In 2013, Totem Onelove partnered with Swedish House Mafia to bring One Last Tour to Australia, as well as staging sell-out Above & Beyond shows in capital cities.
How does a 60-something New Yorker, who is one of the most powerful men in the world of boxing and a former manager of Mike Tyson, end up as one of the biggest deal-makers in EDM? A good question. The answer is simple: he’s a promoter at heart, and with EDM he sees an opportunity to make a tonne of money.
But Finkel has a history in music going way back to the seventies. In 1973, Finkel was behind the Summer Jam, a NYC rock festival which pulled one of the biggest crowds ever for a music event, approximately 600,000 to see the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead. Finkel also promoted concerts for KISS, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and Elton John.
Finkel is a natural storyteller who has seen it all. He simply loves doing deals and can sniff an opportunity a mile away. That explains why Sillerman has placed Finkel at the epicentre of his acquisition-hungry SFX operation. Finkel is the good cop in the SFX deal machine and you need his stamp of approval to get in front of the big man himself. A master negotiator, Finkel’s boxing days serve him well, as he scours the globe looking for the next big deal, ready to spar hard for it.
In his three-and-a-half year tenure as Beatport CEO, Matthew Adell has made bold moves. Already in 2013, Beatport has aligned with song identification app Shazam (adding 1.5 million EDM songs to its database) and announced its sale to Robert F.X. Sillerman’s revived SFX Entertainment empire. Although both parties declined to name the price, New York Times reporters put it at slightly more than $50 million.
What started as a project for a team of DJs in Denver has risen to Sillerman-magnet status under Adell’s direction. Adell came to the role at Beatport with over 25 years of music industry experience, from running a house label in the ‘90s right through to his position as Napster’s Vice President Of Music Services. “Our customer isn’t buying the music just to listen to it themselves,” he put it to Bloomberg. “Literally as soon as a track is mastered and ready for the clubs, we want to have it for our customers.”
SFX clearly has grand plans for Beatport as they attempt to switch focus from being predominantly a place DJs go to buy music, to becoming a media and content platform that brands want to engage with. This is perhaps Adell’s biggest challenge yet.
The dance music acumen of Michael Cohen runs deep. Coming from a background of labels, having served as head of Pete Tong’s seminal dance imprint, FFRR, in North America, Cohen formerly helped lead North America’s wide-reaching AM Only as General Manager and continues to consult the company in strategic areas. In 2007 he formed Complete Control Management in partnership with Josh Neuman, the company helping develop the careers of Tiesto, Dada Life, Tommy Trash, Pierce Fulton and Bingo Players amongst others.
In 2011 CCM became part of the Control Music Group umbrella of management companies that now includes Undocumented Management, United Management and Mixed Management, bringing together a diverse roster of artists like Phoenix, Bloc Party, Hudson Mohawke, Baauer and Clockwork. In 2012 CCM launched another company: Re-Creation Worldwide in partnership with AM Only, to focus on bringing brands into the electronic music space – and doing it with finesse. Under Cohen’s eye, Tiesto launched a new career phase as a touring and social media juggernaut, including the showpiece of a U.S. college tour.
From Godskitchen head to club tsar, the founder of the Angel Music Group and the man behind festival mainstay Global Gathering, it’s little wonder Neil Moffitt has been named one of the Top Five Most Influential People in British Music. His influence, however, extends across the Atlantic too. From his base in Las Vegas, Moffitt’s expansions also saw him establish the Angel Management Group, offering artist management, event production and nightlife consulting.
He’s also a tenacious creator of clubs and restaurants, including the enormous, five-level, 75,000-square-foot Hakkasan at the MGM Grand, which is opening in suitably extravagant style. Keen eyes were on where Tiesto would announce his Vegas residency for 2013, and Hakkasan is the place: although the Dutch titan went one better and signed a 20-month deal, with 40 shows planned in the 7,000-person-capacity club. He’s in illustrious company, too, with Calvin Harris and Steve Aoki also signing on the dotted line. Moffitt has pull.
Nightlife impresarios Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg know their market. Having built an impressive portfolio of clubs in New York with the Strategic Hospitality Group, the longtime business partners spent the first minutes of 2011 welcoming a lavish new addition to the family: Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. In the years since, Marquee Vegas has held to the title of North America’s highest-grossing club, with annual earnings topping $80 million. With a high-profile 2013 residency from Kaskade and a revolving door of A-list talent, those fortunes don’t look likely to change.
In early 2013, Strauss and Tepperberg re-energised the flagship Marquee Nightclub in New York, giving it a multi-million dollar facelift. Then there’s the other top-earners under their umbrella, like Lavo, Tao and Avenue. Marquee also launched in Sydney at The Star, with regular one-night-only appearances from its Vegas residents like Kaskade, Avicii and Afrojack, who’ll gladly take the long haul flight for a quick round of Marquee hospitality. Needless to say, Strauss and Tepperberg know how to corral talent around them.
The trajectory of the Swedish House Mafia from knockabout DJ team to stadium-filling behemoth has been one of dance music’s most convincing success stories. Amy Thomson has powered it. The trio’s manager has proven to be a virtuoso of marketing. Since the Swedes set up the Masquerade Motel on Miami Beach in 2011, selling out all 12,500 tickets in a flash, it’s been a steady climb. The partnership between Thomson and her star clients did sever for six months when the trio moved across to Three Six Zero, but the gang got back together with spectacular results.
The trio’s farewell tour has seen blockbuster returns. Additionally, send-off single Don’t You Worry Child was the Swedish House Mafia’s biggest hit in the U.S. and earned a Grammy nomination. “We were playing in Sweden, but no one really gave a fuck,” Sebastian Ingrosso told inthemix of the trio’s early days. With Thomson on their team, things change fast. “She’s the driving force for any of this to ever take place,” Axwell told Billboard. “She was the reason we found ourselves in the studio making One together. She’s definitely an equal member.”
Thomson has also been appointed music/marketing director at LIGHT, the new Las Vegas club venture created in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. With Vegas bidding wars at a peak, Thomson’s influence helped secure an impressive cast of DJs to try something new. Her guiding philosophy? Think of the fans first, not the VIPs. “I have my own view on how electronic music will go, and I really believe that the General Admission is key to the survival of it,” she told Billboard. It’s a well-tuned instinct.
71-year-old casino magnate Steve Wynn may seem like an incongruous fit for a list of EDM’s power players. However, as one inthemix Power 50 player put it: “He’s the number-one talent buyer in the world.” Money to spend on DJs is not a problem for Wynn. Like Sillerman, he’s entered the equation as a businessman first. Credited with bringing high-gloss glamour back to The Strip in the 1990s, his lavish approach now extends to dancefloors and club VIP booths.
‘New Ibiza’ or not, Las Vegas is setting a new precedent for DJ pay-cheques. In a Rolling Stone cover feature on Deadmau5, Wynn hinted that the producer’s Vegas fee was “more than Sinatra at his peak”.
In 2013, Wynn Casino’s clubs – Encore Beach Club, Surrender, Tryst and XS – have signed up over 40 residents (or ‘exclusive partnerships’), from Eric Prydz and Loco Dice to David Guetta and Skrillex. It’s a unashamedly showy list from an all-in character. A crack team has been built to lead the clubs, led by powerful players Jesse Waits, managing partner of XS and Tryst, and Sean Christie, managing partner of Encore Beach Club and Surrender. In 2012, Wynn also announced an alliance with Ultra Music to release a series of EDM compilation albums and new releases. “Now we’re competing with casinos,” admitted ID&T’s Duncan Stutterheim at Amsterdam Dance Event. Wynn wouldn’t have it any other way.
Calvin Harris and Deadmau5: it’s a double-bill that announces a formidable artist management company. Add to that mix the ear of music mogul Jay-Z, and you have a powerful alliance. Three Six Zero Group directors Mark Gillespie and Dean Wilson have made decisive moves in the company’s run, and those plays have paid off. In 2007 when he came on as Three Six Zero’s first client, Calvin Harris was an electro-house hopeful with a debut album, I Created Disco, and a few support slots. Now he’s an A-list gun-for-hire with a direct line to the likes of Rihanna. The pairing of DJ and pop superstar on We Found Love went stratospheric, and Harris is poised to keep the hits coming.
Over the years, the company’s roster has upsized to include producers like Fred Falke, Nero and Feed Me, as well as the labels of EDM powerhouses Sebastian Ingrosso and Chris Lake. Crucially, July 2010 saw Three Six Zero ink a partnership with Jay Z’s Roc Nation, who simply offered this endorsement of the operation: “They have their finger on the pulse of the future of the music industry.” The alliance bolsters the fortunes of both companies, opening up the potential for musical pairings and wider marketing.