Editor’s Note: As we cannot hope to cover every last detail of the complicated EDM industry, this feature is a simplification of the complex and multi-faceted industry written that is meant to give you, the reader, a general insight into the workings of the industry. We hope you enjoy!
Like it or not, EDM is changing the musical landscape. Depending on what sources you believe, the estimated worth of the industry is valued somewhere between 5 and 15 billion dollars in 2012; EDM has without a doubt become one of the fastest growing global phenomenons. More so, EDM is changing the very fabric of the music industry, driving innovation and changing the way in which we interact with music. More importantly, it is an industry that YOU, whether you realize it or not, have helped shape and actively support.
You’d probably be surprised at the vast numbers of sleepless, passionate people and the countless hours of labor that go into keeping the lights on (so to speak) in the EDM world. Understandably so, it’s easy to get lost in all of the good music, otherworldly experiences, and breathtaking moments, and look past the vast infrastructure that makes the music happen. Much in the EDM industry starts with you, so let’s take a look at just how far your dollar goes and what it builds, you might be surprised to find out, I know I was.
Let’s be real, you are the reason for EDM’s existence. You are the very reason why many people, myself included, have a job, (thanks for that, by the way). It is your dollar that drives this industry and has helped fuel its unparalleled rise to relevance.
The EDM fan comes in many shapes and sizes; be it a suburban house mom blasting house music on the treadmill or a 15-year-old kid getting sweaty at his first concert, almost any type of person can connect with electronic music in some way. The wide variety of genres and subcultures within EDM allows for a diverse group of individuals to come together and share a common experience. However disparate they may seem, Kandi Ravers, VIP bottle service regulars, and Dubstep bros all make up the fabric of EDM which the industry works to facilitate.
These are the people that make the music (duh). Second to you, artists are the most important people in the industry. Without them, well I doubt I need to explain what would happen. Their primary focus is to make music, but in today’s market, a successful artist must be much more than just a music maker. A successful artist’s strategy in many ways mirrors that of a successful business strategy: building unique brand with a comprehensive marketing and communications strategy. But, given that the artist’s primary job is to make music, accomplishing this alone is nearly impossible. So, many artists work with a support network of people to look out for their career so they can spend more time actually being an artist.
Agents are more commonly known throughout the industry as ‘managers’, however in reality agents and managers are two entirely separate roles. Typically a manager is thought of as an advisor to the artist’s brand, which can entail everything from drafting strategy to booking shows. However, talent laws especially California’s Talent Agency Act, complicate this definition. The law states that anyone who helps artist ‘gain employment’ (read: play shows) has to be officially licensed to do so by the state. In many cases this shuts the door for personal managers to book for their clients and instead forces them to go through what is known as a booking agent. Booking agents seek out and represent artists during negotiations for live performance.
Though the laws are stringent, don’t be fooled. The personal manager is still an integral facet of the artist’s business. Finding the artist networking opportunities, guiding career direction, managing their interactions with the media, and assisting in travel and live performance are all parts of the agent’s day to day. This is probably why managers have garnered a reputation of being difficult to work with at times. They put their artist’s business first, even at the cost of all civilized forms of behavior. A good manager will leave you an angry half-drunk voicemail at three in the morning, berating the news article you wrote that negatively portrayed their client. I say this because it’s happened more than once, and if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
Masters of interpersonal communication, Public Relations or Publicists take the cuddly approach to promotions. These fine men and women manage their clients market presence, which entails sending more emails in a week than any human should send in an entire lifetime. PR services are utilized widely by artists, record labels, promoters, and other figures of the industry.
Aside from the dizzying amount of press releases, briefs, feature spots and overall work this entails, they also at times directly control the face of their clients’ brand. Artists like Wolfgang Gartner have candidly admitted that his publicists have had to censor them from their own social media. This might seem odd, but in today’s digital era, social media faux pas can have some very serious ramifications. Just recently, this was the case when a seemingly light-hearted, albeit tastelessly sexist, post from Spinnin’ Records on social media went viral and caused a storm of backlash from industry figures and fans alike. This created what is commonly known as a ‘PR nightmare’ and goes to show that tact has become rare enough to pay top dollar for.
In a dynamic industry with a constant stream of releases and news happenings, bloggers have become a confusing mix of reporters, critics, PR and publicists. They are the promotional workhorses of the industry, working directly with artists, labels, PR, and promoters to get the word out on live releases, news, and events. Although in the last year, blogs have increased their focus on news to feed the fans appetite for all things EDM.
Believe it or not, you are actually reading a blog right now, so I strongly doubt I have to expand further upon the glamorous field of EDM blogging. But, what can be said is that this is by and large one of the most passionate yet most unpaid and under respected sector of the industry, I would know. Many artists can thank the blogs for their success in the industry but despite this, blogs have yet to receive full recognition. But what is lost in money and clout is gained back in experience, connections, and access. This can in cases eventually translate to other industry work and opportunities, but at the very least it’s one of the best ways to stay on the forefront of the scene.
The word promoter is used as a blanket term to describe the party-makers in EDM. All the way from ‘Diamond Tuesdays’ at your city’s 12th highest ranked night club to the brains of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Insomniac and Pasquale Rotella. Promoters are similar to agents in their rabid motivation for things to go as close to plan as humanly possible. Promoting is a high-risk enterprise, with the potential to lose or make huge amounts of money in an unthinkably short time. The job is simple, in theory: get the best artists at the best venues at the lowest cost and sell it out. However, in practice doing this requires an amount of work that cannot be adequately described in words. Don’t believe me, try to get a promoter, or their assistants, to stand still at a festival- they are almost alway dealing with a constant stream of problems, miscommunications, and changes.
But for those who can stick it out, the reward is awesome. Insomniac, ID&T, and Ultra Music Festival have all respectively been producing festivals and events that generate millions upon millions of dollars for themselves and host economies.
This aspect of the industry is responsible for assisting artists with brand exposure and the distribution of music, as well as gaining radio play. They also connect artists with management and booking agents, along with other artists. Often said to be a dying area of the music industry, their role has become less defined with an increasing emphasis on online marketing and music distribution.
The majority of labels have their own respective niche and can be huge extensions of a particular sub-genre. For example Play Me Records has been synonymous with an aggressive dubstep sound since its inception.Spinnin’ Records is responsible for most of the festival circuit and pop-crossover EDM, as well as some of the biggest names in the game, while others like SectionZ focus on a non-traditional, edgier sound with artists like Savant and Virtual Riot. There are countless labels, but to be completely honest, there are a large number of labels that exist solely on the basis of ripping off new artists and banking on them to sell just enough to cover label fees. As a result, some distributors have required labels to meet a minimum quarterly amount of revenue to maintain their contract.
Don’t let this give labels a bad rap though, there are tons of names run by passionate people that are doing amazing work for their artists. As one of the most interesting aspects in EDM, labels have evolved rapidly over the last decade, and their role in artist careers has changed dramatically. The digital music landscape has changed the industry beyond recognition, and with it the role of the record label.
You’ve probably used iTunes and Beatport to buy new music, both of which are distributors. Beatport alone has over 1,110,000 signed songs through nearly 8,000 record labels. Through this platform, consumers can support artists by purchasing songs legally. Record labels in EDM act as the go-between for artists to market their work. Then the distributor stores and catalogs it.
Simply put, these companies provide hubs that connect the actual music with the listeners. Distributors have faced challenges in recent years, thanks to an ever-increasing demand for digital distribution. Piracy and the rise of peer-to-peer filesharing have allowed access to virtually every commercially produced song, for free. As such, distributors face an uphill battle to coax listeners to legally buy something they could otherwise have for free. Beatport, for example, ensures that the money you pay is met with a high-quality track that is fully ready to be thrown onto the decks, providing the option to download in the industry’s standard 320kbps as well as the high-quality .WAV format. Since iTunes doesn’t provide this format, the individual songs are cheaper but are only really suited for non-performers. Other than quality, distributors catalog songs, market them, and handle and reroute funds. Record labels provide songs through their specific contracts, the distributor lists them, you buy them, and the distributor takes their cut and passes the remainder back to the label.
Thanks to this diverse network of passionate individuals, the EDM industry is thriving like never before. Artists, fans, and industry professionals have come together to create something truly unique, and we here at Your EDM want to celebrate that. Whether you are a casual listener or a die-hard bassface, we’re happy to have you with us. Thank you for your continued support, and we promise to keep working hard to make this industry the best that it can be.
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