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EDM Boogies to Its Own Beat

Market for live biz explodes thanks to distinct culture, hot DJs; crossover mojo beckons

Is EDM the future? That was the big topic at the Intl. Music Summit in Ibiza, the kingpins of dance music. Or as Shelly Finkel informed us, EMC, “Electronic Music Culture,” which is what they call it at SFX. Which is going deep. Like Live Nation, which just bought half of Insomniac, they don’t want to be left out.

The most fascinating panel at IMS was at the start where statistics were presented on the growth of EDM.

Information, it’s the essence of the modern world. But not the music business. The music business is built on B.S. Smoke and mirrors. Otherwise known as lies. That gig that sold out, it didn’t. That album that sold millions, it didn’t. And if a statistic is visible, like Twitter followers, they employ companies to muck them up, drive them up, so they ultimately become meaningless. Tell the label how many Facebook likes you’ve got, they don’t care. Online statistics are a way for nobodies at home to feel glorious. It’s a way for those not good enough at sports to get a trophy. But if you think amassing followers online is the key to long term success, you’ve never heard of Tila Tequila.

So, according to the report, “the largest EDM clubs in Vegas make over $600m (a year), with two huge additions arriving in 2013.”

XS does over $80 mil. Marquee, almost as much. TAO, a bit over $60 mil.

Heard of these places? Probably not. And that’s just the point. As above-ground as EDM has become, it’s still underground. Because it doesn’t appeal to the mainstream media. The talent isn’t made up of photogenic paraders, there’s no drama and the reporters hate the music. Which is why EDM is burgeoning. It’s owned by the young. It’s a perfect medium for today, not dependent upon recordings and based on the unstealable live experience.

The global EDM Industry is now worth more than $4.5 billion. Wasn’t the music business supposed to be dead?

Well, it just got reinvented.

As for that $4.5 billion, the lion’s share, $2.5 billion, is live, with brand sponsorship and production hardware and software at $75 million and recorded music at $1.25 billion. In other words, if you’re looking to recorded music to make your nut, you’re looking in the wrong place.

SFX has it right, it is a culture. With everything the bankrupt rock culture once possessed. It’s for the fans. It’s deep. You can feel it. It’s not fly by night. Will it last forever?

OF COURSE!

Will it be as big as it is now?

Questionable …

Turns out it’s a hits business. David Guetta’s crossed over, and now Calvin Harris has too, with 400 million YouTube views and Spotify streams, 7 million sales in the U.K. and USA, 1 million plays on SoundCloud and an estimated 500 million torrent downloads. Yup, free music can be good for you. But the main point is it’s now the aggregate, sales numbers are not everything, you’ve got to look at the total picture.

In order for EDM to continue its victory lap, it needs not only its Donna Summer, but many more. It’s started. But when you turn on the radio and hear EDM music regularly, you’ll know it’s here to stay.

Otherwise, it’s a scene. And scenes come and go, sometimes overnight.

Like the Irish guys I had lunch with told me … Dance is dead in clubs there. Fans want to see bands, like Imagine Dragons. But festivals are all about DJs. They’re thinking the bubble might be close to bursting.

And then there’s the DJ/fan relationship. It’s key. The business people are trumpeting branding, all those endorsement/advertisements with the private jets and high rolling lifestyle. That worked for hip-hop, but that’s a different culture. English agents thought it was putting a barrier between act and fan. That it was death. In other words, are we returning to a music culture? People get enough money culture in the rest of their lives, they might not tolerate it in dance.

But I will tell you the excitement of being here in Ibiza is palpable. No one’s bitching, the music is pumping, the scene around the pool is enticing, I’m all ears and eyes.

Read more Bob Lefsetz columns at Lefsetz.com.

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