America’s billion dollar gamble: After the EDM gold-rush

“We’ve grown up in America with house and techno. Techno was created in Detroit; house music was created in Chicago. These forms of music had to be more or less erased from the palette in order for this push forward. Not only were the historical aspects shoved in a trash bag and thrown off the bridge, but the culture to a big extent has been slaughtered. PLUR worked in the ‘90s, but in a 2012 context that doesn’t really fly. So how do we see the culture coming back into this? Because right now, EDM really doesn’t have a culture.”

These were the words of Tommie Sunshine at the Amsterdam Dance Event last month, the bearded, long-haired enigma who has been partying since he was a teenager in the early days of Chicago house in the ‘80s. He’s now a long-serving member of the dance community who’s played across the spectrum of house and techno, reaching from high-profile remixes for Good Charlotte to the heaviest, most abrasive in-your-face electro.

Sunshine was speaking on a panel titled ‘The United States of EDM’, easily one of the most well-attended during ADE, an annual industry gathering that’s known as much for its networking and roundtables as it is for the manic partying that descends on Amsterdam every night. Not surprisingly, the hot topic of the week was America’s blossoming love affair with electronic music – or the ‘EDM’ pop-dance variation at least – which has taken over the clubs, the festivals and the airwaves, not to mention being discussed endlessly (on ITM and elsewhere). Surprisingly enough, though, the panel showed there are still fresh perspectives to be offered.

The ‘United States of EDM’ panel also hosted a posse of other industry players who’ve equally been in the game for the long run, before it looked like there was any prospect of anyone in America turning a substantial profit. This included Lee Anderson, a booking agent for the AM Only agency which currently has Skrillex, Wolfgang Gartner, Zedd, Tommy Trash, Laidback Luke, SBTRKT and many more on the roster; veteran promoter Donnie Estopinal, the namesake behind the Disco Donnie Presents promotions outfit; Lucas King from Chicago events company React Presents; and Nicolas Matar, owner and founder of Cielo nightclub in NYC.

With so many industry players on hand, the panel made for one of the most illuminating discussions on the topic yet; it felt like a defining moment where the long-term players stopped to collect their thoughts, and reflect on how best to move forward.

“It’s running so fast now”

React Events’ Lucas King was fresh at ADE from the success of his first Spring Awakening festival in his hometown of Chicago this year. Wheeling out all the electronic heavy-hitters like Skrillex and Afrojack, whilst simultaneously showcasing some of the city’s finest talent, the party drew crowds of over 25,000 and was hailed as a defining moment for a new wave of dance in Chicago; so he’s well placed to talk on the challenges of growing real fast, real quick.

“It might appear like it happened overnight, but it’s been a very long process,” King said. “The frustrating aspect is it’s running so fast now; it’s hard to build the infrastructure out as quickly as we need it to happen. Everyone struggles with the infrastructure of building a company as quickly as it can go. From the agents, to the promoters, to the managers, it’s a new world for all of us out there, and we’re trying to maintain and grow it at a proper rate.”

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