“There’s plenty of money left”: SFX talk EDM spending spree

In a meeting hall at the plush W Hotel in Hollywood, two of the inthemix Power 50 – BBC Radio 1 host and international tastemaker Pete Tong and Shelly Finkel, the head of Robert F.X. Sillerman’s SFX acquisitions – sat down for an honest one-on-one about the big business of ‘EDM’. It was the first session of the IMS Engage conference, leading into conversations with Skrillex, Diplo, Beatport CEO Matthew Adell and Russell Simmons.

“One of the men who has done the most shopping is here today; everyone seems to have had the call from Shelly Finkel,” Tong told the room to introduce the powerbroker who came to dance music from a background as one of the most influential players in the boxing world. With his seemingly endless golden chequebook, Sillerman has become one of the most talked-about names in dance music, in one short, headline-grabbing year. Finkel’s keen instinct for the next big deal explains why Sillerman placed him at the epicenter of SFX’s expansion.

In its much-publicised billion dollar spending spree, SFX has acquired, to name a few, Disco Donnie Presents, Dayglow Productions, Beatport, Miami Marketing Group and most recently Dutch powerhouse ID&T. Finkel spoke about the worldwide plans for ID&T’s expansion, touching on the return of Sensation and Q-dance as a brand, presented by Disco Donnie in North America. With the Sensation arena shows, there are plans for “five in the U.S., one in Canada, maybe one in Mexico.”

“I want to know who I missed,” Finkel joked. “There’s plenty of money left. What’s Ministry Of Sound doing?” He also hinted at buying out a powerhouse Australian festival brand.

An easy storyteller with a distinctive drawl, Finkel happily admitted he only heard about Deadmau5 for the first time before heading to Electric Daisy Carnival at the L.A. Coliseum in 2010. “I love them,” he said of dance promoters. “We don’t use the term EDM, we say EMC: Electronic Music Culture. We really believe this is a culture.” He also downplayed SFX’s competition with Live Nation, which has its own Electronic Music division with James Barton as president. “We’re not being sidetracked from the EMC space,” Finkel told Tong. “I don’t want to be negative about the competition.”

“I’m not looking to do a hundred festivals,” he added of SFX’s plans. “We’re going to have a handful of the best and improve on them each year. We’re only looking to do one Tomorrowland per continent.” On coming to the dance music world as an outsider, Finkel summed up his philosophy on working with experts: “It’s important to know what you don’t know.”

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