What You Missed From EDMbiz, Day 2
Hardwell loves Jaeger, 7UP loves EDM, Carnage promised free burritos for all and Bentley and Borgore got schooled by Posso.
Most people I spoke to at the close of EDMbiz's Day 1 were planning on "checking out" a couple of the clubs on offer in Vegas after the day's discussions. Judging by the looks on the faces of the many post-collegiate industry hopefuls as they trudged in the following day, a few too many comped drinks and "checking it out" turned into a very late night. That's Vegas!
First up on Day 2: Above & Beyond did their best to mask their discomfort at missing the England vs. Uruguay World Cup game when telling tales of their ascent. Their story isn't all uplifting trance melodies, though. In their manager's words: "We couldn't get Above & Beyond signed to a major label for love nor money. We thought, fuck it, we'll do it ourselves. Inadvertently, we followed the model that everybody is using now. "
They also added, "people on the West Coast are more open about liking things, especially when compared to the UK." In keeping with this, a trail of middle-aged men melted into fanboys during the Q+A, including one who had less of a question and more of a gush. There were some wet #trancefamily eyes in the house for sure.
Following A&B was a discussion with influential booking company The Windish Agency. They seem like a pretty serious bunch and soberly discussed their history. What began as a guitar-based agency actually had a huge hand in shaping the climate of electronic music. Case in point: the first HARD in 2007 was 60% Windish acts: Chromeo, A-Trak, MSTRKRFT, etc. Tom Windish and co now say they're about to move into representing visual artists. All in all, it was a deep dive into the minds of a side of the business rarely discussed, Bob Lefsetz's opinions on Windish itself be damned (more on that below).
An all-about-7UP panel featured a bunch of suits who were very cavalier in their usage of the phrase "EDM." Boy, did they own it. To their credit, 7UP's marketing is all about the soft (drink) sell, and if they keep doing experiential stuff like Stage 7 at EDC, I won't complain.
Next came the music industry's blogging Cassandra, the curmudgeon with a blog and not afraid to abuse it, the inimitable Bob Lefsetz, who can only be discussed through his own out of context comments:
"Taylor Swift wrote a song about me."
"We live in a lonely, fucked up and sad world."
"DJs have no credibility"
"Nobody emails Tim Cook and says - 'I was gonna commit suicide, but i stayed up all night and looked at my iPhone and didn't".'
"Everybody here is selling out."
"If somebody has visions of being more than a DJ, Windish isn't the right place."
"If you're not willing to starve, get out of the business. You have to be willing to have no life other than this."
"Just because you're a big fan of the music, that does not mean you're entitled to a job."
Team Hardwell treated us to a panel all about themselves. Turns out, even DJ Mag's No. 1 can't stomach that troublesome acronym. "EDM is a really dirty word now," he said, "Cuz' everyone's thinking about the sellout sound; the sellout word for DJs now is EDM."
We also learned that Hardwell loves Jaeger. His tour manager Manny Zelaya admitted, "I have to make sure he gets his rest, doesn't drink too much. That's the hardest part, especially if Tiësto is around with the Jaeger." (One for us please, Tijs!)
The grand panel finale was the always unpredictable artist panel. EDMbiz managed to squeeze the bodies and egos of Steve Angello, Borgore, Carl Cox, Arty, Carnage, Destructo and POSSO all on the same stage at the same time.
Angello, in particular, made a good case for himself as thoughtful iconoclast. "I started size because nobody wanted to release my music," he shared. "I remember Carl Cox was one of the first to support me." On life post-SHM: "Yeah, it's the same life, right? Less touring. It's good. I've always been a solo artist." (Don't tell Axwell and Ingrosso.)
Jason Bentley got his fingers burned when trying his best to empathize with POSSO's struggle as female DJs. They went after him a bit when he asked them about competition amongst women. Borgore asked them why girls always DJ in pairs and their response was: "One of us has to fight away the douchebags." Baller.
Carl Cox was and is a legend and got a round of applause for pretty much everything he said and rightfully so. "I said to myself, when I get to 42, 45, that's too old to be a DJ," he explained. "But I'm still going after all these years. I just love it. I absolutely love it. I just cannot switch off."
Lastly, Carnage offered the whole audience free burritos. We're still waiting, dude.
The EDMbiz conference is growing at an impressive rate and has access and programming that only Live Nation can boast. Were we to offer some criticisms, they would be that many of the hard questions facing the industry were avoided, a number of the panels seemed promotional, and the Expo aspect is still in the nascent stages. Nobody seemed particularly troubled by pairing the words "branding" and "authenticity," and many of the industry's heavier hitters were AWOL (some weren't invited, others just flat-out cancelled). That said, the conference is fast becoming an important grounds for convergence on this side of the music industry, and the energy from the many college students and industry newcomers there for the first time is not to be ignored.