Behind the Scenes of EDM

By Ravi in Echostage, EDM News, Ultrabar
Monday, September 30, 2013, 5:03pm. (Updated: 10/24/13 at 10:18pm) Add comments

Whether or not artists want to admit it;
There’s a lot more people and tasks involved in building a career than just producing good music.

And whether fans realize it or not;
Alcohol and door proceeds go into far more pockets than just promoters and club owners.

Here’s to the guys behind the guys behind your favorite DJ:

MANAGEMENT

dada life on facebook

Even Dada Life will admit that sometimes an artist needs to trust certain career decisions to someone other than themselves. And do annoying things like uploading a million mixes to spotify!

Everyone knows artists have managers, but what do they do exactly?
It’s management’s job to guide an artist’s career:

  • direction of their sound (to a certain extent)
  • image (clothing, look, making sure all press/promo materials look right, etc.)
  • good collab opportunities, working with the right labels
  • build a solid team (publicist, business manager, lawyer, tour manager, agent, etc.)
  • forge relationships with agents and promoters
  • approve anything with their artist’s likeness (flyers, gigs, etc.)
  • find sponsor opportunities
  • so much more

Management is sort of like the middleman between an artist and the world. A good manager knows what’s best for the artist even when the artist doesn’t… though it’s sometimes a rocky road. They have a solid understanding of trends in their chosen field and have a multi-year plan. On a side note, tour managers do far more than just get drunk and find groupies for the green room. They need to be organized schedule, preferably have knowledge of DJ/venue tech and are personable with both fans and promoters.

RECORD LABELS

owsla team

It takes more than just the name of Skrillex to make the wheels at OWSLA turn. They’ve got some savvy PR cats, a heady A&R guy and Bitvargen. And probably a team of interns who broke someones legs for the opportunity.

The role of labels has changed drastically over the last 50 years – especially with the rise of music pirating and online streaming.

Their primary purpose has always been to sort of curate and release a common sound amongst various artists, book studio time, market/distribute music, etc. A label’s A&R guy is in charge of curating the label’s sound.

For an ‘EDM’ artist, releasing on the right label can be everything. While pirating has fallen, streaming has gone up and sales have overall gone down. Electronic producers don’t typically require expensive studios. They have their own set ups at home and on the road. One major power EDM labels retain is promo lists. An unknown artist who starts a label and sends out tracks probably won’t get much feedback. An unknown artist who releases on Spinnin’, Armada, Size, Revealed, etc. will have a lot more luck. David Guetta is more likely to listen to an mp3 he gets from Nicky Romero’s label than, say, Random Recordings LLC.

Labels have also been taking the 360 route. When signing a 360 deal, an artist more or less agrees to provide the label a percentage of every facet of his/her career (hence the term 360).

EDM labels also have been doing more and more label showcases and tours. For example, Sandro Silva and Oliver Twizt are currently on a Mixmash Tour promoting the sounds of Laidback Luke’s outfit. Steve Angello also does it with his Size Matters events. You can also find a great many label nights/showcases at Miami Music Week, clubs nights in Ibiza, and festivals.

MUSIC PUBLISHERS

what is music publishing?

Click the image and find out more from Wikipedia

Publishing can be a confusing thing. In a nutshell, music publishers register music and help with royalty payments alongside groups like ASCAP and BMI.

If you’re serious about being an artist, looking further into this is a must. Mark Knight has Toolroom Records and Toolroom Publishing. Other artists have similar set ups. The simplest way of wrapping your head around this is to stop thinking and do it. Register with a performance rights organization, find a publisher (or start your own publishing company and register) and get it done. It’s confusing and a pain in the ass to explain in an article.

AGENTS v. PROMOTERS
A partnership (battle) that has existed since the dawn of man

important people in dance music

From left to right:
Pete Kalamoutsos (Glow/Echostage), Chuck Flask (Paxahau),
Pasqualle Rotella (Insomniac), Paul Morris (AM Only),
Donnie Estopinal (Disco Donnie pres.), Eddie Dean (Pacha/RPM)

AGENTS

These are the guys who book the shows. They route your tours. They find the right venues and promoters. They negotiate your fees with talent buyers. They’re a rather powerful force. As powerful as the actual artists themselves in many rights.

If I want Tiesto to spin my kid’s bar mitzvah, the agent is the one who’s going to tell me the price. In the world of rap music you can sometimes bypass a booking agent and just book a guy through his boy on the DL. But you won’t be able to promote it. And it’s kind of shady. The price an agent charges is based on a ton of things including how big their client is, the capacity of your venue, day of the week, time of the year and more.

Most DJs have a North American agent, an Australian agent, a European agent, etc. Why? Because a guy on the ground knows the best fit for his client.

To make an agency run you need a solid team who can work with management to do flights, hotels, stay on top of marketing, make sure tickets are selling well, communicate marketing requests and much, much more.

PROMOTERS

There are many different types of promoters. Live Nation, Glow, that shady guy who hit you up on Facebook offering free entry and a bottle; they’re all promoters.

A promoter is ultimately responsible for getting heads through the door. This is accomplished by booking good talent, creating a great club experience, developing a nice client/fan base, etc.

Some promoters own their own venues (Glow w/ Echostage and Ultrabar). Some venues do their promotions in-house (Pacha, U-Hall). Some promoters rent out venues and do door and bar splits (Area Events’ Brite Nites at Webster Hall). Some mix and match.

Promoter groups have talent buyers, marketers, logistics people, drivers, promoters, graphic designers, management and more.

And if you’re doing a festival… man oh man. You’ve got to lock in a space, artists, stage construction, lights, work with a labor union, politicians, vendors, inspectors and god knows what else. Electric Zoo’s first event in 2009 probably took upwards of 2 years to plan.

PUBLICISTS

vinny chase and shauna

Everyone seems to want to do PR but no one can really define it. A good publicist places their clients in the right place at the right time with the goal of increasing their public profile. The right place and time can be manifested through magazine spreads, TV interviews, radio show appearances, email blasts, billboards, etc. A publicist can work with management to lock in corporate sponsorships and things of that nature as well.

A good PR person also stops their clients from doing anything that would cause negative press before they do it. In Miley Cyrus’ case, maybe her team is either full of morons or geniuses. More likely than not its the latter.

VENUES

Ya this is where the party happens. And ya you may complain about the cost of parking, entry and drinks. But you don’t hear the venues complaining about the cost of their insurance policy, rent, electricity, staff (security, bartenders, tech, management, etc.), taxes, etc. You also don’t hear them complaining about the extreme i’s and t’s they have to dot and cross in order to get permits to make it all happen.

So cut your local venues some slack. The staff works hard, often arriving hours and hours before doors open and staying hours and hours after they close. Just ask the GM of Echostage what his hours are like…

BLOGGERS

A rather interesting sect within the music, style and food industries. Some have large readership and can really make or break an artist, event, restaurant or designer. Others are just crafty fans who have figured out if they pretend to be media they can get free stuff. Whatever your (or my) opinions of them are, bloggers are relevant enough to be mentioned in this article.

RADIO STATIONS

Radio used to have so much power. Not so much these days, what with the internet providing so many new avenues of distribution.

But with dance music slowly taking over the Top 40 market, it’s only a matter of time before local stations move towards EDM formats. I’ll personally say dance music has fully immersed itself in the American mainstream when I hear Richie Hawtin on my local FM dial… even if it’s a mid-week, overnight block.

SiriusXM has done an incredible job of signing amazing talent, sponsoring festivals, providing live coverage and more. But are enough people subscribing? Only the accountants know for sure. But we certainly love those guys… a LOT! Did I mention we have a live show on SXM?

PRODUCTION/TECH STAFF

tech guys at Echostage

From left to right:
Dylan Overstreet (Echostage), Armin van Buuren’s lighting guy, Michael DeMattea (Echostage)

This is arguably the most unsung of all participants in the concert, TV and film industries. These are the guys who make it all happen in many rights. They’re doing sound, lights, stage construction, tech layouts, etc. They’re trained in acoustics, electronics, video production, architecture, CAD, a variety of software, sound/video board operation, construction and god knows what else.

Some artists event travel with their own sound/light crews to ensure the best possible experience for the fan.s

Fitting we include them at the very end of the article. But at the end of the day, these are the guys who are at the show before anyone else. They’re there after everyone else. And they’re the men and women who bring it all together.

HOW DO I GET INVOLVED?

Finding an in for any one of these positions takes work. If you’re still in college it’s in your best interest to find an internship position somewhere. But don’t just say you’ll do whatever it takes. Everyone says that. Prove to your potential employers that you can add to the value of their company.

It always helps to know someone that knows someone as well. So reach out!!!

One Response to “Behind the Scenes of EDM”

Comments (1)
  1. David Galanie says:

    Great article, Ravi! My best friend Soheyl used to promote. I would enjoy learning as much as I can in the area of PR/ working with agencies. If you know any contacts such as Windish or something similar, I would be very interested in getting some experience.

    -Dave Galanie

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