As a teenager in the “Music Television” MTV-era of the 1990’s, I specifically remember when The Prodigy, as well as The Chemical Brothers, had big videos on the channel. John Norris and Kurt Loder at MTV News pontificated – dance music has been huge in the UK and Europe for years. Is now the time that it takes over America?
Although the Noel Gallagher-loving me happily bought The Chemical Brothers album that featured said Gallagher, I didn’t see raves taking over my suburban neighborhood, or even the mid-sized market of Milwaukee nearby.
Fast-forward to 2017 and Fox Stevenson (top photo) is the biggest artist on our roster that few over the age of 24 have heard of. According to his Facebook insights, that is the maximum age for 76% of Fox’s fans. Round up to age 34 and you have 95% of the artist’s fanbase. I asked Fox after seeing The Crystal Method if they had an impact on his scene. He said absolutely and agreed that The Chemical Brothers and Prodigy (as well as Pendulum in particular for Fox), are considered as legends.
When we began working with Fox, he had music out on Firepower Records in the US. As Fox was also producing other artists, we quickly put together his own label, Cloudhead. On top of that, we did a deal with Spinnin’ Records in Europe. I am in my 30’s. This puts me in a sweet spot of remembering the pre-digital CD era, when I had to buy a physical product to listen to The Chemical Brothers. Yet I’m young enough that I’ve always been considered a technology and digital maven. My point is, I’m old enough to be stunned that we were allowed to have Fox on Firepower Records, his own label, as well as Spinnin,’ which many of you know is an extremely established label; all simultaneously. I asked my co-managers and Han Kim and Melissa Garcia if we were really allowed to do this and the two twenty-somethings simply said “Yes.”
Although dance music is old but beloved news overseas and all the current rage in the US, that paradigm rings very familiar to me. As what is happening to EDM in the US is exactly what happened to hip-hop in the 80’s. People are trading tapes / files, spreading the word and music to their friends and communities. And then when I’m onstage at industry events with guys who manage classic rock artists, I am pepped by the audience with questions about Fox – leaving my co-panelists to look at me having no clue who I’m talking about.
A lot of folks in all sorts of rock music, indie especially included, truly HATE on dance music. Although I want everyone in art and music to get along, that attitude always makes me smile. As the complaints range from “It’s not real music!” to “It’s too much of a drug culture!” What in the world did the parents of baby boomers say about rock music when it first came out? My grandfather called The Beatles “bums.” when they debuted on Ed Sullivan.
So here we have a whole new genre, as well as a set of sub-genres. Scenes within scenes. Whether the music is your thing or not, try to keep an open mind to what’s new and next. It broke my heart to see that Tom Petty didn’t get this. A groundbreaking artist in his own right of course, should say his piece. But I’d rather see him collaborating with artists like Fox instead of ragging on a genre that is new to him.
Meanwhile, those in the industry muse on how working with an EDM act is a dream from a touring perspective. As a former tour manager, I understand why – in theory, there is less gear and therefore less travel costs involved. And Fox does great on the road, don’t get me wrong. But in a world where there is so much misinformation about streaming, Fox is doing great in the recorded music department as well. His fans are avid Spotify listeners and his label, Cloudhead, receives consistent income via downloads from Beatport. Again, no one my age or older that I know has ever heard of Fox. But their kids are listening to him like crazy and our team notices those stats, while working to grow all numbers. I’m very proud of Fox and my co-managers for being smart about where Fox’s rights are and that he owns and controls much of his material. Which makes sense – he’s the one who created it in the first place.
However, old genre, new genre – the most important factor remains the same. One must create great art. Fox’s fans love his music, no doubt. But while I’ve spent years teaching artists how to use social media, Fox will debut a new track on on his Instagram while filming a stuffed baby seal. I don’t believe the seal had any particular significance, but his fans went NUTS. This was not a post we told him to do by any means. Instead, it showed how well Fox knows his audience, as well as the tools that both he and his fans love to connect with each other on.
Yet, if the new EDM scene in America is similar to hip-hop in the 80’s, what’s next? The major labels are coming and they’re already here in many ways. We are constantly approached by major labels about Fox more so than interest in other genres. It’ll be completely fascinating to see where the artists and leaders of EDM take the movement next. It was born out of basements, bedrooms, and fans. The result will most likely be similar to hip-hop in which we’ll have a mix of superstars, be it at the commercial radio level, or DIY style to get to that point à la Macklemore.
Time will tell, but for now, I can’t wait to see what Fox Stevenson and his baby seal does next. Nor can his fans around the world. A huge differentiator for Fox, as opposed to the dance and hip-hop artists that came before him is the free tools he and our team has access to. One of Fox’s agents, who is older than I, told me he used to sneak in DJ’s to the U.S. in the pre-internet era. Obviously that’s impossible now, but while putting this piece together, I noticed that Fox’s top city in the world via Facebook Insights is Lima – information we never would have known in the pre-digital era. I love working with Fox and our EDM co-managers, as well as being a part of a scene that is constantly growing and evolving. Looking forward to seeing you at a Fox Stevenson show in Peru thanks to all of the tools and information at our fingertips that artists and their teams now can access across the board.
This is the latest in a series of posts from key industry influencers from the world over, whom you’ll be able to meet at Midem 2017. More soon!