REPORTING FROM LAS VEGAS — As hundreds of aspiring artists, promoters and producers descended on Las Vegas to learn how to become the next EDM mogul, this year’s EDMBiz conference had plenty of advice to offer.
Put together by Insomniac, the producers of the highly successful Electric Daisy Carnival Festival that took over the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, June 20-22, the EDMBiz conference is a precursor meeting and exposition covering the hottest trends and artists in EDM.
Few artists are bigger than Robbert van de Corput, the 26-year-old DJ from Breda, Netherlands, who goes by the stage moniker Hardwell. It’s been a great 2014 for Hardwell, who was ranked number one in DJ Magazine's annual Top 100 DJs poll, making him the youngest DJ ever to top the list. Not only did he headline the first night of this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival, but he has a string of European headline slots and is launching a six-date North American arena tour in the fall that includes UIC Pavilion in Chicago (Oct. 31), The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. (Nov.8), and closes Nov. 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Geronimo for Sirius XM hosted the Team Hardwell panel at EDMBiz featuring (from left) Hardwell, manager Anna Knaup, agent Paul Morris, tour manager Manny Zeleya, publicist Justin Lubliner and label boss Sebastien Lintz. (VT Photo)
Hardwell has his own record label, a five-person management team and a 2014 documentary covering his ambitious 2013 19-country European tour — all before he’s released an album. On June 19, Hardwell’s five-person management team participated in the “Team Hardwell” panel hosted by Sirius XM personality Geronimo. Below they laid out the five rules of turning a 20-something kid into a global superstar.
Rule 1 – Make a Giant Splash
Early on in the planning for his “This is Hardwell Tour”, the idea was to make the experience more of a rock concert than a traditional EDM event. Hardwell would perform three-hour sets that span his entire musical career, from early tracks to unreleased tunes off his forthcoming artist album.
In a weekly phone call with Hardwell’s manager Anna Knaup, publicist Justin Lubliner with The Darkroom said the Sorted Management CEO mentioned “that it was time to start doing the marketing for his U.S. run and that the idea would be to do a Times Square takeover and take over nine Jumbotrons within a 10-block radius.” Hardwell would be there live, broadcast throughout midtown Manhattan as the rest of the world watched.
A seven-day social media campaign would lead up to the announcement and feature virtual puzzle pieces, that when finally combined, revealed Hardwell in Times Square. Fans who signed up to receive the puzzle pieces would be given a code which, they would later learn, would allow them to buy pre-sale tickets.
Rule 2 – Build Your Own Content Channels
Hardwell has his own show on Sirius XM’s Electric Area (channel 52) dedicated to releasing new Hardwell tracks and music from his label Revealed Recordings.
“Every week we have a new release,” said Sebastien Lintz, the label’s manager. “Sometimes it’s a sample of music from Miami or a festival EP. Every Monday or Tuesday we have a call with (Hardwell) where we will look at what tracks and new releases are available.”
Tracking down Hardwell for recordings can be difficult when he’s touring, but the Revealed Recordings site has a demo upload feature that sees 5,000 demos added by aspiring DJs every week.
“It’s easy because we have one of the best-selling labels on (online marketplace) Beatport,” said Lintz. “Everyone wants their track to be released on Revealed.”
Rule 3 – Never Sleep
Being a tour manager for the world’s top DJ means very little rest, according to Manny Zeleya with On Tour Management.
“I have to keep my eye on him, especially when Tiesto is in the building,” Zeleya said of Hardwell’s superstar mentor and fellow Dutch countryman. “But he’s driven and that pushes me. When he’s going all in for a long night, he let’s me know beforehand so that I can prepare myself mentally.”
Prior to the EDMBiz panel, Hardwell flew in from the Dominican Republican. “Now I’m in Vegas for three days,” he said, “and then I’m flying back home (to the Netherlands) to work on my album for two days before starting my residence in Ibiza (Spain).”
Knaup said Hardwell’s inner circle often bring their children along for shows and appearances because “we work 24/7 and your family needs to be part of that. Otherwise you won’t see them and they won’t understand.”
It also means being on guard — when the DJ did a stop at the M&M store in Times Square after his tour announcement, a quick in-store appearance nearly turned into a riot.
“A fan saw him doing an interview, sent out a tweet and within a few minutes there were 400 fans there and the security in the store didn’t know what was going on,” said agent Paul Morris, President and CEO of AM Only.
Rule 4 — Remember Who is Charge
Hardwell is a man of many opinions, telling the audience, “I don’t like the term EDM because the media has made it a dirty word. I prefer to call it dance music.”
When asked if it was difficult for a manager with three decades of experience in the music industry to take orders from a 26-year-old, Knaup quickly replied, “No, because everything he says he makes happen.”
It was Hardwell’s idea to play Madison Square Garden, Knaup explained, following a 2013 show in nearby Governor’s Island.
“He sets goals for himself, and for us too,” she said.
It also means always being available and Knaup said, “I answered emails on my honeymoon. It doesn’t work when you go off the radar. Things go by way too fast.”
It also helps to be unattached. Label boss Lintz said the secret to work-life balance is “pretty easy. I don’t have a wife. I don’t have children. I see (Hardwell) more often than my own sisters or family. I’m fully dedicated to Team Hardwell. Music is my life.”
Rule 5 — Forget about the Major Labels
Hardwell said the reason he formed Revealed Records in 2010 “was because I believed in a lot of music that the big labels didn’t want to sign. They didn’t want to invest their money in unnamed artists. That’s why I started Revealed. So I could release my own tracks, so I could do my own A&R and sign artists that I like.”
His two biggest signings — Dutch DJs Dannic and Dyro.
“I think Dannic is an amazing artist who is growing incredibly fast,” he said. “And I discovered Dyro through Soundcloud. He only had two songs, but I loved them and want to sign both songs. When I contacted him, I asked him to send me more music and every single song I wanted.”