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EDM: The dance wave hits Jones Beach

The EDM invasion has begun.

After decades as a massive force in Europe, EDM — the umbrella term for all sorts of "electronic dance music," from house to dubstep to chillwave to electro, characterized by heavy use of synthesizers and repetitive dance beats — finally seems set to conquer mainstream America.

"It's moving at such a rate that a lot of people are going to be left behind," says Hosh Gureli, management partner at Primary Wave Music and head of the New York-based music publishing and marketing company's EDM Division. "For the Electric Daisy Festival this year, there were 300,000 people on a racetrack in Las Vegas, and there are even bigger events being planned."

Gureli — who has worked on hits including Swedish House Mafia's "Leave the World Behind" and manages hot producers including Papercha$er, who has done hit remixes for Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and Karmin — points out his Woodstock T-shirt and says, "There will be something on this scale in the very near future."

There are plenty of theories about EDM's sudden ascension from underground movement to mainstream phenomenon. Some cite demographics, pointing to the coming of age of Generation Y, the first generation that has no real memory of the backlash against disco. Others say the EDM-influenced hits of Rihanna, Drake and Black Eyed Peas have led fans to search out the music's roots.

Eric Prydz — the Swedish DJ headlining the EDM-filled Identity Festival, which stops at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater July 28 — goes for the economic explanation. "It's all about timing," says Prydz, who just released a three-CD set "Eric Prydz Presents Pryda" (Astralwerks). "The country is in a depression, so who doesn't want to disappear for a bit? You want to escape reality, and what better way to do that than in a club with similar-minded people."

Buying into EDM

Whatever the reasons for the shift, it has certainly been made. The surest sign? Money, of course.

Robert F.X. Sillerman's SFX Entertainment plans to spend $1 billion this year acquiring regional dance music promoters to build a national network, according to The New York Times. Live Nation, which operates Nikon at Jones Beach Theater and the NYCB Theater at Westbury, is on an EDM buying spree of its own. The company has acquired the British company Cream, which puts on the traveling Creamfields Festival around the world, and L.A.-based Hard Events, which puts on dance festivals around the country, including the HARD Festival on Governors Island in 2010.

Cream also is the company behind the EDM festival Sensation, which will make its American debut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Oct. 26 and 27. Even though no acts for Sensation have been announced yet, the Oct. 27 date already has sold out the 19,000-capacity arena, with tickets ranging from $150 to $250 apiece.

While that success has many in the music industry scratching their heads, Primary Wave's Gureli says those inside the EDM scene don't find it surprising in the least.

"They love the fact that outsiders don't know what's happening," he says. "So many fans know the history of Sensation in other countries. They know what the production will be like. They know what level of artists to expect. They will go expecting the time of their lives."

Prydz says he has noticed a huge change in his American audience in the past three years — both in size and in interest. "Dance music is now bigger than hip-hop," he says. "In America, there is a new generation interested in dance music and interested in hearing the way we present it."

All about Eva

The new generation of EDM fans is spawning a new generation of artists who incorporate the genre's style into more mainstream styles of music.

"I tell my clients," Gureli says, "if you want to reach a young audience, do a feature on an EDM track."

It's a strategy that has worked for Eva Simons, who recently wrapped up opening for LMFAO and is now joining the Identity Festival. The Dutch singer-songwriter made a splash in the EDM world when she teamed up with producer Afrojack for "Take Over Control," which ended up topping the American dance charts. Now she's back in a new collaboration with Black Eyed Pea will.i.am on his single "This Is Love," which recently topped the British pop charts and is climbing the American charts as well.

"It's only getting bigger," says Simons, calling from a recording studio in Ibiza, Spain, where she is working on her American debut album. "I consider myself a singer-songwriter first, but I like house music and I like hip-hop and I like a lot of EDM. I just like the vibe, and the EDM scene has been very welcoming to me."

Simons says she enjoyed opening for LMFAO because it was a challenge. "I didn't have a band, so it was just me onstage in front of 20,000 people," she says. "It's very pure trying to get them to listen to me and my music."

She says EDM crowds are far more welcoming. "It's exciting to see how many people know the tracks," she says. "I'll be able to do something that's more raw, with more remixes, because they'll be able to handle it."

Gureli says Simons' experience isn't unusual these days. "When you go to a Swedish House Mafia show or Calvin Harris or Deadmau5, you will see people singing along, word for word, to songs that have never been played on the radio," he says. "The radio programmers have seen what's going on and they are now asking themselves, 'What have we been missing?' They're getting ready for a big catch-up."

The EDM turmoil, Gureli says, is similar to what happened with rock and roll in the '50s. "When parents hear some of these songs that their kids love and they hate it, that's when you know," he says. "It's always the crazy music that parents don't understand and the kids love that becomes something big. We're at the beginning here."


WHAT Identity Festival

WHEN | WHERE 2 p.m. July 28, Nikon at Jones Beach Theater

INFO $60; 516-221-1000, livenation.com

 

The biggest stars of EDM

 

BY GLENN GAMBOA, glenn.gamboa@newsday.com

SKRILLEX — The Los Angeles producer behind "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" became electronic dance music's most recognizable face this year after his surprising five Grammy nominations, including one for best new artist. His combination of dubstep, electronic noise and rock elements give him a distinctive sound.

DAVID GUETTA — The French producer behind EDM's top commercial hits — from the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" to his own "Without You" with Usher — has embraced his performer role, too, with energetic style.

DEADMAU5 — The Canadian house music producer is one of EDM's biggest live draws, thanks to his trademark LED mouse ears and his massive light shows and stage sets to go with his music.

KASKADE — The DJ-producer from Illinois has made his name by combining synth-driven dance music and pop melodies, along with huge performances, including his recent sellout of MCU Park, the stadium home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA — The Swedish DJs Steve Angello, Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso stunned many by selling out their American concert debut at Madison Square Garden. Though they have announced they plan to retire from touring after their concerts in the fall, the trio's club-friendly twist on house music, in singles like "One" and "Save the World," have pushed EDM onto mainstream pop radio.

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