EDM.com’s Best of 2023: Industry Leaders
Editor's Note: EDM.com proudly publishes four installments of annual year-end coverage: Industry Leaders, Performances & DJ Sets, Music Producers and Songs.
More often than not, year-end coverage published by the music industry's vast pool of media outlets is limited to its artists and performers.
In order to honor the extraordinary work of the industry's unsung people and brands, the EDM.com staff recognized a group of industry leaders whose contributions helped shape the future of electronic dance music in 2023.
In the heart of Las Vegas, a new era of nightlife has emerged thanks to the opening of Zouk in 2021.
The first standalone property in the United States launched by Singapore's illustrious Zouk Group, the venue quickly became a beacon of influence in Sin City's storied clubbing sector. The epitome of innovation in a historically mercurial club market, Zouk distinguishes itself through a combination of advanced technology and immersive experiences to set a new standard for nightlife businesses.
The venue's roster of high-profile resident DJs, which includes Tiësto, deadmau5 and Zedd, consistently delivers top-flight performances and draws crowds from all over the world. Zouk also constantly raises the bar when it comes to production, providing a world-class experience no matter who's DJing under the club's mind-boggling "Mothership" structure.
As its proprietors continue to redefine the clubbing experience, Zouk stands as a testament to the increasingly global influence of the brand and its commitment to bringing unparalleled entertainment to Las Vegas. They offer something a cut above the rest—something we all desire to discover when we roll the dice and send it to the entertainment capital of the world.
Words by Cameron Sunkel and Niko Sani.
Operating at the bleeding edge of a paradigm shift in electronic music production, Afterlife Recordings captivated the industry at large in 2023. Helmed by Carmine Conte and Matteo Milleri of Tale of Us, the label has become the global touchstone for emotive techno music.
Afterlife's cerebral approach to the genre has effectively reinvented it for today's generation, mutating it into a dazzling—and oftentimes chilling—music experience. By strategically releasing branded songs from creative torchbearers like Anyma, CamelPhat, Cassian and Innellea, Afterlife became a bastion of contrarian art this year. And anyone who heard the imprint's haunting music activated at one its many showcases can attest there's nothing quite like it.
One of the countless noteworthy releases in the label's remarkable 2023 run is "Higher Power," a multi-disciplinary masterpiece by Anyma, Argy and MAGNUS. Another is Kevin de Vries and Mau P's "Metro," which was the most-played song this year at Tomorrowland, the world's preeminent EDM festival. Part of the broader meteoric wave in melodic techno, these releases coincided with sold-out Afterlife events in New York, Los Angeles, Tulum and other major cities, underscoring the label's singularly significant role in the movement.
Words by Jason Heffler and Cameron Sunkel.
When it comes to expert curation of techno and house music, Teksupport holds the skeleton key.
This year, the New York-based event organizer developed bespoke production and brought to their decks Solomun, Peggy Gou, Dixon and Amelie Lens, among dozens of other elite artists. From daytime shows under the summer sky with The Martinez Brothers and Seth Troxler, glitzy New York Fashion Week afterparties with Mochakk and Skepta, and all-night-long warehouse sets with Nicole Moudaber and Loco Dice, their programming stood above the rest in 2023.
In the past two months alone, Teksupport hosted beloved Dutch brand DGTL's inaugural U.S. show, storied German festival Time Warp's sixth stateside return, Ibiza powerhouse Circoloco's annual New York Halloween takeover and a string of Eric Prydz's spectacular HOLO shows.
To close a jam-packed year, the brand is keeping the fire burning. Their New Year’s Week run is set to feature more than 20 artists over the course of five days, including Bonobo, Maceo Plex, Adam Beyer, Damian Lazarus and a whopping five-hour set by John Summit.
Words by Saad Masood.
Endel, a Berlin-based wellness startup, is reimagining music consumption by generating personalized soundscapes that cater to individual wellbeing.
Established in 2018, the company employs AI to create adaptive "functional" sound environments for enhancing focus, reducing stress and promoting sleep. Developed in collaboration with leading sleep scientists and backed by neuroscience, its tech offers a suite of settings that adapt in real-time to personal inputs like location, weather and heart rate.
Collaborations with electronic music luminaries like Richie Hawtin, James Blake, Grimes and Spinnin' Records have validated Endel's clever approach to the cutting-edge intersection of music and wellness. The company continued to take their innovative concept mainstream by developing a unique generative AI partnership with Kx5, the collaborative nom de plume of deadmau5 and Kaskade, who ultimately nabbed a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Recording.
Words by Cameron Sunkel.
As the head of Warner Records' new flagship electronic label, Major Recordings, Sam Mobarek brought her extensive marketing experience within the dance music industry to the forefront. With her at the helm, the imprint garnered immediate attention with the signing of the rising duo PARISI and she supported WMG's efforts to elevate red-hot artists such as The Blessed Madonna, HUGEL and BLOND:ISH.
A significant milestone came with the release of Kenya Grace's "Strangers," which, under Mobarek's guidance, topped the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart and etched the surging songstress' name in the music history books. "Strangers" became the first #1 song in the chart's history to be written, produced and sung solely by a woman, underscoring Major Recordings' commitment to inclusivity in the electronic dance music arena.
Words by Cameron Sunkel.
There exists no visuals in the electronic music scene that rival the haunting style of Alessio De Vecchi, Anyma's Art Director. Not every VJ can consistently stand apart from their peers, but in 2023 the Milan-born visionary's stratosphere-busting arrival garnered him as much attention as many of today's music festival headliners.
Drawing inspiration from the bustling chaos of big cities, De Vecchi's transformative art has led to high-profile collaborations with renowned brands such as Adidas, LG, Samsung and Maison Margiela. But his crown jewel is his captivating work for Anyma, with whom he racked up billions of views due to his profound ability to encapsulate the dystopian sense of isolation that often defines urban life.
Seemingly out of left field, De Vecchi's optic wizardry and transhumanist motifs from projects like "The Rise of Adam" became the driving force behind live experiences for Anyma and many others on the world's biggest stages. His work with Afterlife has become the lifeblood of the influential brand, which dominated social media this year thanks to visual spectacles at future-forward shows in Tulum, London and many more.
Words by Andrea Nguyen and Graham Berry.
"I started uploading 2 weeks ago and we already hit 10k subs on YouTube," Eliminate wrote back in March 2020. "Having so much fun w/ this!"
It's no longer a hobby, to say the least. 230,000 subscribers later, the EDM.com Class of 2021 star has blossomed into one of the most beloved music creators on YouTube, where fake personas choke out glimmers of authenticity like weeds poking through cracks in concrete.
Eliminate's humanity is front and center, and you don't necessarily need to understand or relate to his madcap style to love it. In other words, we can point you to the reasons but the reasons aren't really the point.
Eliminate's deep grab-bag of quizzical YouTube content includes videos of him sampling a toilet flush to make house music, recording the sound of his own burps to produce dubstep and creating a song without listening to its sounds first. He's even produced a beat using ad-libs by Owen Wilson. "Wow," indeed.
But Eliminate's channel is much more than an exercise in droll irreverence. He has become a raconteur with a proven ability to demystify complex music production techniques through a comedic lens. If creativity were water, his well would never run dry.
Words by Jason Heffler.
Italian audio engineer Luca Pretolesi has logged over 40,000 hours throughout an illustrious career spanning 25 years. We may never know how many of those hours went into mixing and mastering Skrillex, Fred again.. and Flowdan's "Rumble," 2023's biggest electronic record by a landslide.
Texturizing the quaking oomph of "Rumble" wasn't the only highlight for the prolific Pretolesi this year. The decorated engineer, who mixed Major Lazer's generational dance anthem "Lean On" back in 2015, reunited with the group to engineer a bevy of tracks from this year's Piano Republik album alongside Amapiano pioneers Major League Djz. A few of them, like "Designer" and "Ke Shy," are now regarded as global anthems of the red-hot genre, proving Pretolesi's knack for stitching hits is unbound by convention.
Other highlights in a year of many behind the boards include Dillon Francis' "Goodies," which sampled Ciara's 2004 hit of the same name and Maluma's "Parcera," a track with production from Gordo that appeared on the Colombian reggaeton superstar's sixth studio album, Don Juan.
Words by Jason Heffler.
Since the inception of Kompass Music Group, the company's founders have made it their mission to handle management differently in a music industry rife with burnout. Launched by Alec Donkin, Jay Rogovin and Jade Gaines in collaboration with Proximity's Blake Coppelsen, Kompass in 2023 paved the way for a new frontier in artist management.
Their methodology deviates from that of traditional firms by providing a suite of personalized resources to their roster, which includes Eprom, G Jones, Of The Trees, UZ and Vintage Culture, among other electronic music stars. Harm reduction and mental health are cornerstones of that newfangled approach.
By taking a proactive stance on mental health, they're prioritizing the wellness of their artists, many of whom face immense pressures precipitated by rigorous touring schedules and the never-ending demand to produce hits. Kompass helps their artists find a healthy balance so they can focus on their art and pursue their creative visions in a modern-day music scene where exhaustion is sadly regarded as a routine truism.
Words by Rachel Freeman and Niko Sani.
Originally specializing in lifestyle and hospitality PR, SEQUEL's foray into the electronic music industry has been remarkably successful. Over the past two years, they've built an impressive roster of buzzworthy talent, including Charlotte de Witte, Eli Brown, Chloé Caillet, Bedouin and Kygo's Palm Tree Music Festival, just to name a few.
The firm's distinctive outsider's perspective has proven effective in building artists as brands, a strategy clearly demonstrated in events like de Witte's KNTXT takeover at ADE, which artfully integrated music, pop-up events, exclusive merchandise and a partnership with Don Julio into one memorable moment.
Moreover, SEQUEL's involvement in facilitating the sublime debut of the Oaxaca-based Silencio UMBRA, a collaborative event between Cercle Music and famed mezcal producer El Silencio, underscores their growing impact in the live events space. Overall, the company's innovative approach to brand architecture is establishing them as a transformative force in the realm of electronic music PR.
Words by Cameron Sunkel.