Industry Focus: Will Runzel, Talent Buyer & Artist Manager

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Industry Focus: Will Runzel, Talent Buyer & Artist Manager

This is Magnetic’s Industry Focus, where we highlight the major players working behind the scenes of the EDM biz. These are the folks running the record labels, representing the artists, promoting the shows and just getting it done.

They may not get the shine of a deadmau5 or Skrillex, but they work just as hard making sure the parties are packed, the music is perfect, and that the artists are where they need to be. We’ve decided to shine the light on the movers and shakers that are helping make sure you move and shake.

Today, we highlight Will Runzel, Talent Buyer for LED Presents and manager for artists Bixel Boys, Slander, and Bobby Puma. Here are his words...

How did you start your career in the electronic music business?

I started an independent concert promotion company while I was finishing college at Indiana University. The first few tours we did were with Hip Hop artists such as Big Sean, Curren$y, Jeremih, Twista, etc. Then we did our first EDM tour with Steve Aoki and he offered me job to be a part of the live sector of his lifestyle brand / record label / event company Dim Mak in Los Angeles. That was three years ago.

What is the best part of the business?

The community for sure. From the super agents down to the fans, generally speaking people seem a lot more accepting, open minded, fun and positive compared to other communities. DJ’s might get ragged on for being diva’s but compare them to pop artists or Hip Hop stars and they will seem tame.

What are the biggest challenges?

I think the biggest challenge has to do with sound. Every six months all the genres evolve, standing out among the pack yet still delivering music old fans and new can enjoy is a daunting task.

What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?

Hustle. Hustle real hard. Don’t look for a job in the music industry; entry-level jobs don’t really exist. Get yourself an internship at a small company, become a vital cog in their processes and leverage your way into a full time position. Nothing will be given to you and you will not get hired if you can be replaced for free. The margins aren’t as big as daddy’s insurance company, very few music companies can take on unnecessary salaries. Make yourself irreplaceable.

As the EDM industry continues to grow, what do you think the secrets to longevity in this business will be?

The brand. We can’t deny that some of our favorite acts have put out songs we don’t like. But if you dig the brand of an act, not much is going to shake you from liking that act unless they truly embarrass themselves. Establish a brand that is unique but can still relate to the masses, and focus on quality.  Whether you are releasing tunes, building epic festivals, or making cool music videos, if you focus on quality, your pieces will always be considered.

Did you start off as a fan of electronic music and then become involved in the business side, or did business bring you into the electronic music world?

I was a Hip Hop kid growing up. I listened to everything, of course, and my first taste of dance music was Daft Punk, MSTRKRFT, Digitalism, Ace of Base, etc., but Hip Hop was my blood. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I remember I had just gotten the opportunity to book Cinespace / Dim Mak Studios for their infamous Tuesday (mostly) electro party, and I remember putting Hood Internet (a Chicago mash-up act) and Juan Maclean (DFA ambassador, disco DJ) into the space and not having the best crowd reaction.

The whole time I had been studying the genre but my bookings didn’t reflect that until a few weeks after those shows, because of the lag on show date versus where my house music aptitude was when I had negotiated the deal. I soon became completely addicted and obsessed though, consuming everything from Magic Tapes to Essential Mixes to Darklight Sessions to Club Life Radio.

I started following Netsky, Rudimental, SubFocus and the whole UK Drum N Bass scene. I love deep house, I love trap music. Dubstep isn’t my favorite but there are definitely dubstep songs out there that I enjoy. I enjoy everyone from Skrillex to Calvin Harris to Duke Dumont to Flosstradamus and everything in between. And I don’t listen to Hip Hop at all anymore really.

What does electronic music mean to you?

Fun. A chance to get away from the world we live in if only for a moment. It’s almost a religion. I think it’s going to start being compared to Dead Heads and Phish fans. I just feel so lucky to be surrounded by people I consider great friends, and having the opportunity to work them as well really makes life serene for me. I don’t understand the neon or furry boots but I’m a furious dancer and its one of my favorite things to do. The term “let loose” and dancing really go hand in hand for me. I don’t think in any other genres are you required to dance, but in EDM that’s the case and I love that about dance music, it forces you to let loose.

What cities/regions do you think electronic dance music is best thriving?

Undeniably, Los Angeles is the hub of EDM right now. Ibiza, Vegas, Miami, Chicago, London, Detroit, Amsterdam, Berlin all have their influence, but Los Angeles holds the crown because of the diversity in genre’s being created and the amount of producers here available to collaborate with is unmatched.

If you weren’t in the music biz, what would you be doing?

Talking too much.

Where do you see the most innovation in the EDM industry (i.e. Music, experience, nightclubs, behind the scenes, etc)

Technology. Soon these things will write hit songs for you and you will be able to perform DJ sets while catching up on sleep! In all seriousness though, I think the most innovation is happening on festival stages. Every fest' they are bigger and better, more lasers, better lasers, bigger lasers. At the same time, I like to think there has never been more quality dance music available to the masses then there is now. Like cells multiplying, the ever-expanding list of EDM sub-genre’s continues to grow. Music has never moved this fast, no matter the genre. It’s an exciting time, a disposable time, but an exciting one nonetheless. Can’t wait to hear what the new sound is in the Fall!