Everyone knows the DJs and producers in EDM culture, but behind the bright lights, blaring music and confetti cannons, there are teams of equally talented people running the record labels, representing the artists, promoting the shows and just getting it done.
These people may not get the shine of an Avicii or Tiesto, 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 highlight the behind the scenes movers and shakers that are helping you making you move and shake.
This is Magnetic's Industry Focus- Today we highlight music promotions executive George Hess. He has been a staple of the dance music industry for close to 25 years. After nearly a decade at the helm of Arista’s dance music department under Clive Davis, he became a leading promotions executive in the industry, representing labels including Strictly Rhythm, Armada, Dim Mak, and others.
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How did you start your career in the electronic music business?
My first industry job was with Clive Davis, before electronic music was “a thing.” Techno, Trance and House were the style then.
What is the best part of the business?
The best part for me is launching a project and watching people sing the words at clubs and festivals and then following it all the way to pop. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of the format. Working with Armin van Buuren last year on “This Is What It Feels Like” is a great example of that. Helping an artist to achieve their first Top 40 hit and first Grammy nomination is truly satisfying.
What are the biggest challenges?
In the EDM world we live in a bubble, thinking that everyone is familiar with the music. Though it often feels as though we’ve finally hit the mainstream and taken over the world, there is still much to be done to access a broader audience and many more opportunities in areas like movies, commercials, and radio. The next task is to reintroduce house music to the new generation, as they have in Ibiza and the UK. In order for a format to evolve and grow, it needs to be diverse, complex, and understand its roots.
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?
Do not ever think you are entitled to anything in our industry. Be confident, not cocky. Know your shit. Work hard. And, above all, be grateful. We get to have so much fun. It's not brain surgery.
As the EDM industry continues to grow, what do you think the secrets to longevity in this business will be?
You have to take a 360 degree approach. The thing we never had during the last two cycles of dance/EDM is the great social media component, particularly the visual platforms. Keep your eye on everything. If there’s something you don’t understand, then ask. I’ve been in the business 25 years, and I’m still curious. I’m still in at the ground level. A big part of the reason I have lasted this long is because I’m a true fan of the music I represent. I’d also mention that, at the end of the day, it’s all about a good song. Great production is not as memorable as a great hook.
Did you start off as a fan of electronic music and then became involved on the business side, or did business bring you into the electronic music world?
I have been a fan of dance music since the late 70s. I started out by DJing in a small club in Denver when I was in college. From there, I owned a dance music record shop in CT for about five years before going to Arista Records as the Director of the Dance Music Department. I am, and will always be, a fan first.
What cities/regions do you think electronic dance music is best thriving?
Based on sales, I’d say: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, SF/Oakland, San Jose, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle/Tacoma, Dallas, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta
If you weren’t in the music biz, what would you be doing?
Other than being a father and husband, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Where do you see the most innovation in the EDM industry (i.e. technology, music, experience, nightclubs, behind the scenes, etc) and why?
The technology that unites this global format is amazing. For fans that can’t make it to nightclubs or festivals, they can often watch the live stream. Virtual immersion in an event is amazing, and further connects the fan and the artist/DJ. This is by far one of the most impactful innovations in the community.