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 Ryan Kruger. He is the Managing Director of Electronic Nation Canada, the dance music division of Live Nation Canada. Prior to joining Live Nation, Kruger founded and ran Destiny Events in Toronto, one of North America’s longest running independent electronic event producers. Beyond being the largest electronic producer in Canada, Kruger also founded Destiny’s Artistic Management Network (DAMN!DJs) and served as president for the largest student focused event travel company, Breakaway Tours. Kruger holds an MBA from the prestigious Schulich School of Management at York University in Toronto and is the proud father of twin boys.
Here are his words...
How did you start your career in the electronic music business?
While I was already a fan of some early dance tunes I was hearing in the clubs (The Spice Must Flow, Injected with a Poison, etc), I remember the day I discovered the rave world. I was coming out of a Toronto club in 1991 and was handed a flyer for an after-hours event next door called 23 Hop. It totally changed my perspective on going out... it wasn’t long before I was helping to promote events and then throwing my own under the Mayhem banner in 1992; then Destiny, from 1993-onward. As with many promoters in the early years, I soon started a DJ career (DJ OS2) and eventually a talent agency (DAMN!). Eventually I came back to focusing solely on promoting which continues to this day with Live Nation/Electronic Nation.
What is the best part of the business?
We sell fun! What could be better? Having people constantly tell you how your events or music have literally changed their lives in positive ways is the best feeling. Meeting interesting people, creating special experiences and traveling around the world to see how popular our little industry has become is truly amazing. From a purely financial perspective, being able to carve a solid career out of the music and concert industry is relatively rare, so it’s always nice to be able to wake up every day and love your job.
What are the biggest challenges?
Trends and tastes are fleeting so you always need to stay on top of what’s coming next. We plan events 6-12 months in advance - there is the very real chance that what is hot today could be out of favour long before you open your doors. There is also the chance that the electronic genre as a whole could see a general downswing which would hurt a lot of people. I think the latter is much less likely than times past but I also know that musical tastes come in waves. It's always best to be prepared for whatever comes next. Of course there are also the challenges of the genre becoming too big. Artist fees and in turn ticket prices are both heading to record levels; the industry as a whole has to be careful not to price out the average consumer.
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?
If it’s truly something you see yourself doing as a career, don’t ever give up. Don’t burn bridges and always put your best effort into whatever you do. In the end, it’s the old marketing adage that you have to fulfill a need in the market in whatever you do. I’ve handed out a million flyers, mailed out demo tapes in the thousands, and cold called or emailed almost every promoter on the continent to get where I am today. As a result, I have a lot of respect for a proper hustler that can get their point across without becoming a pest. When people see you as a solution to whatever issue they may be trying to solve you will move forward.
As the EDM industry continues to grow, what do you think the secrets to longevity in this business will be?
Know your audience and change with the times. Listen more than you talk – always! I can’t think of any generation that did exactly what the one before them did, so it’s very unlikely what is hot today will be the same tomorrow. This goes for styles of music and how that music is consumed. Who could have predicted dubstep, major corporations buying into the scene, streaming music, and the end of downloads? There has been a myriad of other changes that have happened over just the last few years. You get the point.
What does electronic music mean to you?
I listen to dance music all the time and I always have. It may sound strange but I’ve never really loved anything else. Obviously most of us go through phases where you try out different genres. But after quick dalliances with rock, metal and other styles that I thought made me look cool, I quickly found electronic music was what I truly connected with. High school is where music really starts becoming an important part of your life and as far back as I can remember, it was Depeche Mode, New Order, Erasure and other precursors to today’s modern electronic dance music. What does dance music mean to me then? It is something that I feel speaks to me and speaks about me. It is an expression of positive energy and designed solely to make you happy. What could be better?
If you weren’t in the music biz, what would you be doing?
I have an MBA in marketing and graduate diploma in Arts & Media management so I would definitely be doing something creative. I’ve actually spent some time in experiential marketing for the alcohol, tobacco and travel industries. Every time I did this my passion and experience would lead to some sort of music based role so it’s unlikely I would ever be far away from what makes happy.