This year, the team at EDM.com is proud to publish four installments of "Best of 2020" coverage: Industry Leaders, Performances, Music Producers, and Songs.
Oftentimes, end-of-year coverage offered by the music industry's vast pool of publications is limited to its artists and performers. In order to honor the extraordinary work of the music community's unsung people and brands, we've recognized ten industry leaders whose contributions helped shape the future of dance music in 2020.
Winner: Brownies & Lemonade
2020 saw Brownies & Lemonade transform the ethos of their venerated club nights into a full-blown digital event brand that never failed to deliver dance music fans jaw-dropping lineups and memorable streaming experiences. Following the launch of their seminal Digital Mirage virtual music festival, Brownies & Lemonade went on to solidify themselves as one of EDM's true power players in the streaming age precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brownies & Lemonade demonstrated a dedication to altruism this year, planning charitable shows to raise funds for the homeless in Los Angeles and for the devastating Australian brushfires, directing 100% of profits from the latter pre-pandemic event to the Red Cross Australia and NSW Wildlife Council. They also remained true to their mission to spotlight rising talent in 2020—one of the brand's core values since its inception. Among other ventures, the beloved brand coordinated with Mad Decent in the summer to launch Open Aux, a streaming event that sourced talent directly from its own loyal and engaged dance music community.
Splice, the popular sample marketplace and music collaboration hub, is a darling in the music tech space. Founded in 2013 by Steve Martocci and Matt Aimonetti and headquartered in New York City, the company has since established itself as a crucial source of revenue during precarious times for music producers, who are compensated for the downloads of their samples. Having paid out $11 million in royalties to its creators in the first nine months of 2020, Splice proved to be a lifeline for countless artists experiencing the financial pitfalls of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Winner: Ethan Diamond
Leading with an artists-first approach as Bandcamp's co-founder and CEO, Ethan Diamond cultivated a thriving marketplace for independent artists and particularly EDM producers. This year saw Diamond launch a new streaming service and spearhead the "Bandcamp Fridays" initiative, which waived the company’s revenue share of sales on the first Friday of every month and generated more than $20 million for artists.
Bandcamp also hosted a momentous Juneteenth fundraiser for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, donating 100% of the day’s sales and an additional $30,000 to the organization. Many major electronic music artists have opted to release their music on Bandcamp this year, including Hudson Mohawke, Zeds Dead, and Richie Hawtin, among many others.
Winner: Gian Galang
The dance music community was instantaneously and utterly enthralled with BRONSON, the joint venture of ODESZA and Golden Features, after the news broke of the new musical project back in April. To bring BRONSON's story to life, the artists turned to New York City-based visual designer Gian Galang, who brilliantly channeled their debut album's theme of perseverance into an array of boxing-themed covers. With a black-and-white scheme and subtle, gilded hues of gold splashed in, the cover for their self-titled LP aptly captures the ruggedness that pervades much of its sonic elements, leaving fans with a lasting image to tie back to one of the year’s biggest releases.
Winner: Subsidia Records
Following the unprecedented release of 118 new tracks, Excision’s newly minted Subsidia Records banner quickly positioned itself as a major player in the bass music scene in 2020. By supporting both unheralded and established artists, the label has set itself up as a bona fide industry tastemaker and a hub for talent development, offering gifted producers the footing they need to excel in the electronic music space. A utopia for the heavy, experimental, and melodic avenues of bass, Excision’s new home is primed to create more opportunities for an oftentimes underrepresented genre.
Aiming to showcase the world's culture and heritage through the lens of captivating electronic music performances, Cercle's YouTube channel doubles as a teleportation device. Dance music fans are able to immerse themselves in truly one-of-a-kind sets performed at idyllic beaches, icy mountaintops, roaring waterfalls, and historical landmarks.
With their gobsmacking series of livestreamed DJ performances, Cercle pushed the envelope this year by placing artists into visually breathtaking geographic locations around the world. Croatia's stunning Plitvice Lakes, the sprawling canyons of Cappadocia, the legendary Great Pyramids of Giza, and the Swiss lake Lac de Soi created picture-perfect backdrops for sets from Disclosure, Ben Böhmer, Sébastien Léger and NTO, respectively.
Winner: Stuart Hawkes
Prominent audio mastering engineer Stuart Hawkes’ credits are expansive, as the music veteran has contributed to countless works by artists from contemporary music's corps d'elite, including Lorde, Stormzy, Ed Sheeran, and the late Amy Winehouse. It was his impactful work in electronic music this year, however, that deserves nothing but the highest plaudits. In 2020, Hawkes contributed to Elderbrook’s scintillating debut record Why Do We Shake In The Cold?, Mura Masa’s critically acclaimed sophomore album R.Y.C., and Disclosure’s Grammy Award-nominated ENERGY LP.
ARTIST MANAGEMENT FIRM
Winner: Prodigy Artists
Stewarding the careers of the artists representing the next generation of bass music, powerhouse management firm Prodigy Artists moonlights as a tastemaker and trend-spotter in the EDM community. While managing the breakneck careers of established stars such as NGHTMRE, Deorro, and SVDDEN DEATH, Prodigy also fosters the blossoming careers of some of the electronic music scene's brightest young producers, including Moore Kismet, Effin, Nitepunk, and Rome In Silver.
MUSIC PUBLICITY FIRM
Winner: Rephlektor Inkorporated
Trusted by myriad brands and major artists, Rephlektor and its sister marketing company Bampire continued to be power players in the dance music publicity world in 2020. From assisting in the effort to raise $85,000 for Australian wildfire relief to helping the dance music community reflect on client Anjunabeats’ historic 20th anniversary, the company led a slew of impactful 2020 campaigns for the likes of Above & Beyond, Mat Zo, Flux Pavilion, and legendary Chicago producer Keith Harris, among many others. Rephlektor secured landmark press hits in numerous high-profile publications this year—including Forbes, Bloomberg, and Pollstar—all testaments to the their dedication and ability to spread the messages of its clients far and wide.
Winner: United Talent Agency
Despite a year devoid of concerts and virtually no major festivals, United Talent Agency remained a dynamo in 2020. The company made an attention-grabbing move this summer when they signed deadmau5, who is represented by UTA's Co-Heads of Electronic Music, Kevin Gimble and Steve Gordon, as well as Partner Cheryl Paglierani, the powerhouse agent behind Post Malone. The firm has made EDM a priority in recent years, acquiring Circle Talent Agency in 2018 and adding a slew of high-profile dance music artists to its roster in 2019, such as Carnage and Cheat Codes.
In a year marred by grievous blows to their workforce and the slashing of worldwide physical events, UTA was able to generate creative opportunities for their artists, including a pie-in-the-sky DJ set at the Grand Canyon Skywalk for Kaskade and a number of Halloween and New Year's Eve drive-in shows for deadmau5.