Dance scene owes much to illegal downloads, but shift sees emphasis on live venues
Illegal downloading hasn’t affected dance music in nearly the same way it has other genres. If anything, it has helped.
According to Tijs Michiel Verwest, who is known as Tiësto to millions of electronic dance music devotees, file sharing via peer-topeer sources has had a big effect on dance music, reaching unprecedented heights in recent years.
“The whole reason why dance music has been blowing up is because of sharing online,” he said from a recent tour stop in Charlotte, N.C. “Back in the days when you had vinyl, even if you really wanted a track, you couldn’t buy it if it was sold out.
“I think it’s better. It’s not about the money any more, and the control is gone. It’s like the Wild West out there. Ten years ago, the radio and the [record] labels dictated what we had to listen to. Now, you can just go online for a day and find all kinds of stuff.”
Dance artists still produce recordings, though not all of them are completely concerned with profiting from their recorded work. That’s because revenue can be recouped any number of ways, the biggest and best being live performances.
Tiësto has seen first-hand the shift toward a live concert experience. Last month he headlined Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, a three-day event that drew more than 100,000 dance music fans to performances by Moby, The Chemical Brothers, David Guetta, Duran Duran, Deadmau5 and Erasure.
To see such a gathering during what is being touted as a down economy hammered home the point for Tiësto: Dance music is here to stay. “It is more than a comeback – it is really blowing up now,” he said of the pendulum shift.
The bigger the music, the bigger the stars. Which means, in terms of cultural cachet, few DJs working today can compete with Tiësto. He was named one of Billboard magazine’s top-grossing touring acts of 2010, thanks to a world tour that saw him play on six continents and in front of more than a million people.
He was also recently voted the Greatest DJ of All Time by British dance music magazine Mixmag.
“I was really happy with that,” Tiësto, 42, said of the honour.
Tiësto was born in Breda, a small town in the Netherlands that was also the birthplace of Elvis Presley’s famous manager, Col. Tom Parker (born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk). Today, Tiësto keeps a permanent residence in Sweden.
Not that it really matters. Most of the time, Tiësto is barely home long enough to unpack his travel bags.
“I had a funny conversation with my agent about that yesterday,” he said.
“I was talking about a year tour, 365 days and 365 gigs. We were laughing about it, because I actually could play every night of the week somewhere in the world.”
Unlike a lot of DJs, who prefer to stay sequestered in their studios, Tiësto has cultivated a reputation for big budget, high concept concerts. Having performed at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Athens Olympics, among other high-profile events, he is perhaps the one DJ who consistently qualifies as an arena act. When he tours, Tiësto prefers not to travel with an entourage. His surprisingly small posse normally tops out at four people, the key elements of his crew being his tour manager, a sound man and someone to do his lights-and-visuals setup. Because it is a small crew, his team is required to work especially hard, Tiësto said.
“They prepare the shows months in advance. I think for every show, the guys do 200 or 300 emails to take care of everything.”
The music side is Tiësto’s specialty. Live concerts require more from him than most imagine because if the mood is right, he can easily top three hours.
To be in that kind of shape, he puts a premium on exercise and watches his diet -no matter where in the world he finds himself.
He will be on the road in Canada until early May for a tour in support of his most recent mix, Club Life: Volume 1 -Las Vegas, Tiësto’s tip of the hat to his residency at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.