Published in The Music Network
EDM is an “overnight sensation,” 20 years in the making. Patrick Moxey knows all too well the path that finally got electronic music into the U.S. mainstream – because he helped get it there. Moxey established Ultra with his first 12” release back in 1996. Now, he helms the global dance music strategy for a major music company, having recently been appointed President of Electronic Music for Sony Music. It’s been a particularly busy year for Moxey; he’s also joined the inaugural board of advisors for the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM). TMN caught up with Moxey at MIDEM.
Congratulations on the new job. What are your ambitions?
It’s about global priorities. If there’s something I can achieve in the next few years, I’d love to have a roster of electronic artists that become absolutely huge around the world and get as much respect as any top rock act ever got. At this point electronic music has paid its dues and it’s shown how many tickets it can sell, and how influential it is. Now it’s the time for it to get the respect it deserves, and that’s what I’ve set out to achieve. We’ve switched distribution from Warner to Sony. Ultra is still an independent company; they made an investment into Ultra. It’s just got more access and resources and reach. It was a logical thing for me to do, and with the development of electronic music, it’s important that Ultra continued to grow as those changes were taking place.
You’re still a firm believer in the influence of radio.
We’ve had weeks where we’ve sold 100,000 records. Radio was playing those records non-stop. It absolutely has a big part. Ed Maya’s “Stereo Love” we sold more than 2 million singles, Calvin Harris’ “Feel So Close” sold more than 2 million singles. I’ve had other records like Bennie Benassi’s “Cinema” Skrillex remix, could have sold millions and did sell a million without the daytime radio. We went to top 40 radio and they were basically fighting us on playing something with a dubstep drop. It’s still an education process. Radio is still conservative. But at least they’re giving it a chance now. They’ve played our Calvin Harris records, they’re playing Deadmau5 records, Swedish House Mafia and Guetta. So it’s a big improvement.
What was the “Road to Damascus” moments for Ultra?
In 2009, when David Guetta got his first top 40 airplay in America with a record on Ultra, love is gone. That was a big breakout moment. We got the record into the Billboard Hot 100 and into the top 40. The other moment was getting Deadmau5 to be the DJ/electronic artist presenter at the MTV Music Video Awards in 2010 where every segment was cutting back and forth to him. I was downstairs in the dressing room when I overheard one of Usher’s guys say, “who’s this deadrat?” It was a moment I realized, now we’ve penetrated to all genres. That was important.
It’s early times but what do you think AFEM can really pull off?
Well, to have a voice is a concrete priority I’d like it to achieve. I’d like it to have a voice with the key awards shows, to make sure that we’re properly represented in the depth that other genres are. There’s a certain “old-school” mentality that really does exist with these organizations, where they’d prefer to – for example, they’d struggle to understand an instrumental concert experience at one of these awards shows. And yet I’m at these festivals where I see over 100,000 people going bananas to instrumental music, with high production. That needs to be represented now in the mainstream.
How big can dance music become globally?
It’s about innovation and change. What’s on the radio today, people want something new, and electronic music keep diversifying and blending with other types of music. At this point, you’ve got multiple genres of dance music. And you’ve got the pop artists basically taking the dance production, whether it’s Usher or Rihanna, so arguably the impact is already massive. It’s going to keep growing, and splintering and changing. Deep house is now having a big rise. Hard style from Holland is on the rise. Trap is on the rise. As much as you have the pretty Swedish House Mafia vocals on the radio, in the mainstream, all this other stuff is bubbling, splintering and coming up.
By its nature, dance music should become the global language?
You’re absolutely right. Its ability to cross cultures is incredible. What other song could you make that could work in an environment across any language. That’s very difficult. And dance does that.
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