Looking back at 2018, dozens of noteworthy events took place. In many ways, 2018 was as divisive of a year in dance music as it was in US politics. Scandals rocked the industry, hallowed legends passed away, artists developed brilliant new styles, and millions of new fans were indoctrinated into the genre that we love.
This year at EDM Sauce we decided to come together and decide which industry members made the greatest impact. Just as another publication chooses an individual of the year, we decided to open our consideration to industry members who had both positive or negative impacts. When we stopped to consider who should be honored as the EDM industry member of the year, the choice was clear. But first, let's take a look at some of the runners-up.
Third Runner-Up: Swedish House Mafia
Swedish House Mafia impacted the dance music industry in several ways this past calendar year. We began 2018 not even considering the trio of producers. Then upon the release of Ultra's 2018 Lineup, they exploded once again in popularity. While the world worked to figure out who the special guest would be at Ultra 20, the hype around Swedish House Mafia built, and came to a fever pitch when they took the stage together in March for the first time in 5 years.
Over the next nine months, Swedish House Mafia would be a constant topic of conversation while the world questioned if their performance at Ultra was a one-off reunion. In due time it was revealed that Swedish House Mafia was, in fact, touring the world in 2019, and dates began to trickle out. Swedish House Mafia reminded the dance music industry that nostalgia still sells and legends never die.
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Second Runner-Up: Gary Richards
In August of 2017, news that Gary Richards was breaking from HARD Events after his contract with LiveNation expired was one of the most explosive developments, dance music had seen in over a decade. After being ousted from HARD Events, the company which he built from the ground up, many were curious where Richards would end up. He no longer had creative say in HARD Events or his hallowed cruise festival, HOLY SHIP. In 2018, Richards came out swinging and demonstrated he was only just getting started.
From the flames of Robert Sillerman's failed SFX endeavor rose LiveStyle. Richards was brought on as President of North American operations. Soon after taking over that role which he informally announced at Electric Zoo 2017, Gary started grinding away immediately. After a year of nonstop work, Richards saw the inaugural edition of his new cruise festival Friendship set sail with massive success. In 2018, Richards not only rebounded after leaving a company he worked to create for more than a decade but helped LiveStyle rise from the ashes of SFX like a phoenix, all while creating the new standard in cruise ship festivals.
First Runner-Up: Dede and Shelley Goldsmith Alongside DanceSafe
The name Dede Goldsmith might not be familiar with most in the electronic music industry. Dede is just a mother, a mother who lost her child, Shelley, to ecstasy-related heatstroke in 2013. Ever since the passing of her daughter Shelley, Dede has worked tirelessly at amending the RAVE Act. The RAVE Act (Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act) has since been renamed The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act. It was signed into law in 2003, as an attachment to the bill which gave the country the AMBER Alert System. The RAVE Act was a late addition to the failed policies of the war on drugs, and currently prohibits common sense harm reduction measures such as free water distribution, air-conditioned rooms, and drug testing stations at dance music events.
The RAVE Act was written when EDM events were mainly held in illegal spaces. Now, 15 years later the dance music scene has grown exponentially. The same laws which constricted the events are now downright dangerous. In 2018, dance music saw more drug overdose and drug-related deaths than ever before. This is in part due to dangerous new adulterants to common substances taken at concerts, festivals, and RAVES. A proposed solution to curb the spike in recent deaths is to offer Drug Testing stations at events. In October of 2018, Dede stepped down as the head of ATRA (Amend The RAVE Act), and passed the baton to DanceSafe, a nonprofit championing the same common sense harm reduction techniques AFTA is looking to legally implement.
As the rising rate of drug-related deaths and drug-related hospitalizations become one of the most serious issues facing EDM as an industry, we believe Dede, Shelley and DanceSafe's mission is more pertinent than ever before. Learn more about ATRA here.
Dance Music Industry Member Of The Year 2018: Tim Bergling AKA Avicii
There was no greater story in dance music in 2018 then the untimely and unexpected passing of Tim Bergling, better known by millions of fans as Avicii. Avicii was easily one of the most influential musical artists of our generation. His one of a kind melodies helped EDM break into the mainstream consciousness during the late 2000s, and his forward-thinking, risk-taking mentality helped create some of the most iconic songs of all time. His classic hits include ‘Levels', ‘Wake Me Up', ‘Fade Into Darkness' and far too many more to mention.
In 2014-2015 it became clear Avicii was struggling with substance abuse and exhaustion. After taking a hiatus for both mental and physical health reasons, Avicii re-emerged in 2017. He was sober from drugs and alcohol and returned with an EP worth of outstanding music. Then seemingly out of nowhere on April 20th of this year, news that Avicii took his own life broke. Information began trickling out about how tortured Avicii was truly was, how the weight of expectation from the entire world was crushing him.
The passing of Avicii cast a harsh light on the inner works of some aspects of the dance music industry. Too often, young promising artists are ripped from their bedrooms at the age of 16 or 17 after one hit record. They are then thrown on world tours without any supervision. Exhausted, confused, and with every vice readily available, these young talents are sometimes taken advantage of by executives who see their commercial success only as dollar signs.
Avicii's passing helped reignite the conversation about mental health in the dance music industry. In 2018, artists such as Hardwell and Deadmau5 announced or took hiatuses from touring and production entirely. Many of these decisions were at least partially influenced by Avicii's passing. What Tim's death did more than anything else though, was bring our beautiful and strong community together.
We have seen heartbreaking and beautiful tributes ranging from gorgeous new songs, choirs of hundreds singing Avicii's music, to even just simple fan-made videos. While 2018 was a complex year for electronic dance music, it will ultimately be remembered as the year that Avicii became immortal in our memories. While he passed far before his time, as an industry and as a community…we will keep the spirit of Tim Bergling, AKA Avicii alive forever.