Lee Anderson has built a career out of staying two steps ahead of the competition. His ability to forecast trends in the industry — from tomorrow’s next stars, to subgenres on the rise – has proven unparalleled. It was Anderson, for instance, who helped grow Skrillex from niche undercard act to global powerhouse. It was Anderson who helped steer the growth of Zedd from fledging bedroom producer to stadium headliner.
As the Vice President of the East Coast office of AM Only — one of dance music’s premier booking agencies — Anderson helps oversee the careers of artists like Disclosure, Claude VonStroke, Boys Noize, Tchami, and Big Gigantic (not to mention Skrillex, who he still counts as one of his biggest clients). Beyond this, he’s helped orchestra some of the most innovative tours in dance music, from OWSLA’s Full Flex Express, to Disclosure’s Wildlife and Dirtybird’s BBQ series.
At the 2016 edition of IMS Engage, which takes place at the W Hotel in Los Angeles on April 21, Lee Anderson will square off against Live Nation’s President of Electronic Music, James Barton, for a one-on-one panel. Ahead of Anderson’s appearance, we’ve picked his brain on trends in the industry and what it takes to truly stand out from the herd.
Tickets for IMS Engage are available here.
What music trends do you see on the rise?
A few right now. There is a real resurgence of bass music at the moment. Acts like Getter and Jauz are selling real tickets and and there is a wild energy that the fans have at their shows, which I feel has been missing as of late. It felt to me like kids were sort of going through the motions at clubs and festivals for a little bit there, and some of the artists were as well. Watching the Getter set at Ultra this year reminded me very much of watching Sonny play that festival for the first time six years ago. Kids climbing up into trees and going absolutely apeshit all over the place. There was a crazy energy that can’t be created with production elements; it comes from the fans’ authentic love and excitement for the DJ. Jauz has been selling a ton of tickets on his tour, and you will see Getter do the same in the very near future. Another trend we are seeing is the “underground” not being so underground anymore. There is a massive audience for acts like Claude VonStroke, Richie Hawtin, Jamie Jones, and others. The acts are doing big numbers in terms of tickets, and the the bigger multi genre talent buyers and fans are really starting to take notice. We will continue to see more of these bookings on the multi genre festivals, more shows in hard ticket venues, and more music fans gravitating towards this scene and their music. Lastly, I think Grime is finally breaking through in America. What Skepta has done, and what we are starting to see Stormzy do is rather impressive. The audience is comprised of tastemakers, hip hop fans, bloggers, and I think soon, the mainstream. For the first time it’s being treated as it’s own genre rather than just “UK rap”…. Grime is going to continue to rise, and it is here to stay.
You’ve helped build out AM Only’s live roster: would you like to see more DJs experiment with live shows?
Very rarely do we at AM Only represent a DJ who is not a producer. Many producers use DJing as the platform to present their music in a live setting. Going to see a DJ is awesome, and I will always love that, as will the fans. There will be always be a place for this and the DJ will live on forever. At this stage however, I think it’s time for producers the raise the bar on how they present their music. We have all seen the cryo, LED Walls, confetti and SFX gags. That is not a knock on production. Production is important. That’s why Justin Bieber has a big production, and The Weeknd, and Katy Perry, and Jay Z, and any other large scale touring act. These things are great and impactful, but we’ve seen it over and over. At this stage, it is now expected of you to bring a solid production if you want to be taken seriously. It’s time to start raising the bar on how electronic music is presented from a performance perspective. Not ALL the time, but I hope to start seeing it MORE of the time.
You’ve booked BBQ tours, train tours, arena tours — what type of tours have you yet to organize that you would like to?
I’m still trying to figure out how to do a show with Skrillex in space. Seriously.
With artists like Skrillex, Zedd and Disclosure who have sold out arenas, what kinds of venues or spaces are you looking to place them in now?
We are all on the never ending search for great GA venues. Fields, warehouses, parking garage rooftops, or any other place that we can do a large show without seats. That is what is needed to create the best vibe and experience for fans on large scale electronic shows. They are not easy to come by. I wish Another Planet Entertainment would franchise the Bill Graham Civic Center, and put them in every major market. That would make life easier for agents, artists and fans. Outside of this perpetual hunt, I’m also always looking for cool and unique places to do more intimate shows. Bigger is not always better, and it’s important to have artists connect with their fans in smaller spaces. If you can find special ones that lend themselves well to creating a unique vibe on top of the intimacy, then you’ve got a home run. Those are the gems, and I like to get to them first.
You also represent some up-and-coming talent. What do you look for when signing new talent?
First and foremast, quality music. After that, I ask myself if they have a unique sound and feel. I’m not in the assembly line business. Acts that I sign need to be special, and different than my other clients. If those boxes are checked, then I look at the team. Your team is SO SO SO important to your success as an artist. This does not mean that you must have Coran Capshaw listed on your Facebook page as a management contact. I work with managers of all walks of life and levels of experience. A seasoned and experienced manager is great, but passion for the client and the willingness to put hard work in is often enough for me. I work my ass for my clients, and I want to work with teams who are putting in the same level of effort. There are some other things I look at in my formula for signing, but I’m going to keep those to myself for the time being.
What does it take for an artist to truly stand out from the crowd these days?
Great original music and performances.
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