In 2015, two of our Artist of the Year’s songs dominated radio and streaming-service playlists. Jack U’s “Where Are U Now,” featuring Justin Bieber, helped Bieber shed his tween-idol baggage (It has been streamed more than 358 million times and has sold more than 1.7 million copies, according to Nielsen Music.) And his band Major Lazer and DJ Snake‘s “Lean On” (with vocals by MØ) was even more surprising — an independent release that became an even bigger hit, racking up more than 400 million streams, with 1.7 million copies sold. Now Diplo is bringing Bieber and MØ together on “Cold Water,” the lead single of the fourth LP by Major Lazer.
2. ABOVE & BEYOND
After becoming the first British DJs to sell out New York’s Madison Square Garden in October 2014, the London-based trance trio embarked on an ambitious world tour to support its new Acoustic II album, playing with an 18-piece band and featured vocalists at historic venues like the Sydney Opera House, Royal Albert Hall and Hollywood Bowl (another sellout). Their tastemaking podcast Group Therapy reaches 30 million each week.
3. STEVE AOKI
Aoki may be throwing cake at his audiences in limited portions these days, but the Los Angeles-based Dim Mak label head remains in constant motion: He launched an apparel line, dropped a single featuring Walk the Moon and is the subject of a surprisingly revealing documentary, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, directed by Justin Krook, which made a splashy premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.
Last Time I Danced My Butt Off: “At Harvard: I played the Yardfest. I applied there for grad school. I didn’t think I was going to get in — and I didn’t. But I got into Harvard this way!”
In terms of visibility and the ability to steer vital industry conversations, Deadmau5 (real name: Joel Zimmerman) is not only dance music’s most opinionated and polarizing figure but also one of its most powerful. The Canadian producer and Mau5trap label head is impossible to ignore: He has publicly beefed with everyone from Kanye West to Disney during the past 12 months and, like it or not, has been one of the genre’s loudest voices on issues like streaming, sampling and selling out. But this may be the year focus shifts back to his music. In March, he launched his own radio show on Apple Music’s Beats 1, where he has been teasing a new album that’s due later in 2016.
5. DJ SNAKE
Ever since “Turn Down for What” broke through in 2014, Snake has been on a remarkably consistent run. Four subsequent singles, which have ranged from trap to tropical to electro-soul, have gone platinum. His 2015 smash “Lean On,” with Major Lazer and MØ, was the first dance record to break 1 billion views on YouTube. He has spent 35 cumulative weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart since its launch in January 2013 — the most by any artist. A debut LP, set for release on Interscope, is 2016’s most anticipated dance album.
Flume, aka Sydney native Harley Streten, has been in the spotlight since 2012, when tastemaking Australian label Future Classic released his eponymous debut and his remix ofDisclosure‘s “You & Me” caught fire. But 2016 is shaping up to be his biggest year yet: New single “Never Be Like You” (featuring Kai) is his debut on the Billboard Hot 100, now at No. 46. It’s from his just-released sophomore LP, Skin, which features an impressive range of collaborators (Beck, Vince Staples, Raekwon, Tove Lo, AlunaGeorge and more). Flume will push the project on tour through the end of the year (including a 38-date North American leg, kicking
off Aug. 4).
7. MARTIN GARRIX
Freed of the contractual confines of Spinnin’ Records and MusicAllStars Management after a December 2015 settlement, the 20-year-old Dutch wunderkind launched his own STMPD RCRDS in March and is poised to continue his pop crossover under Scooter Braun’s stewardship. A confirmed Justin Bieber collaboration in the works should help his cause, as should a debut album reportedly featuring Avicii, Linkin Park‘s Mike Shinoda, Ed Sheeran and Bebe Rexha.
Biggest Weakness: “When I was young and inexperienced, I was quick to trust others in an industry full of sharks.”
8. DAVID GUETTA
Guetta won top dance/electronic artist at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, backed by two collaborative Hot 100 hits, “Hey Mama” (withNicki Minaj, Afrojack and Bebe Rexha) and “Bang My Head” (with Sia and Fetty Wap). He has another one on the way: “This One’s for You,” with Swedish “It” girl Zara Larsson, is No. 13 in its third week on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs.
9. CALVIN HARRIS
One of dance’s most bankable stars, Harris maintains a lucrative Las Vegas residency at Hakkasan and a global endorsement deal with Giorgio Armani, and sources say he commands upwards of $500,000 for a two-hour festival set (he headlined Coachella in April). Like clockwork, he landed two more Hot 100 hits in the past year: “How Deep Is Your Love” (which peaked at No. 27) and “This Is What You Came For” with Rihanna (now No. 9), a strong contender for song of the summer.
Growing up in Chicago made Ryan Raddon — the future Kaskade — into a house-music true believer. “I was in this because I loved it,” he says. “Twenty years ago, we didn’t understand that there was a paycheck on the other side.” He certainly understood that during the past year — his last album, Automatic, hit No. 2 on Top Dance/Electronic Albums in October 2015; he was the first dance artist to top-bill the Los Angeles Convention Center; and he drew eye-poppingly massive crowds to his headlining sets at Lollapalooza, Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival in New York and Las Vegas.
Biggest Misconception About Dance: “That we’re a bunch of drugged-out buffoons with no musical integrity.”
Kygo (born Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll) owes his success to sunbaked synths and slow-mo BPMs more befitting a luau than a festival main stage or sold-out arena. But in the past year, he has headlined both — including Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (which he sold out), Coachella and Ultra Music Festival. He became the fastest artist to reach 1 billion Spotify streams in December 2015 — months before his debut LP, Cloud Nine (Sony), arrived in May. The album peaked at No. 1 on Top Dance/Electronic Albums and produced “Firestone,” his Hot 100 debut.
Desert Island Dance Record: “One of the most timeless dance tracks ever made: ‘Call Me’ by Eric Prydz. I never get sick of it.”
2015 will be remembered as the year Skrillex(aka Sonny Moore) became a bona fide hitmaker. The Los Angeles artist collected his seventh and eighth Grammy Awards alongside Diplo for their Jack U album and single “Where Are U Now” (which peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100), and he co-produced Justin Bieber’s Hot 100 No. 1 “Sorry” as well as five other tracks from the star’s chart-topping comeback album,Purpose. Skrillex’s industry impact expanded beyond his production and DJ gigs, from breaking artists like Snails and Valentino Khanon his OWSLA label to directing videos with Chance the Rapper and Hundred Waters. With reported upcoming collabs alongside Bruno Mars, Rick Ross and Florence Welch, the hits should keep on coming.
Advice for Newbies: “Be a f–ing kid, break rules, don’t care. Don’t try to get people’s attention. Let your art speak loud and people will find you.”
Biggest Weakness: “Girls, probably. If I’m really feeling a girl, I don’t want to work — I want to hang out with her.”
13. THE CHAINSMOKERS
Jokey 2014 track “#Selfie,” this New York duo’s debut single, prompted many to write the pair off as a novelty act. Instead The Chainsmokershave become one of 2016’s biggest breakouts, proving their status as hitmakers with “Roses” and “Don’t Let Me Down,” which cracked the top 10 on the Hot 100 (it’s No. 5 on the June 18 chart) and has ruled Hot Dance/Electronic Songs for seven weeks. They also played a well-attended Coachella set featuring guest spots from G-Eazy, Walk the Moon, Third Eye Blind and Tiësto.
Lesson Learned:Pall: “It’s easy to get caught up listening to everyone else, but follow your instincts — because that’s what got you to where you are.
The constantly touring Dutch heavyweight (born Tijs Verwest) is one of dance’s most aggressive stars when it comes to branding and technology. In addition to partnerships with T-Mobile, 7Up, SiriusXM and AKG Headphones, he recently signed with Budweiser to sponsor the relaunch of his mobile app, which offers unlimited streaming of his music, exclusive podcast material and soon, sources say, a virtual reality element.Tiësto serves as an adviser to tech startups Splice, Dubset and Doppler, but he still is dropping new music, releasing compilation album Club Life: Volume Four, New York City and a joint track with Oliver Heldens (“The Right Song”) on his label, Musical Freedom. And that’s expanding, too. In April, he announced a sublabel, AFTR:HRS, dedicated to deep house.
Greatest Strength: “I always find new talent to collaborate with, which helps me keep my sound up to date.”