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When Tim Bergling was a teen playing with audio software in his bedroom in Stockholm, he probably didn't think of his craft as a marketing channel for fashion and electronics. But the 24-year old DJ's accessible music and global popularity have made Avicii, as he's now known, and other electronic dance music (EDM) acts a natural fit for brands looking to establish themselves with young audiences around the planet.
A dance-music act with spark
Avicii's track record is impressive: 5 million singles sold and a licensing deal with Universal Music Group. He's worked with some of EDM and the wider music industry's biggest names, from "Queen of Clubs" Nadia Ali and veteran French DJ David Guetta, to C&W legend Mac Davis, and Madonna. More than 14 million Shazam users worldwide have tagged "Wake Me Up," his hit with singer Aloe Blacc, making it the second most tagged tune of the year. Last month, Avicii won the AMA's Electronic Dance Music Artist of the Year award.
These would be impressive accomplishments for any musician or vocalist. But Avicii is neither -- he works with artists to produce and remix their work. And he works in a genre that developed in dark dance clubs, ad-hoc warehouse parties, and raves in Ibiza, where audiences tend to be focused on dancing, watching flashing lights, and getting a buzz. (Avicii says he parties sober to protect his health.) Which raises the question of how many people will pay to see a guy standing at a bank of turntables onstage in a more traditional concert venue like the Hollywood Bowl.
Amping up the concert business
The answer? A lot -- his show there earlier this year was a sellout, with 17,000 people gathering to watch him DJ alongside video and pyrotechnics. It's not just a California thing. Avicii's tour schedule is packed with festivals and arena shows. He's finishing 2013 with gigs in India and Illinois, touring Australia in January, and returning in February to Europe, where more than half his shows have already sold out.
The successful transition from clubs to theaters and arenas means that Avicii and other EDM acts like Steve Aoki and Bassnectar are boosting the concert business, according to the LA Times and Pollstar. These acts are doing more shows at lower ticket prices and reaching an audience that won't or can't pay $100-plus to see Elton John and other veteran acts. North American ticket sales were up 11% over last year, with most the credit going to country acts and EDM.
The Swedish face of an all-American brand for a global market
Coincidentally or not, Avicii's Americana-influenced "Wake Me Up" was a hit on Country Music Television, not an audience usually associated with electronica. The song's video has a country vibe, too, thanks to Avicii partner Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL ) (NYSE: RL ) (NYSE: RL ) . A beautiful young woman dressed in Denim & Supply gear rides her horse through a cinematic wine-country landscape. Her destination is a rave in the city rather than a hoedown, but the branding is masterful.
Avicii himself starred in a Ralph Lauren ad campaign this fall that featured the Avicii logo alongside the Denim & Supply name. His Macy's (NYSE: M ) and Ralph Lauren-sponsored rave (a phrase you don't read every day) at Roseland Ballroom in October was a hit, too. The price of admission? A Denim & Supply T-shirt featuring the Avicii logo, available from Macy's.
The Avicii deal is aligned with Ralph Lauren's stated growth strategy, which includes international expansion focused on Europe and Asia, where EDM is hot. Its Denim & Supply serves up a boho-tinged version of traditional Ralph Lauren looks at price points more accessible to younger buyers.
EDM as a ticket to young audiences
Ralph Lauren isn't Avicii's only big partner. Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) Experia smartphone figured in the "Wake Me Up" video, and in January of this year, Avicii and Ericcson sponsored a crowd-sourced music project, Avicii X You. Other EDM acts are building high-profile partnerships, too.
Gamer and diehard Minecraft fan Deadmau5 has appeared at Minecon and headlined Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT ) Xbox One launch party in LA last month. Dutch DJ Nicky Romero has his own edition of the Kick Drum Synthesizer and a deal with Dutch leather-jacket designer Goosecraft.
What's interesting is that Avicii isn't even at the top of this year's Forbes list of the highest-paid DJs. He's number 6, with $20 million. The top 5 include Deadmau5, the now-defunct Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, Tiesto, and Calvin Harris, who pulled in $46 million as a DJ and working on tracks for Rihanna and other pop luminaries.
Among the upcoming tour destinations for these acts are Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, India, and Brazil. These are target markets for companies looking to reach a young global audience, and EDM fans are on the lookout for the next new thing. Smart companies will, like the woman in the "Wake Me Up" video, saddle up and ride fast to join the party.
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