EDM opens career opportunities for young music lovers

As the electronic dance music industry grows, area college students and music lovers try to make their mark.

Attention. Control. Power.

That’s what music has given Danté Belmonte.

With hundreds of people crammed into a tight Westcott Theater, Belmonte commands the crowd alone from his DJ booth.

“I love having the spotlight on me,” Belmonte said. “When you’re playing at a venue that’s sold out with a thousand people, it’s something really cool.

Belmonte, only a freshman at Onondaga Community College, spends hours every day in his office making calls and sending emails for his DJ company, Electric Empire Tour.

He is not the only college student who views the electronic music scene as a career path. Top artists like The Chainsmokers, Kygo, 3LAU and many others began in their dorm rooms mixing tracks.

The International Music Summit’s 2016 Business Report presented that the global electronic music industry is worth $7.1 billion, growing over 60 percent in just three years from $4.5 billion in 2012-13. In 2015, the genre had Spotify’s most streamed song, “Lean On” by Major Lazer, its breakout artist, Kygo, and its most viral track, “Sugar” by Robin Schulz.

This year, director Christopher Louie released XOXO on Netflix. His movie tracks a college-aged electronic dance artist whose song gets so many hits online that he ends up being booked last-minute to play at a popular music festival.

Louie used his own experiences to develop this character’s story and give a true look into the world of electronic dance music. Now that it's been 15 years since he was DJing, Louie said he notices a dramatic change in the industry as so many college-aged artists view it as a career.

“Back then you couldn’t make a career out of it, but now it’s like an alternative,” Louie said in an interview. “Now EDM is just as much a business as it is a scene. People see so much of the profitability of it.”

At 19 years old, Louie was DJing every weekend and made at most $500 a night, but never viewed it as a career opportunity.

Not even 19 years old yet, Belmonte said he spends around $10,000 on average to produce a show.

“In a few years, once we get developed more, we are going to be doing a music festival in NYC,” said Belmonte. “That’s going to cost easily $200,000 to $250,000 minimum because artists like Hardwell, Tiësto, The Chainsmokers and Steve Aoki will go for a minimum of $40,000 and anywhere up to $65,000.”

Drew Taggart, half of The Chainsmokers’ duo, started producing music in his dorm room right on Syracuse University’s campus. Mixing and producing original content is just how junior SU-student Andy Polk hopes to break into the scene having already made Spotify’s Top 50 Viral tracks with his song “Hydration”.

“DJing is a lot of fun,” said Polk. “You get to be creative in that you’re really shaping the vibe for the night but it’s completely different making your own sound from the ground up.

“It’s definitely cool that that’s becoming more accessible since you can get these programs on your computer.”

Polk began DJing in high school and worked at a night club, Pacha, in New York City.

There he not only performed, but also promoted popular DJs like Hardwell, Laidback, Porter Robinson and others.

Martin Garrix, a 20-year-old Dutch DJ, played his first American show at Pacha. Now, Forbes notes Garrix as the ninth-highest paid DJ in the world, making $16 million in 2015.

Ryan Kehr, a junior at SU, remembers seeing Garrix’s show at Pacha, and ever since then he has been one of his biggest influences. Kehr performs at various shows around campus with his roommate from house parties to smaller shows at local venues.

Although he considers his biggest act opening for a female DJ-duo called Dual at the Westcott Theater, he loves every show he plays and hopes to impress the crowd each time.

“I make OttoTHON my Juice Jam,” said Kehr. “I want people to hear what I’m playing, what I’m listening to, what I’m doing.”

Photo courtesy of Danté Belmonte

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