Universal Music Group Threatens to Remove Songs From TikTok in Scathing Open Letter

Universal Music Group has pulled the plug on TikTok’s bottomless jukebox after announcing its plans to cease licensing songs to the social media giant.

UMG, the world’s largest music company, on Tuesday shared a scathing open letter claiming that TikTok “attempted to bully us into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal” which would pay its musicians and songwriters “a fraction of the rate” disbursed by competing social media platforms. The company said its agreement with TikTok expires today, January 31st.

The removal of UMG’s catalog would significantly impact the user experience for TikTok considering the platform’s heavy reliance on access to trending songs with which its creators record content. Songs released by Taylor Swift, BTS, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo and many more contemporary superstars will vanish from the app unless its proprietors reach a pact with UMG by the end of today.

Elsewhere in the open letter, UMG said they’ve been pressing TikTok “on three critical issues — appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.” The organization also castigated TikTok’s app as a “tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment.”

“TikTok’s tactics are obvious: use its platform power to hurt vulnerable artists and try to intimidate us into conceding to a bad deal that undervalues music and shortchanges artists and songwriters as well as their fans,” reads UMG’s statement. “We will never do that.”

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech company Bytedance, responded Tuesday night and accused UMG of putting “their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.”

“It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” TikTok said in a statement. “Despite Universal’s false narrative and rhetoric, the fact is they have chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent. TikTok has been able to reach ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other label and publisher. Clearly, Universal’s self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans.”

TikTok had 1.5 billion monthly active users last year and is expected to reach 2 billion by the end of 2024, according to Business of Apps.

50% of Self-Employed Musicians Are Overpaying On Their Tax Returns, Study Says

Forget the encore—many self-employed musicians are singing the blues over tax blunders, according to a new study conducted by Pirate.

It turns out the green room isn’t leading to more green for independent musicians, many of whom are feeling the financial pitfalls of the UK’s tortuous tax codes. Pirate, a global studio network, surveyed over 500 DJs, music producers, bands and live performers and found that roughly half of them are overpaying on their tax returns.

Without a phalanx of managers and accountants at their disposal, tax season has always been an albatross for independent artists. Those musicians are failing to take advantage of tax-deductible essential expenses like performance-related travel and accommodation, studio time and equipment cost and maintenance, Pirate’s research claims.

50% of the survey’s respondents who submitted self-assessment tax returns indicated they do not log all the tax-deductible expenditures to which they’re entitled. The most common spends are those on subscriptions to music streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and SoundCloud Pro.

Elsewhere in the study, Pirate says only 30% of self-employed musicians use an accountant and 25% utilize bookkeeping apps. A more worrisome statistic, however, is the 48% of surveyed artists who said they were in debt. 51% had no savings.

“Accounting and taxes aren’t what most people dream of when they imagine their music career taking off,” said Emmavie Mbongo, Artist and Community Manager at Pirate. “In fact, managing your own finances is one of the most intimidating parts of monetizing your talents, but it becomes necessary very early on.”

Pirate has now developed a series of free workshops and a guide to help music creators manage the pain points of financial management. You can find out more here.

Bonnaroo Festival Generated $339 Million for Tennessee Economy in 2023, Report Finds

Manchester, Tennessee, might be known for its farm life, but Bonnaroo has become the city’s cash cow after leaving a $339 million footprint on businesses and jobs.

That’s according to a recent report from Austin-based economic impact consulting firm AngelouEconomics, who found that the 2023 Bonnaroo festival generated $339.8 million in revenue for the local economy. The event’s infrastructure also facilitated the creation of over 4,000 full-time job equivalents and $105.5 million in labor incomes paid to regional employees, per the study.

The report marks the first time Bonnaroo’s regional impact has been studied by organizers in over a decade, according to the Tennessean.

The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

Alive Coverage

The 2023 festival drew approximately 80,000 people to Manchester’s Great Stage Park, which Bonnaroovians fondly call “The Farm.” Considering the event’s sheer scale, its proprietors reportedly paid or reimbursed the city, county and state of Tennessee for any additional resources they commissioned to execute it.

The $339.8 million sum may rise—or fall, depending on the cost of goods sold—in 2024 after Bonnaroo’s organizers increased ticket prices for the first time in more than 10 years, citing inflation. To put that figure into perspective, Coachella, the nation’s biggest music festival, is now estimated to provide an annual boon of roughly $400 million to the local economy of Indio.

Scheduled for June 13-16, the 2024 Bonnaroo festival will feature headlining sets by Pretty Lights, Fred again.. and FISHER, among performances by many other electronic music stars. You can purchase passes here.

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Teddy Swims on His Accidental Success in EDM—And His Most Exciting Year Yet

What Teddy Swims is currently doing in music is far greater than the constraint of genres.

The 31-year-old powerhouse vocalist, whose real name is Jaten Dimsdale, has been shattering the notion of genres since he stepped on the scene in 2019. His moniker is an acronym for “Someone Who Isn’t Me Sometimes” and he sees songwriting as a form of therapy.

“I thought I was just writing songs, you know, and you never know what your heart’s really trying to tell you or your subconscious is trying to communicate to you until you’re like, “Oh shit, no way,” he tells EDM.com.

In his latest album, I’ve Tried Everything But Therapy, Swims carefully transmutes the weighty melancholia of painful memories into transformative experiences for his listeners. That album, in fact, just broke the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for the first time in January, with the single “Lose Control” coming in at #8 for his debut entry.

Known early in his career for his viral presence on YouTube, Swims, who is originally from Atlanta, has made a name for himself by forfeiting the stereotypical notions of what an artist should be.

“I’m just so happy for the time because if it had been many times before this I would have not been ready for this mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually,” he says. “I couldn’t have done it any time before right now. I’m happy I’m in a clear space in my life.”

Teddy Swims.

Chapman Baehler

Mostly a soul and R&B singer, Swims had early success uploading videos singing covers of anyone and everything—from Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” to Shania Twain’s “Still the One” and a moving cover of H.E.R.’s “Focus”—before catching the attention of Warner Records.

“It’s quite nuts how that can happen, we’ve been writing for like four years or something,” he muses. “And it all just—it all lines up to one particular thing.”

Swims is speaking after a few days off his touring schedule on the day of our interview. He spent that time at Las Vegas’ When We Were Young Festival, where he sang alongside the famed pop-punk band All Time Low.

“So I got to go up there and play a song with them, which is such a full-circle moment for me because I’d seen them when I was coming up,” Swims says. “They were one of my favorite bands, you know, and going out and playing a song with All Time Low was just like, it was so cool. I was like, ‘Dude, this is the kind of moment where you’re like, man, dreams are just coming true. Stick to your guns, you know?'”

With a massive repertoire and an even longer résumé studded with major names in contemporary music, Swims is considered a master collaborator, teaming up with everyone from country superstar Maren Morris to prolific singer-songwriter Megan Trainor. After his move to LA, a close friendship with famed UK dance music producer Stuart Crichton formed on a fluke, leading to electronic music collaborations with the likes of ILLENIUM, Burns, MK, Armin van Burren and Matoma, among others.

“So this guy is a huge collaborator of mine, Stu Crichton,” Swims says of the Scotland-born producer. “He’s just the best at those kind of things, you know? And he’ll come to me and have me work with some people, but we’ll just come up with like… usually, they’ll start as ballads, and we’ll just write the ballad, and then it’ll turn into sending it to whoever and they just kind of have the EDM spin on top of something we’ve already written.”

Crichton, who has recorded and written for Kylie Minogue, Backstreet Boys, Pet Shop Boys, Selena Gomez, Toni Braxton and Kesha, has been nominated for a slew of Grammys and other prestigious awards. “Stu Crichton is one of my best friends in the whole world… we live like three houses down from each other too, so I can always pop over there,” Swims gushes. “His wife feeds us cooked soup and scones and we just, you know, take a tequila shot and hangout, man. It’s just good.”

This wasn’t the first time Swims had pushed himself to merge his sound, but one of the more challenging endeavors he’s faced as a recording artist. The first obstacle was to stand out in a subset of the industry wherein female artists have driven the standard in vocal house music for decades, plus veering himself towards a facet of the music business to which he was a relative stranger.

Swims’ collaboration with ILLENIUM, “All That Really Matters,” starts off slowly, with the former’s velvety vocals layered atop soft keys that quickly lead into the melodic dubstep and future bass sounds for which the latter has become so well known.

“Because of Rable and Stu Crichton, the song with ILLENIUM came about,” Swims recalls. “I came in way later and heard the song and it’s just like, ‘Yeah, I would be honored to sing this song.’ And they shot it to ILLENIUM and we played it every night. It’s such a beautiful song to me and I love that song.”

Driven by lyrics deeply ensconced with meaning, the song progresses in undulations, with gentler moments segueing into soaring beat drops—the sort that conjures a sea of heads to intensely nodd in unison. Above all, the track is still very much on-brand for Swims, because despite the departure in sound, its message weaves back into the narrative reflected in many of his other records.

Swims took a risk with the initial track, “Some Things I’ll Never Know,” on I’ve Tried Everything But Therapy, for example, by placing a slow and haunting ballad in a slot where many other artists would have chosen to go in the complete opposite direction.

“I want it to be the first thing somebody hears… that song for me is something that really has really touched my life,” he says. “And even when we were going to sing it on the record, it took me a while because I was just sobbing. And I still sing it every night and can’t get through without crying. It’s a song for me that’s really special because I think that it’s given me closure in a lot of ways that I needed it. It’s one of those songs like that.”

Moreover, a tie that directly binds Swims’ music to the EDM genre is a penchant for emotional lyrical content touching on various life struggles—material that both audiences find to be highly relatable.

“What it’s kind of about, when somebody walks out of your life, it can be a significant other or your friend, but there’s no real closure for why people walk out of your life,” Swims says. “Sometimes they just leave, sometimes they just cut you off and you have no idea what went wrong, what you could have done, or you feel somebody starting to slide away from you.”

“There’s a world sometimes where I feel like I love you so much and I do anything for you and I can do anything to make it better if I can,” he continued. “Just let me know what’s going on, I can try to make it better, I can try to do anything for you. I love you so much and I believe I’m always your best friend and I can do anything for you.”

Regardless of any sort of genre restraints, Swims has effortlessly tapped into the collective energy surrounding the spirit of dance music—one that’s filled with passion, longing and an unwavering sense of desire.

The dancefloor, in a sense, is a safe space for commiseration, a place where folks gather to escape their troubles and blow off steam caused by whatever challenges that particular week, month or life has thrown at them. “Sometimes people have it in their mind that their life would be better without you in it,” says Swims. “That’s a hard thing for me to grasp. If you don’t get closure from that, you don’t get to talk to them again, you don’t get to understand why they do those things.”

“It’s also not about you either, nobody’s hurting you because they’re just out here to hurt you and they want you to hurt. They’re doing something that’s probably best for their life. You’ve got to just reconcile that with them yourself and give yourself some sort of closure that you’re never going to get.”

His chance friendship with Crichton, however, has opened up new pathways in Swims’ career, but also on his own personal healing journey, reflecting capacities within himself as an artist and as a man that he previously didn’t know he had in him.

“It’s hard work. I don’t even know how I tried that,” he explains. “Yeah, I don’t listen to a lot of EDM. I didn’t listen to a lot of that coming up. I’m a fan of course, but just never been like an EDM listener. But I’m a priority in the world.”

Now Swims sees the genre with entirely new eyes. The farther he’s immersed himself into it, the more he finds himself in a home away from home he never knew was available to him, one that welcomes him with open arms. “It’s such a loving, family oriented… everybody at a festival, when you go to an EDM festival, everybody’s just in this like… moment.”

“Everybody just loves on each other, and sharing love and drugs and all sorts of other things. It’s just beautiful, man. Everybody’s just there getting along and it doesn’t seem like a problematic place. It never is. I got a chance to go to Counterpoint like the first year in Atlanta. It was so fun to do it, man. I just warped out of my mind a lot of it, three days in a row. It was amazing. It was a great vibe to be tapped into.”

Swims was further surprised when told of his massive following in the LGBTQ+ community, with many of his EDM collaborations tracks a staple on the decks in queer club world, making him a beloved figure both on the dancefloor and off. “I like to think even as this part of my life is happening now and I feel truly ready for the roller coaster that I’m on and I’ve always been so impatient about what this was and what I wanted out of this and I’m so happy that everything’s happening and it’s proper timing, you know?”

With a live album version of I’ve Tried Everything But Therapy just dropped in January and a full European tour slated for early 2024, Swims has hardly been able to catch his breath. He also had 2023 appearances on the The Voice, where he duetted “Lose Control” with Kelly Clarkson on the season finale, and the Today Show, where he was paired with another superstar guest.

“I got to meet Elmo too, that was fucking sick. It’s Elmo. It was fucking Elmo!”

And speaking of Jim Henson’s creations, Swims is also a lifelong Star Wars fan who, in high school, co-wrote and starred in a music theater rendition of the iconic film, substituting music from Les Miserables. At this point in his career, Swims can very much relate to the words of Yoda: “What you are seeking is also seeking you.”

“That’s what you want out of music, you know, something you can celebrate,” he says. “Something you can turn trauma into positive things is just like the greatest part of my job, I think, is turning all my awful shit into good positive feelings and emotions for people. And it becomes a tap into their memories and their specific relationships and their circumstances. And that’s what it’s like. So it’s just no longer about me.”

How Goshfather Reclaimed His Groove by Releasing 52 Songs in a Year

In the mercurial world of dance music, artists rising and falling from the public eye is a familiar rhythm. But within this fluctuating landscape, the trajectory of Goshfather emerges as a compelling narrative of resilience and reinvention—a testament to the transformative power of self-awareness and artistic dedication.

In the late 2010s, Goshfather, once one-half of the ascendant touring act Goshfather & Jinco, found himself at a crossroads following the duo’s split. Stepping back into the spotlight solo, he grappled with an ego that had been inflated by past successes.

“I didn’t allow myself to accept certain opportunities because I thought, ‘I’m too good for that,’ and that messed me up in a big way because it made me not work,” Goshfather admits in a conversation with EDM.com.

Ultimately, the resulting internal struggle led to a period marked more by words than action—and an enduring lack of self-trust. Mired in a feedback loop, he often found himself hinging on external validation from his peers to release his music, a practice that ironically led to further stagnation rather than progression.

Today, Goshfather has learned to appreciate his creative instincts. “I tell people, 30 days of no feedback will change your life because you will start getting to know your own voice as an artist,” he said.

Goshfather’s turning point came during a candid conversation with a fellow music producer that subsequently shattered his cycle of inaction. He realized that regardless of the nature of the feedback he received—positive or negative—his response was consistently the same: the music remained unreleased. It was a sobering realization, and as a result, he knew he had to shake things up.

Goshfather.

Alexi Papalexopoulos

Almost immediately thereafter, in January 2023 Goshfather embarked on a bold and ambitious journey, challenging himself to release a song a week for an entire year—a metaphorical rebuttal to the mindset of his former self. Considering his track record of just five releases over the previous four years, this was no small feat. His commitment to consistency marked a significant departure from his earlier sporadic output and required a complete overhaul of his creative process.

“I was trying to defeat this old version of myself as an artist that sat on their laurels and tried to control everything,” he says.

Goshfather notes that the looming prospect of quitting the challenge was ever-present within the first five weeks. Whether it was the arbitrary time constraint or the suggestion that he was burning out his audience, the producer recognized that he was looking for a reason to give up.

“When you as an artist try to do anything your ego is on full alert and will find a reason out in the world to justify why you should not be changing things in your life,” Goshfather explains. “And there’s so many times where I was wondering if I was doing something wrong.”

Now triumphing over his doubts more frequently, Goshather went on to remix a plethora of tracks, including John Summit’s “Where You Are” and Flosstradamus and TroyBoi’s “Soundclash.”

View the original article to see embedded media.

The journey soon became transformative. As weeks turned into months, Goshfather began to identify his inner voice and develop a newfound clarity in his approach. He eliminated distractions, focusing solely on his craft and harnessing a sense of dedication that paid off in droves.

From playing major venues to receiving support on BBC Radio 1’s “Diplo and Friends” and even calls to share his newfound wisdom, Goshfather’s journey of self-discovery and discipline didn’t just rejuvenate his career; it positioned him as a mentor, guiding aspiring artists through the creative pitfalls he had overcome.

View the original article to see embedded media.

Having successfully completed his yearlong challenge, Goshfather now stands at the cusp of a new chapter in his career. No longer bound by the compulsion to release weekly, he plans to delve deeper into his artistry and focus on original toplines and songwriting. It’s an intentional shift that signifies not only a change in frequency, but also an evolution in the depth and breadth of his musical expression.

Goshfather’s narrative of confront and conquer through creative action is one that resonates not within the confines of the electronic music scene, but across the creative spectrum. His journey underscores a universal truth in the realm of any artistic endeavor: growth and innovation often stem from challenging our own limits and daring to redefine our approach.

“If I’m the last human on Earth I’m making these songs for, it has to be worth it for me in some way,” he says. “The way that it was worth it was it allowed me to uncover the fact that I’m a musician because I enjoy making this stuff and I love the process. It was the reclamation of loving the creative process of making dance music.”

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How Heidi Klum Teamed Up With Tiësto and Proved the Dancefloor Knows No Age

Whether you’re among the shyest of wallflowers or the breeziest of social butterflies, behind every pair of dark sunglasses lies a secret identity.

For fashion icon Heidi Klum, it’s dance music diva. From judging talents to unleashing them, she rides the crescendoing wave of Tiësto‘s latest glimmering house production as a vocalist.

The Victoria’s Secret lynchpin has traded the runway for the rave, joining forces with one of EDM’s most prolific Renaissance men for a rework of Corey Hart’s 1984 synth-pop song “Sunglasses at Night.”

Released today by Warner Music Central Europe, the duo’s candescent cover is pure confidence fuel. An anthem for the introverted, the surprise collaboration proves that two international icons can capture the shy midnight courage we all seek when the lights go down and the beats rumble.

“I love dancing, I love listening to great music—it’s a fun outlet to let loose,” Klum told EDM.com in an interview. “So I thought this track would also help people to let loose, even when they have their sunglasses on. Because I also think that it gives you this kind of shield for people who are introverted or maybe a little bit shy so they can be more outgoing… and if that helps you, wear your sunglasses and let’s go.”

Once rife with the forbidden fruit of lasers and late nights, the dancefloor is now a fountain of youth for Klum, 50. Even for someone with a perpetual flame of creativity irrespective of the industry in which it flickers, keeping the candle alight is difficult after having children.

“For many years I went to bed at like 9, 9:30 because they were up in the night or up early in the morning,” she recalls. “And with four, you’re just exhausted by the end of the day. I had many, many years of going to bed early, and they’re all older now so, you know, life rearranges itself. Now I’m out more and enjoying more of this adult life again.”

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The new version of “Sunglasses at Night” is also the theme song for the upcoming season of Germany’s Next Topmodel, a German offshoot of America’s Next Top Model. Klum is an executive producer of the reality television series and serves as both its host and lead judge.

She came up with the idea to breathe new life into the song and “straight up asked [Tiësto] one day” to produce a record. He was down immediately, she said, so she recorded her vocals and sent over the stems.

“It just happened actually quite fast,” says Klum, who had been a friend of Tiësto and his wife Annika prior to the endeavor.

The unexpected collaboration is a reminder that even your idols have idols. As Tiësto helps Klum saunter into her black-shaded Dark Angel era, her giddy pride for working with the legendary producer is palpable.

“For me, Tiësto is like my EDM god… I’m the biggest fan,” she gushes, adding that her kids often bop around the house to the DJ’s song “Boom,” a global festival hit. “He’s everywhere, putting so much joy into so many people. And that he said yes to little old me to do this thing, made me so proud and so beyond happy.”

So where exactly is Klum heading after this unpredictable foray into electronic dance music? Now that her name appears on streaming platforms alongside one of the genre’s all-time greats, fans have to wonder whether the road ahead is paved with the rave-fueled rapture of confetti cannons or the high-heeled heartbreak of broken stilettos.

Having strutted down catwalks with fashion critics staring like wolves waiting to shred couture dreams into tattered scraps, Klum could easily command the music stage. The idea of her sashaying across the world’s biggest clubs and festival stages alongside Tiësto isn’t as absurd as you might think.

When asked if she’s interested in performing “Sunglasses at Night” live, she didn’t even hesitate.

“I don’t have a big plan but if Tiësto wants to take me on his next tour, I’m down—I’m going,” she says with a laugh.

Despite over a century of age between Klum and Tiësto, they’re proving that today’s dancefloors turn a blind eye to superficial stigmas. And that should be celebrated in an image-obsessed era often marred by mirror maze manipulation on social media.

“If he lets me, I’m down. I’m always up for a surprise,” Klum says of performing live with Tiësto. “I don’t like to be pigeonholed or just be put in one drawer, like, ‘Oh you can only do this.’ I get excited about things that I haven’t done before or trying new things out.”

“And I think also that’s how the world should be now,” she continues. “I feel like we can be multifaceted. We can do many different things. Years ago when I first started in my career, you were only allowed to do one thing. You could only do that thing… I feel like now people are allowed to do many different things. There’s more freedom.”

You can stream “Sunglasses at Night” here.

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The Weeknd and Daft Punk's “Starboy” Enters Top 5 Most-Streamed Songs in Spotify History

The Weeknd and Daft Punk‘s “Starboy” has soared to dizzying new heights after entering the top 5 of Spotify’s most-streamed songs of all-time.

Released back in 2016, the generational electropop anthem is currently gaining the most daily streams of any track in Spotify’s top 50 all-time ranks, according to data from Kworb. As of today, January 24th, “Starboy” is amassing a daily average of 2,479,868 streams for a total of over 2.9 billion.

The latter figure firmly placed “Starboy” in the top 5 behind Post Malone’s “Sunflower,” Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved” and Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” respectively. The Weeknd’s own “Blinding Lights” tops the list after becoming the first song to surpass 4 billion streams on Spotify.

Meanwhile, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” also recently danced its way into streaming history after joining Spotify’s coveted billions club. It’s the robots’ first song to reach the milestone as the primary artist on a record after featuring on “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming.”

In other Weeknd news, he recently teased an upcoming collaboration with the iconic French electronic music duo Justice. 12 years after compiling his first three mixtapes into his breakthrough Trilogy album, the chart-topping superstar is now gearing up to release another as the future of the Weeknd project hangs in the balance.

“It’s getting to a place and a time where I’m getting ready to close the Weeknd chapter,” he told W Magazine last year. “I’ll still make music, maybe as Abel, maybe as The Weeknd. But I still want to kill The Weeknd. And I will. Eventually. I’m definitely trying to shed that skin and be reborn,” he said at the time. “The album I’m working on now is probably my last hurrah as The Weeknd. This is something that I have to do. As The Weeknd, I’ve said everything I can say.”

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How ZEKE BEATS' Mother Overcame the Life-Threatening Health Scare That Stifled His Career

As a spectator, it’s easy to find yourself enraptured by the work of today’s DJs spinning behind the decks. These modern-day rock stars mold and manipulate the dancefloor, seamlessly dictating their crowds to become one with the sounds seeping from the speakers and permeating the air.

These moments spent in unspoken linkage with the DJ may be fleeting, a mere distraction from the hustle and bustle of the mundane nine-to-five life. But for the artist, those interconnected moments are often reproduced in many cities across multiple languages, and at times come with sacrifices of which spectators may never be aware.

ZEKE BEATS.

Nainoa Andrade

For ZEKE BEATS, those sacrifices were put to the test in December 2022. The Australian electronic music virtuoso was in the middle of a year-end West Coast tour when he received news that his mother, Barbara, had been hospitalized with sepsis and was in grave condition.

Being over 9,000 miles away from home, the DJ, whose real name is Zeke Ugle, had been residing in America with an expired visa. Although he had already been approved for renewal, getting the physical paperwork required to travel would still require a lengthy and arduous process.

“I was living in Portland at the time and my father had called me and told me that mom was really sick… they ended up having to sedate mom because she was going through so much pain and they were trying to figure out what was wrong with her,” Ugle tells EDM.com. “They knew it had something to do with her liver or gallbladder or pancreas around there but they didn’t have a pinpoint on what was going on.”

Unfortunately for Ugle’s family, their hometown regional hospital would not be able to provide the care needed not only to diagnose her ailments, but also receive proper treatment. So it was decided that Barbara would be flown over two hundred miles away to a better-equipped hospital in the capital city of Perth.

“As soon as that happened, I was like, I can’t stay in America,” he explained, knowing he would have a difficult time returning to the U.S. at the time due to his expired visa.

Nainoa Andrade

Due to the severity of his mother’s declining health, Ugle made his way home and canceled a noteworthy appearance at Insomniac Events’ 2022 Countdown NYE festival, where he was scheduled to perform alongside the revered turntablist DJ Craze.

“Obviously that was such a huge thing to me because Craze is a world champion in scratching. He’s a grandmaster,” Ugle continued. “He was always one of my biggest idols and to be asked to do a back-to-back DJ set with him, to be collaborating with him was a massive thing to me. But family trumps all and I would never let anything come between my family and I.”

Upon arriving in Perth, Barbara had been placed in a coma and put on life support. Surrounded by family, she awoke 10 days later before beginning a lengthy recovery period that included a stint in the intensive care unit and a round of dialysis.

Fast-forward a year later, and Momma Beats is fully recovered with a clean bill of health. In a full-circle moment, she has found herself sharing her story halfway across the globe and eager to see her son perform at the very festival from which he walked away 12 months earlier.

Having heard her son’s renouncements and all the gigs he canceled to be by her side, Barbara tears up as she recounts her oblivious state.

“I never knew any of this,” she says with a sniffle. “Aw love, you really had to? I didn’t know that.”

ZEKE BEATS and his mother, Barbara.

Nainoa Andrade

After wiping away tears, she recalls the moments before her hospitalization.

“Well, all I knew is I was good one day,” Barbara said. “I had been to badminton, I had been to the gym, went to bed that night, and all of a sudden I was getting pains.”

“I said to [my husband Stanley], ‘I think I might have to go to the hospital,'” she added. “From there I was just delirious. I was talking rubbish and that’s all I can remember to be honest.”

Barbara continued to disclose the severity of her condition and how she found herself unable to talk properly and having to ease into walking again. She remained resilient through it all, but it was her tenacity that aided her the most.

“It was a really bad time,” Barbara continues. “I think it was worse for them because I didn’t know what was going on… but I was determined. I knew I could do it. I just kept going.”

Barbara’s perseverance enabled her to recover quickly. So quickly, in fact, that within two months, she was back on the courts playing her favorite sport, badminton.

ZEKE BEATS performing live.

Nainoa Andrade

For Ugle, his mom’s swift rehabilitation has allowed him to reflect on the real-life trials and tribulations that come from choosing a career in music.

“I’ve been in America now for six years and in that time it was so hard to be away from family because of Covid and all the visa complications,” he explains. “For them to be here now and have the opportunity to have some good one-on-one time with mom and dad, and also show them the things that I’ve talked about so much about America.”

Ugle says that along with teasing his crowd with unreleased music, he planned on bringing his parents up onstage during his performance at Countdown.

However, Barbara’s excitement laid elsewhere. Although she was elated to be watching her son perform in front of thousands, she had her eyes set on the next stop of her first American trip.

With a smile on her face and her eyes still welling up, she exclaimed, “We’re going to Vegas tomorrow!”

ZEKE BEATS Countdown NYE 2023 Mini Documentary (7:24)

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LP Giobbi, HALIENE and More on Groove Cruise's 20th Anniversary Sail: “More Than Just a Festival”

The countdown is on for Groove Cruise’s epic 20th anniversary voyage.

Scheduled to set sail from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas from January 24-28, 2024, the four-day floating music festival will host its largest event to date by hosting over 4,000 attendees on Groove Cruise’s largest and most luxurious ship to date, the Norwegian Encore.

Celebrating their monumental milestone, the festival’s organizers have curated one of the its biggest lineups to date, with Diplo, Tiësto, John Summit, Markus Schulz, LP Giobbi, HALIENE, Joel Corry, Trivecta and dozens more across 11 stages.

Along with 96 hours of nonstop music and programming boasting world-class production, attendees or “captains” of Groove Cruise will be able to start their year by taking part in Whet Foundation’s charity initiatives and volunteering opportunities. Launched by Whet Travel and Groove Cruise’s founder Jason Beukema, the Whet Foundation nonprofit seeks to support communities visited by Whet Travel cruises.

This year, Whet Travel will participate in several charity initiatives in the Bahamas to give back to the community of the island of Great Harbour, which is a short boat ride away from Great Stirrup Cay. The Destination Donation will visit and give back to the only public school on the island, with contributions that will directly enhance the children’s educational journey. Additionally, the trip will also visit Revival Time Highway Church of God to aid in the reconstruction of the church to provide more support for their youth programs.

Groove Cruise Miami 2024 is completely sold out, but fans can reserve their spot for the 2025 festival, which will see 6,780 passengers on the Allure Of The Seas in January 2025, here.

Groove Cruise “captains” partying on the top floor deck.

Lauren Morell

Fans can also sign up and donate to Whet Foundation for a chance to participate in a wide variety of artist-hosted activities, including a Hot Ones challenge, Super Smash Bros tournament, alcohol tastings, workout classes, yoga, poker tournament and much more. Check out the full donation list here.

Groove Cruise also recognizes the need for femme-identifying artists to be represented on their lineups as over 30 appear on this year’s bill. The festival will host its first all-female mainstage takeover with LP Giobbi’s Femme House.

We’ve caught up with a handful of this year’s female-fronted artists to hear their thoughts on Groove Cruise and what fans can expect from their performances at the momentous 2024 fest.

HALIENE

HALIENE.

c/o Press

I’m so excited to return to the one-of-a-kind music experience that is Groove Cruise! I love how holistic it is… not only music non-stop, but they also create so many ways to lift up new artists, foster great discussions within the industry and for the fans. I’ve met some incredible people on the ship, from other artists to wonderful fans, and even my current management team! You never know what you’ll find on the ship, it’s always spectacular.

LILLY PALMER

Lilly Palmer.

c/o Press

I can’t wait to play on the Groove Cruise on my Spannung Records floor. I’ve heard some crazy stuff and I think it’s going to be amazing.

ALLEY KAY

Alley Kay.

c/o Press

Groove Cruise will always have a special place in my heart as it was my first international festival booking. I’ve been representing techno on the past three boats with only a few other techno DJs—but this year there’s an incredible amount of techno talent to be heard and I’m honored to be a part of it once again.

GEM & TAURI

Gem & Tauri.

c/o Press

We are so excited to return to Groove Cruise, one of our favorite festivals we have ever been to. The community is so loving and inclusive and so much thought has gone into the activities and entire experience. There is nothing like being on a cruise with such amazing people for a few days and fully immersing yourself in the music, community, and activities. It’s truly a magical time we can’t wait!

LP GIOBBI

LP Giobbi.

Tonje Thilesen

The Groove Cruise community is incredibly positive, tight-knit, enthusiastic and supportive. I’m so excited to start my year off right with the Groove Cruise Fam!

SPEAKER HONEY

Speaker Honey.

c/o Press

Groove Cruise is LITERALLY the definition of good vibes only! I can not wait to see my GC fam on this epic 20-year anniversary adventure! LFG!

CASMALIA

Casmalia.

c/o Press

Groove Cruise is more than just a festival to me, it’s an incredible family atmosphere that has invested in me and nurtured my talent since I first linked up with them three years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, making new ones, and sharing all of the new music I’ve been working on.

KYLIENTE

Kyliente.

c/o Press

I am absolutely thrilled to be performing on Groove Cruise 2024! This is my first festival performance and to be able to make my debut at such a long-running and beloved event is a dream come true. Last year I attended Groove Cruise as a fan and I can confidently say I’ve never experienced a greater feeling of inclusivity and community at a dance music event. Groove Cruise fam is truly inspiring!


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“One Foot in the Future and One Foot in the Past”: How Jai Wolf is Evolving in His Blue Babu Era

The dust has settled but the record is still spinning for Jai Wolf.

Jai Wolf, whose real name is Sajeeb Saha, aspires to “make music that feels like it could last,” he tells EDM.com. Instead of churning out single after single, Saha paces his productions leisurely. He takes time to build worlds that listeners can immerse themselves in long after they hit pause on the music.

The tracks Saha released over the first half of 2023, which arrived three years after his previous single, aren’t part of an EP or album. Rather, he describes them as part of a “new era” for Jai Wolf. “It’s having one foot in the future and one foot in the past,” he explains. “I want to evolve my sound and try new things, but also stay true to why people listen to me.”

That wasn’t the first time Saha veered his sound. His first big push was ditching his dubstep alias, No Pets Allowed, to craft nostalgic, chillwave music as Jai Wolf. This was a time Saha focused on ’80s-inspired, synth-driven songs like “Drive” and “Gravity.” A few years later, he shifted to indie-dance with his debut album, The Cure To Loneliness.

Now, Saha’s Blue Babu era sees him tapping into an uptempo, high-energy sonic palette, which stems from his belief that people want to be on their feet in a post-pandemic world. Plus, a personal desire to be more loose and collaborative with his creative process. “I didn’t do too much of that before,” he confesses. “A lot of producers, myself included, sometimes overthink their creative process, so I’m just having more fun with it.”

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Letting loose, most of Saha’s new tracks clock in at over 130 BPM with a “backbone of rhythms and drums,” he describes. “Thematically and lyrically, I’m taking a stronger role as a songwriter in the sessions,” he adds. This thematic shift is on full display in “Paris,” a track that stacks stirring vocals atop a soundscape blending drum & bass with indie-pop.

Meanwhile, “Want It All” bridges old with new. It features synths fans will recognize from Saha’s previous era alongside a garage-inspired groove. The track comes to life in a music video where interpretive dance narrates a tale of relationship trauma and healing. AI-assisted animation stitches scenes together, conjuring a futuristic visual atmosphere.

“AI is like a bogeyman, but there’s going to be good and there’s going to be bad, it just depends on how you use it,” Saha says about whether AI will help or hinder musicians in the long run.

Citing the bizarre viral renditions of Drake singing K-pop, he recognizes it’s unethical to use someone’s voice without consent for AI-generated music. But he believes it’ll be a force multiplier when it comes to streamlining a music producer’s workflow.

“I’m not for making a beat out of thin air, but if I’m writing a song, I would love to have more shortcuts for certain things,” Saha explains. “Parts of the process will just be sped up or efficiently done because of AI, similar to automation where you now have ATMs instead of a bank teller.”

When it comes to constant evolution, Saha is inspired by his favorite artists, particularly Childish Gambino. “Over 10 years, he’s pushed and developed his sound from being kind of a nerdy backpack rapper,” he says. “He’s made some really experimental records like Because the Internet, which to me is one of the best albums of the 2010s.”

But it’s more than just the music for Saha. “I love how he’ll play into a character and create this world that goes beyond the album,” he adds. “I do try to add as much as I can beyond the music, be it like a music video or some sort of online experience. I think that’s the kind of thing that engages fans. ”

World-building is an essential part of the Blue Babu era. Before releasing any music, Saha ushered fans to “exit the loop” in a cryptic letter posted on social media. Signed by Peter Babu of Hikikomori Inc., the letter eluded to upcoming hallmarks of Blue Babu with phrases like “a demonstration in the desert” (signaling Jai Wolf’s Coachella performance) and “an analysis of consciousness transcribed into sound” (indicating new music).

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Shortly after, Saha published hikikomori.world, an interactive widget that served as a window into the world of Blue Babu. A form of severe social withdrawal in Japanese culture, hikikomori is one of the main threads running through Blue Babu’s narrative. “It’s like looking inward and seeing the harsh truths inside of you,” he says of how the concept translates into his project.

Though Saha wants to keep the narrative explicitly enigmatic so as to leave room for listeners to find their own attachments to it, there’s one aspect of Blue Babu he’s open to divulging. “Babu is what my mom calls me,” he says. “It’s a term of affection and endearment which means ‘child’ in Bengali.”

While Saha says the name represents the truest part of himself, he doesn’t want its cultural roots to overshadow the main message he’s trying to convey. “It’s really tapping into what it feels like to be a child, finding that innocence again as you grow as an adult and come across different hurdles and challenges,” he emphasizes. “A lot of people that I know want to hearken back to those simpler times.”

Perhaps the most striking element of Blue Babu is the live show. Embracing evolution, Saha retired his iconic Orb stage for a more intimate style of production for his first tour after four years. “It’s the most connected I’ve felt to the audience because nothing is covering me,” Saha says of his streamlined stage.

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The Orb stage was a physical barrier between Saha and his fans, evoking a feeling of safety and protection. Getting rid of it has sent the energy of Saha’s live shows soaring. “Not only that, but in terms of room size, you’re really limiting yourself at the maximum height of the Orb,” Saha adds.

Jai Wolf’s Orb stage.

Brian Rapaport

In bringing the Blue Babu stage to life, Saha took inspiration from other artists—but not in the way you might think. “We did a lot of research in terms of how other artists run their shows—by looking at other artists, you can see what they’re not doing instead of trying to emulate them,” he explains.

That’s how the circular nature of the stage was born. “My idols and all these other electronic artists putting on a show don’t really have circular risers or circular lighting arrangements,” he says. “So our lighting designer—Devin, who’s so gifted—helped design the whole rig with a circular theme.”

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But it isn’t just the visual direction that Saha’s reimagined for the Blue Babu era. For the first time, his live set is all original music. “It feels fulfilling to have a show front to back that’s just 100% your own,” he gushes.

On stage, Saha is surrounded by sample pads, drum pads, a custom fader, and an effects rack. “It’s very similar to the effects on CDJs but we rigged it so that it controls Ableton,” he says. “I don’t think anyone actually has this setup.”

A custom setup empowers Saha to “reinterpret his discography” on the fly. Classic Jai Wolf anthems like “Feels” and “Indian Summer” are embellished with lush keys, shimmering synths and roaring drums to fit into Blue Babu’s high-energy, dance-focused soundscape. “I really wanted to dig deep into finding some of the fan-favorite songs, but then transforming them in a way that feels relevant in a 2023 context,” he emphasizes.

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On certain stops of the tour, like his hometown show at Brooklyn Mirage, fans were also treated to opening and “Club Babu” closing sets from Saha.

“I think the Blue Babu show is—I don’t want to say serious–but it’s 100% me, it’s my heart and my soul,” Saha says of his introspective headlining performances. “So what’s nice about Club Babu is that it’s just fun, it’s not me bearing my soul. I don’t want to think too much about genres or anything, let’s just get people sweaty and dancing on their feet.”

Mixing desi-flavored bangers, like Voodoo’s “Pan Jabi,” with thundering house à la “Turn off the Lights” by Chris Lake and unrelenting bass music like RL Grime’s quaking edit of “In Your End,” it’s safe to say Saha delivered on his promise of a no-frills after-hours set.

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After being on a bus for nine weeks and playing 37 shows, Saha is taking time some well-deserved time to slow down. But with plenty of unreleased music heard during his tour—and an obscure letter from Hikikomori Inc. to welcome 2024—the story of Blue Babu is far from over.

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