10 Startup Lessons We Can Learn From EDM


The overnight explosion in the popularity of EDM, and EDM festivals is a hot topic right now. What many don’t realize is the popularization of the genre has been years in the making. With that in mind there are many lessons entrepreneurs can learn from EDM’s success story.

1. Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm, confidence and inspiration are among the qualities most valued in leaders. Watching a really good DJ perform can be awe inspiring, and it’s hard not to share in the exuberance of the moment. But for the top 100 DJs and producers, playing in front of thousands of people is nothing new. Yet, you could easily believe that every time Hardwell steps behind the turntables it was his first time behind the turntables. That’s enthusiasm, and it’s intoxicating.

If you’re not excited about your product, how do you expect to inspire employees, and investors to give you the capital you need for grow your startup? More importantly, if your employees are not excited then your product and customers will suffer. 


2. Discipline

Knowing your job, and being ruthlessly committed to it, are essential to growing your startup into a real business. Legendary DJs like Seth Troxler, Richie Hawtin and John Digweed have spent a major portion of their lives honing their craft- finding records, sharpening their live sets and producing music. They’re dedicated and disciplined, and they reap the benefits of critical acclaim and million dollar salaries. Both Hawtin and Digweed own record labels, but they don’t manage artists, design album art or book their own gigs. They stick to what they do best. The same goes for any great entrepreneur.


3. Make a plan and stick to it

Writing a business plan is crucial to starting a business and securing funding. However, writing a great business plan is just the very tip of the iceberg. As evangelist Guy Kawasaki states in “The Art of the Start” “Organizations are successful because of good implementation, not good business plans.

One great example of this was articulated by Cream Holdings founder, James Bartonin, in an LA Times interview following the sale of the event promotion company to LiveNation.  When asked if the decision to sell the company was difficult, Bartonin said “No, it actually wasn’t. It was always part of our strategy, always part of our long-term plan. And the reasoning behind that is we wanted to move the business on to the next stage, and in order to do that, in order to grow the business the way that we wanted it to grow, we really felt that it needed the support and the resources of a bigger company.”

Obviously it took years of hard work to implement this plan for Cream, but don’t let that stop you from articulating where you want to be in five, ten or twenty years. Kawasaki offers more wisdom on this “write [your plan] as if you know exactly what the future holds, but react opportunistically when you encounter reality.”


4. Engagement

If people don’t dance you’re a failure as a DJ or EDM producer. If your event is boring or too expensive then people won’t attend. This “do or die” reality is what drives every successful artist and company in the EDM industry. The same should go for your tech startup, new restaurant, or social service. If you’re boring or useless, then you’ve failed to get the crowd to move.


5. Disrupt

Creating disruption is a must for any startup, even if the waves are small. But being disruptive in itself is increasingly not enough. Going one step further to embrace other disruptive technologies can help accelerate your growth and get you the users, or customers, that you so desperately need.

EDM embraced the internet in the mid to late 90s, way before anyone else in the music industry had even thought about its potential to sell records or tickets. Armin Van Buuren’s radio show “A State of Trance” rose to prominence in the early 2000s thanks to worldwide distribution that the internet provided. While electronic producer Flying Lotus credits much of his rise in popularity to the music community that thrived on Myspace before moving to Soundcloud and Facebook. Finding the next big platform and using it build better products or increase brand awareness will make you look like a genius.


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