Among America’s dance music trailblazers is Ultra Records president Patrick Moxey, whose label is home to some of the best known names in modern-day EDM, including Calvin Harris, Kygo, and Steve Aoki, and a few of the genre’s biggest global hits, from OMI’s “Cheerleader” (a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 in July 2015) to Mr. Probs viral phenomenon “Waves.”
The latest to scale the pop charts is Kygo’s “It Ain’t Me,” featuring Selena Gomez, which peaked at No. 2 on U.S. radio earlier this summer, and, according to Buzz Angle Music, has seen to-date audio streams of more than 244 million since its release in February. Not your typical dance floor fist-pumper, the song’s lyrical content is cutting and dark, about a relationship on the skids due to alcoholism, and features one of Gomez’s most sophisticated vocals, expertly produced against a tropical-house beat. It’s a stunner of a song, that, thanks to Ultra’s partnership with Sony Music (Moxey serves as president of electronic music for the company), eased its way to worldwide domination. (Capitalizing on the momentum, Kygo recently released a documentary, “Stole the Show,” which is off to a strong start at Apple’s iTunes.)
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Moxey, who came up through the New York City warehouse party scene — and credits his lifelong love to music to a David Bowie concert he attended in Berlin in 1982 — founded Ultra in 1995 and has expanded the company to include a management and publishing arm. Over 22 years, he’s seen more than his share of DJs come and go, but, as he tells Variety, dance music is here to stay.
The notion of a dance music bubble — and inevitable burst — has been a topic of debate in recent years. What is the state of the genre currently?
Music, in general, is in the beginning of an explosion right now. I see ten years of solid, upward growth coming. Even markets that are fully mature, like Spotify and the Nordics where you see it in every house, are still growing in terms of subscriptions. We went through a decade of down-ten-percent-a-year, which I survived with Ultra by growing 20 percent a year. And when I look forward, I see growth of five to ten percent each year. It’s a very exciting time.
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Six months after its release, “It Ain’t Me” remains a pop radio staple and is still being streamed more than 5 million times weekly. Why do you think it’s resonated?
It’s a brilliant song. It stands out from all the rest. There are a lot of L.A. pop songs written with a certain amount of Top 40 fluff. “It Ain’t Me” is an L.A. song but it’s written with meaning and that takes it to a whole other level. Selena Gomez, she’s been going through a bit, so when her voice comes on top of Kygo’s amazing keyboard work, and with that killer chorus … they really came with an absolute smash. It’s a tribute to Kygo and the wonderful musician that he is.
You’ll be five years into your deal with Sony in December. Do you see that alliance continuing?
Ultra has been more successful each year and we’re reviewing our options at the moment. There’s no shortage of choices, let’s just say that.
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