Steve Aoki has played a key role in the evolution of dance music in the underground scene in his early days and across the world as a top touring artist. As a label head and touring artist Aoki sits down with Larry King to talk about the multi-billion dollar EDM industry and breaking DJ Barriers.
Larry King: Years ago I was a radio DJ, how did you get into all this?
Here in LA, I was djing in bars and clubs. 2003-2007 Los Angeles era was not as him as it is now. It was very much top 40 run city. There was a small underground scene playing underground music. I was kinda mixing myself in both worlds, I was playing underground events to establish my name and doing clubs and bars to make money.
Larry King: How did EDM get big? When did it burst?
The term EDM is fairly new and an American concept. Around 2011-12 was when people started using the term more. I was in Europe a lot in the summer and they don’t really use the term much there. They prefer dance music or electronic music.
Larry King: Did EDM start in vegas here? I associate it with Vegas hotels.
Vegas is definitely the city that has the money to pay the biggest DJs to keep coming back. Vegas holds strong as one of the most and influential cities.
Larry King: What burst through for you? What made Steve Aoki big?
Festivals. My first big festival was the 2007 Coachella, which was a huge platform.
Larry King: What makes a good DJ?
From day one to where I am now it’s how you connect to the audience. You’re having a conversation through music, it’s how you get everyone interacting with your music and engaging the audience.
Larry King: Steve Wynn (owner of Wynn hotel in Vegas) my old friend revealed that he pays $400,000+ per night for a DJ performance. What constitutes that price?
Economies of scale to how much the venue is making from the artist. In addition to GA tickets, people are buying bottles and celebrating whatever they want.
Larry King: At the festival, you do gimmicky things right? How did that come about?
In 2007 my first time doing Coachella was a huge deal for me. Two years later I played there again and wanted to do something special for the show so I brought in a raft that friends and audience members could surf through the crowd with. Two years later my show evolved and we wanted to do something new so we introduced throwing a cake. The whole point of it is to excite the crowd.
Larry King: Drug use at EDM events? Do EDM shows get a bad rep?
Yes, every single gathering there is some form of drug use. It’s unfortunate that dance music gets the big spotlight.
Larry King: Have you had people get hurt or die at events?
Yes, people have died and overdosed. It concerns me and I want to make sure there is education and awareness on what it means what can happen.
Larry King: Did you ever think of doing anything other than music?
For a long time no. when I was a teenager I thought following my father’s footsteps would be my route. I decided to become vegan while my father was running a steak house and I was into animal rights. I studied women studies which didn’t really make sense to my father. Did a lot of things that didn’t really make sense for me to follow in his footsteps.