Hot Seat: Lorne Padman, Vice President/Label Manager – Dim Mak
For veteran dance music exec Lorne Padman, the beat goes on in another corner of the world. After nine years with Vicious Recordings, Padman last year made the leap across the Pacific and into an executive position at Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak. Now based in L.A., Padman reports to the label’s President Lee Kurisu and its owner/founder Steve Aoki, the high-profile deck-master who came in at No. 8 in DJ Magazine’s recent Top 100 DJs poll. At Melbourne-based Vicious, Padman served in various functions, from Label Manager, Radio & TV Plugger, and Artist Management, and was part of the initial development team for some major dance brands including Avicii, The Potbelleez, Dirty South & Angger Dimas. In this, his most extensive interview since taking the new job, Padman gives an insiders look into America’s exploding EDM business, and offers some words of advice.
Lorne, what does your job entail?
I primarily manage 14 staff and interns at our Hollywood office under direction from Founder Steve Aoki and President Lee Kurisu and travel a little for functions and festivals around the U.S. The main focus of my role requires me to apply my diplomacy and attention-to-detail skills to the staff whose tasks I manage. Though the opportunities are boundless in terms of the numerous people we interact with for events, branding, sponsorship, marketing and on recordings. Rolling with Steve Aoki has been eye-opening to say the least, as it’s customary to engage in down-to-Earth conversations with otherwise inaccessible celebrities and influencers. Even without Steve in tow, the Dim Mak “badge” is the biggest door opener I’ve ever known.
At the Electronic Music Conference in 2012, Tiesto said he employed a team of 35 fulltime staff. Will yours ever challenge that?
Yes, it’s part of the plan to bring in talent when the demand presents itself. Dim Mak has had the most successful quarter in the 17 year history of the label, so the trajectory is defiantly skywards.
How did your gig come about?
Dim Mak’s celebrated history has been driven by super motivated employees — many of whom have Dim Mak tattoos — whose first job here was as an intern. Aoki’s new vision is to capitalise on the worldwide rise of EDM by bringing in key staff with strong backgrounds that can support these über talented staff and take the label to the next level. That first started with the mastermind Lee Kurisu who ran Thrive Records for 11 years and one of the most respected, up-and-coming publicists in America, John Ochoa. Steve told me he’d spent 6 months searching globally, and appointed me as the “final puzzle piece”; there’s elements of being Dim Mak’s diplomatic leader and someone who has literally served every function in the building from artist signing and management to audio and video editing, legals and artwork. When he called me in Melbourne, I seriously thought he was asking me for someone I knew in L.A. who would be right for the role and I was quite surprised when he said “no man, I want you!”
You’ve been in the States for four months now. What are your thoughts on the “EDM” landscape over there?
“Bigger than Ben Hur!” It’s on a scale hard to mentally visualise until you are immersed in it. I feel the “DJ-as-a-rock-star culture” is heavily reinforced over here because if you think about it, years ago bands like The Beatles for example were “popular” music, which was shortened to “pop” music. What’s popular right now around the world is Dance music. So the Dance music creators being producers and the Dance music performers being DJs are now the new “pop-ular” stars. The EDM landscape here is serving as a platform for these popular producer and performers, and the demand is in the shape of hordes of fans switching on to an exciting new movement in their eyes.
Considering the EDM business got so big so quick, many observers are trying to predict when the “bubble will burst”. What are your thoughts?
No chance. The new generation of 15-year-olds over here are primarily listening to “entry level” commercial Dance music and the pre-drinking age 18-year-olds are listening to “cooler” Dance music, but its all Dance music, as opposed to Urban or Rock. So America is building a Dance Music “Army.” And with massive players like SFX investing so heavily, its only going to keep expanding
Is “EDM” a bad word?
No, it’s perfectly suited to categorise what it is. No one had a problem with Rhythm & Blues becoming R&B? We’ll look back on this era like we do on those of the rock n roll, disco and pop eras of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s as the era where Dance music had become so prevalent it demanded its own category.
There are few Aussies working in the U.S. music business, and likewise few Americans back here. Any tips on how an exec can make that leap Stateside.
Not discounting the amount work that needs to go into learning a whole new market, the similarities between our cultures are boundless so it really can be a smooth transition. And although the contacts and radio frequency on the dial changes, I believe it’s the underlying skill set of “systems and processes” that are critical to success. When I moved from Perth to Melbourne 10 years ago, I was told Melbourne is a big city, but if you know the right people, it’s a small city. I’m finding that the same for L.A. – it’s not as daunting as you’d think. So my biggest tip is that your chances of success are enhanced greatly if you have an outgoing personality, a genuinely engaging nature and are prepared to put yourself out there, as this is absolutely a networking-town filled with others who are willing to go the extra mile for you.
We’ve seen a handful of homegrown artists go and make a name for themselves in the U.S. — Tommy Trash, Stafford Brothers. Do you need to be based over there to make it happen? Do you need the right haircut and a “six-pack”?
Yes, most definitely. There’s no substitute for being on the ground, creating personal connections and vibing with other key influencers and players who can help your network. Even when you have a big song that cuts through, it can only be made much bigger by being in the faces of strategic amplifiers. Tommy is a great example of someone forming an amazing U.S. strong team around him, giving him the foundations for lift off. Dirty South is another being accepted as a bona fide U.S. player on the ground and the Stafford Brothers have made a name for themselves by networking their arses off and enjoy a well-deserved reputation of holding the most epic parties in L.A. Oh and as for the having the haircut and “six-pack” – yes, a good hair cut is mandatory, “six-pack” optional.