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Behind the EDM Explosion: Connecting to Fans Online, Offline and On-Air

05/10/2013 03:37 pm ET | Updated Jul 10, 2013

A quick look at recent top music festival lineups shows just how popular electronic dance music (EDM) has become - Wolfgang Gartner, deadmau5, Steve Aoki, Calvin Harris, Flux Pavilion, Baauer and Pretty Lights are just some of the DJs making the rounds at events such as Coachella, the iHeartRadio Music Festival, Lollapalooza, SXSW and Bonnaroo.

While DJs have appeared at major festivals in past years, this year's lineups signal a major shift as EDM - once fodder for after-parties - moves to the main stages. And EDM artists are proving they can draw their own crowds: this year's electronic-only Ultra Music Festival was bigger than ever - 330,000 EDM enthusiasts descended on downtown Miami and for the first time the event spanned two weekends. Throughout the year, artists like Swedish House Mafia, Avicii, David Guetta, Tiësto, Afrojack and Kaskade are earning millions packing clubs and arenas around the world.

As a group, EDM artists are wildly active online. Social media has given these artists an opportunity to create and build a public identity that matches their musical style and live performances; top DJs have hundreds of thousands - even millions - of Twitter followers.

EDM artists have found similar success on radio. Historically, the genre has been relegated to late-night programming, but now there are entire broadcast stations, podcasts and online streaming channels dedicated exclusively to EDM, exposing EDM artists to millions of new listeners and potential fans, as radio continues to be the main source for music discovery.

iHeartRadio recently launched Evolution, an online station hosted by iconic English DJ Pete Tong, the man behind BBC Radio 1's renowned Essential Mix radio show. The station is a programming playground - where Tong and others showcase tracks from new and established EDM artists. Evolution was so popular - it became the No. 1 digital-only station on iHeartRadio in its first week - that EDM-only broadcast stations launched in Boston (Evolution 101.7) and Miami (Evolution 93.5).

The EDM fan base is also less splintered than it once was; listeners used to devote themselves to specific genres - such as trance or drum 'n' bass. Now EDM's influence is easy to spot in pop, hip-hop, rock and other genres thanks to frequent collaborations and an online culture that loves remixes - witness Baauer with hip-hop producer Just Blaze on the track "Higher," and Skrillex with A$AP Rocky on the Harlem rapper's new album. Avicii was joined onstage at Ultra by country legend Mac Davis (famous for hits like "Little Less Conversation"), singer/songwriter Audra Mae, bluegrass artist Dan Tyminski and members of alt-rock band Incubus, all of whom will be on Avicii's debut album.

While Avicii's Ultra performance confused some fans and generated some backlash, this musical fusion is only natural. DJs will continue to go after opportunities to reach new listeners in new ways - on the radio, online, or perhaps even at a country music show. Artists who aren't afraid to take risks to reach new fans are the ones who last.