[Editorial] Did Tiësto Single-Handedly Build A Foundation For EDM Back In 2011?


In January 2011, MixMag announced Tiësto as the ‘greatest DJ of all time. There’ll always be debate as to who deserves the title, but if Tiësto skeptics felt the label premature, the tastemaker certainly increased his stock over the course of the next twelve months when he had what just might be the greatest year an EDM DJ has ever had in America. Tiësto’s 2011 campaign arguably changed the face of dance music as we know it in the U.S.

When the calendars turned over on 2010, a young up-and-coming DJ by the name of Hardwell boasted a Twitter following of just over 10,000. Recapping 2010, Hardwell failed to eclipse the ranks of DJ Mag’s top-100 poll. On February 7th, 2011 Tiësto launched Hardwell’s career into superstardom with a collaborative release of “Zero 76”. With the help of his fellow Dutchman, Hardwell broke onto the DJ Mag list in 2011, claiming the No. 24 position. Since his explosion into the mainstream, Hardwell has sat comfortably as DJ Mag’s No. 1 DJ for the last two years. Can Tiësto take credit for Hardwell’s entire career-to-date? Probably not. But what if “Zero 76” never happened?

In March, 2011 Tiësto continued his production with two notable releases: “Beautiful World”, a collaboration with house legend Mark Knight, and a remix of Katy Perry’s “ET”. The month was capped by a headline performance at Ultra Music Festival in Miami; the festival’s final year at Bicentennial Park and also the year in which Ultra recorded their major motion picture “Can U Feel It” with Tiësto as the main event.

On April 5th, 2011, Tiësto released his debut ‘Club Life mix compilation, Club Life Vol. 1: Las Vegas. This was his first mix album since the conclusion of the In Search of Sunrise series in 2008. The compilation featured his collaboration with Hardwell, in addition to other significant up-and-comers including Diplo and Dada Life. Three months later, we would all become overly-familiarized with a piano melody called “Levels”, but before Avicii broke the radio, he released “Blessed” under the pseudonym ‘Tom Hangs on Tiësto’s CLV1.

Fast-forward to 2012. Closing out his DJ set at New York’s Electric Zoo festival, Tiësto debuts a track called “Cannonball” by Showtek. At this point, Showtek hadn’t even played it. At this point, everyone thought Showtek were hardstyle producers – or did they? While New York celebrated Showtek’s ‘coming out’ party in the EDM world, Tiësto thought back to May 25th, 2011, when he released the single “We Rock” on CLV1. The artist credited with the release was Boys Will Be Boys, which happened to be a name Tiësto used to collaborate with Showtek and Angger Dimas. Tiësto knew that Showtek was going to play a significant role in the emergence of mainstream EDM more than a year before the rest of us did.

May and June were highlighted by 3 headline performances. On May 27th, Tiësto played EDC Orlando and was subsequently selected to top the bill at EDC’s first ever Las Vegas event on June 24th. Finally, he closed out the month of June with a somewhat-surprising headline appearance at Electric Forest.

Tiësto played Electric Zoo on September 2nd and finally released his highly-anticipated single “Maximal Crazy” on September 9th. He had been closing out his live sets with the track for six months and the release came with rave reviews.

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Next, the $150 million Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, which was also one for the record books. On October 8th, 2011, Tiësto hosted the largest DJ event in American history. Now-a-days, we’re impressed when a 100+ act lineup sells 100,000 tickets, but in 2011, Tiësto sold 26,000 as the sole headliner for the show. The event was covered in print by the L.A. Times and was the final stop on Tiësto’s 2011 college tour. During the tour, he received support from both Diplo and Dada Life, but his touring-opener was a relatively unknown DJ named Porter Robinson. Five months prior to playing the Home Depot Center with Tiësto, Porter boasted a slim Facebook following of 14,305. Five months after the landmark show, his Facebook likes had eclipsed 143,000.

Tiësto wrapped up his year with a few releases and the continual rise of his label Musical FreedomOn November 15th, he collaborated with American DJ Steve Aoki on a track called “Tornado“. Like Hardwell, Aoki missed the DJ Mag Top 100 in 2010, but made his mark in 2011 (after working with Tiësto) when he debuted on the chart at No. 42. Lastly, the release of the ‘Hardwell Rework’ of “Love Comes Again”, one of Tiësto’s most legendary tunes.

From February 2011 to February 2012, Tiësto’s Twitter followers increased from 318,000 to 900,000. His Facebook following jumped by 4,000,000 in the same timeframe. I’m not going to try to argue that Tiësto is responsible for the careers of Hardwell, Porter Robinson, Avicii, Diplo, Dada Life, Showtek and Steve Aoki, but it’s obvious that he touched all of their lives at a pivotal moment in EDM.

MixMag called him the greatest of all time, but maybe his greatness was just about to happen. There’s no doubt that what Tiësto accomplished in 2011 was beyond expectation, but was it the most important year in EDM? There’s no way to know what would have been different without it.

Disclaimer: Sentiments expressed throughout this thought piece is solely based upon personal perspective and does not represent EDMTunes as a whole nor any other author’s POV.