Artist post of the month: How Swedish House Mafia became rockstars
The return of iconic trio Swedish House Mafia in March marked not just a seminal moment in dance music history, but also the reunion of the first ever act to have elevated themselves above the pantheons of a ‘DJ’ or ‘Producer’ tag. Since their inception a decade or so ago, the names Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso have steadily grown in stature, with the triplet of performers gaining ‘Rockstar’ like status. Whilst many electronic music performers come and go both readily and frequently – others stake their claim for a place in folklore by cementing their spot at the upper echelons of the industry for prolonged periods. The double-decade spans of acts like Carl Cox, Paul van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold, Armin van Buuren or Tiësto a prime example of this.
But others – go even beyond that level, merging the realms between the dance industry, and bona fide music legends. For EDM lovers, these names are now the modern equivalent to Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Freddie Mercury. So what made the Swedish House Mafia project just SO big? Why are this trio thought of SO highly? And how did the snowball effect of this EDM juggernaut impact the rest of the scene so vividly? This is how Swedish House Mafia became bigger than just DJs, and truly built an empire for themselves.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
To say that the 20th-anniversary celebrations of Ultra were somewhat overshadowed by the impending Swedish House Mafia reunion would be something of an understatement, which in itself, offers a hint of the trio’s size in the industry. Arguably the biggest and most iconic festival in the calendar, Ultra attracted a stellar cast for their 2018 edition, with the likes of Hardwell, Tiesto, and Armin van Buuren all in attendance on the main stage. But with all respect to their Dutch counterparts, the aura of the Scandinavians is something wholly unrivaled across the dance music spectrum.
The popular phrase ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ has certainly never been truer than in the form of Ax, Seb, and Steve – who had somehow actually managed to grow even bigger – in their 5 years apart, and 6 since their last release (‘Don’t You Worry Child’ in 2012). Sure, the latter continued to grow his solo presence with iconic shows at Printworks, and the release of his highly anticipated ‘Human’ album, whilst the former blitzed all before them as a duo with headline shows at Tomorrowland, and their own Ushuaia Ibiza residency, but the hidden ingredient for both acts’ success seemed to rest on the attendance of the other.
Social Media rumors
By the time Steve had ‘followed’ his former pals across social media again at Christmas time, rumors began to circulate. And when a series of SHM posters magically appeared in the Wynwood Art District on the Miami streets on the Saturday afternoon of Ultra, rumors transformed themselves into fever pitch excitement. The final day of Ultra was spent with nervous ravers asking one another if it was true, and in honesty, the day’s events were overshadowed by the anticipation of the 10 pm ‘Special Guest’ slot. With more and more atmospheric fog being pumped into the audience, the main rail of the stage, which separates the left and right sides for crowd control purposes had become a catwalk for a who’s who of dance music talent.
By the time the crew also strolled up to their spots on the viewing deck, led by SHM manager Amy Thomson; with the crew all wearing special limited edition SHM merchandise, the pin was poking firmly at the balloon stuffed with EDM’s biggest secret, and soon popped, as a crane from the sky of the main stage delivered a concealed box down to the now supremely elevated stage. As the opening chords of the aptly chosen ‘Miami 2 Ibiza’ rippled through the crowd, the box lifted back up to unveil three familiar figures who had been delivered by private police escort to the audience, standing high above their crowd. Figuratively, their position gave them the look of Gods scanning over their earthly children, and soon, millions of cries and prayers were answered as Axwell bellowed his familiar introduction to the crowd – albeit it with a slight 2018 twist.
“My name is Axwell, this is Sebastian Ingrosso, and this is Steve Angello, and Miami… You know… We are the Swedish House Mafia.”
By the time Steve Angello’s ‘Remember’ accompanied a series of emotional flashback images on the LED screens to the glory days between the trio, and a wealth of ‘video diary’ style personal shots of the three in the studio and relaxing together on beaches and in the back of cars, Miami was experiencing the first sight of wet weather all week, as copious amounts of tears began to drench the sun-soaked night sky. By the time the set was over, and an emotional Ax had told the crowd that: “This time… Swedish House Mafia is for life.” Their status as the first, and last, rock stars of EDM, was firmly cemented.
For all aspiring DJs and producers, the Swedish House Mafia offer the pinnacle, a shining example, of how to market yourself to create maximum interest from the public. Through secretive social media activity, and a series of slight, teasing hints, the trio ensured that their comeback was an event that will be remembered by the dance music community forever. The move also paves the way for high-revenue future tours, events, and music bearing the name of their brand.