As dance music fans sift through streaming services to find the latest sounds, changed “music” to “sounds” to prevent rep with “dance music” new channel operators have emerged to help — and billions are watching.
At 20 years old, Andre Benz may not be old enough to get into clubs or order a beer. But during the past five years he has become one of the most powerful tastemakers in electronic music, combing through new tracks and featuring favorites on his YouTube channels Trap Nation, Chill Nation and Rap Nation, which he launched in high school.
“By the end of senior year I was already making enough capital to hire employees and expand,” says Benz, whose channels count a combined 20 million subscribers — more than Spotify’s most popular playlist — while Trap Nation alone has logged nearly 5 billion views. Benz now has eight full-time employees and three part-time contractors in a Los Angeles office he opened in 2016 and has begun signing artists to Lowly Palace, his in-house label. Earlier in June, a Trap Nation-branded art car rolled through the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) in Las Vegas.
Benz is one of a handful of music curators raking in ad revenue from YouTube while growing their brands offline, as music fans hunt for new favorites amid the platform’s vast sea of content. While other streamers tout curators such as Apple Music’s Zane Lowe and Spotify’s Tuma Basa, YouTube has bred a more mysterious crew of music connoisseurs, whose operations are ballooning along with YouTube’s global user base of over 1 billion. A typical music-curation channel with 10 million subscribers can generate about $125,000 a month, or $1.5 million a year, in ad revenue, while some top curators are now earning 30 percent of their money from offline ventures, sources tell Billboard.