Lighting another Marlboro Red, he says to call him Mikhail, not Mr. LaPushner. As I break out the recorder, he slyly asks me if I’m going to record our conversation. “Of course I am” I tell him. He cracks a smile.
Mikhail LaPushner is the founder and CEO of OneBeat. Today a quick Google search of OneBeat brings up a U.S. State Department initiative, but a second searching brings it up.
OneBeat. The Voice of EDM.
The about page describes OneBeat as “a holistic, fully-integrated media company aligned with the richest cultural experience today-Electronic Dance Music (EDM)," but the OneBeat homepage really tells the story with titles like Keep It Moving, DJ Answers, Newsbeat With Jasmina, The Life Of A GoGo Dancer and YSKMBN (You Should Know Me By Now) flashing across the screen. With reality TV, news, and “behind-the-scenes” programming, OneBeat is clearly more than just about the music. I was intrigued, curious about the possibilities of this venture.
Charismatic and engaging, Mikhail asks me what I think about what’s going on with EDM, and where I want to be in 10 years. Going back and forth, I have to ask him if the interview is for me or for him. Laughing he says, “Oh you know, it’s for both of us!”, seamlessly changing directions towards OneBeat and the genesis of the name. “It’s really exciting, it’s a whole new world. I’m a believer that for the first time in history since tribal times, there is OneBeat--we are in a true global movement. Everybody is drumming; it doesn’t matter what country you’re from.” Perhaps an idealist, but at least Mikhail speaks with conviction and a clear purpose.
“Here I have to read you my mission and vision statement,” he says grabbing his iPhone from the coffee table, making sure to let me know that “this came from the heart.” Putting out his cigarette and clearing his throat he reads:
“The OneBeat mission is that, each individual human being’s heartbeat and soul will be dancing through life in the rhythm of the universe, the one beat of life. We do that by creating, sharing, and telling stories, about the culture of dance music today.” Like a high school valedictorian addressing the class, Mikhail continues with increasing conviction, putting his phone down to light another cigarette. He believes every single word he says, adding, “It’s all about integrity right? The beats have the ultimate integrity. Somebody on some dance floor in the world is going to be dancing to the beat. The beats and the dance floor has the ultimate integrity.”
And maybe that’s why OneBeat will work, if integrity is the focus and the intention. Perhaps a show like Newsbeat could be a great program in the vein of the old Kurt Loder/MTV News days. With a dearth of quality reporting plaguing EDM, another professionally-funded and operated platform could be a great step forward. And since we’re far beyond the days of the faceless rave DJ, we could certainly get on board with shows like DJ Answers where “OneBeat sits down with an elite EDM (electronic dance music) artist for a little Q and A. Premier DJ's from around the world answer our questions and reveal the personality behind the public persona.” It's the sort of thing the current generations eats right up, but maybe that’s something old-school ravers don’t get? For those of us from the MTV generation, watching TRL religiously, trying to catch every Say What? Karaoke or going “behind-the-scenes” was mesmerizing and addictive.
But MTV isn’t what it used to be. Carson Daily now hosts The Voice on NBC and TRL is no more. Ask a junior high student what Say What? Karaoke is and they’ll look at you sideways. MTV has made little effort to cater to the EDM generation with minimal coverage beyond their MTV Clubland property. There’s a void.
Could OneBeat fill that void?
“It’s story-telling even though the story is the dance floor. We have world-class artists, world-class labels, promoters, managers, but where’s the behind the scenes for this generation’s music? Where’s the story about the world, the culture?”
Animated and impassioned, LaPushner is barely able to contain his excitement as he discusses his creative process, the yin-yang, the global dance movement and OneBeat, his newborn EDM-focused media platform. Like a conductor orchestrating the different instrument sections in the midst of a symphony, LaPushner draws disparate connections and brings ideas together to form his point. “It’s a whole new world out there” he says with a twinkle in his eye.
And the world of today that LaPushner describes, is about relationships and collaboration between the music makers and their community. “All pop music in history, from Mozart through U2 has been a linear experience; I perform, you listen. Now in the world of dance music or EDM with the DJ booth, there’s us, fans, it’s different. If we’re not there, it doesn’t happen… With the DJ, our relationship is different , we’re vibe-ing and it doesn’t stop until they shut down the club, and then we just go to the next club. It’s not about you and me, that’s what everybody else is not getting or understanding about this world. It’s not about me or you. Without all of it, it doesn’t happen, and not a lot of people get that. At OneBeat, we get that.”
Along with co-founder and chief creative officer Joseph Kanellitsas (previously Vice-President of VH1/MTV On-Air-Creative Promotions), the two have set out to harness the cultural impact, tell the stories, and invite people into the world of EDM on a global basis. “The EDM culture is a content maker's dream, with a global mix of the most interesting personalities and characters in pop culture today,” A key part of their plan, is a partnership inked with Microsoft. OneBeat will use the the XBOX Live brand and platform to reach millions, delivering it on a global scale. In February of 2012, Microsoft revealed that the online gaming network had reached over 40 million subscribers. Don’t be mistaken, the partnership is a game-changer for EDM’s commercial viability, and it could set up OneBeat to become the leader of it all.
Some people deny it all together, some people think we’re in it right now, and some think it’s passed us by, but Mikhail LaPushner and OneBeat believe that EDM has yet to see its best days. With the sheer magnitude of blogs and publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic covering the growing EDM movement, OneBeat comes on the scene just as billions are being poured into the scene.
Will OneBeat’s strategy expand EDM or ultimately destroy it?
Although the recent media and commercial focus has been on big-time DJs, we, the members of this scene, have yet to see real content surrounding the people creating the scene. But are OneBeat's shows like Keep it Movin' or The Life Of A GoGo Dancer just mimicking the commercial success of reality TV? Is this the kind of attention the scene needs? Just recently, the LA Times quoted San Bernadino city attorney James Penman saying "The city should have zero tolerance for any activity where drugs are an integral part," Penman continued. "A rave without drugs is like a rodeo without horses. They don't happen.” And every raver should be familiar with the RAVE Act. It's a fair concern for those of us who have held the scene so dearly; to be wary is natural, but like rock and jazz of bygone eras, is this EDM’s time to be recognized as a real force in today’s global music scene? Can OneBeat be the voice of EDM? Only time will tell.
So perhaps LaPushner will be the one to lead the charge. “You know I’ve been doing this a long time,” LaPushner says, referencing his life-long love affair with dance music, time as a promoter, and many trips to Burning Man, possibly differentiating himself from his counterparts.
“Here’s our contribution. We’re a content company and we have some amazing content coming out. Artists, fans, scripted and non-scripted, about the DJs, about it all. It’s about the culture. We’re putting up our own capital and we’re a part of this world.”