Kygo hit one billion streams on Spotify faster than any other musician on earth — in just over a year. And the DJ did it without writing a song or even releasing an album.
Smash hits like “Stole the Show,” “Stay” and his remix of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” are all over the radio and are helping Kygo sell out concerts across the globe.
“People don’t really listen to albums anymore. They just find good songs,” Kygo, whose real name is Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll, tells me at rehearsals for his sold-out show at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
DJs are often mocked as musicians just pushing buttons on a stage, but Kygo is part of the growing breed of successful DJs who are also talented producers
Kygo has been playing the piano since he was six years old. His formula for creating a hit is transforming a song’s lyrics with his unique tropical-sounding melody.
Electronic dance music is now a $6 billion market, and the world’s biggest music labels have been quick to sign EDM DJs like Kygo, David Guetta and Avicii.
This genre isn’t all twenty-somethings. Patrick Moxey is a thirty-year veteran of the electronic music scene and the founder Ultra, the Sony label that signed Kygo.
The music industry is fighting the rise of streaming, but Moxey says it’s missing the point.
“Four or five singles out and we’re selling out a huge venue like Barclays Center,” Moxey told me at his Manhattan office. “It’s a tribute to the way the relationship has changed between artists and music and the fans through the Internet.”
Just a couple of years ago, Kygo was studying for a business degree in Scotland and uploading his mixes to YouTube and SoundCloud. He plans to continue with online music services, even if they’re giving away his music for free.
“Streaming is so key,” Kygo’s 22-year-old manager Myles Shear said. “That’s been our avenue. That’s how we built our brand and we’ve been able to sell so many tickets.”
Kygo says he respects Taylor Swift and Adele, who have taken their music off of streaming services to lure people into paying for the album. But his goal is not to one day get that big.
“I really like streaming services,” he said. “It’s a great way for people to find your music.
Kygo and the machine behind him want hits spreading everywhere online to attract people to his concerts — where they make most of their money.
At his Barclays Center concert, there’s a spectacular light show and a surreal amount of LED screens.
The allure of the DJ-as-performer becomes clearer: Kygo opens the show playing piano and then bring outs each of the singers of his hit songs to perform for nearly 20,000 people.
As he stands gazing out at the crowd, even Kygo seems taken aback by his success.
“I never in my life thought I would be playing venues like this,” he tells the audience. “And it’s all thanks to you guys.”