Q’s With Stephanie LaFera: WME’s Head Of Dance On Black Coffee, ’23’s Wins & More

Stephanie LaFera Headshot
Stephanie LaFera (Courtesy of WME)

Dance music is having its moment in 2023, with some of the genre’s top artists closing out major festivals and headlining iconic arenas. WME’s head of electronic music, Stephanie LaFera, has also had major wins throughout the year. Her client Black Coffee became the first South African musician to headline Madison Square Garden, where he sold out the venue and was joined by a full orchestra.

LaFera first joined the agency at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She went into the office for her first day of work and was shortly told that WME would be shutting it down for the time being. Despite the unorthodox start, she’s helped put the agency on the electronic music map, working with She Is The Music and connecting other women in electronic music, both on stage and behind the scenes, with one another. Prior to joining WME, LaFera worked as an artist manager with clients including Moby, Rufus Wainwright and more. She also owned her own management company, Little Empire Music, for 16 years. Over the last three years, her clients have continued to dominate the genre.

From Miami Music Week to King Charles III’s coronation, WME’s dance department has made its mark within the last year. Their artist, Reinier Zonneveld, broke the world record for longest electronic live set after playing for 11 hours and 11 minutes during the inaugural Karren Maar festival in Arnhem, Netherlands on Aug. 5 and was awarded the Guinness World Record on site. He began playing at 12:49 p.m., finishing precisely at midnight in front of a crowd of 15,000, performing only his own music throughout the entirety of the set.

Representing acts such as Martin Garrix (who also made history this year, selling out four nights at famed New York nightclub The Brooklyn Mirage), Peggy Gou, LP Giobbi, SOFI TUKKER, Gryffin, and Eric Prydz among others, WME’s dance music department contains a strong roster across all of dance music’s subgenres, including progressive house, drum and bass, house, techno and more.

Pollstar: The dance music department has made a lot of major moves this year, including Black Coffee headlining Madison Square Garden. What have been some of the moments you were most excited about?
Stephanie LaFera: It has certainly been a busy year here for our department – our team was so proud of Black Coffee’s historic sold-out show at Madison Square Garden last month, and there’s been countless other monumental moments. A few of the most memorable for me were Martin Garrix’s four sold-out shows at The Brooklyn Mirage (the first time an artist has accomplished that feat at that venue), the massive success of Eric Prydz’s “Holo” tour across the globe, Gryffin’s iconic Red Rocks shows and Pete Tong playing the Ibiza classics at the British king’s Coronation Concert (per the king’s request). On top of it all, Reinier Zonneveld breaking the world record for longest electronic live set was really exciting news.

The king’s coronation is a pretty big deal. How did that come about, and what were the logistics in setting that up?
Our team in London approached the BBC about the idea and was immediately met with a resounding “yes.” Each act then had to be approved by King Charles and the royal family, who agreed that the Ibiza classics was a perfect fit for the momentous occasion. It was a true team effort throughout the entire process and I’m so proud of what a success it was.

What are some other highs this year?
The first thing that comes to mind is all our client’s great Ibiza residencies this past year – we had over a dozen different artists there this summer including Black Coffee, Calvin Harris, Seth Troxler, The Martinez Brothers and Eric Prydz. We were also excited to expand to global representation of Peggy Gou this year; she’s had huge success with her No. 1 worldwide hit song “It Goes Like (Nanana),” and captivated audiences at festivals like Lollapalooza Stockholm, EDC Mexico and Sónar Barcelo, and there’s many exciting things to come from her next year. Other highs for me were SOFI TUKKER’s iconic performances at Coachella, Governors Ball, and their headline show at Red Rocks. LP Giobbi is also going on a nearly sold-out live tour with sold-out after-parties later this fall, and we are very excited about all her success – that tour is going to be an amazing way to carry us into 2024.

LP Giobbi has also had a big ’23, and she even did a remix of Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer.” It’s great seeing more female acts take center stage in such a male-dominated genre. Who are some other women you’re really excited about right now?
In addition to LP, we have some amazing women on our roster really taking off. Miss Monique is a superstar, everyone wants to book her right now! Other stars across the electronic subgenres are TOKiMONSTA, Coco & Breezy, Maddy O’Neal, Honeyluv and Sara Landry, who sold out her New York show within minutes of the onsale. They each have incredible plans for 2024 – keep your eyes open!

What are you most looking forward to for next year?
We are seeing electronic music festivals thriving at the moment, and they’ll only grow in 2024. These festivals are consistently selling out and I’m looking forward to seeing so many on our roster dominating those stages. We also signed quite a few emerging artists this year that we are excited to support in 2024 and help further develop their careers: Carlita, Honeyluv, Sara Landry, Patrick Mason, Ahmed Spins, Miss Monique and Syreeta (again, just to name a few). Coco & Breezy are also about to go on their huge debut North American tour from January through April.

For the genre as a whole, what do you believe were some key moments so far in 2023?
It was another strong year for electronic music at crossover festivals like Coachella (where the genre was featured across every single stage), and you can really see how the hunger for the genre is continuing to grow globally. EDC Las Vegas was certainly a key moment; we had over 10 clients playing at the festival and even more performing in the city throughout that weekend. I think Ultra Music Festival and Miami Music Week was another strong moment for the genre – we booked over 110 shows for more than 40 clients throughout the entirety of Miami Music Week! Any chance for so many in this industry to get together like that is always a key moment for me.