How Electric Family grew from a budding collective to a worldwide philanthropic endeavor
In 2012, EDM was utterly inescapable. Dance hits dominated the pop charts. Avicii played Radio City Music Hall. Madonna showed up at Ultra. Previously niche artists rode the furor of their mainstream crossover success into corporate payday territory. Calvin Harris appeared in Pepsi ads. Dubstep became a household word. The sharks smelled blood.
Known for previously fomenting mega mergers between indie competitors, Robert Sillerman knew how to excise a buck–or a billion. Not so subtly, Sillerman began buying up beloved EDM brands like Totem OneLove and Tomorrowland organizers under SFX Entertainment before promptly running it all into the ground. SFX filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and a relatively unscathed Sillerman has since stepped down as CEO, saying “I don’t begrudge the employees’ anger.”
But something else happened in 2012. Three electronic music loving friends made their pilgrimage, convening at Miami’s storied Winter Music Conference. They asked each other: What would it look like to harness that raw, communal energy that uniquely defines the electronic music scene? Could it be distilled down into everyday positivity?
The idea snowballed and they carried it with them back home to California. Abuzz with excitement, they solicited loans from their families and began strategizing to bring their concept to fruition. Seven months later, Electric Family was open for business.
Pictured, left to right: Drew Nilon, Matt Dronkers, and Steve Brudzewski of Electric Family.
In a time of peak EDM bubble speculation when real world super villains like Sillerman are making millions sucking dry once venerated brands, Electric Family is a breath of fresh air. In fact, they are the anti-Sillerman: rather than indulging voguish exclusivity and corporate prospecting, the company operates under the earnest desire to do something good.
“Whether it’s as simple as posting a thoughtful message to social media or as significant as coordinating thousands of fans to package boxes of food for the homeless, we have made it our priority to give back,” says Co-Founder Steve Brudzewski.
Taking cues from philanthropic heavy hitters like Toms and Livestrong, the guys set out to instigate global change at the grassroots level, using their merch to promote daily do-goodery and community. That’s not to mention the $300,000 and counting they’ve raised for charities with their artist-partnered bracelet line.
The process goes like this: A big DJ helps design a bracelet for Electric Family and picks a charitable cause. Then, proceeds from the bracelet’s sale benefit that charity. It’s a simple premise that can make a huge impact. Take their second bracelet — a collaboration with Krewella — which has been their best selling effort to date. The Yousaf sisters chose to partner with “Dance For Paralysis,” an organization that provides equipment and assistance to paralyzed youth.
“Jahan and Yasmine surprised a young man who was paralyzed from the waist down after a stray bullet went through his house window and hit him in the spine,” says Brudzewski. “He was determined to get back on his feet but did not have access to the proper medical equipment. Krewella and Dance For Paralysis showed up on his doorstep in Boston and donated a special medical device valued at over $15,000 that would allow him to realize his dream of getting back on his feet.”
Stories like this cut to the core of what sets this brand apart. Or their capsule collection with OWSLA which came in two extremely limited editions — both of which sold out within hours. To date, the OWSLA collection alone has generated more than $4,000 and counting for disadvantaged producers in developing countries through Bridges for Music. With 50 artist collaborations, there are almost too many stories to count.
From left: Peace and Respect tee in black, the Electric Family Records concept hoodie in army heather
Even as the brand’s reach grows with the release of their fall clothing collection, they remain loyal to promoting the social consciousness they were borne out of. The collection features hoodies, crop tops, and trendy tees emblazoned with positive messages like “Do Good” and “Spread Peace.” Design fans will appreciate the Electric Family Records concept — Brudzewski’s favorite. There’s even a range of broken in dad hats.
But after four years of interfacing with some of the biggest DJs on earth, the trio are still humble as hell. Says Brudzewski of the journey:
“The feeling is absolutely incredible. Making people smile and helping those in need is what keeps us motivated to continue. We are grateful for every artist that has the same desire and shares this passion with our brand.”
From left: Hardwell, Porter Robinson, and Oliver Heldens sporting Electric Family bracelets
Read the full interview below:
Dancing Astronaut: Tell me a little about yourself and your role in the company?
Steve Brudzewski: I was born in Toronto, Ontario in Canada and have been a hockey player most of my life. As I got older and was playing in college at Bowling Green State University and professionally, I always found myself listening to dance music in the locker room. I have always had a passion for music and giving back, but I am extremely happy to be working with so many amazing people who share these same values. I am one of our Co-Founders and I handle artist relations, sales, and business development for the brand.
Drew [Nilon] was born and raised in the Bay Area in California. He is one of our Co-Founders and is currently the CEO for the brand. He is a graduate from Arizona State University and is especially passionate about music, golf, and giving back.
Matt [Dronkers] was also born and raised in the Bay Area in California and grew up with Drew. He is currently our Creative Director and is also a Co-Founder of the brand. He is an extremely talented graphic designer that has over a decade of experience designing and also had his own brand in the past before making the jump to Electric Family.
How did Electric Family get started?
We started off as a group of friends that wanted to do something different within the fashion and dance music scene that wasn’t being done. We came up with the idea to make a bracelet that represents important values for the dance music community. We were inspired by the LIVESTRONG cancer bracelets and looked up to TOMS as an example of a socially conscious brand that we wanted to emulate. In October of 2012, we officially became a business and had our bracelets for sale. It was was really tough getting off the ground – only our friends and family were supporting us. We have now partnered with over 50 different musicians and have donated close to $300,000 to various charities around the world. We have also expanded our clothing and accessory line with plans on investing more time and resources into growing this side of the business. The core mission of Electric Family is to inspire positive action.
Whether it’s as simple as posting a thoughtful message to social media or as significant as coordinating thousands of fans to package boxes of food for the homeless, we have made it our priority to give back what has been given to us.
What is it like collaborating with artists on new bracelet campaigns?
We have over 50 artist collaborations now, and each one involves an amazing story. We go through a design process, and then agree on a charity that supports what the artist is passionate about.One example in particular that stands out is with Krewella. The proceeds from their bracelet benefit the Dance For Paralysis organization, which provides equipment and assistance to individuals with paralysis. In Boston, MA on a Tuesday morning not too long ago, Jahan and Yasmine surprised a young man who was paralyzed from the waist down after a stray bullet went through his house window and hit him in the spine. He was determined to get back on his feet but did not have access to the proper medical equipment. Krewella and Dance For Paralysis showed up on his doorstep and donated a special medical device valued at over $15,000 that would allow him to realize his dream of getting back on his feet.
This is what we are passionate about, and making this happen with our good friends Krewella was an amazing experience.
What is it like working with so many different charitable organizations?
Working with so many charities is a dream come true for us. We meet so many amazing people that are just as passionate as we are to make a positive global impact. The best part is witnessing first hand the lives we are able to positively impact through our work.
What has been the general response to the project from the dance music community at large?
The dance music community is one of the most positive groups of people in the world. It has truly been amazing to feel the love and support from everyone. Fans are now fully behind our movement encouraging their favorite artists to collaborate with us in the efforts to further our mission.
You’ve recently expanded your line from just bracelets to include clothing and gear. How do the new offerings fit into your original priorities of social consciousness?
Each season we bring a new offering of high quality goods to our online store. Our focus outside of charity work has always been to expand the clothing to be distributed in stores worldwide. A lot of streetwear brands were built upon a rebellious mindset. We took the complete opposite approach with positive messaging. All of our clothing stays very consistent with our overall mission. A majority of our graphics will feature some some of positive message and we feel this sets us apart.
Electric Family’s fall collection is now available at the Electric Family online store.