Resident Advisor was never meant to become one of the most read and respected electronic-music publications around. At least that wasn't the intention of its founders — a pair of Aussies named Nick Sabine and Paul Clement.
"We started RA to write about music that we love," Sabine says. "It wasn't really more in-depth than that in terms of original thinking."
The music they loved was progressive house, a still relatively niche genre in 2001. Fifteen years later, the genre has grown in popularity, in parallel — though not on par — with the EDM boom.
But even as seemingly everyone else acquiesced to EDM trends, Sabine insists the ethos of RA never faltered. "From the beginning, we wanted someplace on the internet to write about music that we like and to do it in a way that wasn't at all compromised," he says. "We wanted to give an independent opinion about the music we were into."
For Clement and Sabine, RA wasn't — at first — a way to make money but a way to express themselves. It wasn't as a means to an end but an end in itself.
That aspect is probably best examined in the founders' hesitancy to quit their day jobs. For the first four and a half years after they launched RA, Sabine worked in an ad agency, and Clement stayed in design. A small team of editors and a salesperson handled RA most of the day. The founders gave it some attention after hours and on the side. "It didn't take much time out of us back then," Sabine says. But that would soon change.
As the years passed and traffic picked up, the two were faced with a choice: stay at their jobs or go all in. They quit in 2006 and opened their first offices in Berlin a year later.
Slowly but surely, RA became a pivotal voice in a growing community. Sabine attributes this success to its independence and objectivity. "That independent voice of RA was really what we stood for," he says. "It's the most important aspect of RA and what we're the proudest of."
RA is split into three sections: magazine, events, and music. Sabine speaks of independence in the magazine, but not in the events and music sections, where venues, promoters, DJs, and labels are encouraged to populate their own pages with information for partygoers and fans.
"The option to have a straight blog wasn't really there back then," Sabine says of RA's early days. "Otherwise, we probably would have just done that. But we were sort of forced to build a website and have these other services."
RA's ticketing platform — which has become one of its best-known and most lucrative features — eventually emerged from the other services. "We didn't realize at the time how significant it would be," Sabine says, "but it's gone on to be a significant component of our business."
As EDM began its boom at the end of the 2000s, a number of publications emerged to capitalize on the trend. RA, on the other hand, hardly touched it. "It wasn't some calculated decision," Sabine says. "It's just that we've always written about what we like, and none of us at RA were particularly interested in EDM." So while other publications came and went (or lost their respect in the community), RA remained.
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"Honestly, I see EDM and our world as two separate worlds," Sabine says. "Obviously, there's some crossover, but they really are quite separate."
Nonetheless, Sabine appreciates EDM and thinks the genre will have an overwhelmingly positive effect on electronic music.
"Give it five years," he says, "and electronic music as a whole will look back upon the EDM boom in a hugely positive light. Even if just 10 percent of those people decide to dig a little bit deeper, that will be millions of people, and those people will go on to discover new artists, labels, and types of music... This all brings great energy to the scene."
RA at Art Basel with Floating Points, DâM-FunK, and the Black Madonna. 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 30, at the Factory at Magic City Studios, 6300 NE Fourth Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $25 to $55 via residentadvisor.net.