Don’t Panic! Five Reasons the EDM Ship Isn’t Sinking
Just a couple days ago, I underwent a bit of minor surgery which sidelined me from writing or listening to any dance music. In my painkiller induced stupor, I could only read and think. What particularly struck me when I was perusing message boards, blog comments, and soundcloud discourse was how doom and gloom everything seems to be. Electronic music has for the last five years been my world, I produce, I DJ, I write and interview, and most of all I love to dance. Yet, my world doesn’t seem to be crashing down around me, in fact things haven’t really seemed to change all that much.
Sure there’s a whole celebrity bandwagon that’s barreling around the corner, eager to capitalize on EDM’s swift rise to popularity in the United States. But really what does that mean to me, or to the artists, or really to anyone for that matter? Yeah, Ultra 2014 tickets early birds sold out in minutes and were replaced with $500 GA’s. So, what? I’ve never been to Ultra, I’ve never been to EDC, unless you count EDC Denver when we still had the festival. I didn’t really have plans to attend any big festivals this year anyways, I’m broke as a joke. But really, can anyone tell me why the music I love so dearly is going to die? I’ve heard a lot of complaining lately and a lot of prophecies of doom… but then again I’ve been hearing it for the last five years too.
So I’m coming off my sick bed to argue what I think is a very important point. The EDM ship isn’t sinking… dance music isn’t dead, nor is it dying. Sure things are changing… they always are. But for the last 30 years electronically created music has been on an ebb and flow, to think that the state of our scene right now can change or destroy that… That’s plain silly and here’s why.
1. The Cynics and The Haters Always Speak the Loudest.
Before I started writing for Your EDM, I didn’t take criticism very well. I always do my damned best to make sure my work is the best quality it can be and to make sure it reflects who I am and what I believe. However, it became quickly apparent that a lot of people on the internet absolutely despise me and my stupid-awful opinions on a core level. Even when I thought I put out my best piece ever, captain keyboard commando would be there to remind me how inbred I was and that I should never ever for the sake of humanity write again.
This doesn’t bother me anymore, not in the slightest. But what I have noticed is that anytime we’d report something like ‘Paris Hilton’s New Album to Be Produced By Afrojack’, we’d get tons of comments and messages saying things along the lines of EDM is dead, house music is dead, everything is awful and I’m about to go take a bath with my toaster. Let’s be real, stories like that tend to generate publicity, negative news sells and the most radical voices are the ones that drown out the content murmurs of the larger whole. The most pessimistic voices seem to ring out the loudest, but this simply isn’t an indicator of the reality. The Westboro Baptist Church, for example get’s an absurd amount of press time for being like 30 people who are mostly related (in the creepiest borderline illegal way possible) to one another. But this brings me into my next point, just like singular voices don’t speak for the whole, individual artists alone cannot make or break a scene let alone an entire movement of music.
2. No one can single handedly destroy a genre let alone the entire scene.
I remember back when I was a Sophomore, around 2010-2011- during the rise of Complextro and other sorts of multisound craziness- hearing a new name. My friends had just come back from a Deadmau5 show one night at The Fillmore in Denver and were absolutely raving about the opening act. Of course, the opener was none other than Skrillex who at the time was basically no one. After looking him up and finding he was none other than Sonny Moore of From First to Last, I gave his debut EP a listen through. I wasn’t quite sold at first, but his sound nonetheless fascinated me. It was fresh and different and after a while I was a solid Skrillex fanboy, I’m coming clean right now. Brostep as it came to be blew up in my town of Boulder and it was near impossible to avoid hearing Skrillex and Rusko tracks just about anywhere you went, (hell I even got a haircut to O.M.G once, on loop- yes it took that long, I’m a girl about my hair). Then, something happened.
Every producer I knew in Boulder and the world at large was trying to emulate Skrill’s sound design and arrangement. UKF Dubstep was in its prime and even I couldn’t seem to put enough filth into my ear holes, which were otherwise reserved for House. Message boards I would frequent, which were full of Future Garage enthusiasts and blue in the blood UK Dubstep fans however were far less than pleased with this development. People began to turn against the sudden popular rise of this new sound, which many felt missed the point of the original movement, (in many ways they were right). The phrase Skrillex killed dubstep was thrown around to the point where it could have been used as a greeting, “Hi how’s it going? Skrillex killed Dubstep!”
But my point is Skrillex never killed anything. Sure he inspired a generation of would be dubstep artists and standardized a sound, but Dubstep didn’t go anywhere. I still hear plenty of Dubstep in clubs and at parties and at festivals, I don’t think anyone can disagree with me there. Sure certain artists like Benassi and even Kaskade tried their hand at making it, but ultimately the bass movement is in the hands of a whole different people right now and it has splintered, changed and grown as a result. Now we have all sorts of nice things like Trap, Glitchhop, and Moombah enjoying a decent level of popularity…
3. The times and artists change, get used to it.
I could keep blabbing on and on about what I like to call the Skrillpocalypse that never was, but I’ll spare you on that. During, my time I spent incapacitated, I came across a very interesting article written by one of my favorite artists, Laidback Luke for the Huffington Post. Lucas has been in the electronic game for a long, and I mean a really long time. While many of you may mostly associate him with tracks like Turbulence and his Dirty Talk remix there are tons of people out there who remember him during his tehcno days in the late 90’s. Check it out below.
Whatever pills they had in the 90’s, I want some.
The case and point being, is that your favorite artists have the right to make the music they want. Of course, artists want their fans to like what they release, but more importantly to them is making the music they want. Laidback Luke said himself, “Followers who don’t see the bigger picture, get worried. It’s a discussion I have with my older following every two to three years. It seems that when you’re in between 18 and 23 years old, you cling onto certain songs for life. Those will be yours forever and occasionally something new will come through. It’s a very common human trait. It only sucks for the artist trying to move on. ‘He’s lost it. He forgot how to produce!”
I might make some exceptions to Laidback Luke’s claim. Totally not trying to single anyone out…
We really only need to look as far as Random Access Memories to illustrate this. I like many other EDM enthusiasts grew up with Daft Punk’s hits and judged RAM in the same light as say, Around The World. Unfortunately, this comparison couldn’t be more damaging, especially when we judge the newest works in the same light and by the same standards that we apply to the already established classics; 4×4=12 pales in comparison to Random Album Title in many peoples mind. Why is this? Was it because Deadmau5 forgot how to produce or didn’t take his time? No, it’s simply because we are expecting new classics to be instantly created in a near copycat style with somehow fresh execution. Simply put, we want change without change. If you judge anything by this standard it’s easy to be disappointed. We wanted Daft Punk to give us something revolutionary, but only insofar as it was exactly what have come to expect.
4. Money talks, but it doesn’t say much.
A lot of people saw EDM’s explosion in the United States coming. Anyone who’s taken a simple economics class could have told you how the cookie was going to crumble for EDM in the US. To be frank, we capitalize and commercialize everything ad nauseum; once the guys up top saw how many people they could get to buy $500 GA Tickets and $10 beers, it was practically over at that point.
Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, to be fair it’s brought an insane level of production value to events and spread the amount of locations and attendees. The money that has accumulated around this scene has also been a boon to foreign artists. I’ve had the chance to sit down with some of the biggest names in the game and I can’t think of a single artist who has said they don’t like what’s happened in the American Market. Simply, the money brings all the artists to the yard.
Pictured: Lots and lots of money.
I’ve heard a lot of people complain that money is ruining artists. This may be somewhat true, but it doesn’t mean a thing for EDM on the whole. I won’t beat this one to death and just simply say, going for the money will eventually alienate a fan base. Making bad, mass produced tracks, and messing with pre-recorded sets pisses people off (SHM we’re looking at you), its essentially unsustainable and leaves artists open to be replaced by others who are doing genuinely good work regardless of motivation… The same can be said for the state of live EDM as well.
So long as there is a demand for EDM, the “bubble” won’t pop. It will react to demand (back to economics here again). It’s not up to artists or the fans to provide these experiences, so quite frankly it’s up to companies like Insomniac and now AEG Live to satisfy would be ravers. It’s not unthinkable that mismanagement could drive certain festivals off the map (it has before), but so long as there is a demand, something else will rise up. You have a choice, don’t throw your money at something you don’t like… Which segues into my next point.
5. Don’t panic, this is your scene, your music, you have a choice stop pretending otherwise.
I stopped covering Spinnin’ Records songs. There I said it, it’s out in the open. I dislike 90% of what that label has been putting out. At one point, I used to adore the label, but in my opinion it’s devolved into awful cut-and-paste formula based music printer whose tracks aren’t worth more than 4 clicks and 20 seconds of my time. To me, that doesn’t signify that EDM is dying, just because a handful of labels and artists are riding a successful formula into the goddamn ground. No, infact the exact opposite is true, for every SR release I hear maybe fifty or more tracks that make a genuine effort to be an actual creative piece we like to call a song. All this means is that I have to actively search out artists that I like because my once favorite labels and artists are no longer shoveling hit after hit down my throat.
I’m not alone in this, there’s a lot of frustrated people out there. I do read your comments and believe me I agree with a lot of them. While I have a lot less choice than most people in what I listen to (the whole writer bit sometimes sucks, I have to trudge through bad song after bad song just to bring you all the freshest offerings I can) you very much have a choice. If you don’t like the commercial bullshit that’s coming out, don’t just complain about it. Don’t buy it. In fact, don’t stop there, make it a point to support the artists and labels you like. If you want to hear more of something, don’t just listen to it, buy it, see what else their label or collective has to offer.
It seems like a lot of people have become so cynical that they have forgotten they have a choice in how the scene progresses. The celebrity bandwagoning won’t hurt EDM at all. Guess who’s not going to be buying Nick Cannon’s or Paris Hilton’s albums? This guy. Guess who won’t see DJ Pauly D? You guessed it. I report on those sort of things only because, that’s my job. I might listen to it out of morbid curiosity, but I’m not going to lose any sleep because a bunch of has beens are making house albums. You have a choice in the shows you go to, the music you listen to, and the artists you support. The mainstream may not always reflect your tastes but that hardly means you should consider EDM dead or even in decline. Hell, that’s why we named this website Your EDM. It’s your music and your scene, stop anticipating and start participating, the ship isn’t sinking there’s plenty of good times to look forward to.
Seriously though, there’s no way I’m letting this ruin EDM for me.
So, can we all take a deep breath and take a step back, EDM has been here for thirty plus years. That’s not going to change anytime soon.