A State of Music #1: Forward Thinking

We music fans need to do a little bit of retrospection. We love our favorite artists and wish them to do well—as long as they don’t change. This needs to change because music is organic. It relies on evolution to survive; especially in this day when it competes with other forms of entertainment like sports and films. Yet at times, fans act as though they own the artists.

This has been facilitated by the creation of Facebook and Twitter. It has allowed fans to learn more about their favorite musician more so than ever. They can appreciate their love, let them know what they like, and what they don’t. Yet, when artists begin taking fan criticism into consideration, and became that prototypical artists that their fans want to hear, the artists cage themselves in.

German producer Zedd, Twitted about this on 14 May 2013:

“I have to admit I’m a little confused by some young fans nowadays and their behavior and reaction on artists success. When I was a (young) kid the only thing I wished for for my fav bands was exposure & success. I’d celebrate if I saw/ heard them on TV: radio. I remember hearing about ‘Billy Talent’ on MTV. I forever will love MTV for that. They made me discover a band I’ve listened to for years! It’s 2013: you hear people say: ‘”I heard my fav song on the radio. Thanks for ruining it.”’ This reaction is completely paradox to me.’”

Of course he’s referring to the way fans act about an act being “commercial” by getting radio play. He continued:

“Another thing is, I remember seeing my fav artists in a way ‘untouchable’ and ‘far away’. I’m glad twitter brings artists and fan closer BUT […] That turned into people being rude and saying mean things to the artist just to get attention and an answer. Such a selfish, stupid behavior […] It feels like fans want to ‘own’ the artist and decide over their music, shows and give their 2 cents on everything. Sometimes u gotta let the artist be artist and either accept what an artist puts out creatively or just listen to something else. Anyway. I usually prefer for people make their own thoughts than make thoughts for them but this car ride was just really fucking long.”


I completely agree with Zedd here. An artist should never be limited creatively because that is their job. But there’s a bigger problem beneath all this. Ever since EDM became big, fans have started focusing on the “sound” and not the composition.

What I mean by this is that EDM artists are being forced to come up with one specific sound—a signature that can be easily identified. But music in general has never been about the “sound”. Music, regardless of the genre, has always been about composition. Pop music is not known for complex time signatures and multi-key songs; but that’s pop music. Much like progressive metal has never been about drop D tuning or how fast a guitarist can shred.

EDM in particular has fallen prey to this way of thinking. Fans have become way too used to the intro, hook, drop, repeat formula for too long and that needs to change. All producers can be blamed for this, and that’s not a negative criticism. Repetition is part of music.

The paradigm that all songs need to follow the “formula” is at the heart of the fans. Artists follow it because their career depends on the fans. But this has to stop. All fans need to stop judging music based on the sound, and begin listening to the aesthetic found within the composition of a song. When a fan grows an artist grows.

Xavier Mafe explores this paradigm and how it influences upcoming producers in The Porter Robinson Paradigm written for The Frontliner.

Mafe acknowledges that through his research, many new producers can be generalized as:

  • Probably lacks a lot of background knowledge about where electronic dance music came from and how it’s developed, with very little desire to attain that information. But hey, he’s been a big fan of it since 2010!

  • He is getting into EDM for the money and fame, as opposed to doing because it is a passion. Being an EDM producer seems like a fashionable and lucrative alternative to going to school or traditional work. He does not comprehend that making music is work too and hard work at that.

  • He lacks any resemblance of originality and artistry, because he is essentially copying the Beatport Top 100

Porter Robinson

While his generalization doesn’t certainly apply to every single young producer, it does bring light to the issue discussed above. Top artists are imitating other top artists, and young producers are imitating other top artists. All in all, it is just creating an over saturated market that is far from creative.

He continues, “I don’t think the problem is that there are too many young producers. I think the real problem lies in the toxic attitude of naivety and entitlement that has been internalized by the community of young producers.”

While electronic dance music has become easier to create, it has also watered down the amount of work that goes into productions. That companies constantly release “Skrillex Soundpacks”, or “Deadmau5 Sounds” does not help either. It gives new producers an easy way to create songs like other big artists, and encourages the death of creativity in compositions. Many of them stick to the intro, drop, repeat, formula, without variation, thus creating hundreds of Skrillexes and Deadmau5s.

Worst is the fact that labels actually buy into them as well. Top labels (which I will not mention) constantly sign artists who, “have a different sound” but are not entirely creative in terms of their music. They produce dance music that is easy to DJ; their DJ work is largely similar to that of other DJs within their label, and aren’t very willing to help out other new producers.

EDM community favorite Diplo also has words for this problem,

                “There’s not a lot of face to it. It’s a bunch of Dutch DJs with the same haircut. You go see a dance stage at a fucking dance festival and I’m bored out of my fucking mind. That’s not going to last very much longer, because kids see that it’s the same shit every single time”

Diplo also sees labels as part of the problem as well,

“labels have no idea what’s going on anymore. They just want to jump on EDM dick — shit that sucks because they don’t feel the music but think it’s happening. We are in these streets.”

The fact that labels are willing to constantly put out the same music to further their brand or their income is troubling. While music as a business has evolved over the past 20 years, it feels as though labels aren’t looking for talent but those who they can make quick money off.

Of course, that is what a label is supposed to do. They make money for themselves and the artists. As Diplo said, “There are no rules to running a label anymore”, but that shouldn’t mean that the music needs to suffer.

It’s a bit disheartening too listen to the “old” genres like house and hear so many talented producers that do not make it because they don’t vomit snare rolls and drops. Fans of dance music need to demand that good music is produced and released. We need to forget about the sound, the signatures and the formula and actually begin asking for music that takes us on a journey and makes us think.

If we argue that music is a form of expression, then we must be allowed to think when we listen to it. Right now, we’re at a point where the only thinking we do while listening to EDM is “when will the hook come so I can raise my hands up in the air and make out with the stranger next to me.”

All in all, fans and artists need to think forward. The hype around EDM is slowly going away, and it’s becoming more refined. But, at the point the movement is right now, we need to make sure we allow the artists to grow, and make them want to grow, so that once the hype is gone, we can enjoy the music fully.