Tommie Sunshine Reminds Us How Corporate EDM Is In America

Tommie Sunshine, activist, label boss & veteran DJ, sat down with In The Mix during Amsterdam Dance Event to talk about the buyout & increasingly corporate culture in EDM here in the states:

“On one side, you have Live Nation, who own HARD and Insomniac, and then on the other it’s everything else. SFX literally have control of everything else, from Tomorrowland to Beatport, and all these ticketing companies, too. These two companies are in charge of so much that it’s definitely a hot-button issue. Problematic? How could it not be? There’s no diversity.”

Mr. Sunshine (I’ll defer to my elders here) has a point. While there are many more events these days than there were 5 or 10 years ago, the events are becoming more and more similar. Events are taking fewer and fewer risks, while spending more and more money. This has had an interesting effect, though I’m not sure it’s an across the board positive or a negative. I think it’s fundamentally changed the dance music landscape here in the USA, making the rules for events & how to get ahead in the industry qualitatively different than how they are in the UK/Europe/Asia/Australia.

He’s right on the money when he says there’s no diversity. The profit maximization can be seen in every aspect of festival culture. Whether it’s the little things like cashless bracelets that always seem to have an extra 5 bucks on em you can’t use, selling out before announcing lineups or big things like not providing harm reduction resources, these things are real, and change the nature of the event. Ask anyone who has been to Burning Man or an underground festival if they’d ever go to Electric Zoo. It’s not a question. And the reason why is exactly what Tommie Sunshine is referring to. The corporatization of the event changes it… some people like it, others don’t.

The counterpoint to “all corporatization is bad” is something The Crystal Method brought up in my interview with them at Escape Music Festival. The idea that Live Nation & SFX have been battling for control of the American, and increasingly global dance music market, has benefited attendees tremendously. The arms race surrounding stages, talent, sound gear, and 30 other metrics has resulted in festivals getting bigger/better/more customer-focused every year. There’s a certain comfort to the idea that if the security person that handles you when you’re coming into EDC treats you like garbage, you can just tweet at Pasquale Rotella. In the underground, if you get in, doesn’t mean you’ll be treated like a VIP. When a retail festival is forced to cancel, there’s a mechanism to get your ticket money back. If your underground festival gets raided by the cops, good luck getting your cash. This is explored in a related way in an editorial Tommie Sunshine wrote last year. While he focuses on the effect of EDM at the festivals rather than the festivals themselves, these go hand in hand.

There’s lots of room for both festivals to be more transformational (like Burning Man or Lightning In A Bottle), but I’m not going to ever give someone crap for wanting to go to a festival with accessible hotels and a cash bar on site. Everyone likes different stuff, but if we’re only offered Pepsi & Coke, we’re gonna get kind of sick of it.

via In The Mix