I hope I can speak for the larger electronic music community when I say; we never expected EDM to last forever. Let me rephrase that; we never expected this hyper-saturated, highly romanticized state of EDM to last forever. So it’s difficult to read the growing number of recent articles from the very publications who heralded the electronic music trend and support electronic artists frame the claimed demise of EDM in an entirely begrudged light. EDM has always had target on its back, and now that it’s dealing with a growth slowdown, critics are taking this chance to perpetuate an apocalyptic halt of all-things EDM in our culture that we shouldn’t condone.
My biggest question as an EDM fan is this: if the bubble is bursting, so what? Dutch publication Quote Net quoted ID&T Founder Duncan Stutterheim saying, “EDM is killing the world, really” in regards to high DJ booking fees, and Miami Herald author Jordan Levin quoted former head of communications in the South Beach nightlife industry saying, that like disco, “EDM is over.” Oh darn, be right back; let me go nuke my 2,463 SoundCloud Likes, abandon all my best friends I’ve met through EDM shows, and completely discount the absolutely unforgettable festival experiences and masterful sets I’ve born witness to.
In the recent Pitchfork article “Popping the Drop: A Timeline of How EDM’s Bubble Burst”, author Philip Sherburne wrote, “The only thing the media loves more than a success story is a spectacular fall, and thus the death knell for EDM has been ringing louder and louder in recent months.” Sherburne also mentions that the burgeoning rumor of EDM’s bubble burst is dated back to 2013. Well, here we are three years later in 2016 with the celebration of EDC’s 20th anniversary and a consistently strong representation of electronic artists on major festival lineups.
Due to the parallel rise of EDM and music festivals, electronic music, rave culture, and the club and festival scene have been conglomerated and pigeonholed into one consistent negative spotlight via the media. And even in its potential demise, the tenacious EDM bubble, which has endured a battery of hard press, is still getting hammered with the worst, often without any substantial mention of the grand positives.
So maybe the media is hyperbolizing this implosion and its effects. It’s expected within the EDM scene. The flamboyant costumes, grandiose production, and high-energy music don’t exactly scream subtlety. I largely agree with the publication’s overarching points that EDM as an industry is on a potential decline due to over-saturation in the market, commercialization, and burnout. But it’s easy to prod too deep when buried in the negatives, so I want to be one accompanying positive voice.
Exorbitant Vegas club parties and festival tickets are common points of criticism to the point of almost criminalization. Yes, it may have gotten out of hand, but the demand was there. No one was forced to pay $500,000 for bottle service at Calvin Harris’ New Years Eve show in Vegas, nor did anyone suggest getting burned out by seeing Afrojack every week of his Mansion residency. Herald author Levin quoted 22-year-old EDM fan Annie Tomlinson saying the Ultra experience is “not worth it for the money anymore. It’s so hyped up and I’ve already experienced it.” All I can say is, Ultra doesn’t define every EDM experience, and each festival I’ve attended has presented a unique experience well worth my money. I promise you, Mysteryland is no Ultra. Not only that, some of the most renowned artists in the industry such as deadmau5 and Bassnectar actively defend their fans against scalpers and absurd ticket prices. EDM is not all about the money.
The bubble burst may also be exaggerated in its scope. Geographically, EDM hubs Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles, and New York may feel burned out from the big name residencies and frequent pass throughs, but smaller, yet prominent cities like Austin, Dallas, and Atlanta may just recently be feeling that local incline in EDM hype. And musically, as Sheburne mentions “the death of EDM doesn’t mean the death of dance music, and it doesn’t even herald the end of mass-market dance music.”
Most importantly, think about all the other genres of music that EDM has percolated into today. Upcoming hip hop artists such as Anderson .Paak are collaborating with EDM artists like Tokimonsta, Diplo works with international K-Pop stars, and producers such as Coleman Hell have used EDM influences to create new genres like “electronic folk.” It would almost be a beautiful death if EDM evaporated into thin air tomorrow – one genre’s sacrifice seen throughout a vast web of influenced music. Whether big or small, EDM surfaced copious producers, pioneers, creative, and writers who probably never dreamed of being so – me included. Whether once or forever, EDM inspired someone to dance, sing, travel, and write music – me included. And whether good or bad, EDM takes credit for many unforgettable memories, relationships, and works of art – mine included. And that alone should be commendable through all this other scrutiny.
Founder of Totem OneLove Group Frank Cotela, expressed his thoughts eloquently following yesterday’s news of Australia’s Stereosonic cancellation, not downsizing the scale of impact on the loss, but also sharing his still-pioneering sentiments more spokespeople should adopt. “It’s easy for the media to focus on the headline grabbing negatives, but the impact of Stereosonic not coming back on the Australian music landscape is huge…gone are another 100+ local and international artist slots per city…production companies downsizing…600 or so people that work on festivals per city out of a job. BUT as with most areas in the music industry – things change. Timing is everything…and the Do-ers are gonna keep Do-ing!…I welcome the evolution we’re now seeing in the dance and live music scene in this country. The chance to be part of something new that might arise is exciting and I for one am definitely not sitting around waiting to see what happens.”
Beloved trance group Above and Beyond is known to display the phrase “We are the Electronic Music Generation” during their shows, and I love the simple truth behind it. We are a generation, not perfect, not meant to last forever, but an ephemeral collective that once rallied behind the beautiful connection of EDM. Help me preserve that goodness.