During this lockdown period of no shows or festivals, it might be hard to track trends about what style of music is hot. In fact, over the last few years it’s been hard to name a “genre” of the year. It used to be easy back in EDM’s golden age. Towards the end of the decade things were all over the place, and yet in 2020 everything quietly converged on Techno.
The Beginning of the Trend
The seeds of this trend were there as early as 2018 when artists like NGHTMRE were dropping Raito at Ultra Music Festival. This also coincided with the beginning of trance’s decline and the rise of Illenium-style bass music in the US. At the same time, Techno began a rocket trajectory of growth that is continuing today. You saw Adam Beyer  Cirez D debut in Miami to enormous fanfare and you saw deadmau5 return to his testpilot alias in a way he never had before. You even saw David Guetta confirm that he had a techno/tech-house alias, Jack Back.
In 2019, you began seeing rising talents like i_o playing techno on festival mainstages. With tech-house seeing an explosive rise due to tracks like “Losing It”, everybody was gravitating towards that sound. Anjunabeats embraced techno with artists like Grum and Genix leading the charge. Oliver Heldens dropped Enrico Sangiuliano and UMEK tracks from the Ultra mainstage in the peak time of night. Adam Beyer  Cirez D became a highly demanded festival act, and testpilot began playing frequent shows.
While techno was creeping onto mainstages, the techno scene itself was becoming more and more massive. Techno in 2019 was like EDM in 2013. There were tons of festivals and events with amazing lineups at reasonable prices. The sets were all great quality and there was minimal talking over the mic. Best of all, the vibes at the events were always top-notch. Ultra’s Resistance brand and Insomniac’s Factory 93 brand were taking off, and festivals like Time Warp and Awakenings became highly sought after. Tomorrowland, the biggest festival in dance music, put Charlotte de Witte, Kolsch, Carl Cox, and more techno names on the mainstage (some even in peak time).
As techno grew in popularity, some in the scene began to decry its growth and commercialization. Hence “business techno” was born from a meme. While the idea was a joke at first, the concept was a reality. Techno was becoming a serious business.
The Livestream Era of 2020
As 2020 forced us into our homes and behind our screens, long-form sets without mic talking pushed to the forefront. Nobody wanted to see a Chainsmokers stream set because most of their live performance is sing-alongs and audience interaction. Meanwhile, purveyors of deep house, techno, and progressive sounds were thriving. Some of the best streams came from Charlotte de Witte, Enrico Sangiulano, Gorgon City, and members of the Drumcode label.
The year pushed the evolution of this trend into hyperdrive and also veered it slightly off course. With no shows, clubs, or festivals, the Fisher tech-house sound has become less palatable. In fact, most mainstage festival sounds started to seem a bit much. It’s not music for home listening, it’s party music. This year has been a time where deep and melodic sounds have thrived. In fact, the trend has become so popular that it has now become the bandwagon sound.
Melodic Techno Goes Mainstream
During the livestream era, chill melodic music has reigned. Not wanting to be left out, David Guetta leaned heavily on his Jack Back alias during this time. And believe it or not, the sets were great! He dug deep into the realm of Melodic Techno to play a surprising set that you would never expect from him. The sign that this was a real thing came when Tiesto announced he was unveiling his own alias. This alias was focused on melodic techno style sounds as well, although he calls it “melodic house music”. VER:WEST sounds a little like old trance Tiesto but nothing like new Tiesto – and that’s great. Not to be outdone, Nicky Romero unveiled his own melodic project called Monocule.
While these artists were latching onto melodic techno, the melodic techno scene was already thriving after a few years of massive growth. As the trance scene began to decline, the home for those melodies became melodic techno. This is techno that is very heavy on melodies and sometimes even vocals. It evokes the same feelings you get from trance, and some people even say it’s just trance slowed down. This sound was popularized by Tale of Us and their Afterlife imprint. Now that sound and style have become the model for VER:WEST, Jack Back, and more.
At the same time, Oliver Heldens has shifted his HI-LO alias hard towards serious techno. In the mold of UMEK, he has released tracks recently that would go off at a Drumcode event. Armin’s Armada label has signed i_o, leading one to expect the rising star to perform at a future ASOT event. This makes sense when you also consider that Armin has released three melodic techno type tracks this summer. He made these tracks in collaboration with Armada’s other new talent, AVIRA.
Normally a bandwagon trend gets annoying, but it’s hard to be upset when the bandwagon trend is quality thoughtful melodic music. This writer will gladly take that over Future Bass or pop sing-alongs. The fact that there are no shows now means that this trend is still on-ice until shows return. You can’t say it has really even started for real until VER:WEST, Monocule, and Jack Back are performing at real festivals. It will happen when shows return.
It’s safe to say this trend is here to stay for quite a while. You’ll know it’s at the peak when Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike release a techno track.