EDM: The Culture of Dance Music and the DJ Ethos
EDM, the abbreviation for Electronic Dance Music, is the name given to a broad range of electronic music genres crafted mainly for nightclubs, raves, and festivals. In producing this type of music, Disc Jockeys (DJ) create a seamless selection of tracks by segueing from one recording to the next, a process known as a live mix.
By the early 2010s, EDM was being pushed by the U.S. music industry and music press in a significant effort to rebrand U.S. rave culture. Rave culture gained cultural traction in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it has experienced a resurgence in popularity with the rise of artists such as David Guetta, Deadmau5, and Skrillex.
A quick scan of this week’s new releases readily demonstrates EDM’s current popularity in the mainstream musical market. On July 8th, “In My Head” (ft. RKCB) was released with contributions from Dutch DJ Martin Garrix. “Magic”, a collaboration between artists Marshmello and Jauz, was also released on July 8th. One of the most famous EDM festivals includes Tomorrowland, which takes place in Belgium and saw a record number of 360,000 visitors in 2014. In the United States, Electric Forest is just as significant, taking place in Rothbury, Michigan and focusing on electronic and jam band genres.
EDM has never been more popular, and rave culture has never been more prominent. So where does the criticism lie?
In discussing music, it’s important to consider alternative viewpoints in order to build a more well-rounded comprehension of why music matters. Because EDM has risen to modern mainstream recognition, it’s gained more criticism than ever before. A number of producers and DJs, such as Carl Cox and Markus Schulz, have raised concerns that the hyper-commercialization of EDM has negatively impacted the “art” that comes with being a DJ. In an article from The Wall Street Journal, Cox expresses his view that the “press-play” approach of EDM DJs misrepresents what he calls “DJ ethos”.
Some house music producers openly recognize that “commercial” EDM needs further creativity. Swedish DJ Avicii, known for his 2013 hit “Wake Me Up”, states that most EDM lacks staying power. Deadmau5 has criticized the music, stating that it “all sounds the same”, highlighting his ventures into other genres such as techno.
However, all of this criticism isn’t to say that there aren’t any positives to the popularity of EDM. Rave culture and electronic music have brought people together like no other musical genre has done before. The tunes are catchy, the energy is infectious, and the dancing goes on all night long. Critical thinking about music’s strengths and weaknesses is always important, but remember to enjoy yourself as well!