Over the past few days two editorials on the deplorable state of EDM have popped up, receiving much fan-fare and cries of “Hear hear!.” Has electronic music really gone so downhill? Over the course of my bachelor’s degree, EDM (I’m just gonna call it “electro” from here on out) has gone from a handful of artists with a relatively small, specific audience to quite literally thousands upon thousands of artists appealing to an absolutely massive audience. So what exactly is it that’s wrong? I’m going to look at a few points brought up in these two articles and tell you what I think is wrong with them.
“At one time art and passion for the music was overwhelmingly the motive of DJs and producers… but now we see more and more that money, fame, and less than admirable intentions are what drive a lot of people to our EDM world. The balance is shifting and the art of the music and the dance floor are suffering as a result.“
Ah, the old ‘They’re only in it for the money’ claim. In any field, whether it’s finance, fashion, television, cooking, or even fucking geology you’re going to have a subset of people that are only in it for the money and “old electro” was no more free of these people than “new electro” is. And since when did it become wrong to be talented and expect to be paid handsomely? The beauty of capitalism is that the market decides everything. If I jump into production to make a few bucks and I don’t have the skills or the creativity, I’m not going to do well. Yes, I’ll be around for a few months “shifting” the balance in the art of the music, but at the end of the day I’m going to fizzle out and try something new. All that this growth and extra cash in the electro scene has done is allow more people earn a living doing something that they’re passionate about.
“While I applaud these guys for their production skills and developing an accessible sound that attracts lots of people, this does not mean they have the right to charge massive amounts of money to see them press play while they jump around…. Producers either need to put on a live show like Orbital, Daft Punk, Chuck Love, etc., or develop actual DJ skills before they step on stage.“
This is probably the only point that I agree with to a certain extent. Yes, nobody wants to pay $30 to see DJ Push Play, but much like the ‘only in it for the money’ guys this represents a very small subset of producers out there. Brittany Spears has been known to lip-sync from time to time and maybe David Guetta plays a pre-mixed set every now and then too. By and large this has no impact on the scene (eg. Dillon Francis isn’t going to start playing pre-recorded sets just because another big-name does). If anything, artist are more and more accountable for the quality of their sets as it’s easier than ever to catch people without their CDJs plugged in and let a few million people know about it. There’s one other point completely ignored by the author: “New school” DJs spend countless hours composing, clearing samples, and mastering the tracks needed to put together a full 1-2 hour set of their own material. When you pay a “massive” amount to see them it’s to compensate all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing the tracks, as well as paying the wages of production crews, promoters, ticket distributors, graphic designers, managers, security, bartenders, bussers, janitors, etc. “Old school” DJs typically (and I say this expecting some flames in the comments) didn’t play arena shows or spin sets entirely made up of their own material. Lots of “new” DJs like Diplo or A-Track won’t play all-original sets, but the cost of your ticket still fuels their ability to keep producing regularly none the less. And to be honest, I’d be much more frustrated with paying money to see a well-mixed set composed of terribly-produced tracks than I would the opposite.
“DJ X FACTOR“
Nobody cares about that show. Nobody will book the winner because nobody will pay to see him. Why are you bringing it up? It doesn’t affect anyone. Watch this video instead (skip ahead to 1:26):
Again, nobody cares, and who are we to tell someone what they can and cannot do in their own free time? People don’t hate on singers-turned-actors, why should bitches-turned-DJs be any different? If she ends up being good then my hat will come off to her, and if she sucks (as she most likely will) nobody is going to pay to see her 2nd show. The disturbance in the force will be corrected.
“For all you music consumers out there, I appreciate you, I really do. I just want you to be an educated consumer. Know what it is your hard earned dollars are supporting. Be patrons of art, not ATMs for the money hungry.“
Great music is great because it follows laws of math and science that allow our brains to perceive it as such. There’s no need to be “educated.” This isn’t a fast-food hamburger and a naive child we’re talking about here. If music is good, we’re hard-wired to appreciate it and if we appreciate it we’ll pay for it. The next time you call people going to see Skrillex “ATMs for the money hungry,” take a closer look at why people gladly pay $60 to go to his shows and avoid your free Monday night weekly like last-night’s beef tartar.
“During the 90s, the DJ was more of a GOD. You never saw him, yet everywhere you went he touched you with his music, the better the DJ the more you dance.The music was about the people, the dance floor about the people, the light show about the people.”
A) How big was the scene back then? Remind me… how diverse was the music? Clubs in the 90s were primarily known for being pretentious places that only the rich or drug-addicted went to. Now we even have 18+ clubs where people are comfortable and girls don’t have to be worry (as much) about being drugged. How is that not for the people?
B) If I’m paying $10, $15, $20, $30 to go see a DJ I’d damn well better see him and I’d damn well better be entertained.
The rest of The Clowns In Our EDM Scene
The crux of this author’s argument is that performances should be about the music and not the spectacle. That’s all well and good, but again, if I’m paying money I expect to be entertained in ways that push the boundaries of what I thought possible. I’m not going to pay a premium to see (or not see, as the author suggests) someone stand solemnly behind the decks. Masks are funny, but they’re stupid and everybody knows that. The EDM scene now is focused around all aspects of the experience. When MSH Sessions brought Justice to Vancouver and people saw their visuals, 6000 people collectively shit their pants and raged the fuck out. Don’t believe me? Watch the video below and tell me if you’d have preferred it without the… pizazz.
Don’t be a hater. I can find a pro to every con that you bring up, just like someone out there can find a con for every pro that I bring up. Instead of criticizing others, come up with ways to set yourself apart and let the market decide.