Clubbing is larger than life in Ibiza so naturally the most established venues on the island have their own magazines that run during the summer months and are at newstands throughout Europe. Pulse Radio has been very privileged to partner with Space Magazine on select features which you’ll get the opportunity to read on our site after they’ve run in the magazine. What follows is an op-ed piece on the influence big business and money is having on the industry of EDM.
(To see the article as it was originally printed or read its Spanish translation-click here.)
By now, even your parents are aware that dance music is finally enjoying mainstream acceptance in the US. Brands and investors that traditionally distanced themselves from nightlife and culture are sensing the opportunity to make money and connect with a demographic they’ve previously not been able to reach. Unfortunately the result of this shift in attention and funding has ushered in the bastardization of a culture and lifestyle originally spawned in illegal warehouses decades ago. “Commercial” dance music now is as comfortable in stadiums and festivals as it is in television adverts and this duality continues to blur the line between something that’s more akin to genius marketing than genius art.
In many ways we’ve arrived here, in large part, as a result of the success of electro, trance-house (trouse?) and dubstep. These genres have shot to the top of the global consciousness fueled by expertly orchestrated social media campaigns, strategic sponsorships and increasingly bombastic stadium-style visual experiences and scream anything but authenticity. Fans fall hard and fast for the epic builds, telegraphed drops and pyrotechnics or LED displays that used to come with warning signs for the epileptic. By serving up anthems for a population living its life at a digital pace, corporations and big business are effectively reengineering the profitability of a music industry that’s operated largely in the red since the early 2000s. Singles are still vital in spreading awareness of an artist’s work, but it’s the international and national tours that are now the most consistent revenue stream. You can’t pirate a ticket (yet) and stadiums overflowing with paying fans are serving double duty as an energetic test audience for brands. But what does it mean when the next rave you attend could be brought to you by Fanta?
The familial element that grew out of experiencing something in person with a few hundred (or thousand) of your closest friends and strangers has begun to feel like an afterthought. Clubs that book these artists coddle bottle service patrons, charge women less at the door and continue to engineer monetarily determined levels of access for the clubbing public. This results in subtle tensions not previously a part of the electronic experience and calls into question the motivations of the DJs who exclusively play at such venues. There’s nothing wrong with turning a profit, but when it becomes the sole focus of the artists that serve as the industry’s poster children it can’t help but negatively color their output. Most of the music from the “EDM” world’s leading artists has simultaneously gotten bigger and more predictable. After all, it’s hard for a production team to sync the fireworks if your records are nuanced and bespoke.
The jury is ultimately still out on how this influx of cash, attention and branding will shape the future of our industry. Europe has seen such “explosions” in the popularity of this music before, and the integrity of the scene has weathered the uptick in the public’s gaze successfully. But as DJing becomes more synonymous with private jets than bedrooms and uphill battles fought for the love of goosebumps, it creates a system that assigns a lower value to those doing it for the love of the game when it’s exactly those individuals that have soundtracked the best nights and mornings of our lives.
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