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“Is America Killing [Electronic] Dance Music” Or Is It Just Going Pop?

Inthemix-logoAs Electronic Dance Music (EDM) moves from the club to the arena, lots of hand wringing is making it difficult for everybody but the push-play djs to enjoy their time in the booth. Australia's inthemix recently took a look at widespread concerns that the rising popularity of EDM, especially in the States, is leading to a cash-fueled, pop-oriented watering down of an underground scene that will destroy the integrity and independence of EDM.

In a timely move, at least for this blog post, David Guetta dropped the video for I Can Only Imagine ft. Chris Brown & Lil Wayne. Given that Guetta is one of the dj's most likely to be identified with EDM's journey towards pop dominance, teaming with Chris Brown and Lil Wayne seems like a logical step forward or back, take your pick.

I Can Only Imagine – David Guetta ft. Chris Brown & Lil Wayne

angy, a prolific writer for inthemix recently tackled the question "Is America killing dance music?" He starts out by ribbing the Wall Street Journal's Jim Fusilli whose article The Dumbing Down of Electronic Dance Music attacks such djs as David Guetta and Calvin Harris for their:

"cliché-riddled, white-bread house that don't [sic] represent the best of the genre."

angy's response?

"Wall Street Journal, we didn’t know you cared. Stay tuned for Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly’s expose on how Avicii’s live show represents nothing more than flashy style over substance."

As angy notes, except for the WSJ piece, U.S. business and music business publications have generally embraced the growing business of EDM.

Hopping across the pond, angy works his way through a number of observations about the U.S. scene as seen from the U.K. before turning to Pete Tong's column for Music Week in which he stated:

“Success inevitably attracts attention – and now numerous extremely wealthy individuals, big business and VC funds are eager to buy into the EDM action. If allowed to run riot with their corporate machinery, these same people will destroy the scene.”

Related but less extreme concerns were raised by Richie Hawtin on a panel at EDM Biz transcribed for an article by JackT, also for inthemix:

"We spent the last 25 years believing in what we do, and building this. So, it had to get to this point. But the challenge now is to make sure it doesn’t slip out of our fingers. Keep it in control…What I’m trying to say is now the people behind the scenes have matured and if it had happened 20 years ago, we would’ve lost control of it. Now we can – I don’t want to say ‘take it to the masses’, ‘cause I don’t believe it should go to the masses – but go to a wider field."

Yet, as quoted in the Wall St. Journal article, Hawtin sounds clearly positive about things:

"I'm optimistic…This new generation of producers are getting a new generation of people into the sound of electronic music."

On a related note, angy's closing words include the surprising question in a piece titled, "Is America killing dance music?":

"Could Richie Hawtin, the one dissenting voice in the Wall Street Journal article, possibly have been right when he said that it will be the big money spinners who draw the next generation of kids to the cooler side of electronic music? "

Is it possible? Could something so contemptable as popularity actually help bring attention to artists that don't feed the pop machine?

Such questions are difficult to answer if one looks at EDM as a unique phenomenon rather than recognizing that it's traveling a similar path as every other underground movement, from the arts to politics, as it makes its way to mainstream dominance. Of course, if one looks at other movements such as hip hop, one has to recognize that once things go mainstream, the answer to most of the above questions is "yes."

Yes, America will kill dance music by giving it too much money and loving it way too much. Yes, dance music's pop trajectory will lead to some of those newcomers digging deeper, finding the underground and pursuing new possiblities.  Yes, dance music will go on however this chapter unfolds.

Actually, there's only one idea above that deserves a big "no." Hawtin's hope that any of this can be controlled. Yes, it can be ripped off, remixed, renewed and recycled. But, no, it cannot be controlled.

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) blogs about business at Flux Research: Business Changes and about dance at All World Dance: News. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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1 Comment

  1. Fantastic conclusion. It’s happened time and time again with any music that has been popularised – the pertinent example being hip hop. Personally I think it does increase the likelihood that people will delve further into the genre and discover the true gems.

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