Look up Electronic Music or Electronic Dance Music or EDM on Google and the first things you see are things like this article on Deadmau5 saying the “EDM Decline is Inevitable” or this one where they talk about the Best Electronic albums of 2013 and talk how EDM continued to matter past 2012.
These types of articles underline the reasons why I think the term EDM or even Electronic Music hurts the current underground movement of club music.
In 2014 electronic elements to music are not a novelty. They are pervasive. Synthesizers are an instrument like any other. You can hear them in rap, country, rock and any other genre you can think of. To talk of electronic music is like talking about guitar music or flute music. It’s meaningless since those instruments could be found in any number of genres of music. One of the first popular albums using electronic instruments (the famous Moog Synthesizer) was a classical music album “Switched on Bach” from 1968.
If you were to ask a person who plays the guitar if they like ALL music using a guitar you would probably find most people would say they don’t. I write about music that is made with electronic instruments but I don’t like all electronic music. I think some of it is pretty horrible like, for example, the majority of pop music produced today. That is electronic music.
Now let’s leave that for a little bit and look at music made for dancing. In the 1970’s there was the disco movement. At the time, there was not widespread access and use of synthesizers beyond a few notable pioneers. Most of that music, that dance music, was made without synthesis. A guitar sound was made by a guitar and a violin sound came from an actual violin. In fact, during all of human history up until the technology of synthesis existed, there was no electronic element to dance music other than to amplify the sound with microphones or to make a recording. Big band was played by an actual big band. The waltz was played by on orchestra. It’s really only in the 1980’s when the technology improved to an extent where the average person could use it that the use of synthesizers became widespread in music.
My point in going over these well known facts is first, to show that you can have electronic instruments in all types of contemporary music and thus to speak of electronic music is vague and confusing (i.e. if I say electronic music is a trend am I saying that pop is a a trend? Am I saying rock is a trend?)
Secondly I want to divorce you from the very contemporary notion that dance music must be produced electronically. It does not. You parents might have gone to clubs where the dj played music that was recorded with conventional instruments.
The rise of music using electronic instruments is not due to changes in taste but rather matches the trajectory of the technology from requiring a studio that looks like a science lab to being able to produce a track on your phone. It’s like the movies. People didn’t just decide to use CGI. People only started to use it when it became practical and then really started to use it when it became easier and cheaper to use than previous special effects methods or even filming in real locations.
So really what I’m saying is there is no electronic music or Electronic Dance Music. There is really just music and dance music that is being made in 2014 and synthesis on portable devices is what we use to make it because we have that so why not? You wanna make music or dance music without it be my guest. I would love to hear Trap played with traditional instruments by a live orchestra (which you could do if you really wanted).
Not only is Electronic Dance Music meaningless but it harms the genres of music that are lumped under it incorrectly. When people are talking about EDM these days they are really talking about progressive house, trance and big room electro along with the low to midrange bpm flavour of the month (like dubstep or trap but only if they use a lot of the elements of the other genres like big drops and buildups). There certainly is a trend right now where the mainstream public has embraced that particular form of electronic dance music. We’ve all heard of the obscene money made by djs playing in clubs in Las Vegas and the obscene amounts of money that people are spending to go see them. There are now big festivals the world over where this music can be heard. These genres have as much to do with most other forms of dance music as stadium rock. In fact they have more to do with stadium rock than they do with other types of dance music. That’s why there the prefix “festival” or “big room” usually attached to them. They are a type of music designed to provide a big, loud immediate thrill. If you you tried to play most of it in your typical 200 capacity night club it would be too much. It’s like candy really. It’s really tasty immediately but if you have too much you get sick of it. It is inevitable that the wider North American public becomes sick of it (I say North America because you don’t really have this problem in Europe). The risk, is that because genres that are more subtle and rewarding over repeated listening like some types of house or techno or bass music (though the term bass music is kinda of stupid too when you think about it) are also being grouped under EDM, they will also be scorned when the backlash takes place.
We, as the media who discuss these more obscure and less accessible genres need to do a better job of setting them apart. We should no longer speak of electronic music or Electronic Dance Music because the term is meaningless. We need to present these genres on their own terms. The divide now is between indie music and pop music. David Guetta and Avicii and Calvin Harris make pop music. They play their music on hit radio stations. They have major studio deals and produce tracks for Rihanna. The media makes a pretty clear distinction between indie rock music and Nickleback. It’s time we took the lead and taught them that a similar distinction exists in contemporary dance music. It’s all old folks in the mainstream media. They get rock. They don’t get the current dance music scene. We, as the representatives of that music need to make sure we present it properly or else we harm it.
So that’s why we all need to stop talking about EDM in 2014.