A-Trak Believes EDM Is Still Alive & Kicking
“There’s been chatter for a while now that the bubble might burst any minute, but don’t be fooled, the business is still very healthy.”
Fool’s Gold Recs co-founder and renowned DJ Alain Macklovitch has recently expressed his outlook on the current state of EDM with his #RealDJing posts, which have broadcasted his firm opinions on "real" DJing and have shed some new light on the future of the industry.
In comparison to 15 or 20 years ago, when the rave culture exclusively existed in the underground scene, DJ/producers have become much more directed towards the spotlight of the scene and have felt the pressure to adhere to the mainstream appeal. Nowadays, producers within the industry are becoming the pop stars of our generation, combining their musical talents with extensive advertisement campaigns, television appearances, and a greater overall presence at festival main stages. Although the state of EDM has drastically changed from the old times of the underground scene, one aspect has proven to stay true is the skill set required by the DJ to rock a crowd.
In A-Trak’s most recent post, he calls attention to the current trend of more experimental and non-commercial type EDM that has been surfacing throughout the community. A-Trak notes the fact that music festivals and EDM are strongly compatible and attendance at festivals is huge; however, production-lacking genres such as big room house are dominating festival main stages. EDM holds this unique ability to be versatile and experimental, and with online music platforms such as Soundcloud or YouTube, it has become apparent that the sound of electronic music is changing.
“Sometimes, however, an initial wave of flashy music can knock down the doors and more interesting music can come after. That’s where I feel we are now.”
Back in 2009, artists like Swedish House Mafia, Tiësto, and David Guetta were putting out huge songs that ultimately initiated the rise of EDM from the underground. With influences from genres such as big room house, EDM has evolved through the ambiguous mainstream world. I think Macklovitch is correct in saying that we are at the point where more interesting music will arise from the mainstream style that we’re currently experiencing. Specifically referring to the Soundcloud Explore Page, I know I’m always seeing producers on there that have yet to be enlisted on a festival line up or any who have announced a single tour, yet their music has hundreds of thousands if not millions of views. The majority of this music falls under the category of “more interesting music” because it strays from the routine structure of EDM tracks that are being put out by major record labels. Thanks to music platforms like Soundcloud, a wide array of producers can easily distribute their unique sounds with the masses. Artists like Stwo, Lido, GANZ, and more are receiving mass attention from the EDM crowd because they offer an interesting style of music that is rare in the current industry.
“Rather than dictating an entire style, EDM can now broaden itself to little characteristics in the sonics within an otherwise genre-less song.”
Unlike most genres of music, you can’t listen to just one electronic song and understand the full scope of EDM. With genres such as rap, for example, there is a stylistic structure in which the music sticks to. However, EDM is an entirely different ballgame because of its extensive diversity in production. The sub-genres of EDM are so distinct that it seems incorrect to call EDM a genre, but a congregation of electronically produced music. Genres can box in an artist to sticking with a particular sound and style, and many have set out to surpass genre-ridden boundaries. Trap icons GTA are firm believers in the “f*ck a genre” montra as they currently produce their own Death To Genres mix. It’s refreshing to see artists stepping outside their comfort zone and produce several genres. Artists like Mat Zo and Zeds Dead also live by musical freedom; while Zo produces content ranging from Anjunabeats to drum & bass, Hooks and DC of Zeds Dead are notorious for their sundry sounds across the board. Because of producers similar to Mat Zo and Zeds Dead, the EDM community is able to experience a myriad of sub-genres, which is notably one of the best aspects electronic music has to offer.
“And from the audience’s standpoint, after that initial gateway drug of hands-in-the-air anthems, I’m seeing more and more kids get interested in good, nuanced, forward-thinking music. It’s super encouraging.”
Referring back to a recent editorial regarding the lack of production within the big room house genre, it has become a visible issue in the community for concerts and festivals to be overwhelmed by the uneducated attendee. Unfortunately, one can assume that at least a third of the main stage crowd is only there because it’s the "main stage," and you’ll always get that with music festivals. There are people who knowledgeably follow artists, and there are people who severely rely on stages when outlining their festival itinerary. However, as electronic music continues to expand and develop, more interesting styles and sounds are surfacing. Ultimately, it challenges the listener to also step outside their comfort zone and experiment with various sub-genres.
Macklovitch notes that he’s seeing a lot of this development of musical taste recently with the younger generation, proving that EDM is in fact not dying. There is a lot of intelligent electronic music out there that requires a vigorous amount of skill, passion, and knowledge to produce, and it’s about time this type of music gets the recognition it deserves. When artists take the time to produce quality music but the popular mainstream overrides the concept of quality, it can be very discouraging to the artist. Now with the current burst of more unique material, it is clear that producers will receive a surge of encouragement to put out more diverse and unexpected music. EDM could very well die if we surrender to production-lacking music; the pressure to appease the mainstream masses could easily land electronic music in the gutter because fads come and go. What won’t kill EDM is striving to produce music outside the generic realm of styles as we venture off into the unknown.
Wolfgang Gartner recently underwent a complete DJ identity change as a result of his discontent with the current EDM scene. “I think a lot of people have been pretty outspoken about the EDM scene and its cookie-cutter aesthetics. I feel like right now is kind of the deciding point where we find out if it continues to go down a path like you said or if it gets a new dose of life and creativity.” You can read further into his recent unexpected single “Unholy” and his outlook on the current state of EDM here.
“Maybe it’s finally going back to #RealDJing.”
In the grand scheme of things, electronic dance music is experiencing an extreme evolution with a highly unpredicted future. The future is what we allow to happen, and I believe it is our responsibility as the generation that ultimately supported the rise of EDM to properly carry it into the era it deserves. If consumers fail to appreciate good quality music, then where will EDM go from here? With the pressure of appealing to the mainstream crowd, producing music has strayed from the love of the music to the love of the profit. As we enter this post-EDM chapter, many artists offer their insight on the debate if EDM is dying or not.
Former dubstep producer Skream recently did an interview with Fact Magazine. Although Skream strongly believes that the hype of EDM is over, he admitted that underground artists with actual talent are finally receiving the attention they deserve: “At the moment, it feels like people are realising that the music that is involved is shite. And now good music is starting to become popular. Especially in America: people like Kaytranada are fucking amazing, and he’s actually getting props, whereas in the past you’d have someone like that who would be really good, but it would be held really underground and not really appreciated.” I think as EDM continues to progress both in the limelight and in the underground, we will experience an unforeseen transformation that will change the way people think about music. It’s time DJ/producers be awarded with proper credit so that they persevere through the mainstream tastes and actually put out quality music.
Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of EDM.com.
Cover photo credit via Coolest Rap Blog