EDM.com Spotlight

EDM.com Spotlight

Dubstep Isn't Dead

Chris Barlow, member of Terravita & co-founder of Safe In Sound Festival, sets the record straight.

There has been a lot of talk lately between artists and fans about Mixmag’s new graph of Beatport’s “Top Selling Genres By Year.” For most, the discussion has revolved around the graph’s projection of dubstep sales, as it depicts a sharp drop in the genre’s quantity of sales in recent years. Many EDM fans have spoken out about the steep decline in sales, bashing the distinguished genre with lines like “dubstep is dead!” Well, I’m here to tell you that dubstep is actually quite far from dead. In fact, there are statistics and arguments currently showing that dubstep is still one of the biggest genres in EDM, even arguably the most popular genre of dance music.


So let’s examine the Beatport graph for what it really is, within its proper context. The data here looks undisputable, except for a few major flaws. First, this graph does not show an increase in overall sales on Beatport since 2004, just what is popular within each genre. How can you make an assessment on the influence of the individual genre sales if we cannot see the “big picture?” Many of these genres have been around for upwards of 10, 20, or even 30 years, so it’s incredibly difficult to assess the overall influence of these genres if the statistics only reflect the last 10 years. This concept also highlights the fact that Beatport does not represent the majority of all dance music downloads. This means that its user base, which is mostly DJ oriented, is highly susceptible to trends. It also means that it does not genuinely reflect what is popular for those who aren’t DJs, especially the average EDM fan.

There are a plethora of huge artists that do not provide major sales on Beatport either. For example, it is undeniable that Adventure Club and Griz are two of the hottest acts of the last year, yet they have only released 5 and 6 of their songs on Beatport respectively. They receive the majority of their plays through SoundCloud and Spotify, and because they choose to release their songs and other releases for free, it does not carry over into Beatport sales. Today's massive concentration on ticket sales at events and total downloads, free or paid, have resulted in a growing number of artists giving away free music, more than ever before. This is especially true when it comes to genres like dubstep, trap, or glitch-hop (notice how the latter of the two aren’t even represented on the Beatport graph). To look at true popularity, we need to consider free downloads, pirated downloads, internet searches, social media reach, and most importantly, concert ticket sales.

Google's analytics shows us that while there is a decline in searches for dubstep on the internet and a rise in searches for EDM and trap, dubstep is still the highest by far. Drum and bass has pretty much stayed constant.

With this graph in mind, you might expect to see EDM, deep house, or tech house dwarfing dubstep, right? Well think again - while deep house has had somewhat of an increase in recent years, it is still far below dubstep and EDM.

So maybe house music, techno, or trance might have higher searches than dubstep. Surprisingly, they are also on the decline and are still less than where dubstep is now. Part of this may be caused by people searching for EDM as a blanket term for all genres.

After all of this research, the fact still remains that dubstep is still as popular, or arguably more popular, than any other genre out there. Artists like Bassnectar, Excision, Datsik & Flux Pavilion are still selling out 2000 to 4000-person rooms, 4 nights a week on their tours.

So why are there less searches for dubstep? Is it in a steady state of decline?  The answer to this is easy. “Dubstep” DJs spin a mixture of dubstep, drumstep, drum and bass, electro, glitch-hop and trap. If you ask most of them what they play now, they generalize it with “bass music.” This is because these artists are producing anything with heavy bass between the BPMs of 110 to 175. There is less emphasis on the 140 dubstep genre even though it is the backbone of many of their sets. This draws attention away from the name dubstep at the exact time that the media turned its gaze away from dubstep and on to EDM.  

Graphs and surveys are meant to be taken within context, and unfortunately the virality of the Beatport sales graph has lead to a massive misappropriation of its intentions. Rudimentary research can explain that dubstep is still alive and well, and that the dubstep scene has thrived to the point of reorientation, becoming its own monster we now know as “bass music.”

For those looking to get their fix on proper dubstep, trap, and all other aspects of bass music, buy yourself a ticket to the Safe In Sound Festival, which will be taking over 20+ cities this September and October with a 150,000 watt PK Sound system and artist support from the likes of Adventure Club, Destroid, Flux Pavilion, Terravita & more.

Written by Chris Barlow