Steve Aoki: "You Can't Go In and Buy the Culture"
The Guardian recently ran a piece examining the increasing value that major corporate brands are seeing in EDM culture.
The incredible global explosion of EDM's popularity over the last several years has attracted the attention of countless brands seeking to align themselves with - and exploit - our culture. Corporate sponsorship has certainly brought large paychecks for some DJs and producers, but the influence of corporate money is something most dance music fans are wary of. For a scene that had long been underground and counterculture (particularly in the United States), the involvement of major brands is generally viewed with suspicion, and in many cases outright hostility.
The Guardian spoke with Steve Aoki and 3lau, who both shared their experiences and views on the topic.
“If some cigarette or alcohol sponsor comes in and says, ‘Here’s a bunch of my stuff, let me just take what you guys have and put our name next to it,’ people can see how fake that is. People aren’t stupid,” he says. “I’ve said [to companies], ‘You really do have to support [EDM] from the ground up. You have to help build the culture. You can’t go in and buy the culture.”
As a frequent beneficiary of corporate brand sponsorship, Aoki might not have the most credible voice on the topic, but we'll leave that to readers to judge.
3lau, who has turned down endorsement deals with brands he doesn't honestly support, is more concerned about the potential corrupting influence the corporate money could have.
He says corporate overload could lead to censorship of artists’ language or politics. He also fears it could tilt the balance of power away from promoters and artists and towards the corporations. It would be bad, for example, if a festival’s sponsor started dictating the line-up.
“I don’t think brands will have a lot of control in the short term but I definitely think in the long term as they get more involved they will feel more need to exercise their control.”
It's great to see The Guardian talking about this, because it's something fans of dance music should be aware of. We're all happy that producers, DJs, and event promoters can make a great living in our scene. But like 3lau says, we can't let corporate influence censor or control the authentic voices of our culture.
What do you think? Should the EDM community embrace the opportunity to have more influence on popular culture and brands? Or should DJs and producers reject corporate sponsorship deals to protect the integrity of their artistic voices?
Read the full piece on The Guardian:
[Editor's note: The Guardian article defines EDM as a "hybrid of house, dubstep and trance." This betrays an embarrassing lack of knowledge. We hesitated to even cover the article for this reason, but felt that ultimately there was enough worthwhile information to merit coverage. For the record, EDM is not a specific style of music. House, dubstep, and trance are distinct styles among many within Electronic Dance Music, each characterized by unique tempos and aesthetics.]