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Ryan Keeling

Op-Ed: Resident Advisor Editor on Value of Nightclubs & Current Dance Music Climate


Resident Advisor's editor Ryan Keeling pens an op-ed for Billboard detailing the changes that are occurring in electronic music. Keeling argues, that while festivals may not be as culturally refined or lucrative as they once were, nightlife will continue to live on through clubs.

Keeling highlights the importance of club venues and parties for shaping a city's identity and creating culture and art movements that don't always need to appeal to the mainstream.

This article originally appeared on Billboard

You've probably heard quite a bit about EDM festivals over the past few years. Maybe you've been to one. Either way, you'll know that they're a big deal. The numbers alone tell us this: 400,000 people at Electric Daisy Carnival, 170,000 at Ultra, 180,000 at Tomorrowland and so on. For most people, the EDM festival is the encapsulation of EDM culture, the bass-dropping, confetti-blasting pinnacle of the scene.

But recently, you might have also heard that EDM is slowing down. SFX, the massive media conglomerate that has festival promoters like Made Event and ID&T on its books, has gone bankrupt. TomorrowWorld, the US offshoot of the Belgian festival, has been canceled. The Miami Herald ran a piece titled, "On eve of Ultra Music Festival, the dance-music craze is slowing down." Pitchfork's Philip Sherburne wrote a timeline explaining "how EDM's bubble burst." Is this the end? Probably not. But that scene is on a downward curve.

As we reflect on this, perhaps now is a good time to remember the value of nightclubs. The vibe and ideals of, say, The Paradise Garage may feel wholly opposed to those of an EDM festival, but the latter doesn't exist without the former. Clubs are where the story begins. They laid the path that leads to where dance music—and by extension EDM—are today. Nightclubs will never receive the same level of mainstream coverage that's been generated by festivals, but it's worth reminding ourselves that these places have, however subtly, played a profound role as drivers of social, creative and economic change.

In 1970, David Mancuso's Loft parties began in part as a safe space for New York's gay community, and its soundtrack and style of partying directly influenced what became the city's disco scene, a movement whose vibrations were felt around the world. In Chicago in the '80s, disco mutated into house music, and the clubs supporting this emerging sound doubled as a form of shelter for the city's racial and sexual minorities. And, through US parties like Honey Soundsystem, GHE20GOTH1K, KUNQ and many others, the idea of clubs as temporary zones of freedom and self-expression for underrepresented peoples still exists today.

Skrillex became an artist that your parents might have heard of through a take on a genre that had its roots in a tiny London basement club. Dubstep was codified amid the sub-woofers at Plastic People in the early '00s, a small group of like-minded DJs, producers and dancers coming together to develop a devastating new sound. The style's staggered beats and quaking basslines went on to dominate US festival stages and appear in the music of pop stars like Rihanna and Britney Spears (albeit in a bastardized form). Trace the development of basically any dance music style and you'll see that clubs are the petri dish in which new musical ideas take shape. The same goes for new talent. They may now be known as stadium-filling megastars, but artists like Daft Punk, Paul Kalkbrenner, Eric Prydz, Diplo and countless others got to where they are by honing their craft behind the decks of nightclubs.


Read the full op-ed by Ryan Keeling at Billboard

Tags : Billboard Resident Advisor