Are Commercial Artists & Corporate Investors Killing Dance Music?

Ultra Music Festival 2012

The Ultra Music Festival 2012: Dance is suddenly huge in the States – but is this a good thing for the underground and dance culture in general?

There has been a ton of major media coverage on dance music lately, specifically on how it seems to have entered the mainstream of American culture.

The New York Times Business section (yes, the business section) reported on how high-roller corporate investors are being attracted to the new-and-improved festival culture, with Pete Tong recently warning that if these same corporate investors are “allowed to run riot with their corporate machinery, (they) will destroy the scene.”

Even the “high culture” magazine GQ got in on the action recently. They provided an outsider’s perspective on Ultra Music Festival, which they summed up as a drugged out, costumed, three-day trip. Overall, the author seems to be empathetic with the concert goers though, surmising that because things are tougher for American youth today than they have been in a long while (economy, environment and so on), perhaps artists like Guetta, SHM and Skrillex came along just when kids needed a great way to escape.

Is it right to be so bleak?

And yet, this all seems to be a rather bleak and ominous view of today’s dance music landscape here in the States, and in my opinion, a bit overblown. For one, when you consider the fact that corporate sponsors have been involved in European dance music for some time (giants like Coca-Cola, Samsung and Red Bull sponsor events like Tomorrowland, for example) their “underground” is still alive and thriving.

Yes, America does have a tendency to over-corporatise ad to the point of insanity but the heart of dance music will, in my opinion, always remain just where it needs to be: in the underground. In the future we may see DJs getting even larger, achieving real celebrity status beyond anything even Guetta could dream of. He is still technically “behind” acts like the Black Eyed Peas, who are the true superstars. But these new “Super DJs” will be the kind of people who truly want fame, and all the pitfalls and trappings that come with it.

And of course, musical style matters. By its very nature, a genre like minimal or deep house simply will not become as mainstream or popular as electro, pop or rock. This means that people who get into it, by their very nature, won’t be the types of folks who will be searching for fortune, fame or the spotlight, but will truly be in it for the music.

Black Eyed Peas

The Black Eyed Peas are one of the few acts who can still dwarf David Guetta…

So aside from the fear of the new scale dance music is reaching here in the States, there are concerns over the new, pop nature of it. Some think that what the newest listeners of dance music are rocking out to these days should not even be considered dance music, and that acts like Skrillex and David Guetta are bandwagoners and sellouts, ruining and distorting “real” dance music for an entire generation.

But even the king of weird, Mr Richie Hawtin, believes exactly what I have come to believe – that the biggest acts of today aren’t destroying dance music, but introducing it to a whole new generation who only a few years ago would have scoffed at anything with a four-on-the-floor beat.

This same generation headed in droves to Ultra Music Festival in Miami, too, including many college students from my hometown, which is a total shift from even three years ago.

How the overground feeds the underground

When I was in Miami, my musical tastes kept me far removed from the chaos of Ultra, and much closer to pool parties with Lawler and sunrise Space Terrace sessions with Dubfire.

I’ve been at this a long time. I didn’t start out liking minimal or tech house. When I was 17 or 18 I loved trance and hard Euro house, both of which were very popular in the late 90s. But soon I was introduced to the likes of Sasha and Digweed, and when I was ready, and tired of the predictability of trance, I dug a little deeper, and moved on.

And my story is not unique. Countless others around the world were introduced to and fell in love with the more mainstream styles of dance music only to move on, but now it’s happening on a much larger scale, and people are freaking out. I too can say it’s been scary watching the music I love go from something I scarcely admitted to liking (after growing tired of getting the same “eww, techno?” reaction) to seeing college frat kids in Deadmau5 costumes for Halloween. But what I’ve come to understand is that no matter how much the exclusivity of dance music on the whole might be gone forever, the core of dance music will never change.

In all likelihood, that frat kid in the mouse head will phase out of the music after college. But if he digs deeper and embraces the underground, that’s great for everyone involved.Now I’m not here to preach that one kind of music is better than another type of music – exactly the opposite. I’m simply saying that the music that’s “mainstream” right now is doing exactly what it’s supposed to – inspiring a new generation of listeners to experience the magic of dance music.

Meanwhile, those of us who love deep house or UK bass or whatever more “underground” genre it might be, should be encouraged our scenes are likely stronger than ever, both solidified by solidarity that what we are listening to is not for the mainstream crowd, and livened up by a few enthusiastic new listeners who have started drifting away from the popular and towards something they never would have heard before.

Are you just starting to get into the dance scene? How commercial is it where you are? Or have you “been around the block” and seen it all before – and thus got some insights on all of this to share with us? We’d love to hear your comments.

Comments

  1. Danny P says:

    I think its good for djs that like EDM but cant play it as often because the crowd still has that “eww techno” mentality. I admit I have only gotten into it relatively recently but it sucks when you find a great song on a music blog but then have to think, ” how can i make this work for my audience?”.

  2. Great article. You summed it up, and I especially like how you also mention the commercial stuff as the entry drug.

    I also think one should see the difference between major labels and big commercial artists vs Coca-Cola or VW merely paying sponsorship money to hang a sign at a major event.

    I know it sucks as a DJ when you want to drop some unknown tunes and the crowd seems too narrow minded when they hand you requests to only play familiars, but that’s life. Either work harder to elevate into the world of requesr-free DJing, or just deal with it.

  3. atom12v says:

    It’s called evolution.

  4. Finlay Stewart says:

    God, it’s like Fatboy Slim never happened…

    • for this generation of kids, he hasn’t.
      and just like it happened with big beat/electronica in the states in the mid90s, the majority of people will sooner or later move on to the next big thing. but if only a small percentage of them will get deeper into the scene(s) and stay with it as soon as it stops being cool, start making their local scenes stronger (and maybe even open a few more clubs), it can only be good for the infrastructure of the edm scene in the states…

      • Finlay Stewart says:

        You’re right on all levels, but having a celebrity, stadium filling, corporate sponsored, commercially driven crossover DJ/Producer is nothing new.

        It didn’t kill it last time and won’t this time either.

  5. aliboy67 says:

    Music lovers should consider vast array of music genres. I notice that past forms of electronica music some what fade a bit, but make a come back with a slight twist – ask Danny Howells.

  6. Seamus says:

    F_ the underground. F_ the mainstream. You hear a song, you like it, other people will give you shit for it, you shouldn’t care. Music is a matter of taste, and confining that taste within artificial boundaries is bullshit. I don’t mind Skrillex. I don’t think he’s as good as some of my preferred lesser known producers, but I admire the way he’s brought a new sound to a massive audience. I like that I can go out to clubs that a larger portion of my friends enjoy and hear music with a bit of meat in it, and I have him to thank for that.

    When you say, ‘I don’t like this artist, it’s too mainstream’. You’re basically saying that you don’t like them because other people do, which is completely retarded if you think about it. If you enjoy something, other people’s enjoyment of it shouldn’t hinder you. I personally would’ve loved to check out ultra, because some of the music there would’ve been fantastic. I don’t let the actions of a few people who insist on being on the barriers so they can tell their friends about it later, and take pills that turn them into annoying husks ruin my fun, I just get some space and celebrate the reason I’m there, for the tunes.

    Commercialism can only ruin your fun if you pay attention to it. You can simply ignore the advertising and find the kind of show you want to go to, there are always amazing artists playing small venues, and the bigger artists occasionally too. Guetta (who I’m not a fan of incidentally) played in a 300 person pub in my hometown just last week, Skrillex played a variety of smaller venues as part of the ‘Mothership Tour’. So occupy the corners of the music world that interest you, and don’t dismiss artists (or concert goers for that matter) who choose to occupy different ones.

    • Seamus says:

      And even if it was all a negative thing, there’s no way any of it could ‘Ruin’ dance music. You can’t spoil something like dance music, if people want to hear it, people will make it and it will find an audience. If nobody wants to hear it, it won’t get made and it’ll die. That’s not it being spoiled, that’s just nobody wanting it anymore.

      If there’s a style of music you want to hear, a gap you feel is in the music world, something you feel like commercialism has killed, then get out there and make the music yourself, that’s what Dave Nada did with moombahton, bringing dutch house and latin music to what is growing into a massive worldwide audience.

    • Francisco says:

      I wish there was a “like” button for this; well said Seamus.

      I might add that as DJ’s we must always listen to everything; whether it’s commercial or not, you never know what will inspire your ears and tweak your sound, which you get to share with the audiences; especially if you are into producing ro creating your own grooves. Thanks DDJT for this article.

    • *LIKE*

      That’s me pressing the imaginary “like” button on this reply.

      When I say I don’t like a tune, I’ll give a real reason like I think it’s too cheesey sounding or too over the top for my tastes. I won’t say something along the lines of “MTV plays it, so it sucks” or “DJ Mainstream Mike plays it, so it’s crap”.

  7. Bogus. In the 90s we had Eurodance here with tons of acts that “sold out” so to speak, this is just another wave.
    Same with industrial, when Underworld came out with 2 industrial-inspired tracks on it, everyone went emo and prophecized the death of industrial…

    There will always be corporate event managed and over the edge stars. Also there will always be those that have the prophecy of doom, often born out of envy about people like Guetta or Skrillex.

    I actually cannot tell if Guetta is a good DJ or not, but hell if some corporate dude went up to me and told me to hop like a frog in front of 2 not even connected CDJs and cry stupid things into the microphone for half a million per gig… HELL YEAH I WOULD DO IT EVEN IF I HAVE TO IN MY UNDERPANTS!

    The whole thing will go away again anyways and in your heart it is only the passion for music that counts, then there will never be an end. There will always be music, there will always be DJs. And I for one welcome the different “brands” of DJ out there today, no matter if they love music and DJ with iTunes and make people happy or they are mad controllerists or turntablists… obviously they all have a market, share a love for music and have happy audiences. So keep the music spinning and wonder less about politics and corporations unless someone pays you major money to do something… then by all means go for it.

    • Absolutely!

      This isn’t new.

      It’s just that America’s 20 years behind and is finally giving dance music more attention. Now that there are corporate sponsors it’s a big deal.

      Dance music cheesed out in the 90s and got corporate sponsors mid-to-late nineties when plenty of people got sick of it.

      Who can forget Ibiza’s DJ line up and playlist being paraded every single day of 1999 by Zoe Ball on Radio 1.

      Also agree with Seamus that if you like something you like it, and even if it’s better that no one else knows it (for your ego), it doesn’t mean it has to be “niche” to be cool.

      • dgroovy says:

        Five or six years ago I had a 23 year old friend from London. He and his friends had NO IDEA that raves were ever something notable… anywhere, let alone for the UK. I couldn’t even convince him.

        And they were a pop culture savvy bunch. But that was the age of fashion bands and hipsters.

        America’s not 20 years behind, this whole global generation is 20 years behind. After a decade of re-enacting the 80s, we’re now redo-ing the 90s.

      • The American public took until 2010 or so to embrace dance music.

        It’s been big in the UK since 1988 and many other Euro countries followed during the 1990s. I don’t know what your London friend 5 years ago knew, but anyone who knows music from the UK can easily talk about rave and many can remember it.

        And the whole sound comes from the USA so in a sense, America is not behind, the mainstream just took longer to take to dance music.

        Maybe USA mainstream was afraid of it maybe because some thought it was “gay” music. And the radios were too pussy to try new sounds as apparently, many of them are owned by soulless big companies who prefer the latest autotuned pop idol.

        Now they are can’t get enough of Rihanna acapellas over 130bpms of course corporate sponsors are getting in there.

        But this is nothing new.

      • dgroovy says:

        @Matt
        By the late 90s, America and Canada had huge raves and mega dance clubs going on every weekend, almost everywhere.

        Even the most casual music fans knew the Crystal Method, Moby, Prodigy, the Chemical Bros… these “electronica bands” were getting tons of air play on our horrific radio.

        Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’ from ’98 reflects how mainstream it got. I’d say by ’99 your average college student knew all about Ibiza.

        The rebelliousness of 88-94 (aka ‘oldskool’) will always be my prime time, the late 90s was a pretty groovy era. Possibly the least homophobic time in Western History? But it all turned rotten fast as the 90s ended.

        Then came a whole generation completely clueless about everything… like my London friend or any 20-something in the ’00s. Which is why you have this article time-warped here from the 90s.

    • In many ways, this is a good thing too.

      So let’s say next year or the year after, all the kids who were fist-pumping to the Guetta-inspired tunes have either moved on to some new flavor of the moment, or they’re diving deeper down the rabbit’s hole and checking out more underground sounds.

      The current sound dies…but that’s a good thing because it keeps EDM evolving until the next big flash that captures the attention of the common folk.

  8. I guess you could say we’re currently in a electronic-music bubble. It happens every 5 years or so and the media will suddenly turn on club-music and announce the scene dead.

    Meanwhile, we just keep carrying on what we’re doing :)

  9. I will post here because I couldn’t find the section for Q&A. The problem that I have since I arrived in UK is most of the event organizers are asking the dj if they can bring people. For example for this weekend the organizer told me that he couldn’t let me play unless I bring people (of course I argued with him and in the end he invited me to play). I cannot say that I’m a famous dj but I had many gigs until now and I encountered this problem for quite few times before. Why the dj is supposed to bring the crowd, this job should be done by the event promoters. If I bring the crowd I could also start my own event agency right? I understand that big names such as “David Guetta” (bad example :)) attracts the crowd but why they demand to promote the event (I understand that I need to promote on Facebook….but the rest?!). Thanks for listening and I hope you wil read my question and discuss about it. Regards, Raphael

    • You should post this in the forum if you’d like to discuss it. I can give you a long answer to it but this isn’t the right place.

    • I touched on a lot of this in the guide to succeeding as a DJ.

      This is life unfortunately and promoters want ROI. I will tell you though if you’re “required” to bring a crowd, then that promoter had better be putting some greenbacks in your hand for your time.

      This is a big part of why I became just a blogger and bedroom/hobbyist DJ.

  10. Interesting article on a very very very tired subject. The internet is totally changing the way “underground” is meant to be understood today. The capacity for amateurs to make stuff and put it out and NOT make a good living doing it (and thus being dubbed “underground”) will only increase in the near future. So the beloved “underground” isn’t going anywhere. Add to this a blurring of the lines between underground and mainstream. Are Bassnectar and Pretty Lights considered “mainstream” because of all the commercial success? I think those are good examples of artists who FEEL underground in the what they produce and how they act, yet one can also hear their music in commercials now. THIS IS WHY THE CONVERSATION IS TIRED: the definitions are changing, rapidly, just like everything else.

    That bit about Ultra:
    “Even the “high culture” magazine GQ got in on the action recently. They provided an outsider’s perspective on Ultra Music Festival, which they summed up as a drugged out, costumed, three-day trip.”

    … this is what festivals are in USA. If anything this should be applauded as real journalism. But guess what, that’s what it is in the hardcore “underground” too. In fact, maybe my new DJ name should be DRUGGED OUT COSTUME TRIP. :)

    • I’m a university trained journalist about to graduate, and although I did enjoy the read by GQ, I was apprehensive about giving them too much credit. Yes, that is what festival culture is about in the USA, but he didn’t even venture far enough from his safety net to go see someone like Seth Troxler, who was at Ultra, let alone get outside of the bubble of the festival into downtown Miami. If he would have even acknowledged that there was another side to it (journalism 101 – check all points of view), I would have been much happier with the article. As far as underground meaning poor quality and empty pockets, well, I didn’t say that – because let’s face it, guys like Steve Lawler and Luciano are very well off because of DJing. They just won’t be doing tracks with Fergie any time soon, and because of the very nature of their music will always be considered more “underground.”

  11. We all know house music has been around for a while. But it was just a matter of time till it comes out to the mainstream public. People like Guetta and All these artists are doing the right thing.Have you heard a Johnny Vicious track play on a radio station back in the day?? not often. We listen to radio now and you have these artists playing every 20 min or so. Id rather hear dance music instead of Rap . Rap music talks about money and other crap. I think house music has more passion due to the fact that it takes time to create and manage layouts on tracks. Phhhhewww im tired. lol What do agree?

  12. Firstly, I think we have to define what IS underground. Has the meaning of the term “underground” changed over the years? Is there even an underground anymore?

    To me, the underground was something you had to be invited to, something you heard by word of mouth. They were illegal raves and after-hours where you would go to hear music that was impossible to be exposed to anywhere else. You had to be there when it happened, you had to be there to experience the sound, and you dragged your friends along because it was something you couldn’t explain to others because it was new, unheard of, untapped, and it was nothing like anything in the mainstream – it was underground. You had be there to buy the CD (or tapes even) and you lived off that CD or tape till you wore it out because that’s is all you had to live off of until the next event.

    With the internet, and being able to promote, post, search, find, and download anything at any given time you no longer have to be in a certain place at a certain time to get a taste of whats going on. Musical taste and influence are derived from a variety of styles that are heard, played, and then downloaded, digested, stripped, cut, mixed, remixed, mashed, cross-pollinated, and re-uploaded within hours of being posted on the net. You no longer have to go ANYWHERE to participate in ANY counterculture whatsoever… There is no more underground, there is only the “recently released” and the old school.

    That being said, without the underground (in my eyes) it is all simply, just music – a matter of taste.

    The way I see it, where the underground was once like an undertow at the beach that would tug you out into the unknown and obscure, it is now a seasonal and reoccurring tidal wave that rises to the height where the hype crests, crashes, and recedes… leaving everything in its wake, rearranged – and the big corporations are just trying to get on that wave while its still on the up, and that’s not going to change anything whether they are on it or not, not in my opinion.

  13. Each year at WMC I meet people who were drawn to Miami by Ultra, only to be exposed to the Satellite Party scene happening and evolving their musical tastes toward the “Underground” over time. Same thing happened to me – DJs and Acts that I was excited to see 3 years ago that are considered more mainstream don’t really perk my interest as much anymore. Tastes in electronic genres will always change and morph, it only takes one party or one exceptional set to push someone on another path. I don’t see any reason to hate on the big name, superstar acts. If it bothers you, don’t support them. But their success will only strengthen the “Underground” scene in the future.

  14. Jcross says:

    The main difference between this bubble and past bubbles (ie, the BigBeat phase, the Two-Step phase) is the ability for someone to become an insta-DJ.

    Lots of people who have discovered EDM over the past 20 years have decided they wanted to become DJs. So they’d emulate their heroes, heroes who spent time “in the lab,” perfecting their skills, showmanship and tuning their ears. The all-flash, no-substance result that comes from the current slate of superstar DJs backed by corporate dollars results in noobs emulating “instant rock star” behavior — no skills besides pre-programming sets and pushing sync and yapping on the mic, doing Jesus poses and playing shite music.

    Not only does this trend diminish the quality of music being played, but it drives true heads away.

    The final result: the ones who really love the music stick with it, learn to be good DJs, and all is well; the ones who were in it for the flash go away because the punters don’t support them. So it all works out in the end.

    I think our biggest mistake as a community, however, is hanging on to the idea that being under the umbrella of EDM makes us united somehow. Commercial dance music hangs around the necks of house like an albatross. We need new nomenclature to separate “underground” from commercial, and as it’s been pointed out, nothing is underground anymore.

  15. This very much reminds me of peoples experiences in ANY “underground” culture. This happens in Punk rock, this happens in hip Hop, this happens with Metal and Country.

    There will always be the hardcore under grounder decrying the death of a genre due to media saturation, artist exhaustion, or corporate intrusion. And in the cases of specific festivals, artists, and areas this can happen but that in itself does not kill the underground it only makes it stronger as this article so rightly illustrates. It opens the underground to new people who had a taste and want more, they may not have the look or the already established musical tastes of others in that group, but often they enrich it in ways that could never be included in a purely underground vacuum.

    Punk only died because of elitism and snobbery, and it’s only dead to elitists and snobs. I think EDM is unlikely to ever suffer the same fate, this beast is much bigger, more diverse, and really I think the greatest successor to the Punk Rock ethos.

  16. DJ Forced Hand says:

    Ebb and Flow… music trends (as water) flows like a liquid. One thing that cannot be predicted is how someone feels (that’s an emotional thing right there) about something that night, what will trigger a good (or bad reaction) or who will set the trend for the night, the season or the duration of the fad.

    One thing is certain with life… change. Some fads/trends last longer than others, but there is NO WAY Commercial Artists will ruin what people feel in their heart and souls, you cannot buy or sell that, you can only sell what appears to work right now.

  17. Finlay Stewart says:

    Another headline that needs to be introduced to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines…

    “Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no’”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge%27s_Law_of_Headlines

  18. If the answer to the headline is ‘yes’, each listed style of dance music may have been killed off by the track that follows it:

    House: The Shamen – Move any mountain
    Rave: The Prodigy – Charly (Mixmag famously once said this did kill rave but that’s another story)
    Trance: Darude – Sandstorm
    And more recently
    Dubstep: Katy B – On a mission
    Drum & Bass: DJ Fresh – Hot right now (but it could be argued that Goldie, Roni Size, and Pendulum may have got there first).

    Rave of course then split into hardcore, and drum & bass, but the fact all those songs received commercial airplay hasn’t killed their respective underground scene, or left us with clubs that only play JLS has it?

    Also, Smirnoff Vodka are getting in on the act with their Nightlife Exchange project. Anyone know much more about this? Similar to Red Bull with their music academy, if that’s still going?

  19. pop influence has already killed the scene. the damage is done

  20. Non-commercial artist or actually, producers who are not capable of making a big hit.

  21. Terence says:

    Dance music is not dead. By the time the corporate suits catch on and begin producing music that sounds the same for general consumption, we’ve move on to something else already. Music is like the stock market, you have to be there in the beginning, not when everyone has already begun jumping on the bandwagon. The key for the DJs is to find these gems and slip them among the ‘fast food” music of the masses.

  22. What you people don’t realize is that there is someone much more under the curtain that influenced a lot of commercial artists these days. Don’t look only at Guetta or Afrojack or the likes.

    There is one that is more insidious than all of them, and that is Inna, Romanian female artist that basically took over the entire goddamn world by storm.

    That girl’s popularity skyrocketed in the last two years, influencing a lot of mainstream artists into that sound. And I am sad to say that I’m a countryman of hers. I bet there isn’t ONE of you here who doesn’t have a relative that loves her stuff.

    You’ve heard it all here, folks: Inna ruined dance music worldwide.

    Peace,
    3w

  23. you couldn’t have said it better the mainstream scene is what got me into electronic music, back in the day i used to listen to commercial trance and after began digging deeper. shortly after the EDM scene exploded you hear kids talking about deadmau5 and all of a sudden everybody liked Electronic music. yet when not long ago i would tell people I listen to “techno” and I would get these disgusted reactions driving me to keep my taste to myself. now I just got enough of the EDM scene and moved on to Techno, minimal, deep and tech house and I can honestly say I have found the styles that will live with me for the rest of my life. going to a club and listening to these styles is something I would do by myself.

    <3 Deep & Tech House, Techno, Minimal <3

  24. It all filters down to us, the weekly DJ’s that are either working a club or a party..So if the scene is evolutionary, the locals want some form of it at their level..adaptability is the key.

  25. Great article! I’m feeling the change myself about how dance music is going mainstream, and yet my homie genres and favorite underground DJs still being left out. But admittedly, I’m seeing the change in my mixes too. I usually was a piece of pure trance follower but lately was pondering over Morgan Page’s new album. But nevertheless, these guys like Avicii and Harris are true awesome talents!

  26. I as all people started out as “Eww, techno” person. I was taken to an underground club and from being in that experience, turned out to love it and that was the foundation for my pursuit of being a DJ today. What I can also say, is every single “Eww, techno” person I ever took to this club all walked out loving underground.. 100% hit rate..

    My theory is, if you hear dance music in someone’s car or on the radio, in a completely out of context situation, it does turn out to be an “Eww, techno” experience. However, if you go to the scene where people are thriving on it an you see and understand the point of dance music and experience the escapism this music offers, then it all makes sense. So when you next hear the music in an out of context situation, you don’t just hear the doof doof doof of the dance music, you have a back history to your experience with it and thus appreciate it and then you grow to understand the deeper varieties of dance music…

  27. Sure as FCUK they are! It is so darn annoying to hear this mix of commercial hip-hop and pop artists producing these EDM tracks that are an absolute torture to listen to. There is not a moment when I tune into a station that such a song is not aired… They HAVE killed EDM or what EDM is really about. Everyone now seems to generalize that such trash is EDM, when it is entirely NOT.

  28. B.B. Koning says:

    I have always been one to promote non commercial music throughout the eons.

    In my previous life, I did press and radio for more or less exclusive indie centric labels.

    In the modern era, no label is required. This is, of course a blessing and a curse that has been covered many times over.

    Good side: anybody can do it. bad side: see above.

    This applies to being a DJ as well.

    The very notion of the underground has changed across the spectrum in the last 15 years.

    Bands like MGMT, of Montreal, and The Flaming Lips have no qualms about licensing their songs out to big business for use in commercials/ads/etc.

    While this makes my punk rock upbringing kind of squirm, all the above examples have used the money to fiance art that is amazingly left of center and the farthest thing from radio friendly.

    So I suppose that sponsorship/commercial licensing can be used in positive fashion to beat them at their own game in the end.

    As to dance music, I tend to take a more dour position.

    A great portion of what I am hearing in DJ charts and playlists and at the local big clubs is utter shite.

    Unfortunately, I live in one of the capital cities of Dubstep. Therefore, unless you want to wear 100 dollar shirts and dance to umpteen Guetta remixes at the bourgeois status clubs, you’d better like dubstep ad nauseum.

    So all the underground dance venues are almost exclusively dubstep centered.

    I realize that you have to pay the bills, but I truly wish that somebody would use that dubstep cash to host a deep house/minimal/acid/anything moderately interesting dance night.

    I think that with the exception of the healthy rave/underground scenes that have thrived (primarily in Europe) over the years, the dance scene culture has centered around this obsession with having to look a certain way and project a certain air of status just to hear the DJs spin. And that obsession with status is a cornerstone of crass commercialism.

    So it does not surprise me at all to see the scene being used to sell beer and luxury cars, and the music reflect little more than a means to obtain them.

    That was a very long rant, and I apologize.

    I decided to get into the game because I felt it was time to try and make a push, at least locally, to try and spin the deeper house and electro that have both pulse and heart, and hope that with the right skills, somebody listens.

  29. KDKLVR says:

    My town in the southern valley of California is still 20 million steps behind evolution. The Bar I Dj for, I remember the hostes asked me on my first night in a snobby way “I hope you dont play that techno crap!” I just found it funny that people don’t understand that Techno is a genere of Electric Music. Though the top 40 “club” tracks are continuously played in my city and people do like them. There is still a majority of people who are oblivious to House, Moombahton, Electro and are still caught in the “techno is crap days” from when during the 90s the media used to make fun of it in shows, movies, and non electronic music. My only way around this and to full fill my DJ job as an educator of new music is to host a different day that is all edm or have my own dance events which i can hopefully start soon. I guess Im not mad that Dance music is going mainstream I just want other people to have an appreciation of it and not bash something they dont know about. All music is good music! I enjoy everything from indie rock to african tribes men music, sure there are things inbetween i dont listen to regularly but i understand that the universal message of music is to bring us all together.

  30. Nice article Phil. As always a nicely rounded, tolerant argument.

    I hate almost everything that’s played on the radio, but it’s true that it can attract people to the real underground scene. Take Pendulum as an example in Drum n Bass. They must have brought loads of new youngsters into the underground raves. But they’re music is truly horrific! If it’s on Radio 1 during the day, you can be 95% certain you’re listening to rubbish.

    It’s a shame that commercial music that gets churned out like counterfeit T-shirts in a Chinese sweat shop makes such ridiculous profits, while real artists are often unsigned and/or unnoticed by the mainstream. But that’s life. Most people will listen to anything. Most people aren’t DJs…

  31. My theory is, if you hear dance music in someone’s car or on the radio, in a completely out of context situation, it does turn out to be an “Eww, techno” experience. However, if you go to the scene where people are thriving on it an you see and understand the point of dance music and experience the escapism this music offers, then it all makes sense. So when you next hear the music in an out of context situation, you don’t just hear the doof doof doof of the dance music, you have a back history to your experience with it and thus appreciate it and then you grow to understand the deeper varieties of dance music…

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