Is America killing dance music?

Any cynicism aside, these are the exact same concerns ITMers have been wailing about for ages now, but it’s a perspective that’s also starting to be heard beyond the confines of specialist dance music media and its community forums. Will North America’s embrace of dance music ultimately be a bad thing for the scene worldwide?

The tone of the Wall Street Journal article was surprising because up until now, the mainstream American media has for the most part welcomed the commercialised aspects of the ‘EDM’ craze with open arms. Take US trade weekly Billboard Magazine as a prime example. As ITM pointed out in February, “Billboard has donned its neon ‘RAGE’ cap to help champion the cause. One of the magazine’s favourite poster boys is Tiesto, with lengthy features devoted to the Dutchman’s business acumen and ballooning Stateside following.” If they’re raking in a shitload of money, then they’re OK with us. The Wall Street Journal ’s scathing account has definitely been the exception to the rule, as far as American mainstream media goes.

Over in the UK though, one of the world’s most enduring spots for clubbing culture, there’s been plenty of people looking on at the developments in the US with a touch of bemusement. Quality journalism tome The Guardian recently published a fascinating critique of David Guetta’s stateside adventures; titled with the slightly misleading Lord of Dance, it examined the current levels of commercialisation we’re witnessing in dance culture.

“I'm not Carl Cox the hit player… Am I supposed to dumb down to the idea that all I'm doing is pressing a button?”

“If you're part of the original acid-house generation, for whom dance music was a genuinely counter-cultural movement born out of dirty raves in basements and warehouses, it couldn't be a more alien world. Dance music went mainstream in the UK in the 90s with the rise of superclubs and festivals, but the likes of Ministry of Sound and Creamfields have nothing on its current commercialisation in the US,” The Guardian quite accurately pointed out.

“Planes fly overhead trailing 40ft banners advertising new gigs in Las Vegas for Guetta, Afrojack, Swedish House Mafia, et al. Vegas has no interest in alternative music – only in who sells the most tickets, and the casinos that used to court Elton John and Dolly Parton are now scrambling to offer residencies to DJs.”

In comparison, the Wall Street Journal ’s critique was a lot less measured in its assessment, and allowed a few of dance music’s most enduring performers to weigh in, including longstanding favorite Carl Cox. “If somebody said to me: Play The Time of My Life by the Black Eyed Peas and throw your hands in the air, I couldn't do it. If you gave me $10 million, I couldn't do it," He told the paper.

“I'm not Carl Cox the hit player. I find I have to work hard for it. I have no idea what I'm going to play when I start… Am I supposed to dumb down to the idea that all I'm doing is pressing a button?”

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sweethunter said on the 13th Jun, 2012

I wrote a similar article about 2 years back. Its really sad that the scene was kind of small with people who loved the music. Now, i really don't know what people are looking for when it comes to music. they don't care about people like Mark Farina. I don't think america is killing JUST edm though. Seriously, i turn on the radio and hear hundreds of songs that are less than amusing. Its sad. America is killing music itself. You seriously think the music we listen to on the radio is genuinely good? nooooo. . . If anything i think that there are certain DJs who are kind of killing the scene. I don't know if this DJ is doing it intentionally or anything but Im sure at least 1 person can agree that David Guetta is simply selling out. Since he's associated as being a DJ, i think that brings more attention to EDM and the crowds are so difficult to break. IT really is a shame that the talentless gobs are ruining the music industry by letting auto tune do all the work. its the same with the EDM scene. What constitutes a DJ? Because now, i feel like there are just people who can supposedly say they're a "DJ"because they download from a free computer program any idiot with a computer can download online. I don't mean to badmouth anyone but i love this scene. i have the utmost respect for the djs who kind of started an EDM revolution. But I'm very hopeful. EDM has blown up but its always going to be there. The old school house-heads, the trance fanatics, the TRUE supporters of the scene will always be there. Clearly, many have jumped on the bandwagon but i wouldn't worry about them ruining our scene. Our scene is always going to be there just like it always has. Its so funny because i remember my friends and i used to complain and wish that the EDM music scene was bigger. now that it is, we see how crappy its becoming. GREAT STORY MAN!!!


TJAY said on the 14th Jun, 2012

Great article. And I can't agree with Guetta's argument, and it's a common one not restricted to dance music.

Look any any style of music, hell look at anything...the most popular, the one that caters to the masses is based on a formula - the most popular.

Listen to any commercial radio station, whether it's country or old gold classics and the formula is evident.

Read the Herald Sun, watch ACA or Today Tonight and again the formula is there; feed the masses.

Really fans of the DJs at festivals don't want 2 hour sets. There's a reason as much as I wanted to see Tenaglia once in my life I didn't go to his festival was 2 hours.

I can DJ for 2 hours in my bedroom and sound alright. I sure as hell won't be moved like a proper set from the best over several hours.

IMHO the festival demand came from a combination of artists becoming popular therefore charging a fortune therefore promoters needing to load the bill to make their own fortune vs paying the bills, blah blah blah and the circle goes on.

If I go to a festival or concert to see a band I want to hear their hits. There's a reason I haven't been to a 'modern' dance festival with 2 hour (or less) brackets and it's because 1. They're not their hits and 2. It's not long enough.

I'd love nothing more for more people to love EDM, I spread the word as much as I can, but Guetta, et al are wrong. We're not trying to keep it for outselves.

We're just trying to get the masses to understand what we love doesn't sound like the cheese ridden, formulaic, vomit worthy, autotuned crap that is being sold as dance music.

We love dance music. Music that makes us want to dance. Not block our ears and cringe in horror. Or laugh out loud.


Shall said on the 14th Jun, 2012

There will always be a disconcerting idealism by passionate, well-enriched EDM followers that mainstream, publicised and well-promoted, media absorbed acts including David Guetta, Afrojack and co have actually made a negative impact on EDM - Especially in the USA. However I still feel that these mass-produced excuses for innovation in the Electronic Dance music scene, have in a general sense, actually have had a prolific positive impact though. Especially for the wider audience and the wider community.

EDM as a 'societal cult', generally has been able to educate the masses, that people that enjoy electronic dance music aren't all drug enhanced zombies and that people can still enjoy this once aptly named 'rave' music without illegal substances for the most part. Instead we're passionate, embracing music lovers who love to enjoy the party atmosphere and importantly we love and live by our music.

I once heard that Raves and major-scaled dance music events were originally indefinitely outlawed in California and other states across the USA. To now think that Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Zoo and Ultra are some of the largest dance music events in the world and nightclubs in the major cities of U.S.A are seeing yet another revival (IbisWorld, 2012) - In summation, this means even more choice for those dance music lovers. That surely can only hold U.S.A in a good stead for the future. Seeing trance legends Cosmic Gate in a club in Washington D.C a couple of years ago for a lot less than in Sydney was also a prime example of that. Oh and I absolutely loved Ultra last year by the way, even though I didn't visit the main-stage on any of the three days - I didn't really see the need when all my favourite artists were still performing on the supporting stages.

Illustrated by this article alone, the influential power of the media has once again been a driving force in the dismay of making up people's minds for them - It must be wrong! The internet tells me it is wrong to like David Guetta, so it must be wrong! Every opinionated critic seems to develop a biased opinion of what is good, what is not so good and what might be good if 20,000 other people on a social media website say it's good.

But still here's my opinion, because my opinion counts to myself (even if it may not count to a single other person!). Yes that Justin guy with his new dub-step track may be considered to be not so good for EDM in general. But maybe it will hit over 26 million views on Youtube and it might also have over 9500 different videos posted on Youtube alone just like David Guetta's "When Love Takes Over" (Youtube, 2012) and when it does, a fair proportion of the population will think it's really good! Even though I might not.

Would this again be a bad thing? Should I be worried that other people may actually enjoy this music that I would personally rate as tripe. I would still hope though that's the beauty of music as a form of art. Even though I would dare to contemplating comparing young Justin to a musical genius like Mozart. The same essence is still present, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Sometimes beauty that is considered by some also comes in the most ugliest of packages and sounds as well. But please don't tell Skrillex that - Even though it's probably most unlikely that my own lonely arrogant opinion doesn't stop him from producing music that is currently abundantly enjoyed by the masses. Oh by the way Skrillex, where is the drop?

Heck let Madonna prance around during Avicii's set on-stage at Ultra, let Paris Hilton try to mix tracks and play with her knobs. She's pretty good so I hear..Heck even let David Guetta be shown on Seven's Sunrise fiddling around with some knobs whilst the glazed over faces of Aunty May and Nanna Brown are sitting back enjoying their morning 'cuppa'.

Heck even let Lil John on the main stage of Ultra to shout out some profanities. Because for some appalling reason that appeals to the masses as well. Just keep him far, far away say (Say the furthest stage away) from the real stewards of the dance music scene, the true creative artists, those who continue to develop and maintain respect 20 years on in the scene, those artists, that long time EDM pluralists would so easily be able to identify.

That's still the amazing realisation though. There is still the multitude of different EDM genres out there and even increasingly the over-abundance of different producers (turn toured DJ's/live music acts) expressing themselves and their own personal tastes with their different sounds.

I've always believed that as an Individual you need to make up your own mind of what you like to enjoy! Experience the music and scene the way you want to experience it. Don't let yourself become another fatality of following the masses or being lead astray by the masses just because it's either unpopular to be popular or popular to be unpopular.

Again Mr Guetta, Mr Afrojack, keep doing what you are doing - people enjoy it so it seems. Just make sure that I'll still always be able to see my favourite artist and listen to my favourite tracks whenever I can.

Skrillex, once again though I ask.... Where is the drop?


Original_Beats said on the 27th Jun, 2012

Interesting Article, ok it's already been said but but big respect goes out to where it all started, Chicago, New York, Detroit , and guys like Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles, Moby, BT, Joey Beltram , UR, Masters at Work etc the whole scene would have never have been possible without them.

I think the title of this article should have been ' Is the commercialization of dance music killing it ? ' instead, because it's a now a western world phenomenon. I went to a few ' Dance music Festivals " in Aus and soon realised they are nothing like what I experienced at Raves and Dance Parties back in 90's, that was a special time that will never be replaced, that's not to say I didn't have a bit of fun at one of them, but you wouldn't catch me dead having anything to do with skrillex, so anything he had to do with, I avoided.

I also feel once the 90's passed with each year of the 00's passing by dance music lost it's soul ( in terms of the sound ), not even talking about cash here, and the 90's sound is where the most creativity and soul in the music occurred, and yeah Guetta's point about people saying they wanted to keep the music to themselves ?, that was not the case for me, for me, as a music lover, it was about the sound, if a DJ I loved changed direction, and I no longer liked the sound for example sasha going to minimal, I didn't get into it anymore, it had nothing to do with me thinking, man this guy has sold out or is very successful and he now sucks !?

Thankfully there are some DJ's and producers out there still producing and mixing the real shit, I tend to head to an intimate club with my select fave DJ's for that, and masses will hit Guetta ( although I don't mind one or two of his tunes I don't think he's worth seeing live )

There is also a difference between listenable and commercial, some DJ's have gone off the listenable track to go more underground where others have sold out to be way to commercial or tried to change their style to suit a younger crowd, I think a DJ can still be listenable and underground with cool tunes that are not to off the mark, listenable, or danceable, uplifting yet still not cheesy.