Is America killing dance music?
Wed 13th Jun, 2012 Features 107538 viewsin
Where there’s money to be made, there’s usually creative compromises. One of dance music’s true icons Pete Tong, still a fervent supporter of the underground, has been for the most part very positive about recent developments, though he was very explicit in expressing caution earlier this year when tackling the subject in a column in Music Week, sending out an SOS to artists at risk of cashing in their creative integrity when chasing the almighty dollar. He also issued a warning to watch out for those shadowy corporate types lying waiting in the shadows.
“Success inevitably attracts attention – and now numerous extremely wealthy individuals, big business and VC funds are eager to buy into the EDM action. If allowed to run riot with their corporate machinery, these same people will destroy the scene. Wikipedia the word ‘stampede’ and I think you’ll get the picture. Now is the time for those involved to sharpen up and play their very best game; to develop the scene steadily, keeping it true to its roots.”
Later, he added: “The money at stake now dwarfs what was on the table back then, but the history should come as a warning shot to all about selling the genre short and being seduced by cheque book-waving billionaires with no care or vision for the long-term game.”
Something that is undoubtedly true is that while there used to be a tangible link between underground dance and what was being played at festival mainstages, a yawing chasm has since opened up, and it’s beginning to look more and more like the Grand Canyon. Last week, production veteran King Unique offered a few valuable insights to ITM about why this might have happened; perhaps the dance underground has something to answer for?
“Perhaps Guetta is actually making some sense. Maybe we might even need him to ensure the longterm survival of the dance culture we know and love?”
“Right around the time the whole minimal thing happened in 2005, the underground side of things became so specialist, so utterly demanding of people who were into this scene and sound,” he told ITM.
“In a way that wasn’t quite the case before, as you could often occupy more of a middle ground; you could produce a vocal remix of a mainstream act, though it might have been done in a more underground kind of way. It made the culture seem accessible to people.”
Thomas argues the determination of underground dance came at the expense of maintaining a connection with a wider audience. “That’s why we ended up with Guetta, Afrojack and all that shit. It’s because we just didn’t take people with us. We decided we’d be completely underground, and completely cool. It’s created a situation where mass appeal went elsewhere.”
Thomas describes somewhat of a culture shock amongst his producer colleagues in the techno and house ‘underground’, in seeing DJs like Guetta and Tiesto embraced on such a massive scale. “It’s why you’re hearing DJ Sneak bitching on about the Swedish House Mafia. When people feel like their value is being completely sidelined, they start bitching. But ultimately, it’s immaterial; if every single last person in house and techno denounced Guetta tomorrow, that’s a tiny voice compared to the people who think he’s fantastic.”
Interestingly enough, you could argue King Unique’s sentiments are dangerously close to some of the comments David Guetta made to The Guardian earlier this year. “In a way, this is what killed dance music for so many years,” the smiling Frenchman argued. “That spirit of wanting to keep this only for ourselves; and anything that’s successful is bad. That culture that goes in a cycle where everybody loves someone and they’re all talking about him, and then in one second, because he’s successful, ‘Ah, fuck him, he’s bullshit!’ What? But you were saying the same guy was a genius last year, now he’s the worst person?”
Perhaps Guetta is actually making some sense. Maybe we might even need him to ensure the longterm survival of the dance culture we know and love? Could Richie Hawtin, the one dissenting voice in the Wall Street Journal article, possibly have been right when he said that it will be the big money spinners who draw the next generation of kids to the cooler side of electronic music?
Maybe, instead of getting annoyed the Swedish House Mafia are headlining Coachella, the other side of the dance music canyon should be reflecting on what they need to do to in order to sway a few new kids over to their camp.