The Analysis of Dance Music Culture – Are We Overdoing It?

The global phenomenon that has taken the world by storm, and growing exponentially has been popularly categorized as “EDM Culture” — which has many traditionalists, older generation clubbers and artists alike irked. The acronym, used to generalize the dance music culture is also widely used as a blanket term and brings the different styles of dance music under one roof, especially to non-listeners of the genre.
However, there are several people within the industry, be it artists, media folk, promoters and even label owners who have dismissed the usage of EDM, calling it ‘mainstream’ music that is a combination of pop and dance. The ‘purists’ — a name coined for the avid listeners of dance music, who are self-proclaimed experts in their genre of choice, are one of the most vocal groups of people and call out anything that does not ‘fit’ in with their definition of their beloved style of dance music. They are also ones that make comparisons and analyse the evolution of dance music over the last two decades, which although can be a good thing, tends to get a bit out of hand sometimes.

Over the last couple of years, some of the world’s biggest artists have called out “EDM” and even Sasha stated,

“Most EDM is made by douchebags, for douchebags”.

Do I care if lots of douchebags buy it? Not really. But, it pollutes.”This was part of the great EDM Debate conducted by Mixmag in 2013*. Sure, you and I may agree with Sasha, but does that mean that a person who avidly listens to EDM could be automatically considered a douchebag? Not necessarily. Unfortunately, the stereotype has stuck and almost automatically, many people call out the EDM listeners for not having a“better taste in dance music”. We analyse. We judge. And ultimately, we dismiss the person for listening to this popular style. This leads me to wonder, have we overdone it? Have we started to look for reasons to analyse and call out people for listening to a particular genre of dance music? Are we expressly trying to spark a heated debate to put down the rest who do not fit into our ‘niche’ of the more ‘underground’ genres?

To put it simply, we are all in some way analytical and judgemental of all those who listen to popular EDM. I’m guilty of it too. There have been countless times that I have sat and argued with people who are still understanding the genre, and I need to have the last word on what really segregates EDM from the rest. Does that make me a douche? Possibly. However, I’ve lately begun to read so many articles and editorials on how EDM is saturating the ‘scene’, that it makes me think, “Why are we spending so much time on analysing the popular trends rather than embracing the fact that dance music has literally become a lifestyle all over the world?” Some artists firmly accept and believe that the EDM culture is responsible for dance music as a whole becoming a global phenomenon, and others are of the mindset that it is the work of those big marketing companies who have capitalized and endorsed the ‘mainstream’ culture by propagating EDM as one of the biggest trends to hit the 21st century.

There are legends like Carl Cox who have accepted the growth of EDM and embraced it, and he doesn’t give too much into what segregates it from the rest of the genres —

 “EDM’s an entry level to dance music and I’m very happy about that. We fought so long for dance music to be respected there. EDM’s a sound that America has latched on to, but once people start going left and right of that scene, they’re going to find their Art Departments, their Loco Dices and their Sven Vaths - and that’s a really good place to be.”

However, we, as the fans and listeners are adding nothing and not being supportive of the culture by being critical of others who have started off their foray into dance music by listening to Guetta, Hardwell, Calvin Harris and the other popular artists. In an article by Joshua Glazer titled “Etymology of EDM: The Complex Heritage of Electronic Dance Music”**, he touches upon an interesting point where he says that casting the widest possible net in terms of the different genres of dance music and putting it under the EDM umbrella, especially in the USA, has helped even some of the tougher European DJs draw bigger crowds than they did a few years ago. However, the flip side to this is that several of the ‘underground’ acts are being taken off the decks to be replaced by artists who are more ‘mainstream’ to meet the needs of the booth and VIP tables, specifically in places like Vegas, Miami, LA.

To find that balance is a tough one, and whereas there is much acceptance that it is unifying the movement, there is also a niche of people who feel that they need to break away from it. But, in essence, the whole analogy of which style fits in which category — be it mainstream or underground has sparked a countless number of debates, which is doing nothing to amalgamate the dance music culture. In fact, there seems to be a need which is perpetuated by some of the bigger artists to call out an Avicii, or a Calvin Harris, just because their music is topping every popular chart or is being played in every club, store and they are raking in the millions. Does it REALLY matter? There are always two sides to the debate, but shouldn’t the focus be on making good music rather than dissing any mainstream artist that has a #1?

There is some conjecture as to whether it is just the listeners and self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ of dance music that are responsible for this seemingly widening gap. You have the more vocal artists like deadmau5 and Seth Troxler, both who have written some pretty controversial editorials dissing EDM, and Troxler even went on to state in his editorial for thump*** “EDM is not a culture — it gives nothing back.” He goes on to elaborate that EDM is ‘ridiculous’ and it is made by ‘ridiculous, un-credible people.’ Even though many of you would wholeheartedly agree with the article, sit back and reflect that eventually, we are feeding the gap and creating a bigger divide, as well as adding to the hatred that is already overflowing in the community.

We cannot discount the fact that there is some truth to Troxler’s editorial. You have several artists who have used the same formula to churn out the same sounding track, without pushing the boundaries. There is nothing innovative about the music they ‘create’, but for the listeners of the mainstream genre, it could be ‘sick’ or ‘the best thing’ they’ve ever heard, because they haven’t been exposed to anything ‘new’ or ‘genre-breaking’ — can we blame them for this? Not entirely. They are still possibly trying to find the sound that fits their personality, and they are probably not avid listeners of dance music, so anything that is popular at the time is what resonates with them. Is that really so bad?

In essence, this is a never ending debate that has the industry hugely divided and is creating a lot more animosity among listeners and artists alike. Real Gone Kid [Mirabilis/Evoked] when asked about his views on the EDM culture sums it up perfectly — “We genuinely need to realize that there’s enough different types of music for everyone, and everyone has the freedom to like and dislike whatever they want.” That musical preferences should not be used as a tool to bully or bad mouth anyone who doesn’t share similar tastes. Looking at the broader picture, EDM has, in some ways assisted in the entire dance music culture becoming bigger, and a more accepted lifestyle over the last few years or so. Instead of trying to widen the gap, and be overly critical of people who prefer mainstream or underground, there should be a conscientious effort to unify people in that music, no matter what style or genre is there make us happy, to make us dance and ultimately give us the high in a world that has so many other bigger fish to fry.
*The Great EDM Debate:
** Etymology of EDM: The Complex Heritage of Electronic Dance Music:
*** Seth Troxler: “Dance Festivals are the Worst and Best Places In The World” :


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About the Author

Shilpa’s love of dance music is vast and it spreads across many different styles. Before becoming a writer you’d find her on the dancefloor shaking a leg while her favourite DJs were working their magic. 7 years ago she decided to combine her love of dance music and her love of writing and began to document her experiences and the music she is a firm advocate of, and has since then written with some pretty heavyweight publications.