Picture this scenario:
You’re at a house party, and the host’s meticulously curated playlist isn’t cutting it anymore. Tragic, really, because they likely spent hours poring over the order of songs, mix of genres, and amount of early 2000s throwbacks.
But the party-goers are drunk and the party-goers want to dance. And by means of an inebriated coup d’etat, the power of the aux cord returns to the people. This is your moment to shine.
Someone hands you the cord (or you eagerly demand it), and you hit “play” on your current electronic music earworm. As the track kicks off, you look around, taking in the other party-goers’ reactions. Their expressions range from adulation to confusion as they unquestioningly move to the music.
From that moment on, you become the chosen god of the aux cord, holding absolute authority over the party’s sound. No amount of requests for Drake will shake your resolve as you deliver track after track of dance music bangers. And hey, you even got the wallflowers to get on the floor. You could not have wished for a better reaction from your fellow party-goers.
But for some reason, that fantasy doesn’t play out in real life.
Instead of adulation, what you get are looks of bemusement, or worse, the painfully civil, “oh…it’s interesting”, a virtual death sentence for your track selection. You did the thing. You fought the good fight, but ultimately, the crowd wasn’t ready for electronic music.
As oddly specific as this scenario may be, this painful reenactment can be a teaching moment. A moment that most electronic music fans know well. The lesson to be learned here is that introducing your friends to electronic music can be a grueling process. If you take a misstep, friends’ reactions can be dismissive and unforgiving. And, who knows if you’ll be able to bounce back from this for a second shot?
There’s no science to this process. No best practices or memos or guidelines.
Until now, that is.
As a former skeptic of electronic music, myself, I have spent much of the past few years trying to make amends by introducing the genre to as many people as I can. Through these interactions, I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t (but, mostly what doesn’t).
After years of trial and error, the end product is the distilled, somewhat coherent 5-step guide below. In creating this guide, I hope to save some of you from the missteps I have made in the past and help you be more successful in introducing this awesome genre to your friends and loved ones.
1. Start with singles, not mixes
For the uninitiated, there’s nothing more daunting than the time commitment it takes to listen through a DJ mix. Entry-level mixes are at least an hour long. If you think about it, that means asking your friends to sit through something that’s 15-20 times the standard duration of a song.
Don’t scare your friends away by requiring such a time commitment. Instead, ease them into it. Try this absolute banger; it’ll leave the first-time listener confused, hooked, and ready for another play.
…which leads us to our second pointer.
2. Cater to their genres
There’s countless subgenres of electronic music, and they match perfectly with the more mainstream genres. Take this opportunity to get creative and to put your music nerd skills to use. Think about how there may be similarities in sound, instruments, vocals, and even cultural context.
Lucky for you, we’ve come up with a definitive, in-depth guide coming soon.
3. Take them to a show. A really good show
What makes a good show? I’ve had many conversations about this topic with newcomers and old rave veterans alike. There are 4 things that fans across all generations unanimously agree on.
First is a good sound system. No, an amazing sound system.
Second is a DJ that can read minds. Great DJs will play familiar sounds that draw the crowd to the dance floor, but the true greats will also throw in tracks that nobody’s ever heard before, and make the crowd go wild.
Third is an eclectic, friendly, weird, dancing crowd. Whether it’s the anonymity of a packed, sweaty dance floor or the communal atmosphere of an underground event, the crowd plays a huge factor in whether or not you enjoy your night.
Fourth is a proper venue. This conversion isn’t supposed to be an amateur effort. Take your friends to a club or dedicated music venue.
4. Be patient; it’s a long con
Indoctrination rarely happens overnight. It’s a labor of love with an ulterior motive.
After the introductory tracks, you can begin to test the waters of what each of your friends enjoy. Messaging song links isn’t an effective method when anyone can end the conversation with an “I’ll listen to this later”.
Instead, wait until you have a captive audience. Whether it’s a pregame or a car ride, you have to sense opportunities where you can gauge their reactions to new music while giving them no other option than to listen.
Eventually, after going to enough shows (it doesn’t take very many quality shows to really get into it), they’ll be more acclimated to listening to mixes. Pretty soon, electronic music becomes a topic of daily conversation. And with the music comes new friends, a sense of community, and of course, the parties.
A defining moment will come when they show you a track or tell you about an artist you’ve never heard of before. And in that moment, you can rest assured knowing that the indoctrination is complete.
5. It’s about making memories
Sharing music is such a deeply personal form of interaction. By showing someone a track or an artist that you love, you’re opening yourself up for judgement but also making an opportunity to connect over something new.
I was lucky enough that my best friend initiated me into the cult of electronic music fandom 4 years ago. We were at a pregame in someone’s dorm room, where she jockeyed her way to the aux cord and put on the intimate and hypnotic classic, “Tenderly.” As she earnestly described why the track stands out and why I should explore more of Disclosure‘s catalog, I was taken aback by how entrancing the bass sounded.
Call me easily impressed, but, somehow, it flipped a switch. My apprehension around electronic music rapidly faded, and eventually led me down the rabbit hole of house, techno, and so much more. All it took was one track.
Don’t give up on your friends just yet.
My best friend got me into electronic music. And, I am forever grateful. It has created a special bond between us that is irreplaceable. And, with that same level of earnest and careful deliberation in your efforts, then you, too, can be that friend to somebody else.
Remember, all it takes is one track.