Electronic music is dominating the music world
Just look at the facts. Some of the biggest names in electronic music are crushing the billboard charts – The Chainsmokers, Flume, Major Lazer, Skrillex, Zedd, Diplo, DJ Snake, Jauz, David Guetta, Hardwell, Nicky Romero, Bassnectar, ODESZA, and Marshmello. If any of these names seem familiar it’s because they have dominated the airwaves since early 2013. The Chainsmokers and Marshmello are currently the hottest thing in the music world. In 2015 Major Lazer’s “Lean On” collected the most streams in history. Although it seems like dance music suddenly came out of the shadows and into the mainstream world, the steady incline has been in the works for some years now. The “EDM” industry is now valued in the billions.
Top level artists are making up to 70,000 per show. How did this happen? Why are producers becoming the stars, while pop singers and mainstream music have taken a backseat to production, and mixing skills? The answer is both simple and complicated at the same time. Let’s sit back and explore how we got here.
The rapid advancement of technology, computers, and digital work stations, partnered with user friendly production services such as Ableton, Pro-tools, and Native Instruments give anyone the opportunity to move from bedroom production to the mainstream. The entry into music production is at its lowest standards since the invention of music. This doesn’t mean the music isn’t good; it means that with only a little funding and some well thought of strategies, any John Smith or Jane Doe can be the next world class producer/DJ. (Not trashing the talented producers/DJ out there, they have staying power)
Producers have essentially moved from the shadows of a smash single to having their name featured first. Flume and The Chainsmokers are great examples of this. Music production is everything, and the successful artists know how to leverage the digital and streaming audiences to create some of the biggest hits of recent memory. As production and mixing continue to advance by the day, it’s safe to say that electronic music isn’t going away.
The Death of The Gate Keepers
In order for you to truly understand how music has taken a drastic shift from even the early to mid 2000s, you must first understand how music works. The key is understanding the “Gatekeepers.”
Lets travel back to the 1970’s.
Those were the days when music was played from discs and cassette, and when the discovery of music was limited to listening to the radio. People could only consume and discover music in a few ways, so those who controlled those channels had major influence over what became hot or not.
They were the tastemakers and the gatekeepers. Gatekeepers were the key to becoming famous. Tastemakers controlled the sound and direction of the record label or distribution company. Both these positions were in control of which artists and which music were played by mainstream radio, and which artists they would market and present to the world. The tastemakers and gatekeepers controlled what genres and styles became popular. Gatekeepers had all the power. The game was more about networking, who you knew, and how deep your pocketbooks were. Gatekeepers got your music onto the radio, which in those time periods was everything. This was before the time of Apple Music, Soundcloud, Spotify, Mix-Cloud or even the prevalence of social media. If you weren’t able to market your music, you weren’t going to make it in the music industry. That’s just the way it was.
Until it wasn’t. Everything changed in the early 2000s. The introduction of the MP3 revolutionized the music industry. Musicians could now create their own music and distribute it through streaming and digital services. Hard copies and CDs sales plummeted. The music industry saw a massive decline in revenue caused by illegal downloading. This was the case for several years.
Not all is bleak though. This growth of MP3 technology lead to the death of the gatekeepers as we know it. The introduction of streaming services has lead to artists’ being able to distribute their own music. The status quo has shifted from the gatekeepers to the artist, and for electronic music, this shift was all too perfect. This allowed young independent producers to create, market, and distribute their own music. Independent labels and collectives could now effectively break into the market.
The greater electronic music fan base has welcomed the electronic jam band. Funk influences from the late 70’s are finding their way into the styles of young bass artists who specialize in playing live. Artist such as GRiz, Manic Focus, Russ Liquid, Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Break Science, Lettuce, are among the biggest acts on the forefront of this movement. Festivals are taking notice and booking more and more live electronica shows, appealing to audiences of varying age, experience, and taste.
Break Science at Red Rocks
In summary, the timing of multiple technology advancements, great production skills, the creation of social media, the death of gatekeepers, and the ability for artists and indie labels to thrive in the new modern industry has created the massive genre the U.S. media has so eloquently described as “EDM.” What’s next? Computers aren’t going anywhere; EDM will eventually become just “music.” You might be able to hate the likes of Marshmello and The Chainsmokers, but they are ushering in a new era of dance music– one that everyone can get behind. Their success leads to success in the entire artistic culture. While the scene seems oversaturated now, it will only get worse. But in the true sense of capitalism, the cream will rise to the top. Those who can adapt and grow with the direction of music will make it, and those who can’t will be left behind
How exciting to be at the forefront of a brand new worldwide movement. I can’t wait to sit back and watch it unfold.