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Is This The End of EDM?

by Kristina Uleckas-Lavigne

October 18, 2018 | Arts and Culture

Wes Hicks via Unsplash

As the lights fade, the screams of thousands of fans fill up the arena. Everyone pulls out their phones to capture the moment. The audience can feel the bass vibrations from the speakers go right through them. Everyone is on their feet, jumping up and down, as the excitement fills their bodies. They can smell the gas from the fog machines as it fills the venue. It is finally the moment to see the performance they have been waiting months to see. It’s showtime.

If you have turned on the radio, watched TV, or attended a music festival in the past few years, you have most likely noticed that producers and DJs are at the top of every chart right now. Electronic Dance Music, also known as EDM, is the fastest-growing musical genre according to Google Charts. EDM is also the only genre that has shown steady growth over the last decade. In 2017, EDM had 12 billion monthly streams only on Spotify. Some of EDM’s biggest names are David Guetta, Tiësto, Kygo and Skrillex. They have achieved international popularity in what feels like the blink of an eye. Calvin Harris, the world’s highest paid DJ, earned $48.5 million in 2017. The global electronic music industry is worth $7.4 billion. International Norwegian DJ Kygo reached one billion streams on Spotify in 2015. This is faster than any other artists ever before. Furthermore, more and more artists from other genres of music are looking to collaborate with EDM artists… All this, until now.

When Coachella, an American music festival, released their lineup for 2018, many fans pointed out that it was missing the EDM acts that dominated the festival’s lineup in the past years. Even though it included pop megastars like Beyoncé and The Weeknd, gone were Martin Garrix, Marshmellow (who both played in 2017), and 2016 headliners such as Calvin Harris, Major Lazer, and The Chainsmokers. This is surprising considering Calvin Harris earned the second biggest crowd in Coachella history in 2014. The lack of electronic artists in Coachella’s lineup points out the “death” of the music genre, according to Jonas Uleckas-Zadeh, a fan of EDM: “EDM in my opinion peaked in 2012 when Avicii came out with Levels or Swedish House Mafia came out with Don’t You Worry Child.” When talking about how the ‘peak’ of EDM compares to the music which comes out now, Uleckas-Zadeh stated,

“Everything back then was new. Even though now we do get the exception like Kygo where we hear a new style, everything now more or less feels like a repetition. Nothing can beat 2012.”

SEEB, a Norwegian EDM producing trio, say that the EDM industry has become, “more focused on materialism and the glossy lifestyle.” They brought attention to the fact that people are, “getting bored of the streamlined package the EDM industry has been selling.” Furthermore, the EDM industry, in their opinion, has become “cynical”, especially after the death of Avicii, and the documentary Avicii: True Stories, showcasing how rough the behind the scenes of the industry can be.

Even though this genre of music has only recently gained high popularity amongst the youth, it has been around for quite a while now. EDM was created out of multiple sub-genres that have been around for a very long time. The synth era, disco, techno, house, and trance music all came about in the 1980s as a result of the ‘party scene’ and the acid house movement. Many, if not all, of today’s most popular electronic music styles have come from synth music. The 1980s made post-disco, new wave, and synth-pop well-known styles, as well as making electronic music mainstream. The 1990s created the dance/techno era, and the EDM era, which has been thriving since the early 2000s.

DJ and producer Ryan Riback, most famous for his remix of Call on Me by Starley, states that when he started to make music, “it wasn’t called EDM. It was just dance music with heaps of sub genres.” He states that in the last few years, “streaming has grown very rapidly, and some new genres have emerged which really suit the streaming landscape and what people ‘listen’ to in their daily activities.” Riback noticed that a few years back the music was the same in both clubs and on the radio and now, “music that is played in the clubs and on the radio are very different.” Every genre of music that came before EDM, such as disco and techno, had their popular ‘phase’, and then a new genre of music took over. According to Riback, the style of big room dance music known as ‘EDM’ has already passed its time: “It has already had its moment in the spotlight, but that sound in terms of what people are listening to (especially in a growing streaming landscape) isn’t the most popular anymore.” SEEB think that the EDM ‘scene’ has become, “a little oversaturated. It seems like everyone has their own super-pro, drone shot after movies after huge gigs, and so everything is starting to look alike.” One of the reasons that EDM is now less popular than it was, in Riback’s opinion, is because of the, “resurgence of RnB and Trap infused hip-hop.” The fusion of other genres is when we will see, “cool new music being explored and discovered.” SEEB say this transition will show, “less of the EDM stadium music and show and more exciting things happening in all the smaller sub genres of electronic music.”

In terms of a future evolution of EDM, it is hard to say if there will be one. SEEB mention that although the EDM scene will never go away, it will “morph into something new.” They added that after all, electronic music has been around since the 70’s and now more and more young people are making computer-based music. Therefore, EDM is in some way or another, “here to stay.” Riback thinks that technology will, “play a big part” in the evolution. A new synth or plugin would definitely change the sounds we can currently create in which case we could witness an evolution of sound.


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