A polemical article has been making the rounds lately. D.J. Pangburn, a writer for the prestigious Death & Taxes online magazine, claims that EDM is “the new American bubble.” Likening popular dance music to the speculative housing crash of 2007, Pangburn states that EDM and the parties involved in its rise are nothing more than doomed opportunists and sheisters. Here’s why Mr. Pangburn is, respectfully, dead wrong.
The article starts by calling EDM fans “ignorant” masses. He frames his piece as a verbal attack against those of us who spread the dance movement. “It’s also a chance to have a little fun at their expense.” Throughout the article, it becomes clear that he doesn’t mind seeing “EDM” going down in flames. It’s meant to incite anger from the first keystroke (that and the disgustingly sensationalized title). The entire piece claims that EDM has become bulbous, commercialized, and is destined for an immediate fall – good riddance.
(It’s worth stating that some of what he’s saying we’ve been saying all along. How many more boomy, distorted, Animals-clone big room tracks can we possibly handle hearing? When will people step up and change the game again?)
What Mr. Pangburn doesn’t seem to realize is that not all of us are wide-eyed 19 year olds being strung along by corporations because we have no musical insight or world awareness. EDM brings all types of people to the party, many wildly talented but also marginalized. Many of us on this very team are musicians and producers of one kind or another. We hold degrees in music and music production, play in bands and in clubs, exhibit mastery of multiple instruments, understand music theory intimately, and love just as much non-EDM as we do dance music.
[quote style=”1″ author=”Kaskade (via The LA Times)”]As far as a music culture goes, EDM is the one who will accept the kids on the outliers, the ones who get bullied, the ones who feel like they may not quite fit in. This community is exceptional in its ability to bond all types together, and I am not exaggerating when I say it saves lives. Our audience is intelligent and kind, discriminating only in regards to which sound they like best. Our audience is unprecedented in their drive to proactively support each other.[/quote]
Dripping sarcasm is at the core of the D&A article. It reflects a major problem we see in music journalism — why in the world must every piece of music ever written have to be OK Computer or it’s garbage? Why in the world can’t some music just be fun, and judged on that merit. When did we become so ungodly obsessed with our own creativity that we turned music into a logjammed, metacritical, holier-than-thou pissing contest, rather than remembering that somewhere inside, all music was made for feeling.
Even David Bowie and Mick Jagger, who nobody could claim haven’t written some of the best songs of the century, recorded a bullshit song together and made a terrible video. Why? Probably a number of reasons, but when you hear them quote The Beatles in the lyrics you know it was at least partly for laughs. Yeah – they should fucking burn for that one.
Pangburn spends a great deal of time pontificating about SFX, the massive corporation that now owns Beatport as well as the Miami Marketing Group. He claims this as further evidence that EDM is nothing more than a corporately-sponsored trash heap. While SFX and other corporate interests are now buying up huge majority stakes in festivals like Tomorrowland and Ultra, they weren’t just podunk music fests before the evil moneybag handlers came along. They were wildly successful music festivals with almost 100% entirely satisfied attendees. Corporate sponsorship isn’t the only path to EDM success.
Not to mention, there are plenty of case studies against his claim that corporations destroy music. Here in the Northwest, we have our own example – USC Events. Are they a massively successful company making tons of money from dance music? Yes. But their most visible executive member, Doug McIntyre, regularly flies in from Chicago to play at Foundation Nightclub. Is it because it will make money? Not really. Most times he isn’t even the headliner. Dig-Dug goes to all this trouble, in our view, because he’s been in the scene for so long that he doesn’t know how not to be a great DJ.
When did capitalization become a crime, anyway? Are we really suggesting that making a dollar is an automatic means to destruction? And that isn’t even taking into account the fact that EDM is capitalized the world over, for far longer than here in the States. And it’s still going strong. Capitalism and The Law Of The Few, for better or worse, built this country, and we can’t help but feel like maybe Pangburn should be a little more proud of his heritage.
It’s as if he can imagine only two kinds of music: megalithic corporate sellout or back basement indie gold. It’s a horribly uninformed, elitist, diametric, closed-minded viewpoint. Pangburn seems to believe the only place EDM festivals have to go is back into hiding in warehouses, because there is just no middle ground in music. It suggests that, without polarizing music, deciding what is “good” and what isn’t would be impossible. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but “the underground” is largely dead. It disappeared the moment the modern social network was invented. Now people have to like things because they actually like them, not just because nobody’s ever heard of them.
In the end, what he doesn’t seem to believe in is the power of what comes after the “bubble” we all suspect will correct eventually. We come to dance music not because it’s cool, not for drugs, not for the pretty lights (though they are magnificent); we come because we love the sounds, we love the people, and we bask in the power of sheer scale EDM concerts hold that’s only matched by the most elite rock n’ roll events. Tommie Sunshine, an EDM pioneer and one of our movement’s primary spokespeople, put it best.
[quote style=”1″ author=”Tommie Sunshine (via In The Mix)”]When an underground scene goes ‘mainstream’, you’re always going to have a few distinct camps. There are the people who want to keep things how they used to be, and then there’s the people who want to push it forward. You also have all these new people coming into the equation, who have no preconceived notions or expectations. They’re showing up to the party because someone told them it was a cool place to hang out. It’s an open door. We – or at least I – want everyone to come to the party.
Personally, after 20 years in this, there’s room for me to play right down the middle. I played EDC and the Main Stage at Ultra, I played with Afrojack on New Year’s Eve, did a tour with Zedd, then went this summer and played two nights on the Terrace at Space in Ibiza. You can bet your arse I didn’t play EDM at Space.
This wave is so far from breaking on the shore, it’s ridiculous.[/quote]
We will not retreat underground. We will evolve because that’s the whole point of electronic music. We aren’t limited by our instruments, people’s physical dexterity, or even their physical disabilities. If we can imagine it, we can make it. That’s something that, as wonderful as they are, the guitar or the human voice alone will never be able to achieve. Hybrid productions and experimentation have never been bigger. EDM will always grow because our foundation is firmly planted in technology, and as long as there are people who believe in that, we’ll always be at our own razor’s edge.
In the meantime, we invite Mr. Pangburn and anyone who thinks EDM is all commercialized garbage to visit Seattle. Here our local scene is thriving. Clubs have opened their doors to deeper music and stranger crowds. Experimentation is encouraged, and listlessness is not allowed. We leave our houses every night because we care about elevating music, not vilifying it. It’s the most wonderful feeling imaginable. Everyone should try it.
Readers! We strongly encourage you to share your greatest dance music memories! How has it changed your life? Tell us in the comments why you so fully embrace EDM in all its wonderful, grandiose, overwhelming, beautiful glory!
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