As a trance fan, the general consensus over the past 10 years has been “Trance is dead,” and it seemed like it was. It was a genre that was, for the most part, on life support. There were a lot of signs that it could be dead: Sales for trance tracks were relatively low compared to other genres, clubs were booking trance artists and struggling to make a profit, and the trance family had devolved into an elitist group that didn’t support the shows and called anything less than 138 BPM not “real Trance.” I have even heard some people call traditional Trance producers “sell-outs” because they decided to do a little experimenting musically by adding a wobble or arpeggiator to the melody of the track they were producing. Even though that elitist group is very small in the Trance Family, they are the most vocal.
However, over the past couple of months we have been witnessing some amazing things in the business of trance music. The majority of artists willing to pull off an OTC (open to close) set have been trance DJs, Insomniac launched the first US Trance only themed festival (Dream State), and sales are starting to climb for trance productions. But before we get to the good, let’s talk about why we all thought Trance was “dead.”
What was killing the Trance market?
The biggest thing that was stabbing Trance music in the chest over and over again – which can be likened to an crazy ex committing spousal homicide screaming “why don’t you love me any more” – was the fan base itself. Each thrust of the knife was sent with one elitist after another punching holes in an artists performance when they played one or two “off Trance” tracks or an artist who dared to use non-traditional Trance sounds in their single. Basically the masses looked at (and still do to some extent) the Trance Family as a bunch of old people telling the kids to get off their grass. Naturally the masses dismissed these music hipsters and the music they love.
When it comes to nightclubs, they all wanted to bring this beautiful genre to the forefront. In the Northwest, clubs like Foundation brought weekend after weekend of incredible artists in the Trance genre. Many of us at DMNW have personally seen some of the best performances ever at a nightclub and the crowd was thin at best. Those nights were a nightmare for ticket sales. It became such a huge struggle that the major nightclubs all but abandoned the genre. Now they’re focused on the much more commercially acceptable house, progressive house, bass, trap, and dub step formats that have traditionally been more lucrative. This has improved as of recently, but we’ll get there in a minute.
With all these elements working against Trance, why is there now significant growth? There are a lot of big pushes for it, coming from all directions: The dance music fan base is looking for more emotion and musicality, artists are making more of an effort to push their music in the way it’s supposed to be heard, and major promotion companies are recognizing that cultural shift.
The fan base outside of the Trance Family is seemingly becoming more disinterested in the gimmicks and bullshit that DJs and producers are pulling. Everyone remembers the rant that Mat Zo had on Twitter, where he basically called out many producers for ghost producing and having pre-made sets for shows. Z-trip pointed out at the EDM Biz conference that he can’t remember the last time a DJ “fucked up.” People do pay attention to these things and those artists words carry a lot of weight when it comes to trend setting. Basically a lot of people thought to themselves “Wow, they really have a point”. There is a lack of talent at the top of the EDM world and the masses are starting to see through the facade of marketing gimmicks. We’re not saying here that gimmicks don’t also exist in the Trance scene; it seems no sub-genre is without them in the present day.
One could also look to the recent trend of artists doing open to close sets. The Northwest has been inundated with OTCs from trance artists like Gabriel and Dresden, Markus Schulz, and many more to come. Gareth Emery had a very popular Facebook post in which he called out the severe problem with electronic music following Mat Zo’s famous Twitter rant. In his Facebook post he pointed out that the biggest problem in electronic music is that artists are forced to program a set in an hour time frame. When it comes to programming a set in electronic music, most veterans and professionals in the scene will tell you that the true art of a proper DJ set requires more time to take the audience on a journey through the sounds of their genre; it’s not just play the “build –> drop” formula that we are used to seeing at festivals. Trance is about having an array of emotions and it only makes sense that a set would need to be longer.
Another sign that Trance may be making its long awaited comeback are the very artists outside the Trance scene criticizing the old guard of wanting to perform longer sets. In a recent post from Chad Cisneros of Tritonal (that has since been deleted), he claims that why they all of “a sudden [have] this ‘burning passion’ to play 5-10 hour sets” is because they are “older DJs who have lost [their] hype or momentum.” It’s fairly common when someone or something is starting to lose their hold on the ground, they will begin to resort to criticizing the thing that threatens them. The sweet irony here is that Tritonal started out as a Trance duo before they abandoned ship for the EDM/Pop style they’re now known for and that very genre seems to be in decline.
As far as promotion companies are going, insomniac has made a huge bet on the love of Trance music. With their new festival “Dream State,” they have created an entire festival focused purely on the genre. Luckily that bet paid off, and it sold out within the first 8 hours of it being live. It was so successful before it even happened that they added another one in San Francisco and have included a Dreamstate stage on their world brands of EDC. That’s something we are hoping to see at EDC this year. In the Northwest we are seeing more sold out shows for popular Trance DJs like Aly & Fila, Jordan Suckley, & Gareth Emery, along with more trance dedicated nights like Appointed Nights, The Sounds of Trance, and the recently formed Seattle Trance Alliance with an Alex M.O.R.P.H. at the Box House in February.
If you look at record sales, they are not surging to the top. But they are on the rise. From 2004 to 2013, there was a steep decline in trance sales as the EDM/Pop bubble was growing. That is to be expected, but as we move to a more informed culture on music and become sick of the cookie cutter pop music that now controls the scene, we will start to see the market stabilize. With that we have noticed a healthy increase from 2013-2014 in trance sales on Beatport. We are awaiting reports for the sales of 2015 but are confident that they have climbed a little higher. Call it a hunch.
Finally there has been a serious effort by the Trance Families to bring back the PLURR! The elitists are being quickly weeded out. You might say “That’s not very PLURR!” However, the thing about PLURR is that it is not a one way street. If you want respect, you must give it. And like we said early in the article, the elitists are a very small minority, but they are the ones making the rest of the Trance Family members look bad. Another great thing is that, the Trance Families are supporting their respective scenes, they are coming out for shows, and they are becoming very well organized. Finally the Unity part of PLURR is really starting to resonate. If Trance is to survive, it must act as a unified front and let the money talk. Buy tickets to Trance shows, buy tracks, and buy merchandise. It’s tough on the rave budget, but it’s what needs to happen.
Is 2016 going to be the year for Trance? Most likely not, but the coming years will show continual progress and eventually solidify itself as a premier genre in the electronic music scene. What are your thoughts? Do you think Trance will make it’s long awaited comeback?
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are those of the staff writer and may not be representative of DMNW as an organization.
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