Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Has EDM Peaked?

Electronic Dance Music image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Every trend in music has the same trajectory, be it big band, rock n' roll, folk, British invasion, grunge, hip-hop, and now it appears, EDM (electronic dance music). The trend usually follows a path that goes like this:

1. The movement starts out small locally and grows by word of mouth via a small tribe of ardent supporters.
2. As the trend spreads, it picks up more and more followers from city to city and country to country, yet still stays under the radar of the masses as it continues to bubble with excitement.
3. The trend hits critical mass and breaks out with a huge world-wide hit or a breakout artist.
4. At that point every record label scrambles to get in on the act, signing artists of a lesser caliber in the same genre. Professional songwriters begin to adapt their styles to employ the latest trend and are sent to co-write with trend wanna-be's by the record labels and artist management. The music world looks for hits, not art, so it can cash in.
5. The once exciting latest-thing becomes a watered down homogenized version of it's former self, but lives on in the media as the hottest thing for a few years, as the early torch-carriers become slowly demoralized and leave the scene.
6. The trend never really dies, but it diminishes in importance and visibility as it's replaced with something newer and fresher.

Anything sound familiar here? Aren't we up to #5 with EDM?

EDM has been the biggest scene/trend that no one knew about (except those millions of insiders) for the longest time. When a DJ can get 50 to 100,000 people to pack a stadium and hardly cause a ripple in the news, that's still pretty underground. But it doesn't take long until the big money catches on and things change, and that's what's happening in EDM today.

Take a listen to the top songs in just about any pop chart and you'll find products of the EDM trend. David Guetta, Nicki Manaj, Black Eyed Peas, Pitbull, the list goes on but the music unfortunately doesn't get any better as we get contrived songs created for the masses.

As I always say, art is something you do for yourself, a craft is what you do for everyone else. We are now in the craft stage of EDM.

Today we see an article a day on EDM in mainstream media like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, major promoters like Michael Cohl and Bob Sillerman getting involved because they see big bucks they think they can make, major labels on the prowl for new EDM talent at the recent EDMbiz conference, and the rest of the music world trying to catch up to a trend that's already passed them by. See what I mean?

I hate to say it, but it's all downhill from here. EDM will continue to grow for a few more years, but its most vibrant, creative time is probably now behind it.

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Jef Knight said...

EDM is basically disco. Disco is purpose-driven music.

Having spent a lifetime of studying psychology and its related fields (especially as it relates to music/entertainment) I see EDM as something different.

I believe it's "utility music", that is, it serves a specific purpose in the human experience. That purpose? It's instigating, hypno-booty music for those who are in the "mating" phase of their lives.

That's why you see young people flocking to it. (There's more to dancing than this, but I'll save that for another comment)

Women, of all ages really, during the peak of their fertility cycle will demand to go dancing.

When I hear "let's go dancing" I know that that's my cue to throw on some dance music and grab the

But seriously, dancing in humans, like it is in virtually all mammalian species, is an evolutionary trait that is essential to the mating ritual.

I think that what will happen is that mating-call music will continue, and thrive, in whatever incarnation it takes next, regardless of the economics of it.

And I didn't even get into the whole rave drug thing... ;)


steve harvey said...

I think your argument is badly flawed, Bobby, and I think it's partly because you assume it's a trend. (Also, ask yourself, per #1, which city EDM started in...?!) It isn't a trend, any more than rock or reggae or classical music is a trend (and none of those meet all of your 6 criteria, either).

I also think you're confusing EDM with EDM-influenced pop (Guetta, et al). And I think you're looking at it as an American phenomenon, not the global (esp. UK and Germany) phenom that it is.

Giorgio Moroder was almost immediately successful - no slow build up - first via Chicory Tip (UK #1) in '72 then w/ Donna Summer w/ her debut single in '75. Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" - big hit both sides of the Atlantic, 1981. That's a decade later. Madonna - more of the same over the next couple of decades. House music made the jump to international #1's by the end of the '80s. Underworld's "Born Slippy" became an EDM anthem in '95. So who was the breakout artist (and there are plenty of other examples)?

Arguably, EDM has been through your #3-#5 many, many times over four decades...and I wouldn't call something lasting 40 years a trend!

Jef Knight said...

I think Bobby is more or less right about it currently trending in North American Pop.

Sure, it's always been with us, Morodor is a good example, but that's also a European thing all the way back to Kraftwerk.
Those Europeans loves them some electo!

But over here guitars and "rock-ish sensibilities" have dominated the sound of N.A. music. So-called "disco" has reared it's ugly head time and again, but I think the smart money is on EDM emerging.

You'll know it's arrived in full when it shows up first in TV commercials, then predominance in movie themes. And we're starting to see both of these things.



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