Underground no longer, EDM is becoming mainstream

Posted: April 13, 2014

Last year the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, FL drew 300,000 people over the course of the two weekends, making it one of the largest EDM (electronic dance music) festivals in the world. Knowing this, Swedish producer Avicii thought this was the perfect opportunity to debut his new style, a sort of folk-fusion sound.

The audience reaction was not at all what the producer was hoping for. Many fans who caught the set, took to social media to complain about it. The set was a notable low-point in Avicii’s career. Flash-forward a year, and the track many EDM fans were up in arms over, “Wake Me Up,” is now maligned by some for a much different reason: radio stations won’t stop playing it.

Avicii is just one example of many EDM producers who have had massive mainstream success over the past year. Legendary producers Daft Punk swept the Grammy’s this year taking home all the awards they were nominated for, including album of the year and record of the year. Their most recent album “Random Access Memories” has sold nearly a million albums as of January of this year. Zedd’s “Clarity” was somewhat of a radio darling last summer, played a seemingly infinite amount of times, reaching number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and also winning best dance recording at the Grammy’s.

“Everything’s just gotten kind of broadened a bit,” said Jack Trash (JT), owner of local event promoter Sound In Motion, which specializes in putting on EDM shows, “more people are into the music in general […] the music is just more accessible.” JT immediately mentioned producer David Guetta, who’s cracked the Top 10 and even Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

However, any underground community is going to be skeptical regarding mainstream exposure and there has been significant backlash from the EDM community. A massive buzzword last year was “the EDM bubble.” That is, EDM had reached the point where it could no longer remain in the shadows and would soon “burst” into the mainstream spotlight. Everyone seemed to have a “me too” attitude regarding DJ’ing, as stars like Paris Hilton, Ellie Goulding and even Justin Bieber have jumped on the bandwagon.

However, the EDM scene is one that’s difficult to enter. Despite the community’s emphasis on acceptance and “PLUR” (Peace, Love, Unity and Respect), you’ll find problems in this music scene just like any other. One of the biggest criticisms of the EDM scene is the heavy prevalence of drugs at shows. Last year when two people died of possible drug OD’s at a major EDM festival in New York it was forced to shut down after two days (the festival was planned to be three days long). But JT reminds us that “People are going to get involved with illegal substances in a whole wide range of different demographics.”

There’s a sort of push and pull in the EDM community with both its listeners and its producers, some pushing for fans and artists to accept mainstream sensibilities and exposure, and others longing for the days when you could see EDM legend deadmau5 at a club in Minneapolis for around five dollars. It seems as though EDM is ready to embrace more mainstream sensibilities, but as a community, it may not be ready to fling open the doors to tweens who once belonged firmly in the Taylor Swift and One Direction camps. This partly because of EDM’s locales. You won’t find many artists playing large arenas; you’ll find a lot of them in nightclubs or smaller, more underground venues.

Locally, you’ll have a hard time finding live EDM if you’re under 18, as Minneapolis curfew prevents artists at all ages events from playing past midnight, and JT said that the response to all ages and 16+ events wasn’t positive.

However, replicating live EDM is easier than ever thanks to the glorious invention known as the Internet. If the festival is large enough, chances are that Sirius XM will cover it on their “Electric Area” channel so you can listen to the sets in the car at home. If you don’t have Sirius, it’s incredibly easy to find live sets to download online (and before you ask, yes, this is 100% legal). If you’re looking for the latest stuff from your favorite artists, Soundcloud is an EDM hotspot, and most artists will post their singles or even entire albums there before they’re released on platforms like iTunes or Beatport.

You’d be surprised how much EDM producers have had an influence on mainstream music. Diplo has helped on the production aspect of tracks from M.I.A. and Snoop Dog, and techno artist Gesaffelstein helped create the beats for “Black Skinhead” the lead single off of Kanye West’s most recent album.

However, no matter how much EDM embraces the mainstream, there will always be the underground scene. But in a time when raves (a popular name for EDM concerts) have been upgraded from gatherings of a few hundred people to some dingy warehouse to drawing thousands upon thousands of people to some legendary venues, EDM shows no signs of stopping.

If you like this, you’ll love…

Like: “Clarity” by Zedd feat. Foxes

Love: “Language” by Porter Robinsnon

For those who like their electro house with some melody added to the mix, Porter Robinson’s “Language” is perfect. It combines a melodic and uplifting tune while still providing plenty of hard hitting electro sounds.

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