Despite the questionable management of our content and our culture, we’re watching the EDM bubble expand quicker than ever. Dillon Francis signing to Columbia, the creation of Insomniac Records, and SFX buying up absolutely everything that looks like it could potentially be profitable (including Beatport) are all indicators of the exponential growth of dance music. And though we shoot darts from time to time to remind people that we’re watching, it’s not all bad. Fans of dance music are becoming more educated, and are pushing for more diversity in the mainstream. Slowly but surely, popular dance music culture is shifting, and it has the potential to create revenue and amazing opportunities if influential brands hire educated curators and advocate for change that will benefit the entire market.
The thing here is that popular culture really is controlled by very few, and that business and art are two very separate things. High profile labels, high profile PR firms, and platforms that are seen as industry standards largely control the flow of content, and though artists are making records that are competitive, they can’t get a grasp on the other moving pieces needed in order to succeed. An artist has to have hit singles, but those singles are often manufactured by brands that understand all of the action and assets needed in order to look relevant, and how to execute. Artists are also having an increasingly hard time getting exposure because blogs, booking agencies, and PR firms that are needed in order to succeed on an international level are beyond their reach. You need backing or a budget in order to get noticed in 2014, plain and simple.
Swaying the system is pretty much fair play at this point. Al Walser duped the system to get himself nominated for a Grammy, SoundCloud has a serious issue with bots that they refuse to address, and the sheer quantity of services that promise to get your record charting on Beatport or trending on SoundCloud shows how thirsty artists are to do anything that they possibly can to succeed, and how the industry values numbers above content. In the marketing world, all of these platforms matter. Press kits boasting a Top 10 hit on Beatport, making it on to DJ Mag‘s Top 100 list, and six-figure plays (even if fake or financed) are carrots for uneducated writers, promoters, and fans to have quantifiable data that sways their opinion. It’s faking it until you make it, and it’s standard. It’s also entry level psychology, if that semester of college serves me correctly.
We laid back and watched this Miss Tara “Runaway” fiasco from afar, and did so for a couple of reasons. One is that the industry attempting to brand us as “the TMZ of the underground” as we’ve posted more than 5000 records in the past 16 months is getting old. The other is because we don’t particularly care. Paying for placement is the norm in dance music. We know what blogs are taking money for placement, what SoundCloud accounts are charging artists hundreds of dollars to repost questionable records, and are so desensitized to the whole thing that it seems silly to worry about it. These numbers, stats, and accolades are needed in order to compete, and less-talented producers can pay to take advantage of services that manufacture interest and exposure.
Miss Tara did exactly that for her Beatport charting single “Runway,” and broke into the top 10 with a completely fake fan base, fluffed Facebook likes, and a generic big room house record. If you’re unfamiliar with how this works, those numbers go into a press kit that says “attractive female DJ / producer has stats to back her talent.” You then lock interviews and PR that make you look relevant, and it leads to bookings by promoters that rely on numbers, as well as residencies at bottle service clubs. Miss Tara got caught and outed, but we find it hard to believe that she’s the only one that ever bit the low hanging fruit, as swaying Beatport charts is as easy as checking your email and wiring money when you’re in the music industry. And while Beatport didn’t mention Miss Tara by name, the timing of their statement regarding cheating and consequences has us wondering if this response is a direct reaction. Their proclamation from yesterday has some powerful quotes, and sent a strong message:
“First, if you’re artificially boosting your sales to fake the demand needed to score a favorable chart position, you’re robbing someone else, someone more deserving, of that same spot. You’re doing more than cheating. You’re stealing. You’re lying. You’re taking false credit for something you didn’t earn, and you’re hurting someone else by doing so.”
They went on to say that anyone caught will have their content removed, and that they may be banned from Beatport if this activity continues. Before I start applauding, I’m waiting to see if “Runaway” actually gets pulled from their site. It’s still up for sale in their stores. We’re also of the opinion that swaying Beatport charts has been a game that artists and labels have been playing for years, and that a full and honest evaluation of the flaws in the system would gut a significant chunk of their catalog. But the fact that someone in a position of power in a historically unfair and unethical system is actually admitting that something is wrong and suggesting that we all play fair is a huge step. We’re curious if action will match these words, and wondering if the trend will extend to more brands than just Beatport. But this stance and sentiment is huge, and has the potential to force platforms to try their best to truly level the playing field in an effort to make the music business as fair as it possibly can be.