Why Embracing the Numbers Will Screw EDM’s Progression


EDM is not a mountain, EDM is pangaea. Electronic dance music is proof that planet Earth is indeed one nation under a groove, a unified land mass brought together by humans inherent desire to dance. Thus, in two moments – foremost, the announcement of a Beatport Top 20 dance program for Clear Channel – and as well social media aggregation tool JustGo’s amended “Top 10 DJs” countdown for 2013, something is wrong. If SFX‘s future-forward “electronic music culture (EMC)” is going to ultimately be showcased with antiquated lists, countdowns and top-down ratings systems, then what exactly is the point of this dance “revolution” than to be a race to the middle defined by classic standards. If this is a culture defined by the future, then why aren’t there measures that use truly progressive standards that advocate for the idea that up is down, left is right and that difference is the norm?

London-based social media startup JustGo recently released their list of the top 100 DJs of 2013. Using analytical data from Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and YouTube alongside piracy platform Topple Track, their results show tremendous depth and clearly emphasize the importance of digital displays of fandom in the marketplace. Similar to DJ Mag‘s much maligned list, Hardwell is #1. However, dissimilar, Armin Van Buuren and Tiësto are replaced in the top 10 with Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia. Certainly, the list showcases the gradual evolution occurring as traditional EDM powerhouse DJs begin to slide into legend status, while new superstars assume the position of being relevant showcases of what’s hot right now. However, these numbers freeze definitions by measures of time and place, which, in a world wherein one-in-four people (2.55 billion) globally are using social media, certainly could be rendered almost useless within a year’s time. As more artists flood into electronic music culture and the singles-driven market meets up with major labels looking for quick money makers in a depressed market for albums, it’s easily possible for a top 100 list to simply reflect who has the most money to advertise to a market of new fans looking to hop on the latest trend. Insofar as building a market for sustainability, looking at a “Top 10″ in this case is basically patting major labels on the back for cashing in and staying alive during what is arguably the music industry’s worst depression ever. If that seems cool to you, then good. But if looking at an era ripe with completely new possibilities, then this is certainly troublesome.

The same goes for SFX’s Beatport Top 20 show on Clear Channel. Again, if you’re into the same old thing, then let’s do this. It’s a great idea, and certainly increases the potential exposure to EDM. However, there’s something to be said for the idea that these songs are best heard in DJ sets, and in turning them into pop songs in pop countdowns certainly limits their best (and possibly most logical) potential. Imagine a show instead wherein there’s a DJ who hosts who spins the top 20 songs in a set alongside a bunch of other (possibly classic, or even moreso, less familiar yet still current) material. In reflecting that dance’s revolutionary energy expands things from top-down to an all-inclusive model, steps can be taken to push culture ahead in a similar manner. There’s something great about SFX’s desire to make a wholesale push for EDM into the world’s mainstream commercial and marketing environment, but in leaning in instead of being a willful interrupting presence from the start, it shows a seeming adoption of a principal of gradual motion in a world accelerating at an increasingly rapid pace.

There will certainly come a point (probably within the next 18 months) where a six-year-old producer from China will release a free EP on SoundCloud that will accidentally end up in the hands of a writer on this site, to only later be dropped in its entirety by Diplo on his BBC Radio 1 program, then passed along to Pete Tong at iHeartRadio and then remixed into a song rapped over by Jay Z and Kanye West with the original going global number one when vocals are recorded for it by Psy and G-Dragon. At the end of the year, this six-year-old will have minimal social media presence, and would have outsmarted Beatport, too, but ultimately have 302 million Chinese Yuan (50 million dollars) in the bank and never make another track as long as he lives. this being the case, he’ll never get heard on Clear Channel, and though having one of the most amazing years ever in the history of music, wouldn’t likely be a top 10 DJ on any chart anywhere.

The Earth is flat. Things have fallen apart. Though it’s nice that we’re reflecting that things are changed, we’re still not reflecting that everything is literally entirely different than it was before. Without that being the case, EDM will be a day late and a dollar richer, but ultimately have a shorter life span on top of popular culture.

  • Jessie

    good article..but one part is wrong…the six year old’s song will end up in the hands of this site way AFTER Diplo drops it and the rest of the world talks about it on social mediaz. Be for real lol

  • George Smith

    I’m from the uk and I’ve been a massive fan of this site and everything you do for about a year now. DAD is easily my favourite place to search for new music and I really just want to express my appreciation for what you guys do. But there are a couple of things that I often think about when seeing these kind of articles on the site and I think it all settles down to the anglo-american differences in the end. But I massively want to address that I’m not hating here!

    Now I know it is your job as musical journalists to analyse and critique the scene but in some respects I think DAD is wrong.

    First of all I am not a supporter of branding everything under the EDM tag. I believe that is an americanism which I unfortunately do not like. See the thing is, electronic music has so many sub-genres. Perhaps more diversity than any other genre of music and so to slap everything under the same title seems to take something away from the beauty of the music itself. Because thats why we are here isn’t it? Because of the music. Because of all of our mutual love for this type of music that encapsulates the listener in a way that other genres just don’t. To use your title, EDM will never die out. And even if it drops off of the popular culture radar to some extent the scene will never stop being as vibrant and as energised as it is today. Because the soul of our music is not in the corporations that advertise it or create the super clubs, or market djs or any of that shit. It’s in the clubs. Its in the DJs, and it’s in every single person who goes out on the weekend and dances there little arse off with a sweaty room full of people who are doing exactly the same thing. I think all I’m saying is, fuck the commercialism. They can try all they like to create another cash machine but it wont change a thing. Because of us, the listeners.

    Just what is it that you want to do?

    We wanna be free
    We wanna be free to do what we wanna do
    And we wanna get loaded
    And we wanna have a good time
    That’s what we’re gonna do
    We’re gonna have a good time
    We’re gonna have a party

    • http://www.rockthedub.com/ khal

      “Because the soul of our music is not in the corporations that advertise it or create the super clubs, or market djs or any of that shit. It’s in the clubs. Its in the DJs, and it’s in every single person who goes out on the weekend and dances there little arse off with a sweaty room full of people who are doing exactly the same thing.”

      I agree. I think the problem is, when EDM becomes a regular “thing,” and people who could give a fuck about the music but wants to chase trends because they’re being advertised to, that can skew who’s in the club, who’s spinning the music, etc. When it becomes a cash grab, people will try to juke the system. Not saying EVERYONE, but we’d rather have fewer bad apples spoiling the bunch.

      • George Smith

        Khal mate I could not agree more, unfortunately there will always be some people looking to cash in on the latest “thing”, which as you said spoil the bunch. However that’s why I believe it is more important than ever for you guys to do exactly what you are doing. Filter out the shit and bring the music to the people, especially as it saves me half the job of scouring through soundcloud for hours on end. Big up from the UK. Top work old boy.

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