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.