The abundant growth and commercialization of dance music has been one of the most surprising features of the 21st Century. The beast now known as ‘EDM’ has launched it’s way into the global-music mainstream, with artists and festivals coming from all corners of the world. This growth is accompanied by ludicrous amounts of money, with revenues easily reaching the millions, and billions, for many throughout the booming industry. With this money comes the influence of those who previously didn’t care about dance music, and that influence can lead to big changes.
Veteran DJ and producer Laidback Luke touched on those changes, both good and bad, in a recent op-ed piece for Billboard. A positive-force for dance music throughout his career, the 38-year-old artist shared his thoughts on ‘payola’ taking place in various ways throughout EDM, the impact of corporate sponsors on festivals, and what he ultimately thinks needs to happen in order for dance music to continue to grow.
Laidback Luke begins by pointing out the incredible importance of things like chart rankings, Facebook likes, DJMag polls. These standings and polls all feed the deep, dark, not-so-pretty aspects of dance music that we all painstakingly tolerate. Money’s role in purchasing favor throughout these popularity polls (aka payola) is widely accepted as ‘just part of EDM’ and dismissed with a shrug. While those of us taking part in the game from the fan’s end continue to do so in order to follow the artists we enjoy, it’s refreshing to see an artist bring it up using more than 140 characters.
It all impacts artists’ profiles and is used as a trade-off when negotiating deals… These negotiations reference not only Beatport charts, but also Facebook likes, Twitter followers, and DJ Mag Top 100 positions. There’s therefore a big incentive to influence them one way or another, be it by buying, marketing, or boosting. – Laidback Luke
He then brought up the influence of corporate sponsorship throughout the countless festivals taking place throughout the world year-round. Venting his own frustration at the exclusivity and territory restrictions that come with bookings at certain festivals and venues, the Filipino-Dutch artist pointed to the ‘blur of lineups that look the same everywhere’ as one of the negative results of these rules.
For instance, at times I can’t play for a club run by a competing promoter for up to half a year after a festival took place… Sometimes this means I can’t play a cool underground club for a few hundred hard-core fans if I want to play a festival main stage for 50,000 people. – Laidback Luke
Unlike many in EDM, Laidback Luke didn’t just take time to complain. Offering up his solution to these issues, he points out that quality artists and real talent are necessary to sustain dance music, and that right now, the resources aren’t there for that to happen.
We all need to understand what’s going on and be part of this debate. Everyone needs to decide their individual role in this. Keep an eye out for real talent, real passion and nurture and develop that. Phonies won’t bring us quality, and they won’t sustain the scene. I’m not just only talking about DJs, but promoters, agents, managers, bookers and radio too. Everyone has their part to play. It’s all our responsibility to step it up and let it grow, rather than let it sink. – Laidback Luke