Pete Tong is as synonymous with dance music as Pumpkin Spice Lattes are with fall. Recently, the world renowned DJ and host of BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix took a very interesting and somewhat critical look at the electronic dance music scene for The Village Voice. He addressed where it’s been, where it is, and where it is going. You may want to pay attention to his predictions because he is very attune to what is going on in the industry and is almost never wrong.
EDM burst into the mainstream market around five years ago. Pete saw this coming early on because of a few key signs: the sudden shifts in the way music was being curated by the youth, artists who shouldn’t necessarily be in the top 40 made appearances, and large open air arenas and fields to host EDM shows that was not restricted to the 21 and over crowd. Before that shift, electronic DJs where relegated to night clubs and basements like the house scene in Chicago.
Then of course there were artists like David Guetta breaking into the top 40, which essentially brought in a whole new crowd of fans that were curious to the genre and began listening to other artists. From there, the fire just spread. It was a large and grandiose movement back then and created the version of EDM we have known for the past five years.
According to Pete Tong, that heavy saturation has come to its peak. Youth are more educated and have begun to define the sub-genre borders in EDM. The audience wants more than a “Press Play” DJ and they want to return to what the original dance music fans have held onto for so long. They want that emotional feel we get from the music when it was pure, not the forced dramatic lyrics of today’s pop dance music.
Artists are doing sort of the same thing. The original big name DJ’s are starting to re-brand themselves, seeking refuge from the DJ’s that don’t really respect how far the music has come. Deep house is an excellent example of this trend according to Pete. Spinnin Records now has a sub label called Spinnin Deep and supplies half of the labels output musically. Anjunadeep, the deep house arm of Anjunabeats, is another great example. But deep house is being sub-categorized into smaller pies with terms like Nu Disco, Tech House, Acid House, and so on, which is further proof of the audience looking for a more definable sound to define themselves.
If you were a techno DJ playing in Ibiza and someone described you as EDM, you were getting very offended or making great efforts to point out that you were different to like, Guetta and Avicii and Afrojack and everyone, and so it became a term that became very generalized, a bit blurred around the edges. I think if you’re an EDM DJ now you certainly think your [public] image is probably of that big Main Stage sound, so, I think that that’s why people start looking to identify themselves in different ways really.
If you attend the massive festivals that are going on currently, you can see the audience slowly leaving the main stages in search of deeper and darker sounds coming from the satellite stages that surround them. The real DJ’s out there are just sick of being lumped in with the masses and are trying to define themselves as real artists and have returned to what original ravers loved. Some are even completely changing the music they make. Dirty south for example has an upcoming album that is far from that big room house that he was known for with tracks like Phasing.
If you look at Carl Cox’s arena, at Ultra, if you look at the success of the Sunday School stuff, which is small, but it’s packed, and it feels very much like the naughty place to be if you go to Electric Zoo or Mystery Land, you know?
Pete Tong sees the future of electronic music to be a blend of the past fundamentals that electronica was built on and combining it with new and more adventurous music. A blend of the past and future so to speak. The benefit of this is that we will see the fall of the hollow, non authentic DJ’s that have become so huge over the past few years. Pete is not saying that EDM is over or that the bubble is soon to burst, he’s just saying that the future is going to be different than what we have become accustomed to. Where do you think the future of dance music is going?