The worst insult of a musical endeavor is to call it ‘generic’. Talent, order, scope; all of these take a backseat to invention. Music that does not contain and provoke emotion is, to many, an affront to the art. In an interview with NPR, Puja Patel, (a Rolling Stone and Pitchfork writer) spoke about the dangers of becoming stagnant in an ever-evolving industry.
If hype sells tickets, then Patel’s claim that “DJ-only concert-going experiences have become less cool than ones that have mixed-lineups” signals a death cry for the scene. It’s a controversial statement to be sure, and one that will have audiences up in arms. However, when examined closely, it’s not completely unreasonable.
[pullquote]”I also think that there’s a general want for mix-format DJing and cross-genre sets as dance further infiltrates pop.”
Compare Coachella, which sold in record time, to last year’s Ultra, which took fifty days longer to sell out than in 2013. Before you interject about how Coachella has EDM acts, remember that the main draw of the event is that it is a cross-genre spectacle, and it is pulling ahead of pure EDM events. Indeed, that forms the core of Patel’s argument: playing exclusively EDM isn’t cutting it anymore.
That is not to say that dance music itself is lagging; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. While only Calvin Harris was one of the ten highest earning musicians of 2014, his presence there is a testament to the growing market of dance—a market exploitable via mass appeal. His popularity and his superstardom are not merely a result of his dance music, but also because of his crossover draw. By backing pop artists, Harris acquired diversity and notoriety within a massive audience, and it’s paying off.
What’s happening is that producers who may have been dubbed “EDM producers” in the most modern day sense are realizing that they can be pop producers and have bigger/stronger longevity by backing a vocalist than they can by making moshpit tunes as the festival bubble is basically about to burst.
The problem with this approach is that diversity leads to imitation. Imitation is fine when it breeds novel creation; even jazz legends pay homage to their ancestors—but (and this is crucial), jazz artists expand upon their musical ideas. In the dance scene, Patel warns that after a hit is released, “most of what follows to saturate the market is the lowest common denominator.” Rather than delving and redefining a genre, producers are strip-mining it for profit, destroying the legitimacy of the art form.
In essence, a lack of diversity creates a bland, overplayed sound akin to easy-listening music. It’s there, you’re conscious that it exists, but it all slides past you without impact. To be stagnant is to die. If you want this scene to survive, promote diversity! Share your favorite artists that are doing new, inventive things with us in the comments, Facebook, or Twitter. Support musicians with merit. Make art.
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