Tomorrowland

What Ganacci’s Critics Tell Us About the State of EDM [Opinion]

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Dance Music Northwest or its leadership.

Cultural stigmas plague EDM in America since the underground raves became a stateside phenomenon, migrating from its European roots. The genre’s repetitive nature and close associations with drugs historically restricted EDM’s growth. Recent criticisms of Salvatore Ganacci’s set at Tomorrowland serve as a reminder that these stigmas are still alive and well today, despite a boom for the industry. In particular, an unflattering article published by VICE forces us to come to grips with the current state of EDM in American culture.

VICE’s article focuses on a highlight reel of Ganacci’s set that went viral on social media. The footage shows Ganacci running wild, twerking, talking over the microphone, and generally enjoying his own set; VICE paints the set as a “shitshow,” which would seem to be the case based throughout the collection and parts of the set. An Earmilk article points out that a quick scan of footage of the full set shows Ganacci DJing during the setdespite VICE’s claims that he “wasn’t even trying to transition between tracks.”

Arguably, the VICE article draws on longstanding EDM stereotypes to create an enticing read for those who already viewed the video and formed a negative opinion based on Ganacci’s set. By painting Ganacci as the face of Tomorrowland and aiming that it’s only for wild antics and no “real” music-making, VICE and other media outlets actively work against legitimizing the genre, which has grown tremendously in both purpose and construction in the past few decades.

Ganacci’s antics can certainly be viewed as obnoxious, unnecessary, and a sign that artists need to rely on cheap tricks to succeed, but buying into that opinion for the genre entirely is the easy way out. Pretending that Ganacci’s hour-long performance is representative of the entirety of Tomorrowland or the industry as a whole is ludicrous, which leads to the harmful stereotypes that plague the “dance music enthusiast,” as outlined by Earmilk.

Unfortunately, perpetuating this stereotype only hurts the community at large. Painting ravers as mindless partiers looking for cheap entertainment is propaganda that feeds into narratives that often prevent effective harm reduction services from major events stateside. These narratives directly lead to the success of the Illicit Drug Act (the current replacement of the 2003 RAVE act), preventing venues, production companies, and other groups from actively improving the EDM community. They also lead to the addition of new community members with ill intent, who don’t understand the core values of many rave veterans.

Though Ganacci’s short reel of performance antics may outwardly give major festivals and the genre at large a bad name, it’s actually our own perpetuation of this criticism that works against our own goals. Our efforts for the improvement of our community would be better spent highlighting groundbreaking innovations, creating positive experiences, and fighting for stronger harm reduction services. Shifting our focus from the “decline” of the dance music scene to making changes, and reflecting that focus outwards, will yield more positive effects in the long-run.

What do you think Ganacci’s set tells us about the state of dance music? Let us know in the comments!