THE BLOG

Is the EDM Bubble Good for Dance Music?

24/03/2014 17:13 GMT | Updated 24/05/2014 10:59 BST

It could be.

Let's start by clarifying something. EDM and dance music, as many of us know them, are two different beasts. There are parallels between them, but for the most part they are separate worlds. By comparison dance music is largely an underground art, a world that exists in clubs and temporary spaces linked by sub-genres with devoted fans. EDM is its mainstream, big money cousin, amplifying electronic music's more theatrical side without the subtlety or depth that endears so many electronic music fans in the first place.

Dance music, as we know it today, has been around for over thirty years. In that time its popularity has ebbed and flowed without geographical consistency. Cities like Chicago, New York, Detroit, Manchester, London and Berlin have all influenced dance music at different times. The scenes in these places were self-sustaining and often thriving. So what's the difference now? How has EDM's arc of influence expanded so far so quickly?

Technology helps, for one. Now that it's possible for anyone to hear sounds from around the world, electronic music is no longer just an underground movement thriving in the dark underbelly of the world's most vibrant metropolises. This internationalisation of information, and the way we share it, means artists and fans feel globally linked whether they're in Sydney or Seattle, Portland or Paris. This helps EDM grow rapidly enough to invite "bubble" analogies.

The other difference, frankly, is money. SFX Entertainment, a conglomerate solely focused on the electronic music business, recently raised millions of dollars via an IPO share offering. To do this, men and women in suits had to forecast--based on detailed analysis of real-world metrics--the continued growth of EDM at such a level that investors, hedge-fund managers and banks were confident that future returns would be worth millions of their collective dollars. Almost overnight, electronic music became a commodity that could be bought and sold like oil or sugar. A decade ago this would have been inconceivable, yet now just seems like just another phase of EDM's meteoric rise.

I believe this commoditization and increased exposure of electronic music could eventually have a significant upside for the dance music community. It's easy for people like us to forget that there was a time before we knew about dance music ourselves. Interest was often sparked by records that broke the charts (think Lil Louis's "French Kiss," Inner City's "Good Life" or Daft Punk's "One More Time"). Our journeys of discovery began with the most digestible mediums of the time: radio and TV. Digital music platforms didn't always exist, so listeners sought out magazines, record stores and DJs as a reference point for new music. In many ways EDM is today's pop music, infiltrating web, radio and TV with catchy vocals, basic 4/4 rhythms and at least one big bass drop. Avicii, Calvin Harris and Tiesto are the modern day pop stars. Most people enjoying EDM will continue to gravitate towards pop music, in whichever direction that evolves. To others, as it was to many of us, it is a gateway to discovery. It's an invitation to dig deeper. And this is where the positives begin.

Such is the scale of people currently enjoying EDM that even if a small fraction of this audience becomes interested in electronic music in a deeper sense, it would have a profound effect on the community worldwide. EDM can be a gateway to more underground sounds, which could only be a good thing. The enthusiasm and excitement of new fans could reinvigorate artists who have been making underground music for years, even decades, which not only helps sustain the scene, but builds it. Dance music was built on inclusivity, after all, and those starting to scratch the surface will hopefully warm to the world beyond large scale corporate festivals and fireworks.

The EDM tidal wave might only be starting to make ripples in the wider dance music industry, but if the bubble continues to grow--or even when it pops--this period of change will be looked upon favourably by both EDM heavyweights who found short-term success and the underground artists and promoters who stand to gain from the long-term benefits of newly engaged and excited fan bases.