Why EDM is a Genre and Not Just a Marketing Term

A recent social media spat between Deadmau5 and Afrojack regarding creativity in EDM caught my eye. A quick summation of the debate was that Afrojack said you just needed your track to be ‘good’ to be a success and Deadmau5 retorted that all EDM music sounds the same.  There’s a lot more to this debate than might at first appear, and it gets to the heart of a lot of the problems with the current EDM craze.

For the record, I used to be a gigging dance music producer and DJ and had a few singles and remixes to my name.  My (incomplete) discogs entry is here, and my Soundcloud page is here (with new and old stuff).  When I was releasing music, dance was a far more underground genre that was just reaching its first decade as a movement.  It had already ossified into its main genre groupings and the excesses of superclubs, the super star DJ and brand partnerships were all beginning take effect.  But despite this it remained a sub culture that was clearly distinct from the mainstream. The recent emergence of dance music as a mainstream movement has transformed the picture entirely.  Driven by artists like David Guetta and the Swedish House Mafia dance has acquired pop sensibilities and in doing so has finally broken through in America.  Unlike in Europe where dance has two decades or so of cultural roots, it is effectively year zero for the flavour of dance music that is currently being marketed to the US.  Hence the adoption of the previously nerdy tag ‘EDM’.

While EDM was a useful rebranding exercise for dance it now risks doing more harm than good.  The type of artists and music that fit the EDM brand are at the commercial end of the spectrum, with music that owes as much to pop as it does dance. This risks polluting the broader dance scene, but there is a simple solution: recognize EDM for what it has in practice become, a genre in itself.  EDM is pop-dance, it is not a term for dance music as a whole.

This means no disrespect to the likes of David Guetta or the Swedish House Mafia – who incidentally all paid their dues as hard gigging DJs before breaking through – but the majority of music that they produce is not dance music, it is EDM.  Unfortunately too many dance producers have tried to jump on the EDM bandwagon, and consequently too much dance music is sounding just too similar.  With up to 15,000 dance releases every week, it is understandable why so many producers will do whatever they can to try shorten their odds of success and they know they won’t get many opportunities.  If the life cycle of the average band is akin to that of a butterfly, then for a dance producer is more like that of a Mayfly.   But the result is that far too much dance music averaging out to a safe, consistent and bland norm rather than creating an undulating tapestry of creative diversity. It is time for the wider dance music scene to reclaim its identity and instead of trying to chase the bright lights of EDM, get back to its roots and true identity.

11 thoughts on “Why EDM is a Genre and Not Just a Marketing Term

  1. Hi Mark

    Very interesting idea I hope it takes hold.

    will check out your music. I remember igloo records – just!


  2. ABSOLUTELY! Love it.

    “recognize EDM for what it has in practice become, a genre in itself. EDM is pop-dance, it is not a term for dance music as a whole.”

  3. What i find so ironic is that a lot of Americans i have spoken to, that are into EDM, don’t even know their own musical heritage. In how disco informed house music as we know it, Kraftwerk and Korg injected some electronics, for it to then to develop in cities such as Chicago (House – Marshall Jefferson, Frankie Knuckles) and Detroit (Techno – Atkins, Saunderson and May) – to then go on to be world export. It’s now being re-packed up and sold back to the States!!

  4. Pingback: Why EDM is a Genre and Not Just a Marketing Term | young & social

  5. Hey man. Really appreciate your insight and found this to be an interesting read. Not sure I agree however. And I haven’t been into it as long as some, just longer than most people I know who are now into “EDM.” Take Above & Beyond for example. They were already at the height of their popularity, yet still slowed down their music and traded in for the fartier bass lines that are popularized today. I don’t think they did it for mass appeal or to fit in, but rather because they like the sound and wanted to take their music in a different direction. I think it would be kind of insulting to them and other artists of their caliber to categorize their past music as dance music, but their current productions as EDM. I don’t like it as much and many of those that have been listening for a while don’t either, but they are the tastemakers and best at what they do. I think it’s those making the music who get to decide how to classify it and I’m sure A&B would not differentiate their two “eras” of music as entirely different genre.

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  7. le7els: I don’t actually have much of an EDM concern with Above & Beyond. They started off with raspy basslines about five or six years ago. I suppose ‘Black Room Boy’ nods towards an EDM feel but it is still a trance at the end of the day. Granted EDM has stolen a lot of trance lead lines and whacked them onto house beats but most of the EDM music tends to be more mainstream than trance. A&B have always been on the more commercial end of trance but they’re still not Calvin Harris are they? Some trance artists, who will remain nameless, have blatantly jumped on the EDM bandwagon and for those artists, yes I would absolutely draw a line between when they were trance artists and when they became EDM artists.

    For the record I’ve been a long term admirer of Above and Beyond, since before Jono and Paavo teamed up with Tony. In fact I still have this on vinyl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN_j70Kq-fg (Anjunabeats Vol 1 – 2000)

  8. EDM isn’t only electro house by Swedish House Mafia or trance by Tiesto. It’s also tech house, deep techno, Detroit techno, 2step, UK garage and so on. EDM is still in evolution which has been lasting for approx. 25+ years. Obviously EDM isn’t as a marketing term as rock isn’t as well. EDM refreshes mainstream for many years thanks to its sound tapestry (trance, electro etc.). For me, EDM conveys fresh waves to mainstream music.

  9. Pingback: Dillon Francis – Without You Feat. TEED | #1MusicSource

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