Nick Sabine, the co-founder of dance music listings behemoth Resident Advisor, has an article today in everybody’s favourite internet news rag The Huffington Post (rather wonderfully and succinctly summed up by 30 Rock as: Telling the world what they already knew) about the EDM ‘bubble’ and whether it’s good for dance music as a whole. You can read the whole thing HERE. It’s probably worth bearing in mind, though, it’s not aimed at those of use who have actually ever heard dance music. Forewarned is forearmed.
I can think of a couple of problems with it. Firstly, I kind of expected a better line of argument from Sabine than ‘Some kids who listen to EDM might get into underground dance music because, you know, it’s a kind of dance music too.” It’s an argument I’ve seen regurgitated by several big names over the last few years – mostly those who have moved from dance music into a world of arena gigs and Saturday morning kids TV. (I wouldn’t like to say it’s about selling out – those who have followed the money into the big league probably weren’t entirely bothered about any underground or artistic ethos anyway, and that is fair enough. I can never blame anyone who simply needs to make enough money to feed their family, even if that family consists entirely of private jets.)
Part of the problem I have with this argument is that I simply don’t think its true. Years ago I was working in a bookshop when the Harry Potter craze started. I saw parents buying their brats two or three copies each (because each of them need their own copy to read and their own copy to store away in pristine condition. No, I’m not joking,) and I was told time and time again that Harry Potter was inspiring kids to read, to get into literature. It wasn’t, it was inspiring them to get into the Harry Potter franchise and very little else. That other guff was a myth the parents fed themselves to make themselves feel better for ponying up the cash to feed their kids habit. Did any of those kids get into Dostoevsky or Philip Roth? Of course they did. But I suspect those kids would have got into Dostoevsky or Philip Roth anyway, because people gravitate towards the ideas and concepts that excite them. They always have. It sure as hell wasn’t because Walter the Softy had started flying a broom around.
Will some kid from the middle of a 10 000 square mile corn field who listens to Calvin Harris walk into a used record store one day and start digging out DJ International 12s? Very possibly, but it won’t be purely because he’s watched a Youtube video of some tit in a shiny shirt throwing Christ poses in front of thousands of moshing gonks. It will be because the impulse is there already. See, the idea that EDM provides the listener with a gateway to a form of music he would never have managed to experience otherwise is utterly ludicrous. Dance music – even ‘underground’ dance music is not some super secret, hidden kabbalistic religious mystery that you must be initiated into. It’s ALL OVER THE INTERNET. There are dozens of online stores from which you can buy Levon Vincent or TX Connect records! There are hundreds of blogs and websites that exists to celebrate all of this good stuff! All it takes is a little bit of effort, and those involved in EDM should cut out the disingenuous crap that they have been appointed the High Priests of all that is cool and vital. There is also something rather odd about trying to justify a genre and scene by claiming that people will use it to find something better. Talk about damning something with faint praise.
The second problem I have is the idea that EDM is some sort of bubble, some sort of edgy, new thing that has never before existed. Sabine asks why it has grown so quickly before answering his own question by making a point that is so obvious that it’s amazing it needed to be made. The reason that it has become such a huge Thing is that it is pop music, pure and simple. That is all it has ever been. Yes, it’s an industry – it is the pop music industry. It has been around for a very long time. Let’s not pretend EDM is something different. It is simply the continuation of something that began a very long time ago. In Britain and much of the rest of the world music very similar to this was all over the charts two decades ago. So what if it’s taken mainstream America until now to start listening to it? It isn’t new.
I am taking this too seriously. Look, EDM is what it is. Why can’t the people with interests in it simply celebrate it for what it is instead of trying to excuse and justify it by attaching it to other scenes with vague promises of future authenticity? Is it because if you build a fad with no other foundation but money it will eventually topple into the dirt? What happens then?
Well, I’ll leave the last word on that to Steve Albini. Years ago, he got into a fight with his former friends, the rock band Urge Overkill who, on the back of having one of their songs featured in the ‘Pulp Fiction’ soundtrack reached massive – but short-lived fame. Albini took exception to the idea of anyone living for money rather than integrity. And as he said when quizzed about it: “In ten years time we’ll see which of us are still making records and which of us are sucking cocks in empty parking lots for small change.”
Is the bubble going to burst? Maybe, maybe not, but history suggests that it probably will. And when it does, I think those parking lots are going to be a damn sight busier.