Is America killing dance music?

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Wed 13th Jun, 2012 in Features

It’s been a turbulent couple of weeks for DJs in the US. Last Monday, plenty of feathers were ruffled when house hero Mark Farina alleged he’d been kicked off the decks by a “table service crowd”. Then just a few days later, Calvin Harris declared that he’d got the boot for declining to spin hip-hop and, uh, tween sensation Carly Rae Jepsen. Of course, those are just two – perhaps isolated – incidents. But considering them in the grander scheme of the EDM explosion in the States over the past few months, you’ve got to wonder: what is America doing to dance music?

The USA might very well be buying into dance music big time – quite literally if you look at last week’s announcement that Robert Sillerman is re-entering the live music market with a whopping $US1 billion to spend on ‘EDM’ focused acquisitions.

However, there are still plenty of dissenters when it comes to North America’s open-armed embrace of club culture. If you count yourself as one of the doubters as to how much value Guetta, Tiesto and co are bringing to the worldwide scene, and you reckon that Mark Farina being kicked off the decks at Marquee in Las Vegas represents our culture’s absolute lowest point – there’s no need to worry because you’re not alone: that ol’ favorite of New York’s business elite The Wall Street Journal has got your back.

In a diatribe that could have been lifted directly from the fiery comments underneath of one of ITM’s infamous Skrillex stories, the Dow Jones publication wept well-coiffed tears all over its tailored business slacks, due to the fact that what was “once almost exclusively an underground movement” is now “embraced by a mainstream pop audience”, and even worse, “feels meek and calculated”, with the “complex rhythms and synthesized orchestrations” that we all love so dearly now playing second fiddle to “pop and hip-hop vocals”. Gasp.

The controversial allegations keep coming; apparently the symptoms are most evident, “especially when it’s spun at high-energy festivals” (with explicit reference given to the Las Vegas leg of the Electric Daisy Carnival (which ITM happened to be on the ground covering over the weekend). This was followed by the pearler of an accusation: that “there’s also a growing sense that some newcomers to giant EDM festivals… still prefer songs they’ve heard on the radio to on-the-spot DJ mash-ups or the varying forms of EDM known as house”. Hot diggity! And don’t try and tell ITM you’ve never uttered those exact words yourself, ‘cause we don’t believe you.

Continuing to brand the radio-friendly work of Guetta and Calvin Harris as “cliché-riddled, white-bread house that don’t represent the best of the genre,” the Wall Street rag makes the worrying prediction that, “as EDM and its related events continue to grow, an audience may be developing that wants nothing more than predictable, middling entertainment.”

Wall Street Journal , we didn’t know you cared. Stay tuned for Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly’s expose on how Avicii ’s live show represents nothing more than flashy style over substance.

Any cynicism aside, these are the exact same concerns ITMers have been wailing about for ages now, but it’s a perspective that’s also starting to be heard beyond the confines of specialist dance music media and its community forums. Will North America’s embrace of dance music ultimately be a bad thing for the scene worldwide?

The tone of the Wall Street Journal article was surprising because up until now, the mainstream American media has for the most part welcomed the commercialised aspects of the ‘EDM’ craze with open arms. Take US trade weekly Billboard Magazine as a prime example. As ITM pointed out in February , “Billboard has donned its neon ‘RAGE’ cap to help champion the cause. One of the magazine’s favourite poster boys is Tiesto, with lengthy features devoted to the Dutchman’s business acumen and ballooning Stateside following.” If they’re raking in a shitload of money, then they’re OK with us. The Wall Street Journal ’s scathing account has definitely been the exception to the rule, as far as American mainstream media goes.

Over in the UK though, one of the world’s most enduring spots for clubbing culture, there’s been plenty of people looking on at the developments in the US with a touch of bemusement. Quality journalism tome The Guardian recently published a fascinating critique of David Guetta’s stateside adventures; titled with the slightly misleading Lord of Dance , it examined the current levels of commercialisation we’re witnessing in dance culture.

Niccolo and Donkey
supplanter Broseph

God bless you, Carl Cox.

The answer is yes: this crass commercialization will destroy this music.