Deadmau5 and Richie Hawtin discuss effect of commercial success on dance music at SXSW
As reported by The Wall-Street Journal, one of the takeaway points from Deadmau5 and Richie Hawtin’s SXSW panel is the negative effect commercial success is having on the quality of electronic dance music. While the genre has seen a surge in attention and a surplus of money, it’s also seen a rise in mediocre outputs. The two self-proclaimed geeks bonded over their love of technology, but lamented that its advances have made production too easy and, ironically enough, too repetitive. Producers now have myriad tools at their fingertips — certainly more than Deadmau5 or Hawtin did when they started their careers — but instead of choosing creativity they’re opting to copy the proven formulas of successful artists.
Even for the two veteran producers, the rapidity with which technological advances are being made is having an effect on them. Hawtin, who released his first track the year I was born, explained that ease and accessibility take away from practice and focus. Deadmau5 shared a similar experience explaining that he has to take “crash courses on all these things that come out.” While for Hawtin and Deadmau5 these minor inconveniences aren’t having too profound an effect, for the dance community as a whole they’re becoming a massive fissure in its foundation.
Before dance music was profitable, producers didn’t have the luxury of being consumed with main stage, radio-play, Billboard chart-topping success. Instead, they were content with the kind of success that came from knowing they were creating good music with a soul — perhaps for a smaller audience but one that appreciated their work nonetheless. “There’s a manual now,” Hawtin said. “The attraction was doing something different. I had to do my own thing. The double-edged sword is taking a little bit of the life out of it. Maybe that’s why EDM is so big now. It’s homogenized.”
Financial success and fame are rational goals for performers, but at what cost? Fans might eat up recycled sounds for a year, two years, five maybe, but at some point they’ll catch on and move on leaving those very same artists in the dust. But trailblazers, true talents, and creative minds like Deadmau5 and Hawtin will leave lasting marks on the industry. So, if dance music artists are going to copy anything from those that came before them perhaps it should be their work ethic rather than their sounds.
In his typical biting demeanor Deadmau5 said, “I’m surprised the record companies that sign these people aren’t just going home and making the music themselves. Cut out the middleman.”