Editorial: House Divided, Standing up for the Spirit of EDM
EDM has taken on a collective social stigma, where mainstream success is met with apprehension and disdain. Jaded fans of old write off mainstream acceptance as taboo and force-feed new fans the same placebo. Considering the culture that surrounds dance music, it feels ironic writing an editorial downplaying a pandemic negativity that seems to plague its fans. Since when is EDM a cult that preaches peace, love, unity, and respect, but whose first phase of initiation is proclaiming “Skrillex sucks?” Fans discredit artistic success, admonish saturated event markets, and criticize our thriving scene, all because they fear the mainstream. We need to change our way of thinking.
More recently, flourishing acts have especially felt the pressure of attacks from fans. Zedd attests, “I have to admit I’m a little confused by some young fans nowadays and their behavior and reaction on artists success.” He goes on to tweet that as a youngster, he would celebrate his favorite bands appearing on TV or radio, not denounce it.
“It’s 2013: you hear people say: ‘I heard my fav song on the radio. Thanks for ruining it.’ That reaction is completely paradox to me.” – Zedd
Krewella’s Yasmine Yousef took to Tumblr pronouncing the “Internet is a battlefield lately.” She discusses Krewella’s forthcoming album and the anxiety of putting “their heart into the music they create and let[ting] it out into the world.” Jahan of Krewella also expressed concern over EDM-cynicism and asks, “Let’s filter out the negativity to make room for more genuine music lovers.” EDM’s breakneck growth has created a paradox in which ostensible ‘overnight fame’ comes packaged with fanbase backlash.
One allegation from fans confuses me the most. “Selling out” should not be the go-to euphemism for artistic success. I don’t expect Baauer to strip down “Harlem Shake” videos, Skrillex to refuse Grammys, or even Afrojack to abstain from relations with attractive Hollywood socialites. Would you? I don’t expect them to pass on the fame and fortune acquired through their art. These hometown heroes were, and still are, the underdogs fighting their way to the top. The way I see it? Our boys made it to the big leagues, and I, for one, am rooting for ‘em.
That is not to say the role of superstar comes without responsibility. The pressure falls on these leaders to foster progress through innovation. Skrillex, for example, wants to be successful, yet knows as the individual in the position he’s in it’s important for him, as a leader in the industry, to be forward-looking. OWSLA, Dog Blood, and other ventures are his mediums for this positive influence. Calvin Harris asserting his new music “won’t get into the charts,” Feed Me breaking from DJing, or Skream moving on from dubstep signify leaders assuming their roles with a refreshed formula.
The problem arrives when artist luminaries fall victim to success, stick to a proven formula, and lose the ambition they once had for experimentation and innovation. This is the most honest critique from fans. As a result of such artists’ engrossing influence, it can lead to a bulwark or breakdown in creativity and progress. Luckily, commercialization will only continue to bolster innovation and the underground by opening the door for more individuals to assume roles. While a vast majority subscribe to someone else’s definition of good, a powerful minority ascend as leaders and continue to advance electronic music. It’s a numbers game and our numbers are growing.
Don’t get bogged down by fleeting, pervasive trends. Assuming there is stagnation in electronic music – overall – is superficial. Widen your gaze. New sounds, artists, and labels multiply at every level, every day. Mainstream EDM will always seem sluggish and stagnant. Within that designated space, change is slow; this is the nature of things. It’s an ecosystem where certain elements drive others. The only reason I may able to catch promising underground acts at a festival is because commercial acts made that festival economically viable. Simply put, Wavefront‘s “Cube Stage” (Jamie Jones, Scuba, Maya Jane Coles) could not have existed without the “Wave Stage” (Rusko, Diplo, Justice).
As a fan, musical tastes can be competitive. It isn’t easy to avoid internalizing the social stratification that EDM fandom begets. The “scene” is pushing a tiresome fan dichotomy stuck between ‘veteran’ and ‘amateur.’ Concepts like nonconformity, self-identity, and distrust all tie into the pretension that leads mainstream music to appear conventional and, in turn, “artistically inferior.” There’s no use attacking the psychology that compels a distaste for mainstream culture, because that pre-dates this movement. The best I can do is offer perspective.
In my opinion, our generation is experiencing shifting values in the mainstream (a process years in the making), with quality appealing over quantity and musicality besting sensationalism and unoriginality. Thank the internet for giving rise to boundless influences, options, and possibilities. Most importantly, healthy values are unconsciously being instilled in today’s youth. The budding generation is learning two very important lessons: 1) music can be varied and composed of a wide assortment of sounds, and 2) music comes from all kinds of people from all over the world. There is no bigger crucible of these principles than electronic music.
My question is, why do fans seemingly spend more time chastising the artists they don’t like than supporting the ones they do? As dance music continues to disrupt popular culture and test its limits, we should rally behind and root for our artists. In turn, artists should pilot their influence with progressive attitudes. Let’s take any small win we can. From bad press to snide stigmas, dance music has enough obstacles already. I’m a simple fan with simple pleasures. It could be hearing Zedd on the radio, witnessing Daft Punk chart at number one, or catching a live Disclosure set at a local venue.
I guess my point is, a house divided against itself cannot stand.