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Electronic dance music (also known as EDM, dance music, club music, or simply dance) is a broad range of percussive electronic music genres made largely for nightclubs, raves, and festivals. EDM is generally produced for playback by disc jockeys (DJs) who create seamless selections of tracks, called a mix, by segueing from one recording to another. EDM producers also perform their music live in a concert or festival setting in what is sometimes called a live PA. In Europe, EDM is more commonly called 'dance music' or simply 'dance'.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, following the emergence of raving, pirate radio, and an upsurge of interest in club culture, EDM achieved mainstream popularity in Europe. In the United States at that time acceptance of dance culture was not universal, and although both Electro and Chicago house music were influential both in Europe and the USA, mainstream media outlets, and the record industry, remained hostile to EDM. There was also a perceived association between EDM and drug culture which led governments at state and city level to enact laws and policies intended to halt the spread of rave culture.
Subsequently, in the new millennium (2000s), the popularity of EDM increased globally, including the United States. By the early 2010s, the term "electronic dance music" and the initialism "EDM" was being pushed by the United States music industry and music press in an effort to rebrand American rave culture. Despite the industry's attempt to create a specific EDM brand, the initialism remains in use as an umbrella term for multiple genres, including house, trap, techno, trance, drum and bass, dubstep, and their respective subgenres.
Various EDM genres have evolved over the last 40 years, for example; electro, house, techno hardcore, trance, drum and bass etc. Stylistic variation within an established EDM genre can lead to the emergence of what is called a subgenre. Hybridization, where elements of two or more genres are combined, can lead to the emergence of an entirely new genre of EDM.
Precursors in the 1970s
Early examples of music that influenced later electronic dance music include Jamaican dub music in the 1970s, the synthesizer-based disco music of Giorgio Moroder in the late 1970s, and the electro-pop of Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra in the mid to late 1970s.
Author Michael Veal considers dub music, a Jamaican music stemming from roots reggae and sound system culture that flourished between 1968 and 1985, to be one of the important precursors to contemporary electronic dance music. Dub productions were remixed reggae tracks that emphasized rhythm, fragmented lyrical and melodic elements, and reverberant textures. The music was pioneered by studio engineers, such as Sylvan Morris, King Tubby, Errol Thompson, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Scientist. Their productions included forms of tape editing and sound processing that Veal considers comparable to techniques used in musique concrète. Dub producers made improvised deconstructions of existing multi-track reggae mixes by using the studio mixing board as a performance instrument. They also foregrounded spatial effects such as reverb and delay by using auxiliary send routings creatively.
Despite the limited electronic equipment available to dub pioneers such as King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry, their experiments in remix culture were musically cutting-edge. Ambient dub was pioneered by King Tubby and other Jamaican sound artists, using DJ-inspired ambient electronics, complete with drop-outs, echo, equalization and psychedelic electronic effects. It featured layering techniques and incorporated elements of world music, deep bass lines and harmonic sounds. Techniques such as a long echo delay were also used.
Hip hop music has played a key role in the development of electronic dance music since the 1970s. Inspired by Jamaican sound system culture Jamaican-American DJ Kool Herc introduced large bass heavy speaker rigs to the Bronx. His parties are credited with having kick-started the New York hip-hop movement in 1973. A technique developed by DJ Kool Herc that became popular in hip hop culture was playing two copies of the same record on two turntables, in alternation, and at the point where a track featured a break. This technique was further used to manually loop a purely percussive break, leading to what was later called a break beat. In the 1980s and 1990s hip-hop DJs used turntables as musical instruments in their own right and virtuosic use developed into a creative practice called turntablism.
In 1974, George McCrae's early disco hit "Rock Your Baby" was one of the first records to use a drum machine, an early Roland rhythm machine. Its use of a drum machine was anticipated by Sly and the Family Stone's "Family Affair" (1971), which anticipated the sound of disco, with its rhythm echoed in "Rock Your Baby". The use of drum machines in "Family Affair" and Timmy Thomas' "Why Can't We Live Together" (1972), which used a 1972 Roland rhythm machine, influenced the adoption of drum machines by later disco artists. Disco producer Biddu used synthesizers in several disco songs from 1976 to 1977, including "Bionic Boogie" from Rain Forest (1976), "Soul Coaxing" (1977), and Eastern Man and Futuristic Journey (recorded from 1976 to 1977).
European acts Silver Convention, Love and Kisses, Munich Machine, and American acts Donna Summer and the Village People were acts that defined the late 1970s Euro disco sound. In 1977, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte produced "I Feel Love" for Donna Summer. It became the first well-known disco hit to have a completely synthesised backing track. Other disco producers, most famously American producer Tom Moulton, grabbed ideas and techniques from dub music (which came with the increased Jamaican migration to New York City in the seventies) to provide alternatives to the four on the floor style that dominated. During the early 1980s, the popularity of disco music sharply declined in the United States, abandoned by major US record labels and producers. Euro disco continued evolving within the broad mainstream pop music scene.
Synth-pop (short for 'synthesizer pop'; also called 'techno-pop') is a subgenre of new wave music that first became prominent in the late 1970s and features the synthesizer as the dominant musical instrument. It was prefigured in the 1960s and early 1970s by the use of synthesizers in progressive rock, electronic, art rock, disco, and particularly the "Krautrock" of bands like Kraftwerk. It arose as a distinct genre in Japan and the United Kingdom in the post-punk era as part of the new wave movement of the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.
Early synth-pop pioneers included Japanese group Yellow Magic Orchestra, and British bands Ultravox, the Human League and Berlin Blondes. the Human League used monophonic synthesizers to produce music with a simple and austere sound. After the breakthrough of Gary Numan in the UK Singles Chart in 1979, large numbers of artists began to enjoy success with a synthesizer-based sound in the early 1980s, including late-1970s debutants like Japan and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and newcomers such as Depeche Mode and Eurythmics. In Japan, Yellow Magic Orchestra's success opened the way for synth-pop bands such as P-Model, Plastics, and Hikashu. The development of inexpensive polyphonic synthesizers, the definition of MIDI and the use of dance beats, led to a more commercial and accessible sound for synth-pop. This, its adoption by the style-conscious acts from the New Romantic movement, together with the rise of MTV, led to success for large numbers of British synth-pop acts (including Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet) in the United States.
Dance music in the 80s
During the post-disco era that followed the backlash against "disco" which began in the mid to late 1979, which in the United States lead to civil unrest and a riot in Chicago known as the Disco Demolition Night, an underground movement of "stripped-down" disco inspired music featuring "radically different sounds" started to emerge on the East Coast.[Note 1] This new scene was seen primarily in the New York metropolitan area and was initially led by the urban contemporary artists that were responding to the over-commercialisation and subsequent demise of disco culture. The sound that emerged originated from P-Funk the electronic side of disco, dub music, and other genres. Much of the music produced during this time was, like disco, catering to a singles-driven market. At this time creative control started shifting to independent record companies, less established producers, and club DJs. Other dance styles that began to become popular during the post-disco era include dance-pop, boogie, electro, Italo disco, house, and techno.
In the early 1980s, electro (short for "electro-funk") emerged as a fusion of electro-pop, funk, and boogie. Also called electro-funk or electro-boogie, but later shortened to electro, cited pioneers include Ryuichi Sakamoto, Afrika Bambaataa, Zapp, D.Train, and Sinnamon. Early hip hop and rap combined with German and Japanese electropop influences such as Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra inspired the birth of electro. As the electronic sound developed, instruments such as the bass guitar and drums were replaced by synthesizers and most notably by iconic drum machines, particularly the Roland TR-808. Early uses of the TR-808 include several Yellow Magic Orchestra tracks in 1980–1981, the 1982 track "Planet Rock" by Afrikaa Bambaataa, and the 1982 song "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye. In 1982, producer Arthur Baker with Afrika Bambaataa released the seminal "Planet Rock", which was influenced by Yellow Magic Orchestra, used Kraftwerk samples, and had drum beats supplied by the TR-808. Planet Rock was followed later that year by another breakthrough electro record, "Nunk" by Warp 9. In 1983, Hashim created an electro-funk sound with "Al-Naafyish (The Soul)" that influenced Herbie Hancock, resulting in his hit single "Rockit" the same year. The early 1980s were electro's mainstream peak. According to author Steve Taylor Afrika Bambaataa's Planet Rock serves as a "template for all interesting dance music since".
In the early 1980s, Chicago radio jocks The Hot Mix 5 and club DJs Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles played various styles of dance music, including older disco records (mostly Philly disco and Salsoul tracks), electro funk tracks by artists such as Afrika Bambaataa, newer Italo disco, B-Boy hip hop music by Man Parrish, Jellybean Benitez, Arthur Baker, and John Robie, and electronic pop music by Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Some made and played their own edits of their favorite songs on reel-to-reel tape, and sometimes mixed in effects, drum machines, and other rhythmic electronic instrumentation. The hypnotic electronic dance song "On and On", produced in 1984 by Chicago DJ Jesse Saunders and co-written by Vince Lawrence, had elements that became staples of the early house sound, such as the Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer and minimal vocals as well as a Roland (specifically TR-808) drum machine and Korg (specifically Poly-61) synthesizer.
"On and On" is sometimes cited as the 'first house record', though other examples from around that time, such as J.M. Silk's "Music is the Key" (1985), have also been cited. House music quickly spread to other American cities such as Detroit, New York City, and Newark—all of which developed their own regional scenes. In the mid-to-late 1980s, house music became popular in Europe as well as major cities in South America, and Australia. Chicago House experienced some commercial success in Europe with releases such as "House Nation" by House Master Boyz and the Rude Boy of House (1987). Following this, a number of house inspired releases such as "Pump Up The Volume" by MARRS (1987), "Theme from S'Express" by S'Express (1988), and "Doctorin' the House" by Coldcut (1988) entered the pop charts.
Techno, acid house, rave
In the mid 80s house music thrived on the small Balearic Island of Ibiza, Spain. The Balearic sound was the spirit of the music emerging from the island at that time; the combination of old vinyl rock, pop, reggae, and disco records paired with an “anything goes” attitude made Ibiza a hub of drug-induced musical experimentation. The scene was mainly centered around a club called Amnesia where its resident DJ, Alfredo Fiorito, pioneered Balearic house. Amnesia became known across Europe and by the mid to late 1980s it was drawing people from all over the continent.
By 1988, house music had become the most popular form of club music in Europe, with acid house developing as a notable trend in the UK and Germany in the same year. In the UK an established warehouse party subculture, centered on the British African-Caribbean sound system scene fueled underground after-parties that featured dance music exclusively. Also in 1988, the Balearic party vibe associated with Ibiza's DJ Alfredo was transported to London, when Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold opened the clubs Shoom and Spectrum, respectively. Both places became synonymous with acid house, and it was during this period that MDMA gained prominence as a party drug. Other important UK clubs included Back to Basics in Leeds, Sheffield's Leadmill and Music Factory, and The Haçienda in Manchester, where Mike Pickering and Graeme Park's spot, Nude, was an important proving ground for American underground dance music.[Note 1] The success of house and acid house paved the way for Detroit Techno, a style that was initially supported by a handful of house music clubs in Chicago, New York, and Northern England, with Detroit clubs catching up later. The term Techno first came into use after a release of a 10 Records/Virgin Records compilation titled Techno: The Dance Sound of Detroit in 1988.
One of the first Detroit productions to receive wider attention was Derrick May's "Strings of Life" (1987), which, together with May's previous release, "Nude Photo" (1987), helped raise techno's profile in Europe, especially the UK and Germany, during the 1987–1988 house music boom (see Second Summer of Love). It became May's best known track, which, according to Frankie Knuckles, "just exploded. It was like something you can't imagine, the kind of power and energy people got off that record when it was first heard. Mike Dunn says he has no idea how people can accept a record that doesn't have a bassline." According to British DJ Mark Moore, "Strings of Life" led London club goers to accept house: "because most people hated house music and it was all rare groove and hip hop...I'd play 'Strings of Life' at the Mudd Club and clear the floor".[Note 2] By the late 1980s interest in house, acid house and techno escalated in the club scene and MDMA-fueled club goers, who were faced with a 2 a.m. closing time in the UK, started to seek after-hours refuge at all-night warehouse parties. Within a year, in summer 1989, up to 10,000 people at a time were attending commercially organised underground parties called raves.
Dance music in the 90s
Trance emerged from the rave scene in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s and developed further during the early 1990s in Germany before spreading throughout the rest of Europe, as a more melodic offshoot from techno and house. At the same time trance music was developing in Europe, the genre was also gathering a following in the Indian state of Goa. Trance is mostly instrumental, although vocals can be mixed in: typically they are performed by mezzo-soprano to soprano female soloists, often without a traditional verse/chorus structure. Structured vocal form in trance music forms the basis of the vocal trance subgenre, which has been described as "grand, soaring, and operatic" and "ethereal female leads floating amongst the synths". Trance music is broken into a number of subgenres including acid trance, classic trance, hard trance, progressive trance, and uplifting trance. Uplifting trance is also known as "anthem trance", "epic trance", "commercial trance", "stadium trance", or "euphoric trance", and has been strongly influenced by classical music in the 1990s and 2000s by leading artists such as Ferry Corsten, Armin Van Buuren, Tiësto, Push, Rank 1 and at present with the development of the subgenre "orchestral uplifting trance" or "uplifting trance with symphonic orchestra" by such artists as Andy Blueman, Ciro Visone, Soundlift, Arctic Moon, Sergey Nevone&Simon O'Shine etc. Closely related to Uplifting Trance is Euro-trance, which has become a general term for a wide variety of highly commercialized European dance music. Several subgenres are crossovers with other major genres of electronic music. For instance, Tech trance is a mixture of trance and techno, and Vocal trance "combines [trance's] progressive elements with pop music". The dream trance genre originated in the mid-1990s, with its popularity then led by Robert Miles.
AllMusic states on progressive trance: "the progressive wing of the trance crowd led directly to a more commercial, chart-oriented sound, since trance had never enjoyed much chart action in the first place. Emphasizing the smoother sound of Eurodance or house (and occasionally more reminiscent of Jean-Michel Jarre than Basement Jaxx), Progressive Trance became the sound of the world's dance floors by the end of the millennium. Critics ridiculed its focus on predictable breakdowns and relative lack of skill to beat-mix, but progressive trance was caned by the hottest DJ."
Breakbeat hardcore, jungle, drum and bass
By the early 1990s, a style of music developed within the rave scene that had an identity distinct from American house and techno. This music, much like hip-hop before it, combined sampled syncopated beats or break beats, other samples from a wide range of different musical genres and, occasionally, samples of music, dialogue and effects from films and television programmes. Relative to earlier styles of dance music such as house and techno, so called 'rave music' tended to emphasise bass sounds and use faster tempos, or beats per minute (BPM). This subgenre was known as "hardcore" rave, but from as early as 1991, some musical tracks made up of these high-tempo break beats, with heavy basslines and samples of older Jamaican music, were referred to as "jungle techno", a genre influenced by Jack Smooth and Basement Records, and later just "jungle", which became recognized as a separate musical genre popular at raves and on pirate radio in Britain. It is important to note when discussing the history of drum & bass that prior to jungle, rave music was getting faster and more experimental.
By 1994, jungle had begun to gain mainstream popularity and fans of the music (often referred to as junglists) became a more recognisable part of youth subculture. The genre further developed, incorporating and fusing elements from a wide range of existing musical genres, including the raggamuffin sound, dancehall, MC chants, dub basslines, and increasingly complex, heavily edited breakbeat percussion. Despite the affiliation with the ecstasy-fuelled rave scene, Jungle also inherited some associations with violence and criminal activity, both from the gang culture that had affected the UK's hip-hop scene and as a consequence of jungle's often aggressive or menacing sound and themes of violence (usually reflected in the choice of samples). However, this developed in tandem with the often positive reputation of the music as part of the wider rave scene and dance hall-based Jamaican music culture prevalent in London. By 1995, whether as a reaction to, or independently of this cultural schism, some jungle producers began to move away from the ragga-influenced style and create what would become collectively labelled, for convenience, as drum and bass.
Dance music in the 21st century
Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London in the late 1990s. It is generally characterized by sparse, syncopated rhythmic patterns with bass lines that contain prominent sub-bass frequencies. The style emerged as an offshoot of UK garage, drawing on a lineage of related styles such as 2-step, dub reggae, jungle, broken beat, and grime. In the United Kingdom the origins of the genre can be traced back to the growth of the Jamaican sound system party scene in the early 1980s.
The earliest dubstep releases date back to 1998, and were usually featured as B-sides of 2-step garage single releases. These tracks were darker, more experimental remixes with less emphasis on vocals, and attempted to incorporate elements of breakbeat and drum and bass into 2-step. In 2001, this and other strains of dark garage music began to be showcased and promoted at London's night club Plastic People, at the "Forward" night (sometimes stylised as FWD>>), which went on to be considerably influential to the development of dubstep. The term "dubstep" in reference to a genre of music began to be used by around 2002 by labels such as Big Apple, Ammunition, and Tempa, by which time stylistic trends used in creating these remixes started to become more noticeable and distinct from 2-step and grime.
Electro house is a form of house music characterized by a prominent bassline or kick drum and a tempo between 125 and 135 beats per minute. Its origins were influenced by electro, electroclash, electropop, synth-pop, and tech house. The term has been used to describe the music of many DJ Mag Top 100 DJs, including Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Hardwell, Skrillex, and Steve Aoki. Italian DJ Benny Benassi, with his track "Satisfaction" released in 2002, is seen as the forerunner of electro-house who brought it to the mainstream. By the mid 2000s, electro-house saw an increase in popularity, with hits such as the Tom Neville remix of Studio B's I See Girls in 2005 (UK #11). In November 2006, electro-house tracks "Put Your Hands Up For Detroit" by Fedde Le Grand and the D. Ramirez remix of "Yeah Yeah" by Bodyrox and Luciana held the number one and number two spots, respectively, in the UK Top 40 singles charts. Since then, electro-house producers such as Feed Me, Knife Party, The M Machine, Porter Robinson, Yasutaka Nakata and Dada Life have emerged.
Popularization in the United States
Initially, electronic dance music was associated with European rave and club culture. It achieved limited popular exposure in America but by the mid-to-late 1990s efforts were underway to market a range of dance genres using the label "electronica." At the time, a wave of electronic music bands from the UK, including The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and Underworld, had been prematurely associated with an "American electronica revolution". But rather than finding mainstream success, many established EDM acts were relegated to the margins of the US industry. In 1998 Madonna's Ray of Light brought the genre to the attention of popular music listeners. In the late 1990s, despite US media interest in dance music re-branded as electronica, American house and techno producers continued to travel abroad to establish their careers as DJs and producers.
By the mid 2000s Dutch producer Tiësto was bringing worldwide popular attention to EDM after providing a soundtrack to the entry of athletes during the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics — an event which The Guardian deemed as one of the 50 most important events in dance music. In 2003, the influence of dance music on American radio resulted in Billboard creating the first-ever Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart. By 2005, the prominence of dance music in North American popular culture had markedly increased. According to Spin, Daft Punk's performance at Coachella in 2006 was the "tipping point" for EDM—it introduced the duo to a new generation of "rock kids". As noted by Entertainment Weekly, Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" helped introduce EDM sounds to top 40 radio, as it brought together variations of electronic dance music with the singer’s R&B sounds. In 2009, French house musician David Guetta began to gain prominence in mainstream pop music thanks to several crossover hits on Top 40 charts such as "When Love Takes Over" with Kelly Rowland, as well as his collaborations with US pop and hip hop acts such as Akon ("Sexy Bitch") and The Black Eyed Peas ("I Gotta Feeling"). YouTube and SoundCloud helped fuel interest in EDM, as well as electro house and dubstep. Skrillex popularized a harsher sound nicknamed "brostep", or dubstep.
The increased popularity of EDM was also influenced by live events and gigs. Promoters and venues realized that DJs could generate larger profits than traditional musicians; Diplo explained that "a band plays [for] 45 minutes; DJs can play for four hours. Rock bands—there's a few headliner dudes that can play 3,000–4,000-capacity venues, but DJs play the same venues, they turn the crowd over two times, people buy drinks all night long at higher prices—it's a win-win." Electronic music festivals notably the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) and Ultra Music Festival also grew in size, placing an increased emphasis on visual experiences, and the DJs themselves, who began to attain a celebrity status. Other major acts that gained prominence including Avicii and Swedish House Mafia held concert tours at arenas rather than nightclubs; in December 2011, Swedish House Mafia became the first electronic music act to sell out New York City's Madison Square Garden.
In 2011, Spin declared a "new rave generation" led by acts like David Guetta, Deadmau5, and Skrillex. In January 2013, Billboard introduced a new EDM-focused Dance/Electronic Songs chart, tracking the top 50 electronic songs based on sales, radio airplay, club play, and online streaming. According to Eventbrite, EDM fans are more likely to use social media to discover and share events or gigs. They also discovered that 78% of fans say they are more likely to attend an event if their peers do, compared to 43% of fans in general. EDM has many young and social fans. By late 2011, Music Trades was describing electronic dance music as the fastest-growing genre in the world. Elements of electronic music also became increasingly prominent in pop music. Radio and television also contributed to dance music's mainstream acceptance.
US corporate interest
Corporate consolidation in the EDM industry began in 2012—especially in terms of live events. In June 2012, media executive Robert F. X. Sillerman—founder of what is now Live Nation—re-launched SFX Entertainment as an EDM conglomerate, and announced his plan to invest $1 billion to acquire EDM businesses. His acquisitions included regional promoters and festivals (including ID&T, which organises Tomorrowland), two nightclub operators in Miami, and Beatport, an online music store which focuses on electronic music. Live Nation also acquired Cream Holdings and Hard Events, and announced a "creative partnership" with EDC organizers Insomniac Events in 2013 that would allow it to access its resources whilst remaining an independent company; Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino described EDM as the "[new] rock 'n' roll".
US radio conglomerate iHeartMedia, Inc. (formerly Clear Channel Media and Entertainment) also made efforts to align itself with EDM. In January 2014 It hired noted British DJ and BBC Radio 1 personality Pete Tong to produce programming for its "Evolution" dance radio brand, and announced a partnership with SFX to co-produce live concerts and EDM-oriented original programming for its top 40 radio stations. iHeartMedia president John Sykes explained that he wanted his company's properties to be the "best destination [for EDM]".
Major brands have also used the EDM phenomena as a means of targeting millennials and EDM songs and artists have increasingly been featured in television commercials and programs. Avicii's manager Ash Pournouri compared these practices to the commercialization of hip-hop in the early 2000s. Heineken has a marketing relationship with the Ultra Music Festival, and has incorporated Dutch producers Armin van Buuren and Tiësto into its ad campaigns. Anheuser-Busch has a similar relationship as beer sponsor of SFX Entertainment events. In 2014, 7 Up launched "7x7Up"—a multi-platform campaign centered around EDM that includes digital content, advertising featuring producers, and branded stages at both Ultra and Electric Daisy Carnival. Wireless carrier T-Mobile US entered into an agreement with SFX to become the official wireless sponsor of its events, and partnered with Above & Beyond to sponsor its 2015 tour.
In August 2015, SFX began to experience declines in its value, and a failed bid by CEO Sillerman to take the company private. The company began looking into strategic alternatives that could have resulted in the sale of the company. In October 2015, Forbes declared the possibility of an EDM "bubble", in the wake of the declines at SFX Entertainment, slowing growth in revenue, the increasing costs of organizing festivals and booking talent, as well as an oversaturation of festivals in the eastern and western United States. Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotella felt that the industry would weather the financial uncertainty of the overall market by focusing on "innovation" and entering into new markets. Despite forecasts that interest in popular EDM would wane, in 2015 it was estimated to be a £5.5bn industry in the US, up by 60% compared to 2012 estimates.
Following the popularization of EDM in America a number of producers and DJs, including Carl Cox, Steve Lawler, and Markus Schulz, raised concerns that the perceived over-commercialisation of dance music had impacted the "art" of DJing. Cox saw the "press-play" approach taken by newer EDM DJs as unrepresentative of what he called a "DJ ethos". Writing in Mixmag, DJ Tim Sheridan argued that "push-button DJs" who use auto-sync and play pre-recorded sets of "obvious hits" resulted in a situation overtaken by "the spectacle, money and the showbiz".
Some house producers openly admitted that "commercial" EDM needed further differentiation and creativity. Avicii, whose 2013 album True featured songs incorporating elements of bluegrass, such as lead single "Wake Me Up", stated that most EDM lacked "longevity". Deadmau5 criticized the homogenization of popular EDM, and suggested that it "all sounds the same." During the 2014 Ultra Music Festival, Deadmau5 made critical comments about up-and-coming EDM artist Martin Garrix and later played an edited version of Garrix's "Animals" remixed to the melody of "Old McDonald Had a Farm". Afterwards, Tiësto criticized Deadmau5 on Twitter for "sarcastically" mixing Avicii's "Levels" with his own "Ghosts 'n' Stuff".
In May 2014, the NBC comedy series Saturday Night Live parodied the stereotypes of EDM culture and push-button DJs in a Digital Short entitled "When Will the Bass Drop?". It featured a DJ who goes about performing everyday activities—playing a computer game, frying eggs, collecting money—who then presses a giant "BASS" button, which explodes the heads of concertgoers.
In May 2015, the International Music Summit's Business Report estimated that the global electronic music industry had reached nearly $6.9 billion in value; the count included music sales, events revenue (including nightclubs and festivals), the sale of DJ equipment and software, and other sources of revenue. The report also identified several emerging markets for electronic dance music, including East Asia, India, and South Africa, credited primarily to investment by domestic, as well as American and European interests. A number of major festivals also began expanding into Latin America.
China is a market where EDM had initially made relatively few inroads; although promoters believed that the mostly instrumental music would remove a metaphorical language barrier, the growth of EDM in China was hampered by the lack of a prominent rave culture in the country as in other regions, as well as the popularity of domestic Chinese pop over foreign artists. Former Universal Music executive Eric Zho, inspired by the US growth, made the first significant investments in electronic music in China, including the organisation of Shanghai's inaugural Storm festival in 2013, the reaching of a title sponsorship deal for the festival with Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser brand, a local talent search, and organising collaborations between EDM producers and Chinese singers, such as Avicii and Wang Leehom's "Lose Myself". In the years following, a larger number of EDM events began to appear in China, and Storm itself was also preceded by a larger number of pre-parties in 2014 than its inaugural year. A new report released during the inaugural International Music Summit China in October 2015 revealed that the Chinese EDM industry was experiencing modest gains, citing the larger number of events (including new major festival brands such as Modern Sky and YinYang), a 6% increase in the sales of electronic music in the country, and the significant size of the overall market. Zho also believed that the country's "hands-on" political climate, as well as investments by China into cultural events, helped in "encouraging" the growth of EDM in the country.
The term "electronic dance music" (EDM) was used in the United States as early as 1985, although the term "dance music" did not catch on as a blanket term . Writing in The Guardian, journalist Simon Reynolds noted that the American music industry's adoption of the term EDM in the late 2000s was an attempt to re-brand US "rave culture" and differentiate it from the 1990s rave scene. In the UK, "dance music" or "dance" are more common terms for EDM.What is widely perceived to be "club music" has changed over time; it now includes different genres and may not always encompass EDM. Similarly, "electronic dance music" can mean different things to different people. Both "club music" and "EDM" seem vague, but the terms are sometimes used to refer to distinct and unrelated genres (club music is defined by what is popular, whereas EDM is distinguished by musical attributes). Until the late 1990s, when the larger US music industry created music charts for "dance" (Billboard magazine has maintained a "dance" chart since 1974 and it continues to this day.). In July 1995, Nervous Records and Project X Magazine hosted the first awards ceremony, calling it the "Electronic Dance Music Awards".[Note 4]
Electronic dance music is generally composed and produced in a recording studio with specialized equipment such as samplers, synthesizers, effects units and MIDI controllers all set up to interact with one another using the MIDI protocol. In the genre's early days, hardware electronic musical instruments were used and the focus in production was mainly on manipulating MIDI data as opposed to manipulating audio signals. However, since the late 1990s the use of software has been increasing. A modern electronic music production studio generally consists of a computer running a digital audio workstation (DAW), with various plug-ins installed such as software synthesizers and effects units, which are controlled with a MIDI controller such as a MIDI keyboard. This setup suffices for a producer to create an entire track from start to finish, ready to be mastered.
In the 1980s, electronic dance music was often played at illegal underground rave parties held in secret locations, for example, warehouses, abandoned aircraft hangars, fields and any other large, open areas. In the 1990s and 2000s, aspects of the underground rave culture of the 1980s and early 1990s began to evolve into legitimate, organized EDM concerts and festivals. Major festivals often feature a large number of acts representing various EDM genres spread across multiple stages. Festivals have placed a larger emphasis on visual spectacles as part of their overall experiences, including elaborate stage designs with underlying thematics, complex lighting systems, laser shows, and pyrotechnics. Rave fashion also evolved among attendees, which The Guardian described as progressing from the 1990s "kandi raver" to "[a] slick and sexified yet also kitschy-surreal image midway between Venice Beach and Cirque du Soleil, Willy Wonka and a gay pride parade." These events differed from underground raves by their organized nature, often taking place at major venues, and measures to ensure the health and safety of attendees. MTV's Rawley Bornstein described electronic music as "the new rock and roll", as has Lollapalooza organizer Perry Ferrell.
Ray Waddell of Billboard noted that festival promoters have done an excellent job at branding. Larger festivals have been shown to have positive economic impacts on their host cities the 2014 Ultra Music Festival brought 165,000 attendees—and over $223 million—to the Miami/South Florida region's economy. The inaugural edition of TomorrowWorld—a US-based version of Belgium's Tomorrowland festival, brought $85.1 million to the Atlanta area—as much revenue as its hosting of the NCAA Final Four (the national championship of US college basketball) earlier in the year. The increasing mainstream prominence of electronic music has also led major US multi-genre festivals, such as Lollapalooza and Coachella, to add more electronic and dance acts to their lineups, along with dedicated, EDM-oriented stages. Even with these accommodations, some major electronic acts, such as Deadmau5 and Calvin Harris have made appearances on main stages during the final nights of Lollapalooza and Coachella, respectively—spots traditionally reserved for prominent non-electronic genres, such as rock and alternative.
Russell Smith of The Globe and Mail felt that the commercial festival industry was an antithesis to the original principles of the rave subculture, citing "the expensive tickets, the giant corporate sponsors, the crass bro culture—shirtless muscle boys who cruise the stadiums, tiny popular girls in bikinis who ride on their shoulders – not to mention the sappy music itself." Drug-related incidents, as well as other complaints surrounding the behaviour of their attendees, have contributed to negative perceptions and opposition to electronic music events by local authorities; After Ultra Music Festival 2014, where a crowd of gatecrashers trampled a security guard on its first day, Miami's city commissioners considered banning the festival from being held in the city, citing the trampling incident, lewd behavior, and complaints by downtown residents of being harassed by attendees. The commissioners voted to allow Ultra to continue being held in Miami due to its positive economic effects, under the condition that its organizers address security, drug usage and lewd behavior by attendees.
Association with recreational drug use
Dance music has a long association with recreational drug use, particularly with a wide range of drugs that have been categorized under the name "club drugs". Russell Smith noted that the association of drugs and music subcultures was by no means exclusive to electronic music, citing previous examples of music genres that were associated with certain drugs, such as psychedelic rock and LSD, disco music and cocaine, and punk music and heroin. Similarly, the 1980s grunge scene in Seattle was associated with heroin use.
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also known as ecstasy, "E", or "Molly", is often considered the drug of choice within the rave culture and is also used at clubs, festivals and house parties. In the rave environment, the sensory effects from the music and lighting are often highly synergistic with the drug. The psychedelic amphetamine quality of MDMA offers multiple reasons for its appeals to users in the "rave" setting. Some users enjoy the feeling of mass communion from the inhibition-reducing effects of the drug, while others use it as party fuel because of the drug's stimulatory effects.
MDMA is occasionally known for being taken in conjunction with psychedelic drugs. The more common combinations include MDMA combined with LSD, MDMA with psilocybin mushrooms, and MDMA with the disassociative drug ketamine. Many users use mentholated products while taking MDMA for its cooling sensation while experiencing the drug's effects. Examples include menthol cigarettes, Vicks VapoRub, NyQuil, and lozenges.
The incidence of nonmedical ketamine has increased in the context of raves and other parties. However, its emergence as a club drug differs from other club drugs (e.g. MDMA) due to its anesthetic properties (e.g., slurred speech, immobilization) at higher doses; in addition, there are reports of ketamine being sold as "ecstasy". The use of ketamine as part of a "postclubbing experience" has also been documented. Ketamine's rise in the dance culture was rapid in Hong Kong by the end of the 1990s. Before becoming a federally controlled substance in the United States in 1999, ketamine was available as diverted pharmaceutical preparations and as a pure powder sold in bulk quantities from domestic chemical supply companies. Much of the current ketamine diverted for nonmedical use originates in China and India.
A number of deaths attributed to apparent drug use have occurred at major electronic music concerts and festivals. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum blacklisted Insomniac Events after an underaged attendee died from "complications of ischemic encephalopathy due to methylenedioxymethamphetamine intoxication" during Electric Daisy Carnival 2010; as a result, the event was re-located to Las Vegas the following year. Drug-related deaths during Electric Zoo 2013 in New York City, United States, and Future Music Festival Asia 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, prompted the final day of both events to be cancelled, while Life in Color cancelled a planned event in Malaysia out of concern for the incident at Future Music Festival Asia and other drug-related deaths that occurred at the A State of Trance 650 concerts in Jakarta, Indonesia.
In September 2016, the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina banned all electronic music events, pending future legislation, after five drug-related deaths and four injuries at a Time Warp Festival event in the city in April 2016. The ban forced electronic band Kraftwerk to cancel a planned concert in the city, despite arguing that there were dissimilarities between a festival and their concerts.