The Future of EDM: Where is This All Going?
Keith Richards is fucking old, man.
But age is just a number, right? It’d be pretty hard to find someone that would deny The Rolling Stones don’t still put on a hell of a show. And they aren’t alone either. Pete Townshend, Paul Simon, and Eric Clapton are hitting 70 and still perform on a regular basis.
It’s almost a cliché at this point; the aging rocker that should have died of liver failure years ago, but sobers up just enough to put on unbelievable sold out shows. We see lifer rock musicians and old country stars, but we don’t encounter many DJs out of their 20s and 30s. With the exception of a few legacy pioneers who happen to be in their 40’s (Chemical Brothers & Daft Punk) or 50’s (Fatboy Slim) or even 60’s (I was pointed in the direction of Francois K), the electronic music scene is still fairly young. Even seeing people in their late 30’s at a festival, while definitely not unheard of, is something that stands out. Not in a weird way, not in a bad way, but just in a way that is noticeable.
It could just be that the electronic music scene is geared at young people. This is evident with the mass appeal to popular culture, such as “EDM” tracks being used Sprite and GoPro commercials. Additionally, a lot of artists are putting a hard emphasis on the party aspect of the music, which is naturally going to attract a younger crowd.
But there was a time that rock was considered only for young people and the culture existed simply as an excuse to do drugs. That image has been largely forgotten and the culture has evolved and proved itself to be more than just a trend, with musicians becoming so engrained into our culture that they aren’t considered to be aimed at any one demographic, but instead accomplish what music does best: speaks to everyone.
Instead, the electronic scene’s prevalence of youth seems to be attributed to something as simple as the music itself is still fairly young. Even if you trace the roots back to the UK in the early 80s, it just doesn’t have the same foundation of something like rock and roll or country. People having been playing guitars longer than people have been DJing. Those who create and listen to electronic music haven’t had a chance to really get old.
And as the scene gets older, the accessibility to culture and music is unlike anything that’s ever existed. Everyone has the opportunity to be heard through podcasts and watch music being performed live on the other side of the world while it’s all being recorded on people’s phones, tweeted, Snapchatted, live streamed; all leading to a level of exposure that would have been impossible ten years ago. It’s allowed for incredible growth and development, but the downside to this is it gives everyone the opportunity to be heard. The most accessible music is relatively easy to create and everybody wants to get on the ride. As a result, the scene is way oversaturated.
In the long run, this is all okay. Over time certain artists will rise, peak, and fade away, just like with anything else. How many bands from the 80s and 90s are not remembered because they didn’t have anything that truly distinguished them from anyone else during that time? (Sorry, Martin Garrix. I don’t hate “Animals,” but I’m pretty sure that’s going to be your “Safety Dance.” Maybe we’ll see you opening for comedians at local casinos someday).
After this massive wave of electronic music passes, what lies in store for the future? As the scene matures and DJs start collectively getting older it’s not a question of if the scene is going to change, it’s a question of how. And what effect does the constant exposure and ability to stream podcasts and watch live feeds of festivals from home have on the lifespan of the music? What happens to a culture when things like distance and money and having a family are no longer obstacles to being part of the experience?
Music can’t stay the same, that’s just not how it works. It took almost three decades, but disco slowly evolved into trance. So much has happened in the last twenty years, in the last six years, the last two years… no one at Woodstock could have fathomed an act like Destroid even existing. With the accessibility and preservation of it all, it’d be near impossible to predict what sound is going to be big even next summer, let alone how long it’s going to last. So, is electronic music just a fad and the scene is destined just to fade away, eventually turning into an odd sort of nostalgia that we can’t believe was ever popular (like disco)?
While the popularity may settle, the significance this music has will never change. Talk to anyone who’s just attended their first show or anyone who’s been moved to tears by a track or anyone who has connected with a stranger at a festival. Just looking at the deeply personal stories so many people have proves that this is something that resonates much deeper than a cultural fad. This music and this community changes people’s lives.
We’ve taken something that barely existed twenty-five years ago and turned into something that we’re passionate about, someplace that we feel safe, and somewhere that we feel home. And we’re taking it with us. Just as people of all ages flock to a country music festival or Coachella or Dave Matthews year after year, we are in the process of making the next legacy. Our legacy. We’ve taken this music and made it our own; turned it into music that defines our lives. And that’s something that can never be taken away from us.
And down the road no one will think twice to see someone in their sixties attending EDC. Because two decades from now we’ll all gather again, middle-aged and dragging along our kids to watch Porter Robinson and Madeon (now in their fifties), close out the first night under the electric sky.
See you all at Paradiso 2044.
What are your thoughts? Is this music part of your maturing life? Or will it stay only as a part of your youth? Do you see EDC happening in twenty years, or is it going to go the way of disco, and slowly evolve into something else?
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