EDM: Expensive Dance Music pt. 1
What’s your favorite sport? Chances are, if you live outside the U.S., it’s soccer (excuse me, football). A single sport so vast in its following and participation that countries don’t want to host its world championship.
Why has football become so popular worldwide? It’s incredibly simple to play. All it requires is a ball, a fairly flat surface, and some other people; so long as you don’t mind using your surroundings, and the possibility of a slightly unfair game.
While football hasn’t really taken hold inside the U.S., a different football has. This football has a few more requirements. You will need: some other people, a ball (but not quite), an even playing surface, some way to measure and mark that surface in the proper increments, some sort of standing ‘T’/’Y’ shaped object at either end of the playing surface, and if you give a shit about yourself and your safety you’ll need some fairly decent padding and a helmet. That list isn’t horribly longer than the previous one, but it’s a lot more expensive. This is especially true when you need padding and helmets for each player; but if you can come up with some cheap, DIY means to get all of that stuff together, then by all means play some football.
While the reason football is more popular than football outside of the U.S. may not be because it’s the cheaper option, it certainly doesn’t hurt. U.S. citizens have access to more resources and have a higher median household income than the vast majority of other countries. This same sort of separation of sports by class happens within the U.S. with sailing, golf, ice skating, motocross, equestrian, and (holy shit) the pentathlon.
Those sports segregate competition between the lower and upper classes simply by being designed the way they are. No kids from the hood are going to get good at polo, because there’s probably very few kids from the hood that have ever ridden a horse. These sports aren’t specifically designed to keep out poor people, they’re just invented by rich people, and those rich people probably aren’t complaining. I fear this same sort of effect is happening to art, more specifically music, right now.
Music itself isn’t something which can be bought or bartered in the creative sense. If you have some means of making noise, you can make music. This basically means that any human being can make music using simply their body. Even if you take the human voice out of the picture, which you shouldn’t because despite what the classicals thought, the human voice is an amazing instrument of harmony and pitch.
All it takes to start making music is to hit something with your hand or foot, and you’re off. Everything from monastic chants to African drums shows that humans have been making music using their bodies and their surroundings, and quite well for some time.
Being the ingenuitive beings that humans are, over time we’ve progressed from just hitting rocks and logs to more graceful, intricate means of sound production. Creating these new-found means of sound production is usually an art form in itself. Therefore the purchase of these instruments is almost as expensive as one could expect a purchase of fine art to be. This limits the possession of these sound-producing pieces of art to those people that already possess the means to acquire them.
Everyone knew that kid growing up who had been signed up for violin or piano lessons since they could walk. Typically that kid belonged to a somewhat well-off and put-together family because those families possess the means to sign their kid up for lessons.
Rock & roll, blues, jazz, hip-hop and rap, and country are all genres of music which were born and bred right in America. These genres grew up feeding on the trials, tribulations and turmoil of the lower classes of America. The pre-existing music scenes would always turn their nose up at the up-and-comers; but despite the adversity that faced them, the musicians, and the music they played would eventually rise and become a staple of modern music in America and eventually most of the first world.
With the advent of electronic music, the bar has been raised. Not only has the design quality of these new instruments passed 9,000, the prices have as well. If a kid wants to start trying his hand at electronic music production, he needs a MIDI controller, and at the very least, a computer. At the cheapest, the kid is looking at spending around $500 if he’s buying new. Not a horrible cost for start up compared to other musical instruments. If he wants to DJ instead, unless the kid wants to use classic vinyl (which would probably end up being more expensive in the long run) instead of timecodes or CDJs, he’s going to need a set of turntables, a sound card, and a computer in order to perform. The lowest figures this kid is looking for performing is easily over $1,300 buying new. Both of those numbers are lowball estimates for some of the cheapest equipment you can buy.
So, buy secondhand hardware. That’s not a big deal. Plenty of firsts are actually seconds: cars, homes, even most first instruments belonged to someone else first. However, even on the second hand market, this kind of stuff gets expensive fast. A single turntable usually sells for about $150+. That kind of math adds up fast and leaves you wondering why you’re even buying secondhand to begin with.
Now that this kid’s got all of his hardware, it’s time to go get some software. The cheapest versions of Traktor and Serato, two of the most popular software systems for live DJs, will run you about $100 and $140 respectively. If you’re looking to produce, then you’ll need some software for that as well. Ableton is probably the most popular software for production in EDM, and if you want more than a basic three instrument package then you’ll be paying upwards of $800 real quick.
In total, if you want to make electronic music then you’ll be forking over about $800+ at the start. If you simply want to perform electronic music, then you’ll be looking at paying upwards of $2,000.
Incidentally, EDM has become a class sport. It didn’t set out to become unattainable to the masses, but in the radical progression that music production has undergone in the past few decades, we’ve advanced the technology so far and so fast that the average person can’t keep up with it.
The angsty teenager next door can no longer just save up for a couple weeks and go get a guitar and amp or a drum kit from the local shop and begin his path towards becoming the next Hendrix. Well, he can, but not if he wants to be a DJ.
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