As we creep up on the midway point of 2019 there are already so many huge headlines to look back on. With countless dope album releases, controversies, and beefs, it’s hard to predict how the industry will change. With this in mind, you have to wonder- what’s impacting the future of Dance Music the most? These are the seven most important factors.
1Artists Going Independent
Although EDM is the most popular it’s ever been, the artists aren’t exactly reaping the benefits of the industry boom. In a post-Napster-and-LimeWire world where piracy and peer-to-peer sharing dominates consumption, artists must evolve. Several new revenue streams are being exploited with the latest innovation being curated festivals. Porter Robinson, Riot Ten, DJ Diesel, and Odesza are some of the artists now hosting their own events. With the instant success of the Second Sky Festival, more DJs are sure to follow suit. Porter laid out the blueprint and proved that it could actually work. Expect to see more artists exploiting their relationships with other big-name acts to rapidly put together killer exclusve lineups. Then, watch them sell out shows using their greatest marketing tools- themselves.
Equally important is their adaptability in response to the explosion of streaming services. Gone are the days of signing with labels, getting a fat advance, and pushing an album during a world tour. Finally, artists are taking their cues to shift toward independence all while reshaping the future of EDM in the process. Honestly, a producer launching a label is no surprise as the industry’s been consistently trending in that direction for decades. Just this past year alone, industry giants like RL Grime, DJ Snake, Kayzo, Kygo, and Nightmare & Slander all started labels. Conversely, a new trend gaining traction has artists abandoning labels altogether.
With this maneuver, artists release content themselves, directly to the consumer via online record stores like BandCamp and Beatport. With royalties set for a mandatory increase this may culminate with artists forming direct partnerships with streaming services. It’s the perfect compromise and solution to the growing problem of the disparity between content usage and artist compensation.
2Copyright: Artists vs The Internet
Recent studies suggest earnings are quickly dropping for artists and protection for intellectual property (IP) is intensifying as a result. Meanwhile, usage of and profits for streaming services are at an all-time high. In a shocking turn, the European Union (EU) enacted the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. With this law, we’ll likely see artists and content creators pitted against the various internet platforms. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, as recently as 2017 most EU countries have relatively poor copyright protection ratings. EU countries including Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, and the Netherlands fall outside the top 45 in the International IP Index. It rates a country’s protection of intellectual property. Charged with fortifying creators’ negotiating power, the European Parliament said this about the measure:
In the US, support is growing for the CASE Act and battle lines are already being drawn. The bill, introduced on May 1, would make it easier and cheaper for creators to make copyright infringement claims. Furthermore, it would allow artists to recoup damages of up to $30,000 per incident. Besides that, the ruling of the Copyright Royalties Board (CRB) will increase royalties by 44% over the next five years.
In response, Spotify, Google, Pandora, and Amazon are teaming up to appeal the CRB’s decision. All four are at risk to devastating amounts of litigation. Particularly Spotify, who only recently posted its first-ever quarterly profits, had no choice but to appeal despite the backlash. David Israelite, the president of the National Music Publishers Association, called appeals of the ruling, “…a war on songwriters.” Seemingly a war may very well be on the horizon with huge implications for how we consume music and information. Artists should be compensated fairly for their work. However, deciding who should foot the bill will surely rock the future of EDM to its core.
Although it seems like EDM has already reached all corners of society, there’re still a few major areas of opportunity. Of these, emerging markets is the most striking and several event producers and artists are already staking their claim. Developing nations are currently rife with opportunities which labels and artists alike should be looking to cash in on. Namely, Latin America and Asia are bright spots for the future of the industry.
It’s been a big year for events in Latin America following the successes of EDC Mexico and Venezuela Live Aid. Combine that with the boom in Latin music ‘s popularity and the huge potential for growth is revealed. Tomorrowland has clearly taken notice by announcing J Balvin as one of the headliners for the popular event. Alesso has a passion for the region and performed at EDC Mexico, Venezuela Live Aid, and Carnivál in Brazil too. Furthermore, his new mixtape series and Netflix América Latina appearance emphasize his recognition of the possibilities the region represents.
The biggest names, spanning multiple industry sectors are also now setting their sights on Asia. Consider EDC and Ultra Music Festival both launching Asian versions of the popular US festivals. This expansion into Korea and Japan is an obvious sign of things to come within the industry. Equally important is the attention which India is getting as well. Spotify is quietly making its own power grab by increasing support for its platforms in India. Meanwhile, DJ Snake is attempting to tap into the 1.5 billion person market by launching his label in Mumbai. From this, there’s no doubt that the emerging markets will have a major role in shaping the future of EDM.
4Addressing Mental Health
One of the unfortunate things that have dominated the headlines is the loss of some of EDM’s finest. Avicii’s passing is sill causing the industry’s realization of losing its brightest star at the height of his popularity. In March, one of the industry’s oldest legends Keith Flint was taken in the same manner. This forces us all into an inevitable discussion- Are we taking the mental health of our artists seriously enough?
Besides the untimely ending to careers, we must be more considerate of the effects the limelight causes within the industry. For instance, in May Cookie Monsta withdrew from his tour due to issues with mental health. It’s not clear whether or not years of performing is exacerbating the problem. However, it is fairly clear that his mental health inhibits his ability to put on his best shows. Check out his full Facebook post here:
Another prime example is what happened with Getter nearly ending his career due to bullying from the fans. While not necessarily directly related to his mental health, it reminds us of the fragility of the minds of superstars. Moreover, it reminds us that they too are only human. Just months ago, Laidback Luke highlighted this in an interview wtih Business Insider saying this:
Blasterjaxx and Benga have also come forward speaking out about the issue and how it’s become a major industry problem. Likewise, a recent study shows nearly 75% of independent artists suffer from some form of mental health problems. With that level of occurrence, it’s now without question one of the most formative issues surrounding the future of EDM. Hopefully, the industry continues to take steps to curtail this negative trend.
5The War on Festivals: Lawsuits & Sustainability
It’s been a rough year for the huge festivals that have become icons of the dominance of the EDM industry. Ultra Music Festival and Burning Man, two industry giants, have suffered very public setbacks recently. Certainly, these festivals are the hallmarks of what EDM festivals represent. Indeed, each of their unique struggles will shape how we approach festivals in the future. Additionally, some of the post-event photos we are starting to see circulate every year are not very pretty.
Regarding Ultra, the world renown Miami mainstay suffered not one but two lawsuits leading up to the 2019 festivities. The first, attacking the dominance of the festival in the region with an anti-trust suit. The second, spurred by local residents looking to prevent the festival from moving into their neighborhood. This was after UMF was already forcibly removed from its downtown home due to resident’s complaints. As for Burning Man, the location is not of issue here however the environmental impact of the event is. At least, that’s the argument the local government highlights in its environmental impact statement. As of this writing, much of Burning Man’s future remains in jeopardy. If the suggested changes are implemented, the Burn as we know and love it would be gone forever.
From this it’s clear that the future of the festival will change how we as music lovers will consume EDM. Festivals across the globe must clean up their acts and start to be more forward thinking about sustainability. Similarly, they’ll need to consider new ways to coexist with their host communities for long periods of time. If not, they may wind up facing a fate similar to Australia’s Defqon 1 or Georgia’s Orange Crush.
6Death of the Nightclub & The Warehouse Renaissance
In the early 2000’s something created a huge shift in EDM- The birth of the super club. The skyrocketing popularity of ‘90s rave culture brought techno and house music into the mainstream. Along with that came commercialization of the industry. Whenever night clubs or even larger venues begin capitalizing on a booming market it creates a noticeable change. In this case, the consumption of dance music shifted from raves and warehouses to night clubs and arenas. Suddenly, huge night clubs with massive sound systems, dedicated to EDM, can be found on every corner. Outside of huge festival-grounds, this is where we find most live-dance music. However, to the dismay of many a club-head, we’re seeing some troubling trends.
Over the past several months, one-by-one, some of the industry’s hottest spots are closing down. In October last year, The Mid in Chicago is one of the first big dominoes to fall. Suffering the same fate are San Francisco’s Mezzanine, Miami’s Ora, and New York’s Output and Cielo. Shocking the EDM system, Beta Nightclub of Denver regretfully closes its dance floors too (set to reopen soon). Truly mind boggling is the news of Intrigue of Las Vegas closing its doors. Furthermore, this alarming tendency knows no borders with closures of Uniun in Toronto, Club 92 in Berlin, and England’s Tokyo.
What does this mean for EDM’s future? Possibly, the popularity of EDM could make a complete nose dive. Some reports say that youths are in search of less extravagant experiences. Although, the rising popularity of EDM may indicate otherwise. Most likely what’s taking place is that we’re seeing the party move back underground to warehouses and do-it-yourself locations. It seems as though the industry is reaching the peak of commercialization. Thus, it’s not surprising that the industry is revisiting its underground roots. As a result, from Los Angeles to Europe, underground spots are popping up all over the place. In like fashion to ‘90s raves shaping EDM, this warehouse renaissance will surely shape EDM in the years to come.
Of all the formative topics affecting the future of EDM, diversity influences the industry’s ability to maintain its popularity most. We see genres like hip-hop and R&B, typically less diverse, fluctuate in popularity depending on the climate in the industry. Conversely, the pop and rock genres, which consistently rank highest in popularity, have embraced diversity in an ongoing basis. According to the International Music Summit (IMS) report, EDM has breached the top three in popularity for the first time. From this it’s clear that electronic music must embrace diversity to maintain its place on the pedestal.
The IMS report highlights one aspect of diversity that EDM may already be cashing in on- Women. Charlotte de Witte, Amelie Lens, and Nina Kraviz were all in the top five most booked DJ’s. From this, it’s fairly obvious that continuing to increase bookings of female artists is a smart move for the industry. In fact, 150+ festivals have signed on to do just that by increasing female bookings to 50% by 2022. Berlin EDM legend Camea Hoffman encapsulated this eloquently in an interview with Indie Magazine.
Further illustrating the importance of diversity, we should look at Coachella. Granted, several not so favorable headlines come out of Indio each year but there’re still lessons to be learned here. The festival’s greatest success is most likely it’s diverse lineup. Coachella continues to build a very diverse bill of artists with varying backgrounds, styles and musical influences. It’s reflective of the types of events EDM event organizers will need to put together to keep the crowds growing. Above all, the future of EDM depends on increasing inclusiveness just as other genres have been able to do.
Looking back on the year so far, so much is changing in the scene. Most importantly, EDM continues to grow in popularity and new artists and festivals continue to break through. Luckily, we have a thorough list of topics to focus on as the development of our beloved industry continues. Keep it locked here as we continue to deliver the hottest news affecting the future of EDM.