*Note: This article does not reflect the views of MMIBTY as a whole, just one writer’s opinion.*
We’ve all heard the stereotypes. EDM brings people together for a “magical experience unlike any other concert or community that has ever existed before”. From traditional house music enthusiasts to “bassheads” and every funky genre in between, this generation of music, its producers, and its fans have been labeled as those who split a dividing line in our culture. The representation of a united front for equality on the dance floor, and subsequently in the way we live our lives. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation has become that because of a mass explosion of media and events, there has been a tare in the fabric of this culture at the seams. The purity and essence of what electronic music became famous for is being tarnished by a lack of a general direction that was once its greatest asset. Is all hope lost? No. However, if there is not a massive and pointed collective effort that allows everyone involved to hearken back to the roots of this culture, most of the beauty of this genre of music and more importantly what it represents, will continue to dissipate into only smaller and smaller fragments scattered across this country and the world. This will continue to occur until perhaps nothing will be left but commercialized and murky EDM.
There have now been scores of articles touching on this very topic, but very little being done about it. The business end of this equation has skyrocketed in growth and power in such a small amount of time, and little is being done to harness it. Gigantic attractions, festivals as we know and love them, are now popping up every summer just about everywhere. There lies one of the biggest issues. Music festivals, and the subsequent tours that the artists that perform there embark upon for the remainder of the year, have become less and less dynamic. There is now more or less a “festival formula” that has been put in place and replicated all over the world. The true heritage and overwhelming sensation that was first established when groups of friends would travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles on a journey to share an experience seeing their favorite artists in a new place, is simply no longer necessary. More likely than not, there is a festival happening in your backyard sometime this year. That sense of belonging and purpose that allowed people to let their guard down, if only for a few days out of the year, is such a cherished aspect of music festivals and EDM culture. It is now being replaced with seemingly almost an addict’s mentality of just “trying to get to the next one.” Those shared experiences and bonding over music and exploration of self has become less and less apparent at these events over the last several years.
With this paradigm shift that is occurring at the bigger events, naturally a trickle-down effect has followed into local venues throughout the year. Almost every major artist sets out on a massive countrywide tour each year, and this has only furthered the now watered-down EDM experience. There is something so grand to be said about only being able to see your favorite artist once or twice a year. The months and weeks leading up to it, the anticipation of reuniting with old friends and experiencing your favorite music with your favorite people, is almost just as big of a rush as the actual event. Knowing that for just a few nights a year you will be able to honestly and totally lose yourself in the crowd and in the performance is a type of group therapy that only few other cultures can relate to. This feeling of togetherness and equality is so apparent and so strong that it has been coined a phrase by one of the largest EDM acts today, Above and Beyond, who now label each of their events as “Group Therapy”, and famously celebrated their 100th edition with a massive show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. As concerts become more plentiful, all of those experiences and feelings are becoming lost.
It would be unfair and also not telling the whole story without at least touching on the subject of drugs in EDM culture. Just as our predecessors, those who invented the idea of combining free expression and music into a shared experience with thousands in attendance and celebrating some 40-50 years ago, drugs have weaved their way into the fabric of this culture. We cannot be so naïve to say, however, that it is the fault of those who organize events, or the artists who perform at them that we have so unfortunately lost lives at them due to drugs. People do drugs, the music does not. The event itself, does not. We live in a world where young adults, specifically those who participate in some form of counterculture, often experiment with drugs during this period of their lives. The vast majority make it through these times unharmed, and often taking much knowledge and experience from their travels. But there are a select few, for a multitude of reasons, who do not. This is not an “EDM issue”, it is an issue for society as a whole. The fact is, a lot of people from the ages of 18-30 do drugs in a recreational way. No amount of strict enforcement of any law or shutting down any X number of events will change that. Education about the facts and the use of drugs in our country, as well as globally, is the key to changing the mentality our culture has adopted about drug use, both at EDM events, and in everyday life. EDM has become an adopted face for the problem in our society with certain drugs, and it is unfair to place all of the blame on it, especially with all of the emerging safety measures being taken at events. See DanceSafe.org and all they have done to take a realistic and modern approach to safety at electronic music events.
EDM is at its core, a wonderful genre of music with an even more wonderful set of people coming from every background to celebrate their appreciation of it together. Because so many people caught on to this celebration, it has begun to not only lose its meaning, but present a plethora of problems. There is no face to EDM, it is a collection of millions of fans and performers, famous venues and festivals, which have adopted us all without judgment. In our world which is drowning in negativity and overs-saturation is a shame to see EDM falling victim to these same issues. There will always be those who go to events with the best mentality possible, giving hugs to strangers and making friends because of a shared bond over music and culture. There are now also those who attend for the wrong reasons, and those who put on events for the wrong reasons, that are tainting the purity of the message of this community. For those who love EDM and want to see it continue to be the haven it has been, there needs to be a tremendous push to lean off the gas pedal that is driving this genre of music out of control and just go back to truckin’, the way it was always intended to be.