At every event you hear at least one person say, “I miss the old days. Things were different.” How were things different? We all know the rave scene started in the 80’s, but let’s take a step back to the late 90’s and early 2000’s. During this time, we saw a great change in electronic music.
The lines between rave culture and pop EDM used to be very clear. You had pop artists using electronically produced tracks (often by EDM producers) with simplistic sounds and catchy melodies. Everyone from N’Sync to Madonna had EDM artists as their producers and engineers. Why was there still such a separation between what they were producing for pop artists and on their own personal projects?
When producing an album for a singer/group, you are working with the artist to convey their idea. This means, while your style has influence, it is their sound that is being created, not yours. There is also the limit of studio time. Artists such as Ricky Martin have more patience. This lead to more production time and intricately created musical scores as opposed to boy bands who had to fight between tight tour schedules and PR campaigns leading to simplistic catchy tracks meant to focus on the vocal.
On the other hand, EDM artists have way more time to develop their score. In the late 90’s we saw trance take flight. Progressive was in. These tunes had more relation to orchestra than to the rest of electronic music. In the year 2000 we saw the progressive sound influence techno, drum n bass, hardcore, and Florida breaks.
Electronic music was beginning to surpass other music genres in its complexity and diversity. Each sub-genre began to have its own sub genres. It seemed as though this was the future of music. In some aspects, this was true.
In 1999 the internet went from being something your friend or neighbor had to being in every household. The entire population had access to the world at their fingertips. It wasn’t long before the arts began being shared. Music specifically exploded.
Artists took advantage of sites such as MP3.com to get their music heard by the masses. Then something crazy happened. While Napster had been around since 1999, it rose to be a household name in April. Metallica brought to light that people were sharing their music for free. Needless to say, people flocked to find services such as Napster and Kazaa to find free music.
The world now had access to all types of music all at once. While well-known artists and labels saw this as a detriment, the true artists viewed this medium as a means to share their art with those that may not find it otherwise. They were right. People get bored hearing the same top 100 artists over and over again. Genre searches became common. You could research and relate artists you liked to others that had similar sounds and generate your own style. For the first time, the internet had influence over the way we listened to music.
This same peer to peer sharing opened up to software torrents, cracks, and all sorts of piracy. With piracy becomes instant affordability to those who otherwise could not have access to tools. Whether people will admit it or not, this shifted the way we thought about approaching art.
Before, in order to produce electronic music, you needed to dedicate yourself to the art form. Why? Software, Synthesizers, mixers, drum machines, and more were all a huge investment. Imagine my level of anger the first time someone showed me a copy of Orion Platinum they got for free. Here I was in my parent’s basement spending half of my income to do this and this guy was doing the same thing for free.
I drew my own opinions on music by 2006. I watched the sounds I loved and knew slowly fade away. What was going on? What was happening? Electronic music started to sound more and more like pop music. The melodies were catchy. The tracks themselves started to become formulaic.
Being a strictly vinyl DJ at the time, I also had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact the turntable was disappearing from setups. I had to start packing my coffin into my car in case turntables were not at the venue. What was happening to our culture?
In 2007, I received the answer. While at a gig in Atlanta, I approached one of the local DJ’s (his name will be kept out to avoid embarrassment) to ask him what the last tune in his set was. He said he didn’t know. He just downloaded it before the set. Needless to say, I was confused. How did he not know at least the title of the tune? I shared my e-mail and asked if he could send it to me. The next morning I flew back home. There was a high level of excitement to check out this new track and maybe research a new artist. I opened my e-mail and downloaded the attachment. I will never forget how awesome “Track03.MP3” was. Some asshole literally ripped the tune off of a cd then shared it. Wow!
This same shortcut attitude just grew and grew into 2010. Then something crazy happened. EDM started to have a strong influence on pop. What? How is this so? Well, Dubstep started to blow up. The sound of grime matured and had sex with breaks. **Side note: People stop saying Dubstep is like slowed down Drum n Bass. From one Junglist to another, we stole our roller and LFO bass sounds from Breaks.** All of a sudden rap artists and the mainstream audience as a whole took strong notice to EDM.
Holy shit! The entire world stopped referring to all electronic music as Techno! You would think this is great right? I did. I was happy to see electronic music finally getting worldwide recognition. Man, all of these talented kats such as Deepsky, AK1200, Dieselboy, Keoki, and way more are finally going to get their shot at the mainstream. What happened instead?
The last record released on Moonshine Music was Misdirected Jealousy by Keoki in 2010. In 2011 we saw a huge influx of new artists. Where were these guys coming from? Electronic music began to become more and more simple; it seemed, by the minute. Let’s jump to now. Listen to every EDM song in your library. You will find two structures that stand out. The first is mix in, build up, drop, chorus, breakdown, build up, drop, chorus, end. The other is mix in, drop, chorus, breakdown, buildup, drop, chorus.
In the good old days, DJ’ing and producing was an investment. You had to bust your ass just to make and spin music because hardware, software, vinyl, and equipment were all expensive. Only the truly dedicated were doing what they loved because their heart was in it. Unfortunately it has become common place for people to get involved with Electronic music for image, money, and fame. My friends, those reasons don’t make you an artist.
The next time someone tells you they miss the good old days, just nod. Acknowledge you understand. Remind them that there are still those out there trying to do it for the love of the music. Give them a hug or buy them a drink. Much love and respect. Thank you for reading this far.