deadmau5 Says EDM Is Dying: Is It Already Dead? Does Anyone Even Care?

In a recent interview with The London Evening Standard, deadmau5 let his opinions known on the so-called decline of electronic dance music. He went so far to note that “festivals” are “being branded bigger than the acts, which is totally backwards,” which I believe most fans can agree with. He goes on to discuss that these big headlining festivals only benefit the promoters, and therefore he’s [planning to launch his own stadium tour series] with an elaborate stage setup that rivals what most festivals typically offer. Via:

It’s another thing I can’t fuckin’ stand, you know? Festivals are being branded bigger than the acts, which is totally backwards in my head. It’s ’cause of those acts that you’re a festival! Who wins? The promoter. The guy who’s throwing this festival that’s branded bigger than you, that you think you’re awesome for headlining. It’s a shame, so that’s why I’m pulling out.

The show is gonna be a whole lot better than all eyes on you in some confined cube. It’s gonna be way more immersive. It’s in the round. We have Hollywood screenwriters coming up with a script. We have Chris Ha over at Blizzard [the video game developer] doing storyboards for it. We’re producing it like you’d produce a film. I’m really excited about it because it’s a sink-or-swim thing. Even the accountant’s freaking out. 

He elaborated on his feelings about the EDM bubble busting:

As they say, the rat is the first one to jump off the boat when it starts going down, and that’s kind of what’s happening. It’s already been going down the last couple of years, for me. Maybe not in the industry. Maybe there’ll be a whole new herd of sheep following that shit, and fucking good luck. Disco had a longer run than EDM has, to be honest about it, and that died in a fucking hurry. EDM is way more susceptible because that was in a time when they didn’t have mass social media and all that shit. It’s not gonna be me saying, “OK, EDM’s done,” and the whole thing falls apart, but I think it’ll eventually fuck itself so hard.

But here’s where it gets dicey in my opinion: do we care? Personally, I’ve been a fan of dance music as a whole since I was introduced to Kaskade’s debut album back in 2003 – and he was making what some would call ‘deep house’ at the time. I come from a strong hip-hop background – Big L, Jay-Z, Nas, The Pharcyde, Camp Lo, Biggie etc etc, and I’ve seen the entire ‘mainstream-ification’ of artists before. It’s nothing new, and I knew it wouldn’t be the last time for it to happen, after the rise to fame in artists like Lil’ Wayne, Kanye West, and 50 Cent. At one point, Lil’ Wayne was a young, hungry rapper looking to prove himself as the ‘best rapper alive’, but somewhere along the way – he started making millions and got distracted on that path and became a mainstream pop sensation. Is that what Weezy ultimately wanted? Can we dislike him because of that rise to superstardom? Not sure, but we’ll come back to that.

From my initial exposure to Kaskade, my music base expanded to more mainstream, popular artists as I was discovering more about the genre. The feeling and the rush that the music gave was incomparable. Anthem-based builds, massive bass drops, and simple yet catchy lyrics provided the soundtrack to our house parties, day-drinking events, and gym work outs. EDM was everywhere and there’s no way that you could tell an 18 year old me that David Guetta’s ‘The World Is Mine’ wasn’t an absolute tune. Moving in toward college, frat life, and trips to NYC – the love for this newly crafted genre ‘EDM’ only grew with my exposure to Dutch house acts like Quintino, Afrojack, Bassjackers and more. I loved the music and attending the shows with friends was the best part of the experience, and no one could take that away from me. But music operating in a cyclical nature – it was only a matter of time before my worst fears set into place: electronic dance music becoming ‘mainstream’. What do I mean by ‘becoming mainstream’? I mean venues being overpacked, promoters solely looking to make money in their bookings and placements, and most importantly – the quality of music severely declining.

After about 5 years, I noticed that every production piece I started to hear…sounded similar. Everything was hinged upon a buildup and a drop. I stopped noticing originality in any of the music. Artists began to see the massive attention that EDM was getting and jumped on board with their simple, cookie- cutter productions. Everyone wanted to attain that same mainstream success that artists such as Avicii, Afrojack and more received. Every artist started their own record label and found more and more producers looking to fit within this same exact mold. During all this time, I was thankfully exposed to some alternate genres like garage house, deep house, techno, and tech house. The diversity in the music is what drew me in and I began looking outside the box to EDM and what it was as a genre.

Nowadays, the neon-clad, tank top wearing, ‘Kandi’ wielding masses are holding the reigns on EDM…and even a few of them are starting to look alternatively. We’re entering an age where the ‘cool kids’ who ‘discovered EDM – are starting to venture to other genres, because of how popular EDM has become. This same cyclical process drove vintage Lil’ Wayne fans to dig a little bit deeper and put a spotlight on a young Canadian artist Drake as he was putting out mixtape after mixtape. It’s classic: when the bubble pops – everyone disperses. Making EDM music has become so formulaic for artists these days that searching & finding quality tunes becomes a major chore within the genre itself.

The massive festivals that decided to put the Beatport Top 10 artists on the bill are partly to blame for the decline of the genre. Just throwing a list of names together to play for hour time slots while fans pay exorbitant prices shouldn’t be the route of a genre of music that’s supposed to emphasize building a community. So in part I totally see where the mau5 is coming from, but it’s unfortunate because most fans will identify Joel as part of the overall problem. As you see fans gravitating towards Disclosure, AlunaGeorge, Flume and other ‘indie’ acts, EDM is slowly but surely becoming old news.

So what’s the solution? Is there one? And do we really care? All in all –good music is good music. If David Guetta happened to produce (on his own) an amazing quality track – I would be proud to be a fan and support it. But this all comes back to the initial idea that music is totally subjective. What I might see is good – another might see as awful. All in all – we’re in the age of seeing EDM die down and it’s hard to predict what’s going to come next, but it’s clear that there will always be a dominant genre of music that the masses flock towards.