The popularity of Lollapalooza, David Guetta, and electronic dance music has generated interest for millennials amongst big investors, but will their involvement soil this youthful form of entertainment?
The line outside Pacha, a three-tiered nightclub on Manhattan's west side, extended inches from the Lincoln Tunnel on a cold winter night in 2011. My friends and I waited with chattering teeth for more than an hour to gain entry. Teems of rowdy youths piled into the vertical space surrounded by glow sticks, flashes of neon, glitter, and polyester, and searched for a standing spot before the show started. World renowned, French producer and D.J. David Guetta would take center stage in a matter of minutes, spinning house music from the first floor until sunrise. Sure enough, the strobe lights took flight, confetti machines erupted, and dancing began.
I listened to Guetta a lot before buying tickets to his show, finally figuring it'd be an event worth experiencing first-hand. There's a felt difference between tuning into electronic dance music (E.D.M. for short) on your iPod and immersing yourself in it live. The ascension of this newly cemented genre, whose point is to ignite dance with its skittish dubstep beats, works best when you're one of thousands in a chaotic, all-consuming environment enhanced by otherworldly lights and fashion-forward costumes.
Thus, festivals devoted to just this continue to rise in popularity. Recently, Ultra Music Festival rained in on Miami with 165,000 unchaperoned and half-naked fans. And mid-May, Electric Daisy Carnival - which sold out in three hours after 60,000 tickets for $100+ went on sale - will take New York by storm, before moving on to Las Vegas in June and eventually venturing to Puerto Rico.
New York Times' writer Ben Sisario recently noted the increasing interest of outside investors in supporting E.D.M. festivals. Until now, independent promoters -- Insomniac Events, Hard Events, Ultra, and Made Event -- have reigned over this burgeoning industry. If barriers are broken, there are issues to consider. An investor's profit would depend on ticket sales, and perhaps it's too soon for involvement in something that may pass as quickly as disco did. There are also liabilities that come with inevitable drug and alcohol use as well as heat-related health concerns. As for the promoters, how much money do they need? Would extra funding be worth it if that meant selling out to larger labels like Live Nation and A.E.G. Live or business big shots, such as supermarket magnate Ron Burkle or media mogul Robert F. X. Sillerman? Will E.D.M. keep its cool factor if a fatherly figure stepped in?
Some questioned the masculinity of E.D.M. when it first surfaced, as New York Magazine's Nitsuh Abebe mentions in "Why Does America Love Skrillex?" But as D.J.'s like David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5, Kaskade, Tiesto, and Skrillex have demonstrated, the oftentimes criticized, but undeniable "brostep" to dubstep captivates both the fist-pumping pseudo-male as well as the bippity-boppity, free-spirited female. Both genders can throw their arms in the air and rid themselves of inhibitions within 20 seconds of turning the music on. As Abebe recounts, following the recent release of Skrillex's EP Bangarang, two of Facebook's top ten most played songs in 2011 were Skrillex. Abebe aptly explains why America's become obsessed with this "black-clad producer" who lacks vocal talent: "Skrillex’s work, in particular, is a lot more of a pile-up, as if someone’s picked all the most obviously, superficially cool and high-impact parts of a dozen different genres, dredged them in stimulants, and started mashing them against one another - the same way Quentin Tarantino can rifle through a dozen film genres and borrow all the best fight scenes."
In an age when our parent's rock 'n' roll icons -- be it The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, or Madonna -- cease to exist in the way they used to, it's easy to understand why those aged 15 to 25 seek an innovative platform specific to their generation. Bursting at the seams with contagious energy and an intense passion for play, E.D.M. offers that needed escape from everyday frustrations and bodily confinement. You can't help but bob your head back and forth to the strong beats interlaced with video-game-like shrills produced by the top D.J.'s. When you listen to E.D.M. -- be it at a club or a tented venue -- your most youthful self emerges in the form of sweeping movement. Once a sketchy, back-alley circuit, E.D.M. has risen to the pavement and infiltrated respected venues worldwide. After all, Swedish House Mafia played to a full house at Madison Square Garden as the spot's first D.J. headliner, while Skrillex swiped up three Grammy Awards -- he had been nominated for five -- earlier this year.
But can this last? Or is electronic dance music its own dot-com bubble on the verge of collapse? Will it hold the same appeal if the insiders let the outsiders in? How much room for growth is there amongst D.J.'s? Will the technology they have allow them to progress artistically? Will it take pop artists like Rihanna, Katy Perry, Kanye West, and Chris Brown to continue making inspirational tracks for these D.J.s to produce successful beats? Most D.J.'s can't sing; it's a collaborative process. No doubt it'll be interesting to watch this genre.
A friend emailed me asking if I'd make it to Electric Daisy this year. It could be worth the trip; after all, next year I may be too old.