RIP EDM

01109818.interactive.aI’m calling it. Well, I’ve been calling it. Probably close to 4 years now.

Mark my words, EDM will soon go the way of Disco. And thus is the cyclical nature of the music beast.

Don’t worry, it’s normal. Death and rebirth – A absolute truth in the foundation of all things.

Like Rock n’ Roll, what was once an underground phenomenon emerged into the mainstream becoming Pop, fell subject to assimilation from just about every Top40 act not associated with the movement at all, and sold out – as everything/everyone often does.

There’s a rainstorm coming; A cleansing of the pop culture landscape, if you will. And the first few drops have already begun to fall.

Let me paint you a timeline of how these events have already started to unfold:

  • September 3, 2013 – A lengthy article entitled, Finding Molly: Drugs, dancing, and death is published on the dangers of MDMA or “Molly” and the behind-the-scenes goings on of the EDM Festival world. It goes viral.

mollyThis was a eye-opening read to me, to hear the unabashed perspective of someone who witnessed full-on the shadiness of the MDMA/Molly scene and its connection with the EDM culture: Molly could be any drug and you’d have no way of knowing, easy to sneak, smuggle, and deal; risk of overdose always imminent, venues and security in cahoots with the promoters receiving cuts as incentives for their silence:

The agents win because their shows have…inflated attendance numbers, due to the false attendance reporting. This allows them to command higher guarantees. The promoters win because they collect…a percentage of the Molly sold in the venue. The extra money they get allows them to buy better talent in the future and boost their profit margins. The security wins because any “non-promoter-approved” Molly dealer is thrown out and/or arrested, so they keep appearances…The drug dealers win because their product is sold in a monopolized environment, free of competition, where they are free to set the price. The venue wins because they can…feign ignorance. The artists win because they’re playing to packed houses full of young people losing their minds and dancing on drugs.

Of course I was aware of that this all was potentially happening but to hear it confirmed in such grave detail put a shock to my system. We oftentimes forget of how prevalent death is within EDM culture, which is naturally connected to the MDMA/Molly culture. How long must one go through the ritual to suddenly grow tired of it and reconsider the mere temporary escape it has to offer?Outkast: Big Boi and Andre 3000

  • April 16, 2014 – Tim Hirsch publishes an article on EDM.com entitled, Why It’s EDM’s Fault Outkast Flopped [at Coachella] and gets a shout out from Bob Lefsetz.

I did a little writeup myself on this one. Hirsch basically explains the obvious: Our senses have been practically blow to smithereens by light shows, pyrotechnics, drugs, and big beats we can practically reach out and touch that lyrical Hip-hop just doesn’t have the same appeal it once used to; It doesn’t fufill the need anymore! The audience feels bored and expects to be taken on a mind-altering experience, expects the 3 sense assault. By now we expect:

stratospheric production values, insane light shows, and flawless control of crowd energy: in summary, an opportunity to lose your fucking mind. You can plop down hundreds of dollars without knowing a single artist and still know you’re going to have a blast. The needle has slowly shifted away from “music,” towards “party”.

The artists on the bill used to determine the success of a festival. Now no one cares. A festival like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra; They have a reputation of a good time. It doesn’t matter who’s playing anymore. Your face will get melted off no matter what so you buy tickets and go – for the experience.

  •  June 2, 2014 – The lovingly-termed ‘Grandfather of ecstasy’, Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin dies.

shulgin_alexander9_medDeveloping a new synthesis method for MDMA in 1976, this was the man who devoted his life to scientific research solely within the psychedelic realm. The former Dow Chemical employee, “synthesized and self-tested hundreds of psychoactive chemicals, including MDMA”. Shulgin made the exploration and scientific documentation of psychedelics his life’s work. Based on the article linked above and a 20 minute interview I watched (also included in the link), Shulgin seemed respectable, brave, and intelligent man. Not a scientist-turned-hippie trying to get high, but rather a curious individual privileged enough to have studied MDMA, LSD, and amphetamines (along with several other drugs) up close having himself serve as guinea pig to subjectively document their effects. Shulgin even admitted that once he was done studying a drug, he never went back to it. Meaning, he was not a recreational user. When asked how many times he had used MDMA in this lifetime Shulgin responded:

Not that many…Once I find the activity of a drug, [I] go on to something else. So I’ve pretty much avoided…repeated experiments once I know the activity.

MDMA has always been a huge part of club/dance culture, reaching its first high point (pun not intended) during the 80s and has made a huge comeback within the past few years with the rise of EDM in the mainstream, accompanied by a barrage of festivals promising mind-blowing assaults of the ears, eyes, and senses. We can interpret Shulgin’s death as a real-life metaphor, signaling the beginning of the end of EDM and its surrounding drug culture. To his fanbase and community, he is considered very much a genius of incredible stature and an irreplaceable mind in the field of psychedelic science.

  • June 13, 2014 – Deadmau5 announces EDM is dying and denounces music festivals and assures his involvement in them has come to an end…Not counting his own independent production for his solo tour, of course.AN_45604789-(Read-Only)

Deadmau5 is notoriously known for being outspoken and brazen. Some might even say honest to a fault. I think Joel Zimmerman calls ’em like he sees ’em. In his exclusive interview with the London Evening Standard, he spats at his disdain for what these huge EDM festivals have become, similarly in the same vein as what Tim Hirsch described:

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.

According to Stereogum, Deadmau5 has also, “developed contempt for the build-drop model he helped pioneer and is moving away from the genre”. If EDM isn’t on its way to the grave, there is most definitely a transformation underway. But who’s to say that’s not death in disguise? We must follow the breadcrumbs to see where it all leads.

Like anything else, EDM has become an enormous money-making business; A cash cow for drug dealers, promoters, even electronic gear and software companies: Digital turntables, DJ and music production software, speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, keyboards, samplers, etc. Think of all the kids who aspire to be like Girl Talk, David Guetta, Deadmau5, Daft Punk, Zedd, Steve Aoki, Calvin Harris, Avicii. You get the picture.

To those questioning my somewhat eager writing tone, I suppose I don’t have anything against EDM personally. It just never struck me much to begin with. And I’m not a fan of sheep; Blind followers who are the first to volunteer themselves to be consumed by the tendrils of assimilation without a shred of resistance or questioning. I’ll be glad when it goes.

On Molly-fueled, music-filled journeys to the Promised Land of unauthentic bliss, with eyes wide and pupils dilated, fans writhe and shout to the 4-on-the-floor stomp of electric static, rhythmically moving to the buildup and beat drop, to the minor key to be reused (albeit, with a different timbre) at their own forgotten funerals. Whether of the mind, body, or of the Self is no object. A death will occur – Perhaps fully permanent, with no phoenix tears shed to resurrect the mere possibility of its return.

So stomp upon the fresh earth of the almost filled grave and the mirror that lay atop it. Stick the largest shard in the soil as a makeshift headstone and in blood you will see the words painted:

EDM Lived Here

Day 23: Publish a Roundup

Today’s challenge: Publish a roundup post that links to posts on at least three other blogs, and tell us why you love the posts — and why we should read ‘em”

Coachella is probably one of the biggest festivals in the US to date. Personally I’ve never been, nor have I felt an innate desire to go. In all honesty, I prefer singular shows to festivals. Festivals wipe me out and I’m not a huge crowd person. I like the intimacy of a singular venue, one show, a few bands, a few drinks – I’m good. Festivals are just overkill. Too many people, too many lines, not enough bathrooms, etc. I’ve been to Bamboozle a few times, I went to Projekt Revolution in 2005, Governor’s Ball in 2011, I plan on going to Warped Tour this year, but that’s really my limit.

A few days ago I got an email via Bob Lefsetz (I’m a Lefsetz Letter subscriber) entitled, “Insightful Article Of The Day”. Inside the email was a link and the title of the article, “Why It’s EDM’s Fault Outkast Flopped“. It piqued my interest. I’ve never been a huge EDM fan. I listen to dribs and drabs, but it’s not really my thing. It’s not something I believe in, unlike others. I’m not much of a die-hard Outkast fan either, but I got into some of their tracks; I knew classic jams like “Hey Ya!”, “Ms. Jackson”, “Rosa Parks”, “Aquemini”, “So Fresh, So Clean” , “The Way You Move”, “Morris Brown”, etc. I used to be quite an MTV junkie back in the day and they played Outkast videos all the time, but that was really the extent of my Outkast education.

So this article is on edm.com no less, so now I have to read it. In my mind not only is this official, but almost a ballsy statement. The title itself is basically insinuating EDM is to blame for Outkast’s poor performance.

I urge everyone to read this article because it really is well written (by Tim Hirsh) and thoughtfully organized; In short, the first day of Outkast’s reunion set didn’t go as well as expected.

Live hip hop was the most exciting game in town, and your average festival-attendee would…more likely to buy their ticket not with a “music festival experience” in mind, but with particular artists in mind. With the advent of the modern music festival, driven by dance music, this sentiment has shifted dramatically.

Yes! Just yes! To all of that. Personally, I only go to festivals if certain artists are playing. That is the experience to me – Seeing those specific artists playing songs because I want to see them play. A lot of the music festival experience is now enhanced by drugs, which of course go hand-in-hand with music (and insane light shows) but that’s not my M.O. I don’t like all that artificial junk. If I can’t enjoy the music sober, it’s really isn’t worth my time (IMO). If I can enjoy the music sober, that is usually an indicator of its authenticity and musicianship, two things which I value highly when it comes to any kind of music. (And I’ll probably enjoy it more if I do decide to partake in drinking and the like) And not to say EDM doesn’t have that; Some of it does. But if the reason why you’re going to a music festival is to get fucked up, you’re just a different festival-goer than I am. At present, there is a shift in values at hand.

You can plop down hundreds of dollars without knowing a single artist and still know you’re going to have a blast. The needle has slowly shifted away from “music,” towards “party.”

To reiterate, music is no longer the main course, it is now a side dish. The new main course is the reaching the limits of individual sensation. How high can you get?; The feelings enhanced by certain substances bring this to the forefront and then is accompanied by the music. Otherwise, why go? Broadly speaking, of course.

When you’re accustomed to thousands of perfectly synced strobe lights and the energy-building peaks and valleys of a common electronic dance music set, suddenly, watching a guy pace back and forth on stage uttering halfway-audible lines isn’t as entertaining anymore.

As much as I love Hip-Hop, I have to say this is true. Lyrical Hip-Hop translates best when it’s up close and personal. When it gets put into an arena or festival type format, words get lost and aside from the beat or hook, that’s the whole point – for you to hear the words. I saw Big Boi at Governor’s Ball about 3 years ago and honestly, from what I remember of his performance was eh. I wasn’t blown away, I wasn’t wowed. It was okay. I applauded at the end of each song. Though I hate to admit it, EDM is just easier to follow: 4 on the floor, maybe a few samples, a rhythm, a beat, the bass drops, little to no words, and you dance. Hip-Hop is intellectual, Hip-Hop is about a message. EDM is about moving your body and losing your mind. (Conversation vs. Sensation)

[There]…was a generational disconnect, mixed with a mismatch of expectations…The bar for energy and excitement has been set too high, and the mainstream interest at attending music festivals, driven by the proliferation of EDM mega-fests, has brought in a wide swath of people who simply aren’t what readers of a site like this would consider music fans…You can’t expect someone who just staggered away from getting their brain rearranged at an explosive, confetti-filled…performance is going to respond in any meaningful way to lyrical hip hop, unless they’re already a fan.

And this is what gets frustrating when attending these massive festivals with (dare I say it) too diverse of a lineup. It gets hard to locate your hardcore fans, your main demographic, you have no idea which person is there for what act. Are they buying their ticket because Outkast is playing or because Skrillex is? Or do they not care and just wanna pop Molly and have a good time? It’s an interesting discussion to have, especially when many core values and expectations are in flux.

Consequence of Sound posted an article today reporting that Outkast’s second performance was much better than the first.

Big Boi and Andre 3000 seemed to take…criticisms to heart, as they unfurled a revamped setlist that featured shorter solo sets, more hits in the middle portion of the set…and much more energy.

I think that was a smart decision on their part. Some artists could stubbornly protest the problem is with the crowd, not them. But in any customer service field as well as in music it’s important to realize and accept, the customer (or crowd/audience) is always right. It’s a difficult battle to sway a crowd, get them to move, dance, pay attention. But thus is the  21st century entertainment industry. I’ve struggled with it myself (of course, on a much smaller scale).

If you want to peep Outkast’s 2nd Coachella setlist and their upcoming tour dates, definitely check out the COS article.

To those who want to read more on Molly and EDM, this is another great article: Finding Molly: The Most Popular Name in EDM. It gets real.