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ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC

JUST
HOW BIG
EDM fests regularly
draw hundreds of
thousands, EDM
tracks top digital
downloads, and a new
generation is using the
computer to make
music. What does it
mean for the music
industry?

um

68 / MUSIC TRADES November 2013

f you're under 30 years old, you grew up using


a personal computer and a mouse. If you're in
your teens, smart phones and tablets have
always been a part of your world. These
demographic groups that have been steeped in
digital technology from birth have embraced
the computer as a music making tool, making
electronic dance music, or EDM, the fastest growing
genre on the planet. EDM is a catch-all header that
encompasses a vast array of electronic genres that revolve
around manipulating samples, loops, and beats including
techno, bass, electro, trance, house, dubstep, and numerous others. But whatever you call it, EDM is big.
The splintering of commercial radio and the advent of
personalized download services has obscured the fiveyear growth trajectory of EDM: If you're not seeking it
out, it's easy to overlook it. But, the numbers reflect a
musical style that has resonated with millions worldwide.
Attendance at the five largest EDM festivals in the U.S.
expanded by 41% between 2007 and 2012, while the total
concert market for the same period edged up just 3%. A
broad-based consumer survey conducted by EMI music
found that 29% of U.S. respondents reported a "passion"
for EDM, implying a fan base of 74 million. And, according to Neilsen, EDM had the highest growth rate of all
music genres, posting a 36% year-over-year increase in
digital downloads in 2012.
Electronic dance music has captured the imagination of
the "millennial" generation, and nowhere is it more evident than at the Electric Daisy Carnival, a three-day electronic music extravaganza held each year in Las Vegas
that features top DJs performing on amazingly complex
sets. The fest, held earlier this year, drew a staggering
350,000 attendees, making it close in size to the mythic
Woodstock Festival of 1969. But unlike most of the hippies who wandered onto Max Yasgur's farm to hear
Hendrix; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; and Sly and the Family
Stone, the attendees at Electric Daisy paid between $100
and $ 1,000 for a three-day ticket. And Electric Daisy is

ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC

ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC BY THE NUMBERS.

DIGITAL
DOWNLOAD

Attendance at the five


largest U.S. EDM festivals
surged 41% between
between 2007 and 2012.
During the same time
frame, total concert attendance edged up just 3%.

EMI records reports that


29% of the U.S. population has a "passion" for
EDM, suggesting a fan
base of 74 million. This
explains why downloads
of EDM tracks were up
36% in 2012.

just one of many fests. Elaborate music events that draw


between 50,000 and 100,000 have sprung up in Detroit, New
York, Miami, Seattle, and across the continent in Europe.
The various genres of electronic dance music constitute an
increasing share of digital downloads. In 2012, EDM tracks
represented close to 30% of all music downloads and on
YouTube, EDM videos are now among the most popular.
Avicii's recent hit "Wake Me Up" has clocked an incredible
130 million views. Dave Guetta, the top French DJ, has several hits with views topping the 100 million mark. Contrast this
with the videos of top-tier rock bands like AC/DC and
Metallica, where the YouTube views are in the 10 million
range. The Grammy Awards last year acknowledged this growing impact by giving nationally televised exposure to electronic dance-music superstars Skrillex, David Guetta and
Deadmau5, who jammed on stage with the Foo Fighters.
Billboard magazine, for its part, has added several EDM categories to its closely watched charts.
Even Wall Street has a bullish take on EDM. SFX
Entertainment, a major producer of EDM fests, including the
Electric Zoo, went public last month, raising $260 million in an
oversubscribed IPO. The transaction values the entertainment
company at $1.0 billion. Robert Tullo, an analyst from Albert
Fried & Co., said of the transaction, "This isn't Wall Street
speculating on demand. Bodies are showing up for these
events, and it shows no sign of abating."
In many respects, EDM parallels the early evolution of rock
'n' roll. It has the benefit of being incomprehensible to older
generations. It has an edgy outlaw quality, with its roots in
underground, barely legal clubs. The two genres even share a
tradition of liberal drug use. "You have a new generation every
70 / MUSIC TRADES November 2013

Swedish DJ Avicii had a


number-one hit on the
Billboard charts with the
tune "Wake Me Up." More
teiling, the video scored a
staggering 130 miiiion
views on YouTube.

SFX Entertainment, which


biils itseif as the world's
largest promoter of EDM
festivals, recently had an
IPO that valued the company at $1.0 billion.

eight to 10 years that finds its own music, its own sound, and
for this generation, dance music is the biggest new thing,"
explains Dutch DJ Afrojaek, also known as Nick Van de Wall.
Perry Farrell, singer with Jane's Addiction adds, "The energy
being created from dance and electronic music is as powerfril
as rock 'n' roll. It's getting stronger and stronger. You want to
see people fiip out like they did in the mosh pit at a rock show?
They're doing it in danee music. It's scary, dangerous, exciting,
like rock 'n' roll used to be."

inding a creative outlet using electronic tone generation to create music has captured the imagination of
millions, but what does it mean for the music products industry? On the positive side, EDM has dramatically lowered the hurdle for music participation by drastically reducing the hours needed to gain some proficiency.
Traditional instrument makers may scoff at EDM, but it has
succeeded in achieving the stated goal of virtually every industry association, supplier, and retailer: namely to enable a much
larger slice of the population to participate in music making.
Jack O'Donnell, CEO of inMusic brands, which has a leading
market position with its Akai, Alesis, M-Audio, Numark, and
Sonivox lines, explains how EDM is attracting an entirely new
customer. "The creative freedom that EDM offers to potential
producers and performers, and the availability of high-quality,
low-cost music production and performance tools, is helping
people interested in the genre to become active producers and
performers," he says. "In addition, the increasing popularity of
applications like Ableton Live and our own Ignite music production software has lowered the barrier of entry for people
without formal music or music production training. You don't

ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC

need to read music or understand how to operate a mixing console to make music with these sorts of tools."
Matt Derbyshire, a senior production manager at Novation, a
leading maker of controllers, offers a similar explanation for
the appeal of EDM. "It was rooted in creators engaged in naive
experimentation with drum machines and sequencers, but the
music they created went on to become a cultural soundtrack for

DOES A LARGER POTENTIAL


UNIVERSE OF MUSIC MAKERS
TRANSLATE INTO A LARGER M.I.
MARKET? THE JURY IS STILL OUT
hundreds of thousands of people. Now, with the access to
music-making devices and software becoming more accessible
and sophisticated, this nave exploration can happen on a far
broader scale, and so it makes sense that more people are
enjoying it."
EDM practitioners have also taken existing products and used
them in new and original ways. Roland's drum machines,
which have become a standard component in many EDM rigs,
are a case in point. Kim Nunney, president of Roland U.S.,
says that although the company's TR-808 and TR-909 drum
machines have helped define the genre, it wasn't part of the
corporate strategy. "These musicians and producers used them
in ways we could barely imagine at the time. It's almost as if
72 / MUSIC TRADES November 2013

the gear serves as the muse at times," he explains. "In the end,
musicians define the musicality of a product, and we have
many musicians to thank for the impressive legacy of these
instruments."

ut does a larger potential universe of music makers


translate into a larger m.i. market? The jury on that is
still out. EDM customers may be more numerous,
but they tend to spend a lot less on gear than the traditional instrumentalist, and much of their spending bypasses
the specialized retail distribution channel altogether. Apple's
GarageBand, bundled with all Mac laptops, and available as a
inexpensive iPad app, allows a large contingent to completely
satisfy their urge to create EDM, eliminating the need for any
subsequent purchases. The more serious enthusiast who takes
it a step further, may drop $400 to $1,000 at an m.i. store on a
control surface. But unlike the guitarist or drummer, he isn't as
likely to regularly spend on ancillary items, like straps, strings,
sticks, effects, and hardware. What's more, the software at the
heart of these more sophisticated EDM set-ups such as Ableton
Live and Logic is increasingly being sold manufacturer-direct
online, rather than through a retail setting. It's only when an
aspiring producer or DJ invests in a sound system that they
beeome a big-ticket customer for the m.i. retail channel.
Manufacturers like inMusic and Novation are working to
change that, however, introducing a torrent of unique new
products designed to expand the creative horizons of aspiring
DJs and producers. In addition to keyboard controllers and traditional DJ CD players, both companies have added control
surfaces that defy easy classification. Akai's APC controller,
which features rows of assignable buttons, has been designed

ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC

expressly to work with Ableton Live software. Novation has


taken a similar approach with its line of Launchpad Controllers.
A distinctive selling point of the Launchpad is the Automap
software, which makes it easy to assign switches to hardware.
Explaining the R&D process. Novation's Derbyshire says, "Our
goal is making it as easy as possible to be creative and inspired.
The Launch series was inspired by customers who wanted to
move from being a DJ to actually cr.eating their own music.
There is some great software out there for producing music, and
LaunchPad makes it easier to access."
Market leader Guitar Center is taking the trend seriously, as
evidenced by its new store format. Although the retailer's roots
are in the guitar business, hi-tech electronic products are now
the first things customers see when they walk into the store.
The company management isn't abandoning fretted instruments by any meansthey just assume that customers know
guitars are there because of the store namebut, they want to
become the preferred destination of EDM enthusiasts.
Some musical purists argue that EDM is sterile, ultimately
uninteresting, and another passing fad, soon to become a punch
line, like disco. While there are some stylistic similarities
between EDM and disco, there is one significant difference.
EDM enables mass participation, which would suggest greater
longevity. O'Donnell adds, "What is now being called 'EDM'
has been around for a very long time. Styles like house, techno
and trance are all subgenres and have been around since as far
back as the '80s. The music will continue to evolve, but I don't
see it going away any time soon." Derbyshire adds, "Like other

forms of music, EDM has enough history now that each new
trend tends to draw on past infiuences. This tends to reinforce
it."

orecasting popular musical preferences is problematic, but here's one prediction that both seems likely
and offers the promise for friture sales growth in the
m.i. industry: the integration of traditional instruments and elecfronic sound. Predicting this integration is hardly going out on a limb, as it's already taking place to tremendous listener acclaim. The French techno-band Daft Punk has
achieved extraordinary commercial success collaborating with
guitarist Nile Rodgers. And as mentioned earlier, Avicii's integration of traditional bluegrass and electronics has topped
every chart imaginable. Sales for mostly instrumental electronic-music albums aren't in the same league as Beyonc or Katy
Perry, usually topping out at about 300,000 copies. But countless hip-hop and pop artists in recent years, from Lady Gaga to
Nicki Minaj, are collaborating with DJs and electronic-music
producers for hits.
O'Donnell has a simple piece of advice for retailers and suppliers adapting to this evolving frend. "Creative artists will
continue to do what they always do: Look for ways to create
new and exciting art, assimilating what's around them and
making it their own," he says. "As an industry, the best thing
we can do to capitalize on that comes down to one word:
Listen."

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74 / MUSIC TRADES November 2013

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