Over the last few days, Mat Zo has been tearing up Twitter with a relentless series of tweets with one purpose: exposing the problems and flaws with EDM and the current dance music landscape. It's been interesting watching the Grammy nominated British producer share his opinions and insight, and countless people have been getting involved.
This includes fans, upcoming producers, and even established and world-renowned artists. So far we've seen names like Noisia, Treasure Fingers, Rob Swire, Maxo, DJ Craze, Protoculture, KSHMR, Sable, GTA, Kill The Noise, and countless others share their 2 cents, and it's definitely been the most engaging and worth while read we've seen on Twitter in a long time.
Usually Twitter rants like this end up becoming heated exchanges and create beef, but this has been an educational string of conversations that will teach you about the under workings of the dance world if you are willing to pay attention. We don't think Mat Zo has slept in days, and although it seemed like he was going to slow down at some point, that never happened.
After mentioning and complimenting Above & Beyond multiple times yesterday and referencing them as some of the only real DJs that headline festivals alongside Skrillex, Eric Prydz, and deadmau5, Jono Grant of A&B decided to chime in and dropped some serious food for thought.
The first tweet below is the one that really got us thinking, and talks about meeting a kid in Chicago who spoke to him about his marking plan before even mentioning his music. Unfortunately, this has become all to0 common in a scene flooded with people more focused on gimmicks, aliases, branding, hashtags, and how to market themselves than the actual music.
The number one rule of music is this: everything starts and ends with music. Sure, there's nothing wrong with branding. This goes for album art, logo, images, and how you present your name and music to fans as a package, but once that becomes more important then the process of creating music, then something must be changed.
Jono talks about artists like Mick Jagger from The Rolling Stones who have teetered this line between creating a business and making forward thinking music for decades. There's nothing wrong with making money, but being upfront with fans and the people who support you is crucial.
Much of this comes back to Mat Zo's conversation about the countless EDM artists who use ghost producers, which has now flooded the world of dance music. It's tough to know who is actually producing their own music these days, and the idea of being a music producer who doesn't even produce has become too common.
This is what the rise of the star DJ making hundreds of thousands of dollars a night in clubs has caused. It's about a recognizable face. An image. A brand. This sells more tickets than a creative producer who has spent years developing a unique and technical sound, and comes down to well-known DJs dropping the same songs over and over again.
Grant then brings up Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden, a legendary singer who has a memorable on stage character, presence, and persona. This is rare in dance music, and like Mat Zo says, character has been replaced with gimmicks. More than anything, this seems to be the word that summarizes American EDM. And when we say American EDM, we aren't just talking about producers from America.
It's the overarching presence that has enraptured scenes around the world, from the DJs coming out of America to those all across Europe. Companies like SFX buying in and taking over the scene, clubs more focused on selling drinks and bringing in recognizable names than anything else, and like Mat Zo also touched on, major DJs that our paying $100,000 to secure a solid name on a festival lineup.
It's the mentality of putting a gimmick ahead of the music, and it seems like more and more music is made with the mental approach of creating something that will be trendy on social media and across the Internet. "Selfie" or "Kanye" by The Chainsmokers is a perfect example, but that is one of many.
They were just capitalizing on an EDM scene filled with simple minds, and it spread like rapid fire. The studio drawing board is becoming filled less with ideas on creating emotional and passionate music, and more focused on managers trying to market their client to the masses with no regards for the actual creation itself.
What will be a trendy hashtag? What will spread across Vine? How can we use Snapchat or Instagram or Twitter to get people to listen? Is there any chance for a viral video? This is far too common, instead of asking how we can make music that will be remembered and impact the lives of people around the world. It's a toxic mentality, and its one that's pushing the EDM realm and much of dance music into a ditch.
ZHU was a rare example, where Jake Udell and the TH3RD Brain/Mind Of A Genius team were able to create a unique character and identity that still focused on music first. Before the name ZHU was even presented, there was just an Outkast remix. A faceless character that has taken over the globe with cutting-edge branding and a now ubiquitous image, yet the music itself has always been about integrity and doing something different.
They have developed the ZHU name and image slowly, very carefully calculating which festivals he will play, what radio stations he will speak on, when and how his music will be released, and how much they will actually reveal about him. This proves that you can have a team behind an artist helping them develop, as long as the music is the primary focus.
Once again. There's nothing wrong with making money. There's nothing wrong with branding. There's nothing wrong with creating a marketing plan. But remember. Everything comes back to the music. Without the actual music itself, there is no music industry.