Here it comes. That other shoe hanging out so patiently up in the rafters has finally dropped. All the EDM haters are wagging their fingers, and yelping "told ya so, told ya so."
Just as Ultra 2016 was kicking off, The Miami Herald jumped into the fray with an article titled "Dance-music craze slowing down," pulling many examples from SFX's doomed portfolio.
This is, of course, an easy target – an incredibly mismanaged company with terrible leadership and zero credibility. Just about everyone, even industry outsiders knew these guys were going down; it wasn't that hard of a call. It was almost as easy as calling out a three-legged horse at the Kentucky Derby. It was just sad.
Hype, sensationalism and quick cash grabs are all to blame for this rapid deflation and Superstar DJ fatigue. Despite all this craziness, Electronic Music continues to thrive and mutate, making way for the next exciting wave.
In many ways, this is like the first wave of Hip-Hop in the mid-80s when bad Breakdancing movies and corny rappers were everywhere, then SPLAT ... no one cared. Then, slowly, in the early-90s the right stuff started coming out again: De La, Tribe, Digables, Wu Tang, et. al. People began to care again because finally the top-shelf stuff was getting its shine.
Can you blame the consumers really? All these newbies come pouring into this "new" culture and are met with poser DJs, mediocre music, big LED lights, and huge ticket prices. It's kind of like Milli Vanilli all over again, except on a massive scale.
You have "artists" who don't make their own music or even know how to DJ. Their primary talent is wearing the right sneakers and rocking fist pumping variations behind a huge LED screen.
Not only that, but the festivals are all booking the same big acts, and they all play the same pre-programmed sets that they do at every other festival. These guys are even playing the same records as one another, and they're wondering why people are bored and no longer paying $100+ a day to see it?
"Meanwhile, the acts that haven’t produced a radio hit or are focused on the old school skills that keep a room full of dancers moving until dawn – what hardcore dance music aficionados call “telling a story” – are relegated to smaller clubs and fewer events. This limits the chances for the next creative DJ or cutting-edge style to emerge, or for a new generation of audiences to be drawn by music rather than celebrity and hype." - Page Six, Vegas turns up nose at superstar DJs
This video from last years EDMBiz kind of says it all. Z-Trip gets it right and 3lau entirely wrong.
Everything that makes this culture exciting and fresh has been side-stepped in many ways over the last three years. The whole thing has gotten out of control, especially DJ fees.
"An insider says that most DJs have been on multiyear contracts with the hotels: “When they renew, offers are expected to go down, some by as much as 50 percent.” - Page Six, "Vegas turns up nose at superstar DJs"
The DJs raise their fees due to inflated demand and perceived value; the promoters have to raise the ticket price, everyone stops coming to the big shows, and festivals and clubs start closing down. It's more complex than that of course, but that's the basic formula.
“I still like the music. But it’s not worth it for the money anymore. It’s so hyped up, and I’ve already experienced it.” - The Miami Herald
It seems that we have hit our tipping point, and now the economy of Electronic Dance Music is going to start adjusting to the new normal. Electronic music is not going anywhere, the millennials still love it and will continue to love it, but the market needs to serve them better.
The doom and gloom is just as sensational as the hype that pushed the EDM phenomenon to the mainstream. So we should all take this "End of EDM" hype with a grain of salt. Nothing can sustain that type of hype forever. Eventually, something new comes along and replaces it; hopefully, this time, it's a fresh theme that's more true to its roots.
This culture has been around for 30 years. It is not going to die just because SFX had a bad run; it's just going to get a long hot bath and maybe a check-up with a dose of poser-killing antibiotics. The market will right itself with smaller clubs, boutique festivals with innovative lineups, higher quality music, more knowledgeable fans, and more bang for the buck.
The quality big festivals will also stay around although they might see attendance dip a bit as the faddish tourists flake off in favor of the next big thing.
For every overpaid Superstar DJ there are 20 great DJs ready to take their place. For every bloated, boring festival, there are two boutique events waiting in the wings. I just made that number up for effect; don't fact check it.
Bob Lefsetz is right – Millenials are smart, and they know when they are being sold junk. There is a reason so many "underground" DJs are starting to catch a well-deserved buzz; they are actually excellent at what they do.
If you love Electronic Dance Music, you probably aren't sweating it much. Chances are you are digging through Soundcloud or Spotify to find that next jam that will ring your bell.
We'll see you at the next party. Don't worry – there will be plenty of them, and SFX is not invited.