The Underground Myth: Why this Term No Longer Applies to Electronic Music Culture

The word "underground" is being used in all the wrong ways
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David Ireland
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The word "underground" is being used in all the wrong ways
Underground crossed out image

Sorry, nope! You are not underground. 

Over the last five to six years that electronic music found massive commercial success in North America, a musical divide began to form. Once the initialism EDM became the preferred all-encompassing description for noobs and the mainstream media, the more credible electronic music genres and communities began to defect and disassociate themselves with this stampede of fresh-faced fans.

The scorn for the new fans was intense, but that might be because of the music that was attached to this new wave of electronic dance music. Driven by dubstep and big room house, it seemed soulless and cookie cutter to many of the original fans of electronic music genres like house and techno. 

The entire ethos of the rave scene was shattered seemingly overnight with this surge of attention. Electronic music tourists stormed the gates with pockets of pills, festival outfits that resembled collegiate tailgate garb, and zero fucks given about the origin of the culture. They just wanted to party hard, roll their faces off, and wait for the drop. 

It's easy to be upset by what so many see as a trespass on this culture that so many hold so sacred. Mediocre DJs commanding ridiculous fees, overpriced festivals with pre-programmed sets, irresponsible drug use, and an overall desecration of the original rave concept led to a disillusionment among many of its longtime constituents. 

Personally, I think the word rave and the culture of rave are long gone; it was an era that existed from the late '80s up until the end of the '90s. Electronic music culture, of course, continues to live on and morph at a rapid rate. Many might disagree with me here, but I guess that's the point of an OpEd, isn't it?

Seth Troxler

Seth Troxler. FB Likes = 516,182.  Not Underground. 

This brings me to my original point: the fractured state of a once-unified electronic music community and how they use the word underground to define themselves. This new divide has created an elitism that's never existed before in the world of electronic music culture. 

It's easy to understand why the genres of house and techno have rebelled against EDM so hard; the over-commercialization is kind of a huge bummer. Not all of it is bad, but so much of it is that we practically have a full-blown civil war on our hands. 

The house and techno crowd have reappropriated the use of the word "underground" to define themselves and their music, and to bestow a holier-than-thou mentality upon everyone that attends these events and dares to wear long, scoop neck t-shirts and drop-crotch pants. Don't get me wrong; I love that these factions of electronic music fans have their unique style, but when an attitude of elitism is prevalent you have to ask whether it's really worth it. 

The word underground being applied to house and techno music is kind of like McDonalds claiming 100% beef: we all know that it's not, so who are you trying to fool? 

Electronic music culture hasn't been underground since the '90s, and it's laughable that people are calling events at major venues - with Facebook profiles and artists that are well known - underground. If it's underground, chances are you don't know about it, and if you do, you aren't putting it on blast on Facebook.

The whole reason electronic music had to go underground in the first place was simply that the events were being thrown illegally and would have been easily broken up otherwise. 

So let's check our bullshit at the door, shall we? You are not going to underground parties with underground music (well, some of you are, but we don't know about you, so you can keep chilling in your lair). You are simply going to parties where people are a little cooler, more knowledgeable and often more passionate about the music, not "the drop." 

The underground is dead, long live the underground. Oh, and raves are dead, too, and I'm fine with you disagreeing with me.