It seems the past week has been a big one for DJs and producers venting on the current dance scene. Mat Zo lit up Twitter (View Article) for a few days recently, calling out Tiesto and Armin van Buuren, speaking on ghost producers, EDM festivals, and much more. Then Jono Grant from Above & Beyond chimed in on the matter (View Article), explaining that much of the problem dealt with the scene becoming too gimmicky and less focused on music and more on marketing.
Countless producers got involved with that debate, and now we have another UK based producer sharing his opinion on a different sector of the dance world. In a recent post on Gareth Emery's wall, he let loose what you could only call an essay focusing on why much of current dance music is "a bit shit." Emery felt that much of this had to do with shorter set times.
He explains that 3 hour sets used to be the standard 5 years ago, but now one hour has become a much more common practice with festivals and events attempting to pack as many names onto a bill. Emery touches on a story of being called on stage after one of the biggest acts in the world couldn't play more than 60 minutes because they ran out of music, and thought they were scheduled for an hour when it was actually 75 minutes.
This is less a problem of a miscommunication on set times, and more focused on many artists preparing their exact set before hand down to the minute and not being able to improvise. He then talks about the classic debate of opening DJs, touching on sets where he had to follow up a Calvin Harris/Martin Garrix/Knife Party mashup.
Emery goes on to talk more about promoters who don't like longer sets, people that told him albums were dead and to focus on singles, and then leads into the announcement of his Electric For Life tour that will start in November. You can read the full message below.
"Warning, this is a long post (about long sets)
So today I was thinking one of the key reasons lots of dance music these days is, well, a bit shit, is not because of cakes or mashups or any of the usual stuff we've come to blame, but because of the way we’ve squeezed down set lengths from the 3+ hours that used to be standard five years ago, to the 1 hour or at the most 90 minutes you tend to get today. You don't get the chance to play non-obvious music in sets that length and most acts (including me from time to time) revert to smashing out the hits.
This is how bad it's got. A few years back, at a European festival, I was sitting in my trailer 15 minutes before my set time when the promoter ran in freaking out and wanting me to start early because the act before me (currently one of the biggest acts in the world) had walked off stage saying “we don’t have any more music”. They were scheduled for 75 minutes, but thought they were only playing an hour, so at dead on 60 minutes, they pressed stop, and fucked off leaving 10,000 fans with silence.
OK, so that's an extreme example, but the fact is when you’re doing a 90 minute peak time set in a club, and the opener ends with a mashup of Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix and Knife Party, that ain’t a good time to build up slow and start your set with Eric Prydz or Hot Since 82. Trust me, I’ve tried. So you end up starting hard and never going back, then looking woefully at your playlist at the end of the night at all the amazing lesser known music you wanted to play but didn’t.
Anyway, I love doing long sets, being able to open for myself, build up a room, doing those few hours of the nights where every track doesn’t need to be a crowd-pleasing slammer, instead choosing delicious, bubbling groove based music that sets the mood for people entering the venue and slowly but surely gets them onto the dancefloor. After all every main course needs an appetizer (unless you’re at McDonalds).
So this year, I’ve been trying to play a little longer when I can, doing all night at the Hollywood Palladium last year, and at for Miami Music Week this year, and both were amazing. I got to do my own warm up, playing music that I’d never usually get to play (but you hear in Electric For Life each week), then my own peak time set, then my own closing set, where I got to bang out the trance including lots of my own classics.
Problem is, a lot of promoters are not really into the idea of longer sets, because they think that fans, particularly in North America, ‘aren’t ready’ or ‘aren’t interested’ in hearing artists play longer.
I disagree. I heard the same shit before I released Drive: “Why are you doing an album man? The album is dead... all people want to hear now is singles: release some singles on Spinnin’ and fuck the album” and I think going with my instincts and making sure Drive got released against the advice of many around me was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Music should always be more important than marketing.
Anyway this is coming across as a bit negative, which it's not. One thing I have always tried to do is to lead by example, and be the change you want to see, rather than just complain about it on social media, and to have written all this without offering an alternative would have felt somewhat hollow.
So, this week I'm announcing the Electric For Life tour staring in November. On these shows, happily I get to program them myself, so I'll be playing all night, open to close, with amazing production, some live acoustic elements, with music across a whole range of styles, in three of the world’s greatest cites, broadcast live across the world.
What better chance could there be to show the world that we ARE ready? Let’s fucking do this."