Skip to main content

The Mainstream Rise and Fall: A Timeline of EDM

A timeline detailing the rise and fall of mainstream EDM.
  • Author:
  • Updated:
EDM (photo by RoYaLEde)

(photo by RoYaLEde)

"The EDM Bubble is about to burst!" It's a phrase that seems to be on everyone's mind lately. Sure the mainstream sound is trending down and many are on the prowl, looking for the next big thing, but people seem to be acting like the scene is already dead. Which could very well be the case for the industry's biggest acts. The culture seemed to be peaking not too long ago and now suddenly everyone is jumping ship, but how did we get here?

Thanks to Pitchfork we have a comprehensive timeline that shows how EDM's bubble was on a collision course for the imminent burst. It begins as many might have guessed, with the ascension of the dubstep genre. Take a look at the timeline below and get the full scope of EDM's unique story, from beginning to the apparent end.

December 2011: Google Trends say peak dubstep is reached.

December 2011: Skrillex shares the Aphex Twin track "Flim" and many people comment, "Where's the drop?" This phrase would go on to become a common phrase used by trolls on the internet, poking fun at the distinct "drop" of many mainstream EDM tracks.

February 2012: The peak of Skrillex.

May 2012: A Nerds commercial features a dubstep track commissioned by Nestlé's Willy Wonka.

June 2012: Robert F.X. Sillerman— the man who brought together dozens of promoters to form the concert giant Live Nation, before selling to Clear Channel for $4.4 billion—announced his plan to purchase EDM events and culture companies with $1 billion. "Disco Donnie" is his first major acquisition.

June 2012: Swedish House Mafia calls it quits and embarks on a farewell tour. The news comes less than two years after releasing the first single from the DJ supergroup. Now begins their nine month "farewell" phase.

July 2012: Nine people are stabbed during a Swedish House Mafia show in Dublin, Ireland. Just a week later, three more people are stabbed at one of their concerts, this time in Buckinghamshire, England. There were no fatalities.

December 2012: The GRAMMYs nominate a self-help author, Al Walser, for Best Dance Recording with his track "I Can't Live Without You." Avicii, Calvin Harris, Skrillex, and Swedish House Mafia are also nominated for the same category.

February 2013: SFX purchases Beatport for around $50 million. Now SFX assets consist of ID&T, which includes Tomorrowland and Sensation, long with Dayglow Productions, who throw "The World's Largest Paint Party."

February 2013: The Los Angeles Times investigates a string of 14 drug-related deaths at EDM festivals since 2006, drawing attention to the scene's association with drugs. The deaths at Electric Zoo, Future Music Festival Asia, and beyond, outline a major challenge for EDM: the ineffective "war on drugs." Many are supposedly experimenting with a plethora of drugs for the first time, which is disturbing for many outsiders who make judgements about dance music culture.

February 2013: Baauer releases "Harlem Shake" and the track goes viral, creating an online sensation with many parody videos and memes being circulated.

March 2013: Avicii takes on country music with his set at Ultra, which gets compared to the likes of Spinal Tap Mark II: Jazz Odyssey.

July 2013: Swedish DJs Daleri showcase how much of EDM sounds the same by combining 15 of the most popular tracks. Artists like Chuckie, Hardwell, and W&W are all included in their "Epic Mashleg." 

August 2013: Calvin Harris is the top earning artist in ForbesElectronic Cash Kings list, with $46 million.

September 2013: SFX Entertainment attempts to coin the term "EMC," which stands for "Electronic Music Culture." You probably have never heard the phrase before. In a Buzzfeed interview, the company also highlights Beatport's Klout score, which is still a thing if you weren't aware, we won't hold it against you.

September 2013: Electric Zoo is forced to cancel its final day of shows, following the deaths of two people at the festival.

September 2013: Afrojack tells the New Yorker, "I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with all of this money." He also admits to not really knowing how measures, or "bars," are used in musical timekeeping.

September 2013: Avicii peaks.

October 2013: SFX goes public with an initial price of $13 a share; finishing off the day 8.5 percent below at $11.89, close to the highest the stock will ever reach. An article in the Wall Street Journal has a headline that reads "SFX Stock Flops in IPO Debut."

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

March 2014: SFX CEO Robert F.X. Sillerman is caught on video giving the middle finger and grabbing his genitals while he gets off a private jet wearing a gold dollar sign necklace and a sideways hat. He later tries to reassure the public that those in the music scene told him, "Fuck yeah, we get it." SFX's stock falls to $6.75, about half of its initial IPO opening of $13.

March 2014: The SLS South Beach Hotel is renamed the Avicii Hotel. The hotel now includes an Avicii ice cream truck, pop-up shop with shirts, hats, water bottles, and condoms; plus 3D cut-outs of Avicii inside the elevators, as reported by Thump. A stay in the hotel will cost $800, which includes a swag bag. In other news, Avicii is hospitalized and cancels sets at SLS and Ultra.

March 2014: Avicii is replaced by deadmau5 for a set at Ultra Music Festival. He takes this opportunity to troll Martin Garrix's hit track "Animals," by playing an EDM version of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."

April 2014: Martin Garrix peaks.

April 2014: Walt Disney Records gets in on the EDM craze by releasing Dconstructed. The relase features Avicii, Armin van Buuren, Axwell & Sebastian Ingrosso, and others remixing music from The Lion King, Frozen, Monsters University, and more films.

May 2014: “Saturday Night Live” broadcasts a parody video called "When Will the Bass Drop?"

May 2014: Billboard reports Robert F.X. Sillerman made $30 million, which is over double what he made in 2012. Meanwhile SFX stock is down to $6.95, 50% of it's original IPO.

August 2014: Calvin Harris is again the top earning artist on Forbes' Electronic Cash Kings list, with $66 million.

September 2014: Kygo replaces Avicii at TomorrowWorld, prompting critics to wonder if tropical house will take over EDM as the next big thing.

January 2015: Zedd peaks.

March 2015: Beatport launches a free streaming app, thinking users will gravitate to the new platform to hear tracks they can already listen to on other streaming services.

May 2015: Calvin Harris peaks.

June 2015: Ten Walls takes to Facebook with a homophobic rant and subsequently gets dropped from all future gigs.

August 2015: Calvin Harris listed atop Forbes' Electronic Cash Kings list, again. His earnings remain steady at $66 million.

August 2015: We Are Your Friends, starring Zac Efron and Emily Ratajkowski, flops at the box office and becomes the worst opening for a wide-release Hollywood studio picture of all time, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

September 2015: The TomorrowWorld fiasco takes place. Patrons are left stranded in the mud after a storm hits the region. You can read the festival horror stories here.

February 2016: SFX files for bankruptcy.

March 2016: SFX announces plans to put Beatport up for auction.

March 2016: Avicii announces his retirement after 2016 gigs..

April 2016: Mike Posner's "I Took a Pill in Ibiza" (with lyrics: "I took a pill in Ibiza/ To show Avicii I was cool/ And when I finally got sober, I felt 10 years older/ But fuck it, it was something to do") reaches No. 9 (and rising!) on the Hot 100 chart, possibly due to Seeb's tropical-house remix.

And there you have it, the full timeline of EDM's rise and apparent fall from grace. Here's what we think will happen to dance music culture moving forward.

Related Content