Getting Outside the Bubble
a.k.a. A little reminder that electronic music still isn't on most people's radar.
“Dance music is a global, multibillion-dollar industry.”
Here in the newsletter, I’ve written that phrase (or some version of it) more times than I can count. And it’s true! According to the latest IMS Business Report—which can be accessed after filling out this online form—the dance music industry was worth an estimated 6 billion dollars in 2021, and that figure is still down 20% from a pre-pandemic peak in 2019.
For better or worse, dance music is more or less everywhere these days, and as it’s seeped further into the mainstream, it’s begun to feel less like a genuine hub of innovation and more like a kind of folk art. That doesn’t mean the average suburban parent is now likely to know who someone like Jeff Mills is, but they are likely familiar with the genre’s basic terminology (e.g. DJs, clubs, raves, etc.) and the broadest strokes of its corresponding culture. (Depending on their age, they might have even done a little raving of their own back in the day.)
For anyone who’s spent a significant number of years ensconced in the more independent corners of dance music culture, it’s easy to feel depressed about what’s happening, and a closer inspection of the status quo is unlikely to help matters. In recent months, I’ve dedicated various editions of First Floor to:
Taken together, these developments make for a pretty grim outlook, and while many of them are natural byproducts of a subculture being subsumed by the mainstream, it’s also fair to observe that key elements of dance music—some of them foundational—are being potentially being lost along the way.
So here’s where I launch into an extended, doom-filled diatribe about the impending creative and spiritual death of dance music, right? There’s certainly no shortage of evidence out there, and on a normal week, I might be inclined to go that route.
This, however, is not a normal week, as I’m currently holed up in a small town in Western Australia. Regular First Floor readers likely know this already, but my wife Dania—who runs the Paralaxe Editions label and also makes beautiful music of her own—spends part of the year down here working as an emergency doctor, usually in rural hospitals. I’ll sometimes tag along on these trips, and while I’m only a few days into our present stay, I can confidently say this:
Spending an extended period of time in a small Australian town, literally hours and hours away from anything resembling even a fledgling music scene, is a great way to gain some perspective on the relative importance—or, more accurately, unimportance—of dance music in the wider culture.
Dance music might be bigger than ever, but for most people, it still barely even registers on the radar.