The Other (Bigger) Dance Music
a.k.a. The unexamined stories of EDM, tech house and dance music's commercial sphere.
Dance music is a global, multibillion-dollar industry. According to this year’s IMS Business Report, the sector’s value topped $6 billion in 2021, and that’s actually down 20% from its pre-pandemic high in 2019. And yet, even with all this money floating around, dance music’s media landscape feels incomplete.
It’s not that there aren’t a variety of publications out there. They might be overly concentrated in the UK (and overrepresent UK writers / perspectives), but between Resident Advisor, DJ Mag, Mixmag, Crack and another dozen or so outlets, a whole lot of dance music-related content is being created, even at places (e.g. Pitchfork, Bandcamp Daily, Dazed, The Face) where dance music isn’t the primary focus. The quality of said content isn’t always great—although that’s arguably true in pretty much every corner of music journalism these days, regardless of the genre being covered—but even if what’s being published is largely throwaway and surface-level stuff, there are enough writers and publications out there to present something resembling a comprehensive look at what’s happening in dance music at any given moment.
A comprehensive look, however, is not really what’s being provided. Scanning across different outlets, it quickly becomes clear that not only are these publications frequently covering the exact same things, but that those things usually constitute only a misleading fraction of the overall dance music ecosystem. If a dance music novice was to flip through the virtual pages of Resident Advisor, they might be left with the impression that Berghain is the most important club in the world, Dekmantel is the top festival and places like Ibiza exist only as a punchline, unless someone like DJ Harvey visits the island. Of course there are other bits of content on offer, and it’s admirable that RA—and other prominent outlets—have made a concerted effort to diversify the artists and stories being platformed during the past two years, but at the same time, it is strange that dance music’s most well known (and most frequently referenced) publications often act as though the genre’s more blatantly commercial sphere (i.e. its biggest songs, artists, clubs and festivals) simply don’t exist.