We asked a few experts to look into the future. Here's what they saw.
Now that the deluge of resolutions are behind us and 2015 is churning away, it's time to look forward at the year ahead. We assembled an all-star team of DJs, industry insiders, journalists and academics specializing in electronic music to answer the question: based on the sounds, ideas, and themes that have emerged last year, where is dance music going in 2015? Here are their predictions.
Vivian Host AKA Star Eyes
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Having headlined every festival while basically playing the same sets, the top DJs of the world are wondering where to go next. Don't be surprised to see Tiësto B2B Knife Party or Martin Garrix B2B Borgore (Gorrix, perhaps?). It's not just going to be duos, but trios and more supergroups, and they are all going to be marketed as some "off-the-cuff, crazy idea" that the DJs had backstage at "name-your-festival-here." Anyway, everyone knows that touring solo sucks and watching an epic bromance unfold on-stage is more fun than seeing someone solo. So what if they don't musically make sense? They make money.
EYES ON AFRICA
I'm already hearing a lot of African music being referenced in the "outsider house" underground, but with more DJs touring in Africa, I think there will be more collabs with African vocalists and more attention on African artists and labels. Probably more like this:
DANCE CASSETTES WILL BE THE NEW VINYL
The rock scene is already on to this one. MP3s are disposable and lack personality. Records are hard to make, hard to get, and expensive. Cassettes are cheap, last forever, and go well with the recent craze for all things analog and lo-fi. Although maybe not as well for DJing.
BREAKBEAT—THE ANTI-"DEEP HOUSE"
As this Homer Simpson and the "Hitler Finds Out About Deep House" memes suggest, the backlash against "deep house" has already begun.
Besides terrorcore, the quickest way to distance yourself from "tasteful" 4/4s is crazy Amen loops. And with everyone pining for the early 90s—back when raves were wild and posi and punk—I think we are going to hear a lot of tracks referencing old-school rave, hardcore and jungle this year. Which I'm happy about because that music is the love of my life, but also sad about because its going to be an easy bandwagon to jump on. Don't be surprised if the highlight of this Skream/Eats Everything/Jackmaster/Seth Troxler collab set at Coachella ends with a "cheeky" five minutes of classic drum and bass that sounds more refreshing than the entire hour before it.
Vivian Host is a DJ, Producer, and Label Manager at Trouble & Bass. Follow her on Twitter.
GET READY FOR "SUPER" G-HOUSE
"G-house" isn't a new idea, but we've moved on from the days of ripping out a cute 90s vocal sample and cranking the key down (that's the old g-house way!). It's about to get real interesting as an incredibly slicker, sexier and smoother version of the hip-hop/EDM hybrid genre is on the rise. Last year, Destructo put out an excellent EP of West Coast grooved originals and Tiga landed a guest lick from Pusha T. Coming up, Crookers and Jeremih have one hell of a hit on their hands with "I Just Can't," which finally lands on the Italian lord's album, Sixteen Chapel, in March, and Brodinski's debut album, Brava, with the techno-rap jam "Can't Help Myself" is due early this year. Note to producers: please stop pitchshifting Brandy and make some tough new tunes together.
DANCE MUSIC WILL UP ITS TECH GAME
Armin Van Buuren began using the Myo Armband, custom software that allows the user to control stage lights in real time with hand movements. DJ Qbert kicked off the year with a jaw-dropping, Bluetooth-controlled album cover. It's apparent that we're going to see advancements that put Minority Report to shame (touch pads? sheeeeesh...), and if you don't think that an EEG brainwave recording helmet to make music isn't already in development, well, of course it is.
Hannah Rad is on-air host and senior writer at Revolt TV as well as a producer on the show LVTR: Next Level Electronic Music. She is on Twitter.
The role of the web is extending far beyond distribution. More than ever, artists are considering what context people consume their music in. Every new platform on the web has unique characteristics, which artists are embracing by making custom content. For example, on Vine, edits often take advantage of the seamless loop in videos. Here's a Vine edit of the Yellow Claw, Diplo, Wacka Flocka Flame, and LNY TNZ track, "Techno."
Increasingly, artists will pay attention to non-musical, web-based trends and incorporate them into their productions. Things that blew up on the net yesterday will quite literally be heard on the drop of tomorrow's club banger. These songs, more than ever, are valuable, active participants in cultural conversation.
RAVING IN YOUR UNDERWEAR: NO LONGER A SHIT EXPERIENCE
Boiler Room was just the beginning. Capturing the essence of a live performance is getting easier thanks to new media formats and the advancement of camera tech. Plus, top video production teams are no longer being hired just for the biggest pop concerts in the world. As a result, you can watch incredibly produced live-streams of electronic music festivals like Tomorrowland, Ultra, or Electric Daisy Carnival without having to be physically. These compelling live experiences will deepen the connections fans have with the artists they love and ultimately play a part in the creation of this content in ways we have yet to see.
WE FOUND LOVE (ON MAINSTREAM RADIO)
Electronic music producers will continue to cross over to mainstream radio by collaborating with chart-topping pop performers. Many of last year's hit songs came about when artists reached across the aisle—such as Ariana Grande and Zedd's "Break Free," Lil Jon and DJ Snake's "Turn Down For What," and Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding's "Outside." Even Madonna is enlisting the help of Diplo and Avicii for her upcoming album, which arrives this year. As the boundaries between dance music and pop collapse, artists will keep scooping up today's top electronic producers to help them conquer both the radio and the charts.
DANCE ACTS WILL DOMINATE FESTIVAL LINEUPS
Ever since Daft Punk's legendary performance at Coachella in 2006, the percentage of dance acts at live, multi-genre festivals has inched ever-higher. This year, EDM acts are staples at iHeartRadio Music Festival, Lollapalooza and Coachella. In fact, Coachella's lineup is absolutely dominated by dance acts this year. This trend will result in more on-stage antics between some unlikely duos—think along the lines of Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz "white raver rafting" during Steve Aoki's set at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, or Neon Trees' Tyler Glenn's surprise cover of Tiësto's "Red Lights" at the iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party. These unexpected collaborations are sure to create special moments for fans.
Brian Fink is the EDM Brand Ambassador for iHeartMedia. Find him on Twitter.
THE EFFECTS OF FESTIVAL SATURATION: EXPERIENCE-BASED EVENTS AND MORE SOLO SHOWS
As EDM has exploded in the US over the past few years, so have the main vehicles for their rapid proliferation: dance music festivals. The idea that an EDM festival is "coming soon to a town near you" might seem great for some young consumers in rural America, but it's sapping something from the specialness of events like EDC and Ultra. Big-name DJs and their managers have expressed growing frustration about how the rapid proliferation of festivals is diluting their impact. One manager told us that festivals are almost becoming "paint-by-number." Pour in the LED screens, mix in lasers, cryo and strobes, and add a dash of fireworks and you've got… goulash.
Though it's tough to predict where the breaking point for festivals will be, 2015 will separate the bland from the truly spicy. Some promoters predict the only way to keep the bubble from popping is to create events where the "experience" parallels the superstar DJs on the bill. The 16-and-over festival Miami-based Life In Color is known for shooting fans with paint from canons and six-shooters, and is growing fast under the SFX Entertainment umbrella. Co-founder Sebastian Solano (twin brother of DJ David Solano) says his concept is novel enough to underpin the rapid expansion—the company is now producing more than 200 paint-drenched concerts a year around the world—while showcasing big names like Kaskade, Adventure Club and Nervo.
Another result of festival saturation is the rise of large-scale solo shows, as EDM DJs try to move out of music festivals and into clubs and concert-style sports arenas. Who can blame them? The big names are sick of being just another name on a long list of DJs carrying a festival, and want to pull the attention back to them. Kaskade recently did a solo show in Brooklyn and talks about how his favorite venues are large theaters. Over the last six months, we have seen a slew of DJs playing at Madison Square Garden, that temple of music credibility, including Jack Ü, Eric Prydz, Hardwell, Above & Beyond and Bassnectar. We will see even more of this shift in 2015.
WHAT PC MUSIC, JERSEY CLUB AND K-POP HAVE IN COMMON: MAINSTREAM POP
This is inevitable right? Despite the polarizing effect of labels like PC Music, it's undeniable how fresh the techniques of its producers are for the Katy Perrys and the Miley Cyruses of the world. Also, part of me just wants to hear what an A.G. Cook/Taylor Swift collab would sound like. Already we've seen Cashmere Cat pull some toned-down Jersey Club moves with Ariana Grande, and successful collaborations between Diplo and K-pop star CL. Despite that Diplo/SOPHIE/Madonna mess, I still have hope for the broadening sounds of mainstream pop in 2015.
THE RISE OF INDIE ROCK VOCALISTS
EDM is no longer the enemy.Even traditionally rock-focused festivals like Coachella are now dominated by dance music acts. Hey, at this point, maybe the indie rock stans have become friendly with some dance music heads along the way. With guys like Calvin Harris putting on for Haim, A-Trak enlisiting Andrew Wyatt from Miike Snow, and Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste jumping on Diplo bootlegs last year, the writing is on the wall. Ezra Koening is just waiting for the call to make his next "New Dorp, New York."
Bryce Segall is a news writer at REVOLT TV and producer on the show LVTR: Next Level Electronic Music. He is on Twitter.
Tatiana Oliveira Simonian
"EDM" IS THE NEW "ALTERNATIVE"
Co-credit for this one goes to my friend Boreta from The Glitch Mob. We were discussing disdain for the term EDM and how most artists tend to find the term a bit cheesy and forced—as so do many fans. It reminds me of the 90s when the term "alternative" began being used. To call anything "alternative music" was considered a total joke by fans and artists at the time because it was created by sources outside the genre, not within it. Why did it stick? Because there was a business purpose around it—a new genre to market and sell. Blame bad marketing.
The conversation around female artists in electronic music has been elevated to a smarter and more well-rounded level as many journalists highlighted issues like the lack of gender equity on festival stages and agency rosters. Top female DJs like Annie Mac, Krewella's Jahan Yousaf, and POSSO have also spoken out against sexism in the industry and media. While outlets like Forbes claim that female DJs are on the rise, I think women have always been doing their thing—the industry is just finally starting to take notice.
Tatiana Simonian is the Vice President of Music at Nielsen. Follow her on Twitter.
THE EDM FILM HAS ARRIVED
In the UK, it took a number of years for rave culture to exist before it was reflected in feature films like Trainspotting, Human Traffic, and Groove. This year, EDM is coming to Hollywood.
Some upcoming films include:
- We Are Your Friends, named after the Justice vs. Simian song and starring Zac Efron,
- Will Ferrell's I'm In Love With the DJ, recently picked up by Sony Pictures,
- Eden, loosely based on Daft Punk and the French house music scene,
- The upcoming Entourage movie, featuring Calvin Harris,
- An HBO comedy developed by Calvin Harris, Jay Z, and Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh.
Dance music doesn't just belong on blockbuster soundtracks anymore—the culture itself is now prime material for the silver screen.
MORE COMEDY, SATIRE AND REFLECTION
One of the things that Saturday Night Live's brilliant sketch "When Will The Bass Drop?" demonstrated is that EDM is significant enough to be a worthy target for satire. This sense of self-parody is also evidenced in music videos like Knife Party's "Internet Friends" and the Chainsmokers' "Selfie." On the academic front, the first "Techno Studies" conference was organized in Berlin last December, and the first conference on Kraftwerk will take place in Birmingham in January. As electronic music culture continues to mature, it will continue to establish itself through greater reflective modes.
Sean Nye is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Southern California and instructor of the university's first electronic dance music course. He is on Twitter.