Internet Killed the Electronica Star?

Last time, I wrote about the stigma surrounding Electronic Music. One of the reasons I pointed out was related to the relevance of internet in the Electronic Music Industry. In this article, I aim to focus specifically on that point. If you want to see other parts of that article or a whole new topic tackled, I invite you to comment it and tell me why you want me to tackle it!

Onto the article itself:

Try to remember “Gangnam Style”. What comes first to mind? My guess would be the dance, the way that Psy hops and manages to engage all others to do the same. Maybe you also remember the chorus, or the part where Psy says “Oppa Gangnam Style”.

If I was to ask you about the actual music, very little would probably be said. You may mumble the first stanza of the first verse – assuming that, like me, you’re not very, if all, fluent in Korean. You may even remember the intro to the song or the very slight drop, but it’s safe to say that the actual music isn’t the most memorable part of this song. The production didn’t break boundaries, it doesn’t tackle important issues, doesn’t create a sense of self-identification with it…

So, what happened with this song so that it became the craze of 2012? And, what does this have to do with Electronic Dance Music?

Well, the internet happened. And that’s what it has to do with EDM.

T-Pain, the rapper and auto-tune extraordinaire, tweeted about the song with the caption “Words cannot even describe how amazing this video is…” in 29th July 2012, a mere two weeks after the song being released in Psy’s “Psy 6 (Six Rules), Part 1”. In the coming months, artists as diverse as Robbie Williams, Josh Groban, Katy Perry, Tom Cruise and Joseph Gordon-Levitt showed their support by sharing the video on twitter or publicly commenting on it, with Britney Spears going as far as learning to do the dance from Psy himself on Ellen. These people, no matter how much creative credit you attribute to them, are undoubtedly opinion shapers with a large online following. They helped propagate the “Gangnam Style” trend, making it relevant enough to be featured on Reddit – that was the real game changer. On a matter of 4 days, the video more than doubled the daily view count from slightly over half a million to over 1.2 Million daily views. This started a snowball effect that ended as we all know: “Gangnam Style” became the trend of 2012, beating all known records regarding Youtube at the time.

What can we conclude from this, though? What does this specific phenomenon say in regards to Electronic Music?

It says that the importance of radio, compilations and traditional word-of-mouth is waning. It says that the new technologies have surpasses previous ones when it comes to propagating a song, mainly not because of the song itself but because of the context it is given (be it a ridiculous video, a diss track that is bound to go sour or anything that gets people engaged online).

We all know internet memes but, do you know what a meme originally was? It may surprise you to discover that Richard Dawkins – the dude with an enormous brain that normally shows up to remind us that God is not real – was the one to coin the term “meme” in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene” as “any idea, behaviour or trend that has the ability to transmit from person to person”. Does it remind you of anything? Like, maybe, just maybe, people dancing like they’re hopping on horses?

We live in the meme era. Not only because memes are life and are the reason most of us spend time online other than to listen music for free (more on that later), but because in a globalized society that has such an easy access to information we are bound to share, wanting to be shared and looking to share things that will enhance our social capital. Imagine two very different people on Facebook: subject A shares Blood on the Dance Floor every day; subject B shares a mix of Aphex Twin, Otto Von Schirach, Jon Hopkins and Rob Dougan. Which one would benefit more from the shares? Which one would gain more social capital because of what they are sharing?

Likes serve as incentives for people to post more of something, while angry reacts work as a red flag to thing before posting something like that again. In such a volatile environment, being on the side that has likes is paramount for your success.

Electronic Music is deeply connected to this meme culture – both the internet specific one as the generalized one. The most relevant recent proof of this is Bar Raiders’ “Shooting Stars”. At this point, if you’re an avid user of social media you’re more likely to have known the song by ear than you are of actually knowing the duo’s name. The song’s biggest claim for itself comes in the form of a #18 in the “Triple J Hottest 100” chart of 2009 – a chart that counts down the most popular songs of the year as chosen by the listeners of Triple J. For comparison “Shooting Stars” ended up behind “colossal” bands as Mumford & Sons, Hilltop Hoods, Phoenix, Bluejuice and Gossip. Yet, in 2017, pretty much everyone has heard it online at least once.

Recognize it? It may be easier to recognize in its most usual form: a meme.

This is the power of the internet. Performing CPR on an 8-year-old song and making it incredibly relevant.

But relevancy doesn’t always translate to more profit. This meme culture has made it so songs can be shared much more easily but as they are shared because of mimicking and not actual engagement with the song, they end up not being part of the brand of the artist and it is like it’s then owned by the internet collectively with no way of suing – nor much interest due to the backlash it would create – every creator that uses the song without due credit.

To further this problem, the emergence of streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Tidal (remember when Tidal was the next big thing?) has also made it easier for artist to get heard but more difficult to make decent money out of music.

Streams increased 33% in the US in 2015 to a total of 15 billion. In 2015 artists like Major Lazer racked up over 500 million streams… FOR ONE SONG – in his case Lean On. Unfortunately, according to The International Music Summit Business Report of 2016 The most important driver of future industry success is the creation of fair revenue share mechanisms for streaming (in a survey with key industry players where they were questioned about the importance of a given driver of future success for the industry comprised of 163 participants). This is clearly something to be corrected in the near future or we risk proving the doomsayers right in what concerns electronic music dying.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this song so that we end up on a higher note.
Remember to comment with your opinion on this and with what you want me to address next or expand on!


Breaking Stigma Around Electronic Music

With this being my debut here, I believe it would be a disservice to the work I put into every single one of my articles to not present any context, specially about where I come from – in what concerns ideology. You don’t need to know anything about me to give any more relevance to my opinion or logic. But I believe that every single opinion – and the consequent difference – is based on a different evaluation of a set of values. Music is no different. Some people prefer the jaw dropping bass drops while others prefer an innovative melody that keeps us hooked throughout the song. Some people prefer the sound of overdriven guitar while some prefer the sound of computerized synths that sound like a mermaid’s call. So, for you to understand what my preferences are is for you to be more informed about why I see some things the way I see it. I would like my weekly articles to become the place for discussing music and the topic I tackle in an interactive way. To do that, you need to know what’s the source of my opinion and why is it different (or similar) to yours. This all equates to our different “evaluation of values”. I hope that through my articles you get an idea of what I value most and I would love for you to explain where your evaluation comes from!

Before I continue the article and – finally – start on the topic, I would also like to address why this kind of post belongs on a music production blog. Everyone who enjoys producing/creating music has that little flame inside them that keeps burning and lighting, hopefully, the way into the music industry. Of course, knowing how to create music is important, it’s the most important part in my opinion. But I am not going to give you tutorials on Ableton or Ozone or on any software, for that matter. The music industry only exists because of the listeners. With listeners being every bit as human as all of us, there are some phenomena occurring that impact the way music is perceived. Why did hip-hop grew into fame and stardom in underprivileged neighbourhoods? Why did punk music become the protest genre? All this questions have answers, albeit being sprinkled with opinion to give them consistency. The better you understand people, specifically the people that already listen to your music and the people you want listening to your music, the better you’ll be able to work on your image, on your music (if you believe music should be influenced by the way people perceive it, in opposition to making music for yourself) and you’ll have a greater chance at success. If you’re here, you obviously love music, you love creating music and I honestly believe you’ll love to learn more about music and this, more times than not, forgotten aspect of music. Now, onto the article.

I like music, all music. I believe good music comes singularly and not in boxes. I believe there is good Metal music just the same as there is good IDM music – the same applies to every single genre. My goal in this article, and that may be expanded on future articles is to demystify some misconceptions about music in general – but electronic music in particular.

Electronic music has recently gotten a bad reputation around music purists. From being pleb music with no actual feeling to being computerized thrash that relies on taking the easiest path, the critics are many. But is all criticism pertinent, especially in a time and age where it is so easy to share your opinion on something? And why did that criticism appear?

Well, firstly Electronic music has accomplished in the last decade or so, something no other genre could do: it has gained relevance. With the generalization of internet use, a lot of artists and genres, most in fact, got diluted into the gargantuan ocean of music that is available online. Radios stopped having so much importance in people’s life and the main means of discovering music changed drastically – from going to your preferred record store going straight to the recommendations to simply opening Spotify and clicking on your personal “Discover Weekly” playlist.

Certain personal traits hint towards other personal characteristics and this doesn’t happen randomly. Close your eyes and imagine a music purist – the epitome of them all, the one who only listens to vinyl, who knows every single year’s “best album” and that has a musical encyclopaedia in his head. Done? How does he look like? Which music do you imagine he likes the most? Do you think he’s more probable to like seminal bands/artists like Pink Floyd or Giorgio Moroder or to enjoy Getter’s latest banger?

Electronic music was always deeply connected with the latest technology and that relationship has gotten even close in the last decade. Internet and virality play a huge role in Electronic Music in a way that is second to none and only followed relatively close by hip-hop – mainly due to its very close relationship with electronic music, but that’s a theme I’ll hopefully tackle on another article. A big example of this dates to 2013: Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” was brought into stardom by means of a group of four people dancing in a… very weird way.

View YouTube Video

The first time this footage was posted dates back to January 30th 2013. Youtuber George Miller (better known from “The Filthy Frank Show”) appears in his “Pink Guy” character dancing with a group of friends and the rest is history. After this, Baauer’s song was listened to billions of times online and gained traction reaching the number 1 spot in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Before “Harlem Shake” Baauer had never charted in any position and after it the best he could do was reach the 79 spot in Belgium (Ultratop). The main media attention Baauer got before the trend was started was from Pitchfork praising his production, mainly the use of the lion roar samples that can be heard in the main transition on the song but that media attention didn’t get him number 1. The internet got him there.

Some people view this – the role of the internet in one’s success –  as diminishing of such success, mainly because society has not adapted to the role the internet now plays in everyone’s lives. Some people still see “the internet community” as being a reality, when currently “the internet community” is pretty much all the population of developed countries, unlike what happened in the 90s where only a privileged few had access to a computer, let alone the internet. This explains why some people see being a youtuber as “not a real job”, being a professional gamer as “a hobby” and electronic music as “not real music”. Because let’s be real, when people talk negatively about electronic music they don’t mention Kraftwerk, they don’t mention Nine Inch Nails, they don’t mention Aphex Twin and they certainly don’t mention Pink Floyd. Every single project I just mentioned had a somewhat crucial role in the emergence of electronic music. Be it because they introduced it to the mainstream audience (Kraftwerk) or because they dared experimenting with synthesizers in a genre that wasn’t, at the time, associated with it (Pink Floyd).

When people talk badly about electronic music in general they specifically mean what they perceive as being electronic music, specifically with the internet culture that surrounds it and not what electronic music is as a whole.

This is a broader article then the ones I prefer to write because I want YOU to choose which part to focus on the next part. What part of this article do you feel is more interesting? What part do you disagree the most? Tell me in the comments and stay tuned for the next articles!

As a small easter egg, I’ll leave you with a song out of my favourite electronic music album of 2016, Ital Tek’s Hollowed

View YouTube Video