Parents call it noise—teenagers call it salvation. But whether or not you consider a room of sweaty bodies fist pumping to computer-generated beats Hell or Heaven, electronic music is truly the soundtrack of the current generation.
Electronic dance music, or EDM, is the fastest growing mainstream genre in America, according to the 2012 International Music Summer (IMS) Consumer Report. It has emerged from the underground nightclub scene and the industry is now worth $4 billion a year.
Julia Raab, a sales development representative for Eventbrite, an online ticketing service, believes EDM has exploded because of its compatibility with social media. Last year, Eventbrite saw ticket sales for EDM events quadruple and it sold EDM tickets in 28 countries.
“It’s a very social type of event as well as great beats and music,” Raab said, “It’s definitely engrained in the 20-something culture, so I would be surprised if it faded out quickly.”
There is definitely not a shortage of people looking to break into the industry. EDM differs from other music because it is mainly computer-generated. Kids don’t need years of guitar lessons to create the next hit single; all they need is a laptop.
“All the resources are there,” said Armaan Ghovanloo, 20, a DJ for WILD 94.9, a California radio station. “It’s dope because kids who don’t have money to put into new equipment get to do what all these big time artists are doing.”
The accessibility of DJing has become especially trendy at colleges where the social scene often revolves around parties and music.
“You can be anyone in college, and if you’re a DJ, you are the person that makes the party,” Ghovanloo said. “I just think that’s so cool, seeing the hunger for the game.”
This ‘hunger’ is a drive that music competitions look to capitalize on. Evan Shapiro and Nate Howard created Campus DJ in 2013 after noticing the large number of DJs who were entering the College Battle of the Bands. Campus DJ searches for the best college DJs nationwide and provides a platform for them to showcase their specific talents.
“[DJing is] the biggest culture of a college community,” Howard said. “This is the energy and culture that all college students want to participate in because they can listen to great music while partying and have a good time.”
EDM is more than just party music for some, however. According to Jeremy Riegler, 17, a senior at Niles North High School in Skokie, Ill., the culture that surrounds electronic music provides a sense of community.
“It is like a religion for some people, it’s what they believe in,” Riegler said. “I remember the first time I walked into a rave it gave me the biggest sense of ‘I know where I belong.’”
This explosion comes at a certain cost, though. For Nick Perloff, 19, the winner of Campus DJ 2013 and a sophomore at Columbia University, EDM is already past the point of saturation.
“Even a year ago it was bigger than it is now,” Perloff said. “It’s just bursting with people and not enough listeners. I don’t think it will ever be as underground as it used to be, but give it three to five years and it will even out with other genres.”
This may be, but even so, EDM has made a considerable mark and a lasting impression.
“Every generation needs a clutch in terms of music,” Riegler said, “and electronic dance music is ours.”
Image: Arytom Arston preforming at Global Gathering