The UK dance music community has recently started to wonder: is dance music getting too prohibitive? The scene started with lower class musicians and clubbers looking for an escape from outside economic pressures, but lately DJs and producers are starting to I wonder if the scene is starting to look too middle class. With the conversation mostly unfolding in Britain, maybe it’s time for Americans, and Seattle natives in particular, to ask the same questions.
Seattle has always been known as a capital of music; since the success of grunge, many music fans have made pilgrimages to the emerald city. In the 1990s, an electronic dance music scene developed in the same city, and today Seattle is home to Bumbershoot, a nationally recognized festival and frequently hosts some of the biggest names in the industry.
But what does this mean for less privileged musicians and fans? More and more DJs and producers are pursuing formal education in community colleges or specialized production skills. Unlike early DJing practices, technical know-how is not simply passed down from DJ to DJ. And, while this may make the opportunities more accessible to communities that were not historically aware of inside information (such as women), it is also a barrier for low-income communities.
Most program grants for low-income music lessons focus on classical music. Few opportunities are available in popular genres, such as dance music. The cost of DJ production and equipment, in addition to the access to education that is beginning to characterize the field, is simply not practical for many potential DJs who could have thrived 20 years ago. .
Ticket prices and the popularity of large luxury festivals could also limit crowds. Detroit Festival of Movement was completely free for city residents. In 2009, however, the city cut public funding for the festival, meaning promoters had to start charging entrance fees. Music journalist Matthew Collin has noted how dramatically the composition of the Movement’s crowd has changed.
Instead of locals of all classes, you see young, middle-class, jet-set techno fans making a pilgrimage to the festival. And, while that’s good, it takes the genre away from its roots and prevents any fans from fully engaging with the culture. The price of club tickets is also more prohibitive than the free underground shows of the 90s, only allowing affluent fans to consistently see their favorite DJs while in town.
Matt Anniss of DJ Mag suggests a collective movement within culture to change this socio-economic change. Although Anniss and Collin both take a rather extreme view that innovation can only happen in marginal culture and not in the mainstream, they both argue that it is difficult to see a future. radiant for EDM if the genre is confined to a professional class. musicians who are beholden to marketing and record companies.
Do you think this change is a problem for dance music? Let us know on social media!