The EDM Bubble Hasn't Burst, but the Neon Novelty Has Worn Off

Remember when raves were illegal parties in abandoned buildings and admission cost nothing?
Remember when raves were illegal parties in abandoned buildings and admission cost nothing?
Photo by Marta Xochilt Perez

It's been about four years since EDM exploded into a supernova-level pop culture phenomenon. And it's been about a year since the term "dubstep" was added to the dictionary. (“A type of electronic dance music,” the definition reads, “having prominent bass lines and syncopated drum patterns.”) So yeah, some of the bright and shiny neon novelty has worn off.

But that doesn't mean the bubble has burst.

Last year, Planet Earth's most famous DJs collected fatter paychecks than ever. In fact, the world's richest jock, Calvin Harris, earned $66 million in 2014. It was $20 million more than his 2013 haul. And it was $6 million more than rapper, Roc Nation owner, and cognac mogul Jay Z's take.

Calvin Harris: EDM's $66-million man.
Calvin Harris: EDM's $66-million man.
Photo by Rukes

Meanwhile, megaclubs in American cities like Vegas, NYC, and Miami continue to pull down tens of millions too. Now, it's certainly true that Sin City is a bizarre land of obscenely inflated nightlife profits, where the most moneyed party palaces make in excess of $100 million, topping the income totals of some casinos. But even glossy Miami spots like LIV and Story, the fourth and eighth highest-grossing clubs in the country, banked $45 million and $30 million this past year.

However, though it's still raining $100 gold coins for EDM, there does seem to be a yearning among DJs, producers, fans, promoters, venues, and festivals for a return to dance music's outlaw days, when raves were illegal parties in abandoned buildings and admission cost nothing.

It's kinda tough to claim underground cred when you're cashing ten-figure checks. But there are still plenty of legitimately underground DJs gigging seven nights a week at legitimately underground clubs where tickets don't cost the equivalent of the average American's weekly wage. And this new appetite that's seized both dance-music lovers and dance-music pros is allowing less formulaic, more idiosyncratic, pyrotechnic-free tuneage to slip onto stages where only millionaires and laser-shitting robots once stood.

There are already lots of strange and exciting things happening. The megaclubs are drafting promoters from the subterranean scene. Small, stripped-down Miami dance spots are opening with the same kind of fanfare as $40 million superprojects. Even Miami's homegrown corporate monster Ultra Music Festival is launching something called the Resistance stage.

Now, what exactly is Ultra protesting? Well, itself, which is pretty absurd. But sometimes an identity crisis can be a good thing.

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