Electronic dance music (sometimes referred to as EDM, or in the UK simply as dance music) is electronic music produced primarily for the purposes of use within a nightclub setting, or in an environment that is centered in dance-based entertainment. The music is largely created for use by disc jockeys and is produced with the intention of it being heard in the context of a continuous DJ set; wherein the DJ progresses from one record to the next via a synchronized segue or “mix”
Electronic dance music is a set of percussive music genres that largely stem from the production methods of disco music, techno music, house music, and trance music. Such music was popularized via regional nightclub scenes in the 1980s, the warehouse party scene of the late 1980s, and the early rave scene of the acid house movement in the late 1980s.
In the latter half of the 1970s, the disco music scene began to shift away from its traditional orchestration (acoustic orchestras) on its recordings. For example, in 1977, producer Giorgio Moroder worked withDonna Summer to produce “I Feel Love”, a dance/discothèque hit made using synthesizers and drum machines. In 1979, the pair collaborated again on Donna Summer’s highest-selling album, Bad Girls, which incorporated similar production techniques. This sound became a feature of many disco records in the late 1970s and into the 1980s.
In the mid-1980s and into the early 1990s, disco’s popularity waned, but electronic production dominated new popular dance music styles, such as electro, Industrial, freestyle, house and techno. By the mid-1990s, the presence of electronic dance music in contemporary culture was noted widely, and its role in society began to be explored in published historical, cultural and social science academic studies.
The term electronic dance music was used in America as early as 1985, but didn’t catch on as a genre name until the second half of the 1990s, when it was embraced by the American music industry and in academic writing. The term’s use surged in the US in the late 2000s with the mainstream appeal of hybrid styles which were increasingly disconnected from EDM’s relatively underground roots, but remains largely unknown in the UK, where genres of electronic music for dancing are collectively referred to as “dance music”
Since around the late-1980s electronic dance music has enjoyed popularity in many nightclubs, and is the predominant type of music played in discothèques as well as the rave scene in the late 1980s. As such, the related term club music, while broadly referring to whichever music genres are currently in vogue and associated with nightclubs, has become synonymous with all electronic dance music, or just those genres—or some subset thereof—that are typically played at mainstream discothèques. It is sometimes used more broadly to encompass non-electronic music played at such venues, or electronic music that is not normally played at clubs but that shares attributes with music that is. What is widely considered to be club music changes over time, includes different genres depending on the region and who’s making the reference, and may not always encompass electronic dance music. Similarly, electronic dance music sometimes means different things to different people. Both terms vaguely encompass multiple genres, and sometimes are used as if they were genres themselves. The distinction is that club music is ultimately based on what’s popular, whereas electronic dance music is based on attributes of the music itself.
In the 1980s, many genres of popular electronic music, including EDM, were constructed by means of electronic instruments such as synthesizers, drum machinesand sequencers, and these genres generally emphasized the unique sounds of those instruments, even when mimicking traditional acoustic instrumentation. Some of the most widely used synthesizers in electronic dance music include the Yamaha DX7, Korg M1, and Roland’s Jupiter and SH-101. In addition, the most widely used bass synthesizer is the Roland TB-303, while the most widely used drum machines are Roland’s TR-808 and TR-909.
The introduction of MIDI interfaces allowed personal computers to be used as sequencers to control the instruments, and by the mid-1990s, computers were fixtures in multitrack recording studios, augmenting or replacing dedicated recording and editing equipment. By the early 2000s, computer software for audio synthesis and sound manipulation allowed for bedroom EDM studios to become completely computer-based.
Currently the music is now mostly made using software that contains sequencing, sampling, synthesizers, effects, and multitrack recording features. The ability to produce and create has become much easier economically and physically since producers no longer need to buy large amounts of equipment. It sometimes encompasses music not primarily meant for dancing, but derived from the dance-oriented styles.
While in most modern music where the artist/producers will perform in front of the audiences, EDM artists are heard mostly through DJs in dance clubs. In the ’70s to ’90s, clubs would occasionally hire artists/producer to perform live but on most nights when people went to dance venues they would be listening to DJs. Night clubs and discos such as Paradise Garage and Studio 54 in New York City, or The Wharehouse in Chicago would employ DJs for every night they were open, and have their sound system prepared more for DJs than for a live act. By the late ’80s to early ’90s there has been increased popularity among the DJs themselves. Night club attendees began to enjoy the abilities of DJs in how well they could keep the crowd dancing and the groove going. DJs, although not producers, began to produce more of their own material while trying to match the groove or beat already set by what they where playing. This led to DJs making remixes. These remixes made it possible for DJs to extend songs or make a previous non dance song danceable. Thus, DJs began to experiment with artist and singers to create material.Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” remix by the DJ duo DNA and DJ Jellybean Benitez working with very early Madonna demos are a prime example of this. Eventually the recording of DJ sets became highly sought after by nightclub attendees. The DJ would sell the tapes or CD and earn a few dollars in its sale, the sound quality of the DJ set recordings where usually fair to poor, since many of them where recorded using normal commercial tape records. As this practice grew, more and more nightclubs began to properly produce DJ sets. Clubs and venues such as Ministry Of Sound, Limelight, and Groove Jet would frequently release full CD of the DJ sets and have them commercial available in records store through out the country. All of this would create a popularity for DJs that would elevate them to the status of a performer or producer. EDM performers (disc jockeys and producers), by the ’90s, would start to perform on both indoor and outdoor dance music festivals called “raves”. As the ’90s drew to a close more and more DJ and performers/producers branched out and performed on traditional music festivals either “spinning” a DJ set, or actually perform live. More currently however the EDM world has become much more mainstream, with DJs pulling in crowds of 20,000 or more on a daily basis. These concerts are different from raves as they are legal and held in legal and public venues. The concerts are often still referred to as raves. Most legal electronic concert ticket prices can be found to be $30 or more.
Electronic dance music achieved limited popular exposure when it was marketed as electronica in America during the mid 1990s. At that time, a wave of dance music acts from the UK, including the The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and Underworld, had been prematurely associated with an “American electronica revolution.” But, instead of EDM finding wider mainstream success, it was relegated to the margins of the industry. Despite the domestic music media interest in “electronica” during the latter half of the 1990s American house and techno producers were still forced to travel abroad if they wanted to establish their careers as DJs and producers.
Some 15 years later, in 2011, Spin magazine reported that the American dance music scene had finally reached critical mass with a “new rave generation” of mainstream consumers having emerged. Both domestic and foreign artists no longer viewed America as the “final frontier” when it came to EDM and the market was now wide open. Today it has become common for established Top 40 artists and producers to infuse elements of popular EDM styles in their music. According to Time Out Chicago, EDM has “become the driving beat behind pop music and product sales, the soundtrack of choice for a new generation.”
On December 20, 2012, WHBA, a Class-A FM owned by Clear Channel Communications and serving the Boston metropolitan area, flipped from an Adult Hits format to a dance format with the monicker “Evolution 101.7,” claiming to be “the first real EDM station in the country;” the station soon changed its call letters to WEDX. The station was a extension of Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio platform, also named “Evolution,” and has bought BBC Radio 1 personality and influential EDM icon Pete Tong onboard to produce programming and content for the format.
Several U.S. music awards mention EDM by name:
In 1995, readers of Project X magazine voted for the winners of the first (and only) Electronic Dance Music Awards. In a ceremony organized by the magazine and Nervous Records, award statues were given to Winx, The Future Sound of London, Moby, Junior Vasquez, Danny Tenaglia, DJ Keoki, TRIBAL America Records and Moonshine Records.
In 2005, the Grammy Awards added a Best Electronic/Dance Album category, renamed in 2012 to Best Dance/Electronica Album. Winners of the award thus far are Basement Jaxx, The Chemical Brothers(twice), Madonna, Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, La Roux, and Skrillex.
In 2012, the American Music Awards added a Favorite Electronic Dance Music category. Artists were nominated based on sales & airplay, and the winner, chosen by fans in online voting, was David Guetta.
Several EDM-centric American music festivals are held periodically, including the touring Electric Daisy Carnival (1997–present), the Ultra Music Festival in Florida (1999–present), and the Electric Forest Festival in Michigan (2008–present).
Other festivals, including Lollapalooza and Coachella have increased the number of EDM acts represented. Rawley Bornstein, an MTV music and talent programmer, described EDM as “the new rock and roll,” as has Lollapalooza organizer Perry Ferrell. Ray Waddell, touring editor at Billboard magazine, noted that festival promoters have done an excellent job at branding.