The 29th annual Winter Music Conference started on Friday in Miami. Often overshadowed by the affiliated Ultra Music Festival, the conference is a deep dive into the world of electronic music, featuring the usual spread of panels, demos, and expos. And lots of clubbing.
Since the conference’s launch, electronic music has exploded from the underground and become a commercial force. The entry cost has dropped to the point that anyone can make a beat and post it online. This has, in some ways, cheapened the electronic experience, which once connected a true international indie community. The outsider quality is still present in certain cities and venues, but you wouldn’t know it in the heat of a Miami night. Imagine: the cavernous room packed wall to wall with bros raised on Likin Park, who wouldn’t have been caught dead listening to techno in their teens, fist pumping and taking selfies with scantly clad women who know one song by that one DJ.
I’ll go out on a limb and say the single worst musical experience one can have today is listening to said bros sing along to soaring female trance vocals. If you don’t know the lyrics, and can’t hit the high notes, save it for the ride home when your tired friends just want you to shut up but you’re still rolling and THIS IS THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR LIFE. Thus, authenticity is deformed into an image-driven, commercialized and commoditized fad fest.
In this scenario, the music comes second. The attraction springs from the idea that electronic music has replaced rock and roll in the “sex, drugs,…” hierarchy. But now, instead of a rebellion, engagement is a neon sign screaming “Look at me, I’m at a rave,” a symbol of conformity. Where rockers were wasted all the time because they were diseased alcoholics, ravers are wasted because that’s what it’s all about.
But of course, that isn’t what it’s about at all. Electronic music began as the domain of computer nerds and loners, who found solace through each other during a heartless era of rapacious globilization. The “cool kids” wouldn’t be caught dead at some shady warehouse on the outskirts of town back then. But as we know, the “cool kids” are always catching up.
Now they have, and it’s time to move on. I’m not saying it isn’t fun or worthwhile to go to big electronic concerts. There are many brilliant producers out there who deserve our attention and will get your body moving. Consider John Dahlback, a Swedish producer who is somehow only 28. He may have crossed over to the dark side already, but before EDM went viral, he was churning out minimalist synapse-snappers like this remix of “Longing for Lullabies” and his standout track, “Blink.” His shows are, I’m sure, wild, loud, and heavy on new production.
Hey bro, you can keep the drop and the tropical drinks. Keep your molly (who knows what you just ingested). You can find me at WMC checking out the newest production tech. The computers that make all the bleep-bloop-bangs you love so much. Then men and women behind the strobes. I’ll stick with the piercings, the weirdos, the crate-diggers and the hoodies in the dark corners.