Why dance music isn’t always ‘EDM’

Aug 27, 2015 at 3:24 pm

When we previewed the Transmit+ conference at DIME last week, we threw all of the musicians performing at the afterparty under the “EDM” genre, because they were mainly electronic artists making music to dance to.

Detroit artist Shady P, who’s performing at the event, quickly reached out to us via email to explain that we’d mislabeled him with a term that has a negative connotation. We called him “a promising up-and-comer with a heavy, somewhat distorted, uncompromising style of EDM,” and he took some offense to that. Though he makes electronic music, he prefers to identify his work with the genres of sludge, house, and techno. Shady P offered to explain why “EDM” can be a negative term for some artists.

“EDM is modern pop-based electronic music,” he began. “It is created purely for consumption, much as radio music nowadays is.”

Shady P went on to explain that EDM lacks the interest and involvement in a message, with its artists making music for fame and money at the expense of artistic integrity. “Techno and house are set apart from EDM because not only of the messages of the artists but because there is an inherent struggle linked to the music,” he wrote. “This is working-class music, for the minorities and outcasts, made by those.” He referenced Robert Hood, Underground Resistance, Derrick May, Drexciya, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, RRose, Frankie Knuckles, and Black Madonna as artists whose work embodies this philosophy.

“The model of EDM artists is not focused on selling vinyl records or creating a lasting aesthetic, [EDM] exists mostly as a festival and Internet fad,” he continued. “Electronic music culture was built in basements, warehouses, and small clubs, not super-clubs and not open-air festivals.” He called EDM a genre that for people who don’t know how to make music, preferring instead to imitate something that they know is popular.

Finally, taking aim at our broad, inaccurate description of his music, he wrote, “EDM is offensive because it’s only been a ‘thing’ for about five years and yet its supporters would like it to be an umbrella to cover all dance music as to give their interests legitimacy. It is offensive because it mocks everything dance music was built upon. I refuse to be labeled EDM, it is insulting to the work I have done to distance myself from those idiots/jokers, it is insulting to the labels I run (How to Kill, the catholic press) and it is insulting to the money and time I have spent curating my art and style.”

Shady P closed his note with a quote from electronic artist The Black Madonna, calling for more diversity and representation within dance music (something to keep in mind primarily because almost all EDM megastars are straight white men, when dance music’s cultural roots are quite different):

“Dance music needs riot girls. Dance music needs Patti Smith. It needs DJ Sprinkles. Dance music needs some discomfort with its euphoria. Dance music needs salt in its wounds. Dance music needs women over the age of 40. Dance needs breastfeeding DJs trying to get their kids to sleep before they have to play. Dance needs cranky queers and teenagers who are really tired of this shit. Dance music needs writers and critics and academics and historians. Dance music needs poor people and people who don't have the right shoes to get into the club. Dance music needs shirts without collars. Dance music needs people who struggled all week. Dance music needs people that had to come before midnight because they couldn't afford full admission. Dance music does not need more of the status quo.”

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