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Electronic dance music (also known as EDM, dance music, club music, or simply dance) is a set of percussive electronic music genres produced primarily for dance-based entertainment environments, such as nightclubs. The music is largely created for use by disc jockeys (DJs) and is produced for use in DJ mixes, in which the DJ uses a synchronized segue, or "mix," to progress from one recording to the next. In the United States (U.S.) during the late 2000s, the acronym "EDM" came to be widely used in the popular music press as an abbreviation for "electronic dance music."
In 1969 a song called "Popcorn" was released by Gershon Kingsley and is considered by many to be the very first 'dance track' (McCurley and Flynn, 2013). The song would later be covered by the band Hot Butter in 1972 and become a bigger hit than the original version. Both versions using Moogs and analog drums would influence Disco musicians and producers through a greater part of the 70s with its catchy groove. By the later half of the 1970s, recorded disco music began to shift away from traditional orchestration (electric bass and guitar, live drums, and acoustic orchestras), and increasingly embraced electronic instruments. Synthetic sounds from synthesizers and drum machines became a feature of many disco records in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. Notable examples include the 1977 collaboration between producer Giorgio Moroder and vocalist Donna Summer on the song "I Feel Love", a groundbreaking dance/discothèque hit with no traditional instruments. In 1979, the pair collaborated again on Donna Summer's highest-selling album, Bad Girls, which incorporated similar production techniques.
In the early 1980s, disco's popularity waned, especially in the United States. Major U.S. record labels and producers abandoned the style, only keeping it as an affectation in the short-lived wave of funky R&B called boogie. However in Europe, pop-oriented forms of disco continued evolving within the broad, relatively mainstream Euro disco scene. This included the late 1980s peak of the upbeat Hi-NRG style of electronic disco, dominated by a small cadre of mostly British producers. See Factory Records.
Many producers and bands experimenting with electronic sounds were pretty much well established or already working and experimenting with electronic/digital instruments (drum machines, sequencer, synthesizers,samplers) around this time, but the commercial availability was far beyond the reach of many studios or music producers. Although around this time acts like Gary Numan, Devo, and many disco producers which would go on to influence many EDM artists, would incorporate electronic/digital instruments with analog instruments.
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Meanwhile, competing forms of dance music, some lighter and some more serious, but all focusing on electronic timbres, took root in the post-disco club scenes, yielding occasional radio hits. Although not as strongly influential as later genres, these styles were mainstays in the 1980s club scene. They include the hazy, studio effects-heavy sound of dub; the strongly New Wave-based, upbeat fusion genre synth-pop; the syncopated hybrid electro-funk (often just "electro"); electro's Latin-pop cousin freestyle; the dark, rigid sounds of industrial dance music, and an unnamed category of commercial, danceable pop and R&B.
All these new genres and sounds were possible at the time because of the commercial availability of MIDI. MIDI, which stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, became commercially available in 1983. It allowed for Synthesizers, Drum Machines, Samplers, and Sequencers to communicate with each other digitally. All studios even smaller ones and independent producers could now afford to create new music/genres/sounds with out using any live (analog) instruments. MIDI is still used today by many producers and artist, even in non EDM genres.
Partly to help satisfy the dwindling market for disco-based dance music, some 1980s disco DJs breathed new life into past hits via custom remixes and re-edits on reel-to-reel tape, and then took advantage of newly-affordable electronic instruments and became record producers themselves, combining disco with other contemporary dance music styles. Without major-label backing, their music evolved quickly to satisfy audiences in isolated regional club scenes, yielding, for example, Italo disco in Italy, electronic body music in Belgium and Germany, house music in Chicago and New York (garage), techno in Detroit, and New Beat in Belgium.
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As alternatives to alcohol-fueled, "meat market" nightclubs, the warehouse party, acid house, rave and outdoor festival scenes of the late 1980s and early 1990s were havens and proving grounds for the latest trends in electronic dance music, especially house and its ever-more hypnotic, synthetic offspring techno and trance, some of which fed back into mainstream clubs and radio. These scattered scenes, along with a bustling secondhand market for electronic instruments and turntables, had a strong democratizing effect, offering amateur, "bedroom" DJs the opportunity to become proficient and popular as both music players and producers, regardless of the whims of the professional music and club industries.
In the late 80s, rave culture began to filter through from English ex-pats and DJs who would visit Europe. However, rave culture's major expansion in North America is often credited to Frankie Bones, who after spinning a party in an aircraft hangar in England helped organize some of the earliest known American raves in the 1990s in New York City called "Storm Raves" which maintained a consistent core audience. Coinciding at the same time, were the "NASA" parties in NYC by DJ Scotto which was featured in the 1995 movie kids (film) and forthcoming was concert producer p.a.w.n. Lasers in Pennsylvania who later became the most well known laser company at raves in East Coast by cross-promoting these rave events State to State as far south as Florida and Louisiana. After this, hundreds of smaller promotional groups sprung up across the east coast such as Ultraworld (MD,DC), Park Rave Madness (NYC), G.O. Guaranteed Overdose (NYC), Local 13 (NJ), Caffeine (NYC), Liquid Grooove aka Liquified (GA), Columns of Knowledge (CT), Special K aka Circle Management (PA), Zen Festivals (FL), Disco Donnie (LA), Ultra Music Festival (FL), and later the west coast, causing a true "scene" to develop.
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. Commercially at this time, acts like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, began to get noticed by listeners, music critics, and mainstream music producers. This would lead mainstream performers to work more and more with EDM artists, and mainstream music producers to experiment with more electronic sounds. MTV produced and aired 2 TV shows that played EDM, Amp and The Grind. Both played and aired a large amount of EDM each episode. They also released albums with EDM on them named after those shows.
Initially, electronic dance music achieved limited popular exposure in America when it was marketed as "electronica" during the mid to late 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 continued to travel abroad to establish their careers as DJs and producers.
By the mid-2000s, a number of factors led to an increased prominence for dance acts in North America that was larger than previously observed. Daft Punk's performance at the 2006 Coachella Festival, which featured the introduction of a unique pyramid-shaped stage design and lighting rig, influenced what Spin described as an "arms race" for visual effects in electronic music. Spin also considered the act to be a "tipping point" for EDM, as the appearance fueled nostalgia of the electronica era, and introduced the duo to a new generation of "rock kids" in attendance. In 2006 R&B artist, Missy Elliott featured material from Cybotron's 1983 electro release Clear on "Lose Control", resulting in a Grammy Award nomination for American techno producer Juan Atkins, whose writing credit appeared on the song.
In 2009, French house musician David Guetta began to gain prominence in mainstream pop music after the 2009 release of "When Love Takes Over" (featuring the vocals of Kelly Rowland), which was internationally popular on both pop and dance music charts. The success of the song led to further collaborations with other pop and hip-hop acts, such as Akon ("Sexy Bitch") and The Black Eyed Peas. His collaboration with the latter, "I Gotta Feeling", was a major success for both The Black Eyed Peas and Guetta—in the U.S., the song achieved sales of 249,000 downloads and debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number two, behind their previous single "Boom Boom Pow". The song eventually reached number 1 on July 30, 2009, and Billboard magazine reported that the song, along with "Boom Boom Pow," helped the group maintain a 17-week run at the top of the Hot 100, the longest time period achieved by a single, duo or group.
The increased prominence of EDM was also fueled by concerts and festivals, such as Electric Daisy Carnival, that placed an increased emphasis on visual experiences (such as video and lighting effects), fashion (which The Guardian characterized as an evolution from the 1990s "kandi raver" into "[a] slick and sexified yet also kitschy-surreal image midway between Venice Beach and Cirque Du Soleil, Willy Wonka and a Gay Pride parade"), and the DJs themselves, who began to attain celebrity-like statuses. Websites such as YouTube and SoundCloud also helped fuel an increased interest in house and other types of electronic music, such as electro house and dubstep—both of which had also developed a hard rock-influenced sound popularized by producers such as Excision, Knife Party, Rusko and, most prominently, American dubstep/electro producer Skrillex.
In 2011 Spin declared the start of a "new rave generation," led by names such as Guetta, Canadian producer Deadmau5, and Skrillex, that was followed by a new wave of mainstream consumers. Elements of EDM also began to emerge in songs by mainstream artists, as collaborations occurred with artists such as Afrojack and Calvin Harris. EDM producers and DJs also began experiencing success playing club shows in U.S. cities such as Las Vegas; at the time, Diplo argued that promoters could generate higher profits from DJs over other acts, stating that "a band plays, it's 45 minutes; DJs can play for four hours. Rock bands—there's a few headliner dudes that can play 3,000-4,000-capacity venues, but DJs play the same venues, they turn the crowd over two times, people buy drinks all night long at higher prices—it's a win-win." Meanwhile, other acts gaining popularity during this period, such as Avicii and Swedish House Mafia, held live shows at concert halls and arenas rather than nightclubs—in December 2011, Swedish House Mafia became the first electronic music act to sell out a concert at New York City's Madison Square Garden.
In addition to the growth of EDM through live events and the Internet, radio and television were also credited with helping to increase mainstream attention: analysts noted that sales of Calvin Harris's "Feel So Close" and Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child" dramatically increased after they began receiving contemporary hit radio airplay. EDM songs and artists have been featured in television commercials and programs, while some artists have produced more pop-oriented songs to make their work more accessible to a mainstream audience.
In accordance with the significant growth in mainstream popularity, EDM became increasingly attractive to outside investors, with some comparing it to the dot-com boom of the late-1990s. The beginning of corporate consolidation in the EDM industry began in 2012; especially in terms of live events. In June 2012, media executive Robert F. X. Sillerman (founder of what is now Live Nation) founded SFX Entertainment and announced his plan to invest US$1 billion for the acquisition of EDM-related properties. His purchases included a number of regional promoters and festivals (including ID&T, organizers of the annual Tomorrowland festival in Belgium), along with two nightclub operators in Miami, U.S., and Beatport, an EDM-oriented online music store.
Live Nation also acquired two major EDM promoters: Cream Holdings and Hard Events; CEO Michael Rapino believed that EDM was the new "rock 'n' roll" of the generation. Advertisers have also increasingly associated themselves with the EDM industry; for example, alcoholic beverage companies such as Heineken and Anheuser-Busch have maintained marketing relationships with the Ultra Music Festival and SFX, respectively. Heineken also incorporated Dutch producers, such as Armin van Buuren and Tiesto, into their marketing campaigns. Avicii's manager Ash Pournouri compared the increasingly commercial EDM industry to the transformation and commercialization of hip hop, which occurred in the early 2000s, arguing that the "corporate world" was beginning to "catch on" to EDM. Pournouri further stated that "you have an estimated $4.5 billion generated by this music every year. That turns a lot of heads, and that’s without the potential of commercializing it even more, which will happen."
On December 20, 2012, WHBA, a Boston radio station owned by Clear Channel Communications transitioned from an Adult Hits format to a dance radio format, under the moniker "Evolution 101.7," and claimed to be "the first real EDM station in the country;" the station soon changed its call letters to WEDX. WEDX is an extension of Clear Channel's iHeartRadio "Evolution", an internet radio channel. Clear Channel also hired prominent DJ and BBC Radio 1 personality Pete Tong to produce content for the station. In 2014 Clear Channel partnered with the aforementioned SFX, in a deal that will see the broadcaster produce EDM-related programming (including a Beatport countdown show across its contemporary hit radio stations) and concert events in collaboration with SFX.
Despite the growth in popularity of the EDM genre, some producers and DJs, such as Carl Cox, have objected to the perceived commercialization of dance music, characterizing the styles of many modern EDM acts as stereotypical and cliché, and not representative of the art of DJing. English, Amsterdam-based DJ and producer Dave Clarke, in the April 2014 edition of Mixmag magazine, states: "EDM is a vehicle for ego-centric artists to expand their wallets".
Additionally, some house producers openly admitted that "commercial" EDM required further differentiation and creativity. Avicii (whose 2013 album "True" featured songs incorporating elements of country music) stated that there was "no longevity" in the majority of EDM. Deadmau5 has also become a critic of the homogenization of EDM, believing that it "all sounds the same" to him, and emphasized his diversification into other, more flexible genres, such as techno—in 2014, he released a techno song under the moniker "testpilot" for Richie Hawtin's label Plus 8. Furthermore, Deadmau5, during his set at the Ultra event, he scorned emerging artist Martin Garrix by playing a parody of Garrix's song "Animals" with the melody of "Old McDonald Had a Farm" created and uploaded to Soundcloud by McMaNGOS. 
The term "electronic dance music" was used in America as early as 1985, although the term "dance music" didn't catch on as a blanket term for the genre(s) until the second half of the 1990s, when it was embraced by the American music industry with their "Dance" charts (which continue to this day), as well as the consistent use of the term "dance music" in reference to artists in reviews. In 1995 Nervous Records and Project X magazine held their first award ceremony titled "Electronic Dance Music Awards" that is a very good, early example of the need to separate or explain the classification of the music (classical dance)/(electronic dance) in the USA, even though the term was not commonly used at the time.
In academic writing, both terms—"dance music" and "electronic dance music"—made sporadic appearances. Meanwhile, the term dance music has been used commonly in Europe since the early to mid-1990s in TV, radio and music releases. Due to the popularity and commonplace/commercialization of dance music in Europe, the addition of electronic to the term dance music was unnecessary.
During the mid-late 2000s, the further establishment of "dance music" began to occur in the USA and the genre entered the nation's commercial sphere—it was around this time that the term "EDM" surfaced online. Some users speculate that it arose from the need to "rebrand" dance music in the USA, following almost two decades of social intolerance toward its different genres; indeed, techno was often used as a derogatory term in the USA. While "EDM" has become the common blanket term for dance music genres in the USA, in many parts of Europe, online and in the UK, the common usage of "dance music" or "dance" persists.
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. Sometimes, club music 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.
Just as rock, jazz and other musical genres have their own set of sub-genres, so too does electronic dance music. Continuing to evolve over the past 30 years dance music has splintered off into numerous sub-genres often defined by their varying tempo (BPM), rhythm, instrumentation used and time period. The broadest categories include house, techno, trance, hardstyle, UK garage, drum & bass, dubstep and hardcore.
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In the 1980s, many genres of popular electronic music, including EDM, were constructed with the use of electronic instruments such as synthesizers, drum machines and 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.
In an April 2014 interview with Tony Andrew, the owner and founder of the Funktion-One sound system—considered a foremost model of audio technology and installed in venues such as Berghain, Output and Trouw—Andrew explains the critical importance of bass to dance music:
Dance music wouldn’t be so successful without bass. If you think about it, we’ve really only had amplified bass for around 50 years. Big bass is only a couple of generations old. Before the invention of speakers that could project true bass frequencies, humans really only came across bass in hazardous situations—for example, when thunder struck, or an earthquake shook, or from explosions caused by dynamite or gunpowder. That is probably why it is by far the most adrenaline-inducing frequency that we have. Bass gets humans excited basically. Below 90 or 100 Hz, bass becomes more of a physical thing. It vibrates specific organs. It vibrates our bones. It causes minor molecular rearrangement, and that is what makes it so potent as a force in dance music. The molecular vibration caused by bass is what gives dance music its power. It is what makes dance music so pleasurable to hear through a proper soundsystem.
Andrew also warns that too much bass, as well as too much sound overall, can be harmful and a "good sound engineer will understand that there is a window between enough sound to give excitement and so much that it is damaging."
For those producing dance music in their home studios, Andrew recommended that producers place their speakers at "the perfect eye and ear level", so that the "space in between the tweeter and the woofer" is between the producer's eyes—this formation allows the "woofer and tweeter frequencies" to be heard simultaneously. Andrew also recommends the use of dampening blankets to prevent the hearing of sounds that are "reflections from walls" and warns home producers about losing bass through the misplacement of the speakers, referring to rooms as "just a big speaker cabinet".
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In most modern music, the artist/producers will perform in front of the audiences, but EDM artists are heard mostly through DJs in dance clubs. From the 1970s to 1990s, clubs would occasionally hire artists/producers 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 Warehouse in Chicago, would employ DJs for every night they were open—so-called "resident DJs"—and have their sound system geared towards the needs of DJs rather than live acts. By the late 1980s to early 1990s, the DJs themselves were the main attraction. Nightclub patrons began to enjoy the abilities of DJs to keep the crowd dancing and the groove going.
DJs, although not strictly producers, began to produce more of their own material while trying to match the groove or beat already set by what they were 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 artists and singers to create material. Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" remix by the DJ duo DNA and DJ Jellybean Benitez's work with very early Madonna demos are prime examples of this practice.
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 from their sale; however, the sound quality of the DJ set recordings were usually fair to poor, since many of them were recorded using normal commercial tape recorders. As this practice grew, more and more nightclubs began to commercially produce DJ sets. Clubs and venues such as Ministry Of Sound, Limelight and Groove Jet would frequently release full-length CDs of the DJ sets and sell them in record stores throughout the country. All of this would create a popularity for DJs that would elevate them to the status of a performer or producer.
By the 1990s, EDM performers (disc jockeys and producers) started to perform at both indoor and outdoor dance music festivals called "raves". As the decade drew to a close, more and more DJs and performers/producers branched out and performed at traditional music festivals, either "spinning" a DJ set, or actually performing live. The EDM subculture became increasingly mainstream, with DJs attracting crowds of 20,000 or more on a daily basis.
|BRIT Awards||British Dance Act||1994–2004||The BRIT awards in the UK introduced this new category in 1994, and it was won that first year by M People. Although dance acts had featured in the awards in previous years, this was the first year dance music was given its own category. More recently the award was removed as was 'Urban' and 'Rock' and other genres as the awards removed Genre based awards and moved to more generalised, artist focused, awards.|
|Grammy Award||Best Dance Recording||1998–Present||Most recently won (2014) by 'Zedd feat. Foxes - Clarity'|
|Grammy Award||Best Dance/Electronica Album||2005–Present||Most recently won (2014) by 'Daft Punk - Random Access Memories'|
|DJ Mag||Top 100 DJs poll||1997–Present||DJ Mag is a UK-based Dance music magazine. Their "Top 100 DJs poll" takes place every year DJ Mag and was first top-spot #1 is presently (2013) claimed by Hardwell. Each year the results are announced and a large award ceremony held|
|Winter Music Conference (WMC)||IDMA: International Dance Music Awards||1998–Present|||
|Dancestar - The World Dance Music Awards||2000 - 2004||Dancestar ran from 2000 to 2002 in London UK and 2002 to 2004 Miami USA. The event was initially broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK with performances by Public Domain of their UK top 10 hit 'Operation Blade', before expanding its reach across the globe in later years using MTV as the platform.|
|Project X Magazine||Electronic Dance Music Awards||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.|
|American Music Awards||Favorite Electronic Dance Music||2012–Present|| Artists were nominated based on sales & airplay, and the winner, chosen by fans in online voting, was David Guetta.|
Other festivals, including Lollapalooza and Coachella have increased the number of EDM acts represented. Coachella in particular took an adventurous path giving electronic acts a high profile in a time when they were seldom booked alongside rock bands, in the United States at least. 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.