Electronic dance music

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DJ Sharaz playing on turntables.

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 environments centered in dance-based entertainment, such as nightclub settings. 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".[1]


Electronic disco[edit]

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.[2] 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.

Post-disco styles[edit]

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.

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 (precursor of Hardcore) in Belgium.

Democratization and recognition[edit]

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.

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.[3] 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.


The term electronic dance music was used in America as early as 1985,[4] 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 consistent use of the term Dance Music when referring to artists in reviews.[5] In 1995 Nervous Records and Project X magazine held their first award ceremony titled "Electronic Dance Music Awards" which, though not a commonly used term at the time, 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.[5][6] In academic writing both terms Dance Music and Electronic Dance music made sporadic appearances.[3] Meanwhile, the term Dance Music has been used commonly in Europe since the early-mid 1990s in both TV, Radio[7] and Music Releases.[7] Due to the popularity and commonplace/commercialization of Dance Music in Europe there was never an addition or need for the addition of Electronic to the term Dance Music (as reflected in CD titles and radio interviews over the past two decades) it was just a given. During the mid-late 2000s Dance Music began to gain ground in the USA and enter their 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 having suffered almost two decades of social intolerance toward its different genres,[8] indeed Techno was often used as a derogatory term in the USA. Debate has been heated since the abbreviation EDM this can be seen in page edits and revision of both this page and other pages relating which is largely due to the generational gap between those who grew up when Dance Music was popular (and still is) in Europe and those who have discovered the genre(s) in the last decade where the equally valid EDM has come to fruition.[9] Whilst EDM has become the common blanket term for it's genres in the States, in many parts of Europe and online the UK has opted to remain with the common usage of Dance Music or Dance.[10]


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.[11]


Although electronic dance music is treated as a genre itself, music journalists and fans alike also further delineate an ever-evolving plethora of genres—named styles and sub-styles—under the EDM umbrella. The broadest categories include house (including its electro house variation), techno, trance, hardstyle, UK Garage, Drum & Bass and dubstep, among others.


Typical tools for EDM production: Laptop computer, midi keyboard and mixer/sound recorder.

In the 1980s, many genres of popular electronic music, including EDM, were constructed by means 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.[12][13]

Venues and performances[edit]

Electric Zoo Festival 2011 at the Hilltop Arena

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. In the '70s to '90s, 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 prepared more for DJs than for a live act. By the late '80s to early '90s the DJs themselves were the main attraction. Nightclub 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 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 artist and singers to create material. Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" remix by the DJ duo DNA[14] and DJ Jellybean Benitez working with very early Madonna demos[15] 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 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 properly produce DJ sets. Clubs and venues such as Ministry Of Sound, Limelight, and Groove Jet would frequently release full CDs of the DJ sets and have them commercially available 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. EDM performers (disc jockeys and producers), by the '90s, would start to perform at both indoor and outdoor dance music festivals called "raves". As the '90s drew to a close, more and more DJs 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.

Mainstream appeal in the United States[edit]

Electronic dance music achieved limited popular exposure when it was marketed as electronica in America during the mid-1990s.[16] 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."[17][18] But, instead of EDM finding wider mainstream success, it was relegated to the margins of the industry.[17] 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.[17]

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.

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.[17] 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.[17] Today it has become common for established Top 40 artists and producers to infuse elements of popular EDM styles in their music.[13] 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."[19]

In June 2012, media executive Robert F. X. Sillerman, the original founder of what is now Live Nation, announced that he would be establishing a company known as SFX Entertainment to invest into the EDM industry, with plans to spend $1 billion US in acquisitions in its first year alone. In a similar manner to his past venture, it has acquired several regional promoters and festivals, along with Beatport and two major nightclub operators in Miami.[20][21] The company also received a $10 million investment from the communications services and marketing company WPP.[22]

On October 1, 2012, MTV published an article titled "EDM Invasion: How the Rave Wave has conquered America," suggesting that EDM is currently conquering America and the EDM craze in America is in full swing. The article claimed that EDM is becoming much more mainstream. Most EDM listeners think of Miami, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Las Vegas as the EDM capitals of America.

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 an EDM format with the moniker "Evolution 101.7," claiming 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 Internet-based Evolution platform, and has brought BBC Radio 1 personality and influential EDM icon Pete Tong on board to produce programming and content for the format.[23] However, while this single station has recently adopted a relatively pure EDM format and EDM is being used increasingly by pop acts, EDM itself has yet to gain a hold on American radio and television broadcast outlets. There are only a handful of FM dance stations in the U.S. along with limited television exposure via local shows, while MTV offers only a late-night block of EDM when few viewers are awake. In contrast, Internet-only sites offer a wide range of choices for EDM.


BRIT AwardsBritish Dance Act1994–PresentThe BRIT awards in the UK introduced this new category in 1994,[24] 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.
Project X MagazineElectronic Dance Music Awards1995Readers of Project X magazine voted for the winners of the first (and only) "Electronic Dance Music Awards".[5] 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.[5]
DJ MagTop 100 DJs poll1997–PresentDJ 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 was claimed by Carl Cox. Each year the results are announced and a large award ceremony held[25]
Winter Music Conference (WMC)IDMA: International Dance Music Awards1998–Present[25]
Dancestar - The World Dance Music Awards2000 - 2004Dancestar 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.[26]
American Music AwardsFavorite Electronic Dance Music2012–Present[27] Artists were nominated based on sales & airplay, and the winner, chosen by fans in online voting, was David Guetta.[27]




Other festivals, including Lollapalooza and Coachella have increased the number of EDM acts represented.[citation needed] 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,"[13] as has Lollapalooza organizer Perry Ferrell.[29] Ray Waddell, touring editor at Billboard magazine, noted that festival promoters have done an excellent job at branding.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Butler, M.J., Unlocking the Groove: Rhythm, Meter, and Musical Design in Electronic Dance Music, Indiana University Press, 2006, pp. 12–13, 94.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b Examples from 1992 to the present can be found via a search for both Dance Music and to a lesser degree"electronic dance music" from 1995 (with quotes) on Google Scholar.
  4. ^ Bessman, Jim (June 1, 1985). "Anti-War Clip Provokes Network Wrath". Billboard: 38–39. 
  5. ^ a b c d Flick, Larry (Aug. 12, 1995). "Dance, Dance Tracks, Dance Compilation of the Year". Billboard: 25. "Dance Music" 
  6. ^ Prince, David (1995). "Rhythm Nation". Rolling Stone (705): 33. 
  7. ^ a b "Dave pierce presents national radio show 'Dance Anthems' and daily mix of dance music – the Mix at Six from 1997" url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Pearce#BBC_Radio_1". 
  8. ^ ""After 20 years, electronic dance music has made it big in the US" url=http://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/aug/02/how-rave-music-conquered-america". 
  9. ^ Smith, Rowan (Mar. 28, 2012). "The History of the Abbreviation/Acronym EDM". 
  10. ^ ""Dance/Electronica" url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/programmes/genres/music/danceandelectronica/current". 
  11. ^ McLeod, Kembrew. 2001. "Genres, Subgenres, Sub-Subgenres and more: Musical and Social Difference Within Electronic Dance Music Communities." Journal of Popular Music Studies 13, 59–75.
  12. ^ MTO 7.6: Butler, Turning the Beat Around
  13. ^ a b c d N.J. basks in the glow of the brave new rave: Electronic dance festivals go mainstream Newark Star Ledger May 16, 2012
  14. ^ Beadle, Jeremy (1993), Will Pop Eat Itself?, Faber and Faber, p. 207, ISBN 0-571-16241-X 
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ Sisario, Ben (2012-04-04). "Electronic Dance Concerts Turn Up Volume, Tempting Investors". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-06-17. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Sherburne, Philip. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, Spin Magazine, pages 41-53, October 2011, Spin Media LLC.
  18. ^ Chaplin, Julia & Michel, Sia. Fire Starters, Spin Magazine, page 40, March 1997, Spin Media LLC.
  19. ^ EDM is taking over the Chicago festival season Time Out Chicago
  20. ^ "Exclusive: SFX Acquires ID&T, Voodoo Experience". Billboard. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  21. ^ "SFX Purchases 75% Stake in ID&T, Announce U.S. Edition of Tomorrowland at Ultra". Billboard.biz. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  22. ^ "SFX Entertainment Gets Funding From Communications Giant WPP". Billboard.biz. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  23. ^ Sisario, Ben (December 20, 2012). "Boston Radio Station Switches to Electronic Dance Format". The New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  24. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1994_BRIT_Awards.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ a b http://dancemusic.about.com/od/djs/a/Dj-Mag-Top-100-Djs-Winners.htm.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ http://www.dancestar.com/about_dancestar.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ a b Unknown (November 18, 2012). "American Music Awards 2012: A big night for Justin Bieber". Online news. CBS news. Retrieved November 27, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Love Parade report blames organisers for stampede – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Abc.net.au. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  29. ^ Maloy, Sarah. "Lollapalooza's Perry Farrell on EDM and Elevating the Aftershow: Video". Billboard. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 

Further reading[edit]