Despite being one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., the Phoenix area lacks a strong musical identity when compared to heavyweights such as New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta and Seattle.
The popularity of electronic dance music, or EDM, is changing that.
The genre has exploded into the mainstream over the past few years, changing the musical landscape in America and creating a genre unlike any other. EDM lends a few qualities that may be perfect for aspiring Arizona musicians and existing Valley venues. It may not become an Arizona trademark — — think Seattle grunge or Atlanta hip-hop — but it is an accessible genre that the Valley is already set up for; it’s ripe for businesses and musicians alike.
EDM is Transforming the Valley’s Nightlife
The Valley boasts a healthy nightlife with plenty of bars, clubs and other venues that are filled to the brim throughout the week. Valley nightlife can be low-key, but it’s definitely there.
Many venues around the Valley have been booking more EDM DJs in response to the burst in popularity, says Steve LeVine, owner of Steve LeVine Entertainment. LeVine has embraced the genre for years and watched it steadily grow in the Valley and beyond. He works with venues such as the Marquee Theatre, Livewire, Maya and W Scottsdale to book DJs and organize events and festivals.
“Years ago, it was all about the resident DJ,” says LeVine. “On occasion, we’d bring in a huge DJ and it would be massive. People thought, ‘Oh, so-and-so brought in a huge DJ; we need to bring in a DJ.’”
This trend continued across the Valley, LeVine says, until EDM largely surpassed hiphop as many venues’ music of choice.
“Venues want DJs with great history that can sell tickets and play good music,” he continues. “They definitely want the big shows and the big DJs, but you have to book the small guys first.”
That’s where local DJs come in. Venues seeking to play more EDM with guest DJs need to turn to local, up-and-coming DJs first. This offers an ample opportunity for aspiring musicians to play shows to crowds of hungry EDM fans, probably more so than any other genre in the Valley. Between Mill Avenue and clubs in Scottsdale, the Valley has no shortage of venues to take advantage of EDM’s mainstream popularity.
EDM is Seriously Accessible.
EDM is an extremely broad genre that includes artists that have merged pop music and pop culture, like The Chainsmokers and more experimental artists like Aphex Twin. EDM has become a musical catch-all, capable of adapting and fusing with virtually any genre.
“The music is changing. You’ve got country music being remixed by DJs. You have hiphop tracks infused with dance music and now you have (producer) Matoma and all the tropical house sounds,” says LeVine. “If somebody doesn’t like dance music, now they’re like, ‘Wait a second, what is this genre?’”
Skrillex and Damien Marley’s 2012 song “Make It Bun Dem” fused dubstep and reggae. A Tribe Called Red blends EDM, hip-hop and First Nations music, which is a musical style that emerged from aboriginal tribes in Canada. EDM welcomes musicians from any and all musical genres to innovate and explore within an increasingly popular genre.
“Everybody can start DJing with their own computer equipment,” says LeVine. “Because of that, you have so much creativity coming out of people’s houses, their bedrooms if you will.
“All the ‘bedroom DJs’ can really just make track after track after track. You put out that one good hit, and now all of a sudden you’re a producer. ”
EDM is also largely a solo act, freeing aspiring DJs from relying on other musicians to create or perform the music they want to make. Remixing existing songs is a DJ’s bread and butter.
EDM: Fad or Forever?
EDM is often compared to disco, and in many ways, it picked up where disco left off. Disco ultimately jumped the shark, and people are speculating if EDM is destined for the same demise.
The “EDM bubble” has more to do with the festival culture than the music itself. According to LeVine, DJs are often overpaid because venues across the world are all demanding the same super popular artists. Ticket prices skyrocket as a result.
“There’s going to be ups and downs in the genre,” says LeVine. “I think the ( prices need to become realistic. At some point it’s just too expensive to enjoy the genre.”
“(Arizona) is a fly-over state until you make someone come here. Once somebody has come here, (it) becomes one of their favorite places, for whatever reason,” he explains. “The same thing happens with artists when you bring them in.”
“Because of the friendly competition here, people have a lot of choices” he adds. “EDM is here to stay, it’s not going anywhere.”