I recently took part in a round table discussion about the current state of play in the electronic music industry with such other luminaries as Paul Oakenfold, Claude Von Stroke, Sander Kleinenberg and more. Here’s how it went down>>
Where do you see the most innovation coming from right now within the music industry (i.e. technology, music, fan experience, nightclubs, behind the scenes, etc.) and how, if at all, are you taking advantage of what’s happening? Or do you feel the music industry is failing to innovate as a whole?
Most of the innovation these days seems to be coming from finding ways to stay alive! Needs must! With revenue from sales at an extreme low, making a living as an artist now is about so much more than just making music. Marketing yourself, relationships and interacting with your audience in this transitional digital age have become vital for survival, and of course, there’s always new ways of doing that. Things like Jukely and I’m In are changing the ways fans attend concerts and there’s also a new platform called Bookya where artists and promoters can connect which looks really interesting. Infact, it seems like there’s a new “social/communication” start-up offering itself as the solution to all our problems every time I turn my computer on!
But I think with everyone seemingly so time poor these days, we’re finding it hard to find to cut through all the “noise” and so we’re not moving forward as quickly as we could be. It’s hard to know where to invest your time and energy. I did a Kickstarter project a couple of years ago which was the first DJ Mix compilation to be funded through that method and I’m honestly surprised more electronic artists have not embraced crowd funding. It really is a new frontier in getting your music to your audience. Cutting out the middle man is a powerful development for sure.
Meanwhile, the record industry at large is being dragged kicking and screaming into the future with most of their eggs in the streaming basket which never seems to have the artists interest at heart. I actually think we’re on the verge of a swing back to physical product with vinyl sales on the increase and the fact that we’ve now pretty much come to the end of the road in terms of convenience, speed and quantity, which is what the digital dream has been sold upon. It’s already happening in the book industry so I don’t see why that trend shouldn’t extend to music.
And then of course, there’s always new developments in music production. In fact, the hardware/software/production tools/sample packs business is one of the few serious growth areas within the wider music industry. More people are making music now then ever, which in many ways is becoming it’s downfall. We’ve got to get back to quality over quantity. Chris Anderson’s Long Tail model doesn’t work so well for the creative arts. The whole scene is in danger of eating itself.
Having said all that, Ableton Push looks particularly tasty 😉
With the upcoming US presidential elections, and given all that is happening across the globe, do you feel there’s a place for politics in dance music? Should this culture embrace its subversive roots or simply be a vehicle for escapism?
Dance music has always been about escapism and aspiration. On the dance floor, feeling free, forgetting all your problems, dreaming of better days and other such cliches. I really don’t think people want to be too bothered with politics in such an environment. Who wants to be reminded about politics when you’re supposed to be having fun? A field where such blithering idiots as Donald Trump are allowed to operate? Dance music should be about celebrating life, not losing the will to live!
How would you characterise the current dance music movement?
It has many different strands now. It’s long surpassed being a cult fashion movement such as Punk or New Romanticism. It’s transcended that. It’s very much a cultural movement on a par with Rock & Roll, constantly evolving and here to stay. But overall, I don’t think it’s doing anything particularly groundbreaking going on at the moment. A lot of music right now is a bit Emperors New Clothes. Previous ideas repackaged for a new generation. There are always a few exceptions to the rule of course but it’s getting harder to find them amongst the sheer volume of tracks released every week. Having said that, the underground is always more innovative than the overground so it’s nice to see a general shift back towards more refined ‘deeper’ sounds away from the crash, bang wallop, domination of EDM of the last few years. Music always moves in circles. As a general rule of thumb, what’s hot today tends to be be cold tomorrow. It’s the circular nature of fashion.
Have you learned any valuable lessons this past year and how, if at all, are they helping you shape your outlook/approach for 2016?
There’s no room for complacency. There’s a lot of people now fighting for the same space. It’s becoming a bit of a rat race to be honest which can leave a bitter taste at times but there’s nothing for it, other than stepping up to the plate and fighting your corner. Play to your strengths. Don’t try to do everything at once, otherwise you end up spreading yourself to thin and becoming a Mr 20%.
Concerning sounds and trends, where would you like to take dance music in the near future?
I’d like things to be a bit more open minded and a little less formulaic. When producers try to do something a little bit different if should be celebrated rather than derided. But generally it’s nice to see a lot more melody and vocals back around again. It was all a bit barren in that department a few years ago. It would also be nice to see a little less snobbery and a bit more camaraderie within the whole scene but alas, with the aforementioned rat race gathering pace, separating yourself from the pack is becoming more of a necessity and besides, it really is a money driven business now, at least at the top level anyway, so that’s probably an ideologic step too far.