Electronic Dance Music and American Culture (Phase 1)
// Posted by Molly on 04/14/2012 (12:17 PM)
Here is the link to my final project!
My final project has morphed and evolved in the past few weeks more than I imagined it would. Initially, I wanted to explore the similarities and differences in the hippie culture of the 1960s-1970s and the rave scene that is becoming a part of mainstream culture today. While trying to connect these cultures to theories that discuss digital media, I realized that the idea might be too broad to fully explore in the amount of time that we have. Simultaneously, I learned that electronic dance music, the epicenter of rave culture, is so deeply rooted in the Internet that without the technology we have today, the genre wouldn’t exist. EDM exists through the production, sharing, and reproduction of music on the Internet through podcasts, blogs, and artists’ websites. Additionally, the blogs that the genre relies on to spread the word about new music are technically illegal because they rarely pay for their music. Many popular EDM blogs have been shut down for posting links to illegal downloading websites, an issue that has been growing in the past few years.
My research problem is to discover what EDM says about American culture and how it gets the message across. In this aspect of culture, the medium is very important and the way that music is both produced and spread is essential to understanding what it is saying. Also, I want to further explore what each DJ or producer brings to rave culture and what that will do for it in the near future.
To start my research, I interviewed a few University of Richmond students who have EDM blogs and understand how music gets from the producer to the general public. My initial questions for my research were answered in these interviews and allowed me to continue on with a little bit more knowledge of how the genre works to generate music. I learned how people with these blogs find new music from producers, obtain the music (legally or illegally), publish the music to their blogs, and how they decide what is worth the legal risk and what is not. I hoped that the last of my initial questions would be answered after observing one of the biggest EDM festivals in the world firsthand. This experience helped me understand rave culture and what aspects of it are helping American culture as well as what aspects may be a threat in the future.
I haven’t encountered too many roadblocks since refocusing my project. One of the major roadblocks in the beginning of my research was not having the informal knowledge that I needed to fully understand the process of downloading and publishing music. Once I was able to interview a few people who could explain the initial process, I was able to understand what I was actually looking for. Another roadblock that I encountered is that the EDM that I am studying and is discussed on blogs is fairly new. There are very few scholarly articles in online journals so I had to find some reliable sources that weren’t necessarily published articles on a certain database.
My most useful supporting media for my project is artists’ and producers’ websites. From there, I am able to find additional information from their blogs, twitter, and facebooks. I am also following popular music blogs that are affected by the legislation that will be forming laws for digital media. One of the blogs, Electronic Life, is a guide to almost all aspects of rave culture and EDM.
The theoretical foundation for my project is coming from a few different theorists. Lawrence Lessig’s theories on the music industry today support the innovation of electronic music and blame the music industry for restricting culture. This theory is the foundation of the EDM genre and is the future that many of the producers hope for. Shirky’s writing on social media is applicable to the artists’ pages because they direct their fans to their other social media. Many of Poster’s theories apply to this genre of music and the idea of innovation in place of invention. Almost all of EDM exists in Poster’s “third space” that has created its own culture. Poster’s critiques of the music industry are almost exactly what many individuals involved in EDM are saying about the music industry. The theory of a consumer becoming a producer and therefore a user is also a foundation of the EDM genre. Consumers of the music often become producers because the genre has a feeling of a community and many people feel that they can participate and contribute to it. Applications such as Figure are promoting the idea of easy-to-create music. This participation changes people who were once consumers into producers and creates a cycle of contribution to the genre and the culture as a whole.
My plan for the second half of my project is to go deeper into my research of the music industry to better understand what role EDM is playing in it. I think this research will lead me to better understanding the role it is playing in American culture and where it may take it in the future. Additionally, information about copyright laws and newer laws that are being created to restrict illegal downloading will help me further understand the future of the genre of digital music.
I still have many important questions to answer such as: what will happen with illegal downloading in the future? How will these laws affect the genre of EDM? How will these laws affect both rave culture an American culture? How could ideas from theorists such as Lessig and Hansen be applied to this genre of music and make a difference? One of the biggest questions in the future of EDM is what will happen to it in the future and who’s hands will it fall into. This New York Times article explains what may happen to EDM in the future and who will try to control its growing popularity.