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Dance music is in danger of losing its best minds to the mainstream

Producers are more in demand than ever by the big names in pop

  • Words: Dave Jenkins | Illustration: James Clapham
  • 3 February 2017

Pop has always preyed on the underground for ideas. In the early 90s, U2 squeezed Oakenfold for cred; in the early 2000s Madonna (having rinsed the likes of Jellybean Benitez way back in the 80s) kidnapped Stuart Price, barely to be seen this side of the dance again. But today’s cultural vampirism has not been witnessed on this scale before. Pop has never been so electronic: Diplo’s made beats for Usher, Bieber and Madonna, to name a few, Chase And Status made tracks for Rihanna and Rusko’s given both Britney Spears and Cypress Hill serious whoo-boosts. Even Gesaffelstein and HudMo have been lured into Kanye’s odd universe.

Is electronic music currently subject to a brain drain that’s gradually siphoning some of our most creative minds for the benefit
of the mainstream? Possibly.

Twenty years ago, talented tunesmiths could be producers alone. They could sit in their studios all day, DJs playing their underground house, techno or d’n’b all night. They’d earn enough from vinyl sales to not have to DJ to top up their income. Ten years later, the digital takeover happened and the big pay-days from vinyl sales began to dry up.

Now, young producers are far less likely to be initially anointed by club culture, due to platforms like YouTube and SoundCloud. While most artists over 25 will have first been bitten by the bug on the dancefloor and cite DJ culture as an influence, younger producers discover music on the internet and start learning the craft a lot earlier in their lives. The idea of smashing the shit out of dancefloors isn’t their primary goal.

But this creative emigration is happening from the top down. They might be silenced by stacks of non-disclosure agreements, but more and more producers are diversifying. Some for the challenge of it, some for the dollar, some because their management say it’s a good idea, some because it’s truly what they want to do… they ghost produce or make sample packs and pre-sets so less talented artists can paint-by-numbers produce.

 
 
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