Technology, the Role of the DJ, and Changing Production

In the 1980s, EDM music was created using electronic instruments such as sequencers, synthesizers and drum machines. Popular models of synthesizers included the Yamaha DX7, Korg M1 and Roland’s Jupiter and SH-101 (20). Then the advent of MIDI interface technology enabled EDM artists to turn their personal computer into a sequencer that could be used to control instruments. Across the entire music industry, by the mid 1990s, computers had largely replaced dedicated recording and editing equipment in recording studios, creating a simpler interface (20). Finally, by the early 2000s, audio synthesis and sound manipulation software allowed for “bedroom EDM studios” which were capable of sequencing, sampling and creating synthesizers, effects and multitrack recordings with only a computer. This made production and remixing much more accessible as you no longer needed large amounts of expensive equipment (20).

Indeed, just like the World Music 2.0 phenomenon, accessible music production software and the emergence of the internet and social web have facilitated subgenres of EDM and helped to bring together the entire genre of EDM online. In fact, World Music 2.0 includes genres and subgenres like Moombatoon that are encompassed by the genere EDM (3). Young EDM producers are not trying to make profits but rather to create something new and blend existing music genres. Just like kids uploading Melbourne Shuffle videos to Youtube they are not trying to engage in illegal activity. (3)

Technology – and more specifically the rise of the internet – has also helped bring together people in order to hear EDM music. As the internet grew the rave scene in Southern California grew, too, since hardcore EDM fans were connected online. Through Hyperreal, a list-serve platform creaed by LA native Brian Behlendorf, these fans were able to share news about upcoming raves (36).

Additionally, the changing role of the DJ influenced how EDM has been produced over the years. In the 70s clubs would occassionaly hire a live artist to perform but most of the time when people went out to dance they would dance to a DJ. Pioneering venues like Paradise Garage and Studio 54 in NYC and The Warehouse in Chicago however, hired DJs every night and had a sound system set up specifically catered to DJs, not live acts (20). At this time, unlike a rock concert which features mostly original material, DJs were mostly spinning existing material written by others. Ocassionally they would add a creative touch but mostly they were just mixing together unoriginal content (26)

Soon, club goers came to appreciate the talent of a DJ and his or her ability to keep the club dancing. As DJs gained popularity they began to introduce their own material, which led to remixes. This happened as the DJ would try to match the beat and keep a song going by adding more elaborate creative touches on top than they would in the 80s (20). Then, building off of this momentum, DJs began to seek out artists and singers to create material. One such example is the remix of Suzanne Vega’s hit “Tom’s Diner” by DJs DNA and Jellybean Benitez. In this track they used early Madonna demos to add a creative touch (20). By the 90s, DJs had become producers as well, not only creating remixes, but creating their own original material. Through production, DJs could form an identity (6).

Indeed, as the role of the DJ changed so did the way EDM music was produced. It was no longer just a mix played at a show – audience started wanting recording of DJ sets. These early recordings were usually of poor quality since they were recorded using commercial tape player, but they enabled the artists to make a bit of money. Eventually, as demand continued to increase, nightclubs began to produce high-quality recordings of DJ sets. Venues like Ministry of Sound, Limelight and Groove Jet produced and sold in record stores across the country of full DJ sets (20), marking an important change in how EDM music was produced and consumed.


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