Whether you’re new to the rave scene or you’ve been exploring different musical genres for years, you’ve likely heard the term “EDM” as it refers to music. Maybe you know that you love the beats and rhythm, but you’re wondering what exactly EDM is. After all, you’ve probably heard a lot of music described as EDM, but not all of it sounds the same. We’ll take you on a deep dive into the world of EDM.
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EDM is an acronym that stands for “electronic dance music.” Sometimes called electronic music or dance music, EDM is mostly produced to be played at clubs, raves, and music festivals, but you can also listen on common music sites like Spotify, Soundcloud and Live Nation Radio. EDM is characterized in general by a repetitive percussion track, often with a melody played by a synthesizer laid over the percussion. There are numerous sub-genres of EDM and different remixes, which is why not all music in the genre sounds the same. We’ll dig into those in more detail below.
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EDM has been around the music industry since the 1970s, but the new music on the playlists heard today are vastly different from what was around back then, and the genre has continued to evolve in every decade since. The early days of EDM can be traced back to the disco music of the late 70s, which used many of the same synthesized percussion sounds and electronic instruments heard in EDM today to get people out on the dance floor. Some of the early pioneers of the genre include Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder, who would later go on to collaborate with Daft Punk; they wrote the synthesized disco song “I Feel Love,” by Donna Summer, which ushered in a new era of synthesized pop that would continue into the 1980s.
The 1980s saw the movement of ultra synthesized pop into the mainstream with hits like “Take On Me” and the song that is today considered one of the first house records, “On and On,” by Jesse Saunders. However, the music of the 1970s and 80s still wouldn’t be recognizable to today’s EDM fans; those sounds were introduced in the 1990s with techno, house, hardcore rave, dub, trance, and drum and bass music. EDM became huge in Europe and eventually spread from the rave scene into night clubs. Popular EDM songs in the 90s included “Strings of Life” by Derrick May, which helped define techno in the US.
It wasn’t until the early 2000s that EDM became truly entrenched in mainstream American pop culture, as producers like Daft Punk, Avicii, Hardwell, Diplo, Martin Garrix, Tiesto, David Guetta, and Skrillex came onto the scene. In the 2000s, EDM went from something you’d hear only at raves or clubs to music you’d hear on any billboard Top 40 radio station. Today, EDM sounds are used by most mainstream pop and hip-hop artists, including everyone from Taylor Swift to Justin Bieber, Drake, Marshmello, and Selena Gomez. Chances are, one of your favorite songs is probably EDM and you don’t even know it!
Part of what makes EDM a bit confusing is that there are about a thousand (or at least 15) different subgenres associated with the genre. Subgenre purists sometimes get frustrated when their favorite sounds are lumped into the giant category known as EDM, but unless you’re deep into rave culture and your closet is full of gear fromiHeartRaves, it can be a little challenging to get a handle on all the different styles at first. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it!
The reality is that if you walk up to anyone wearingneon eyeliner at your next rave, they’re sure to have a subgenre of EDM that they swear is their favorite, and they’ve also probably got their own ideas about just how many subgenres EDM has and which ones are legitimate.
As much as it might frustrate genre purists, the beauty of EDM is that it’s constantly changing and evolving, so there’s always something new to hear and a fresh beat to groove to at your next festival. The next time you hit the festival circuit, consider branching out from your usual stage and catching a set or two of a subgenre you’ve never tried before. You might just be pleasantly surprised at what you hear!