Underground Music Report: Djs on Demand
Underground Music Report: DJs on Demand
by Eric Reithler-Barros
Is there a fine line between cheating your musical audience out of an experience and educating them on something new? Has our culture bred entertainment consumers who want to hear what they want, when they want, to the point that they all consider themselves DJs and are therefore impossible to satisfy when going out for music?
Let’s take an example. In the wake of Daft Punk’s sweep of the 2014 Grammy Awards, how would you feel if you spent $75 on a ticket to see them live… and they didn’t rock “Get Lucky”? Some people (myself included) would be greatly relieved to not hear it for the ten thousandth time… but the vast majority would be asking for their money back. How about if you scored front-row seats to hear Lorde play to an intimately small audience… but she didn’t do “Royals”? Again, we would have to deduce that most people would slink out of the room disappointed.
But what about Lorde? The song “Royals” was originally intended as a free giveaway to draw attention to her other songs; now she had to play it yet again at the Grammys. Do you really think Lorde wants to play that song for the ten thousandth time? The answer is: hell no! She hates that song already. Even if an artist’s song has been very, very good to them financially and professionally, they quickly get tired of parroting it out on a nightly basis, and want to move on to newer material. This is what makes them, well, artists. And they’re only human.
Besides, as their managers tell them, the quickest way to turn into one-hit-wonders is by relying too heavily on one successful release and not backing it up right away with new, stronger releases. In 2013, think Pharrell (boss) and Psy (flop).
So let’s get back to the original point. Our current musical culture, fueled by instant-gratification music services like Spotify, has enabled us to hear anything we want anytime we want. So if we narrow the scope, how does this affect the mainstream electronic DJ experience? It’s made big-name DJs into musical brand names that are tightly defined into narrow musical subgenres.
If you want to hear dubstep, go hear Skrillex.
If you want some poppy house, get David Guetta tickets.
Big-room progressive? Swedish House Mafia.
And what if those guys wind up playing something completely different than what they’re known for? Screw them. And you’re never buying tickets again.
But what about in the underground? Don’t we pay our money to have true-blue devil-may-care DJs break new music and take us on psychedelic journeys, schooling us as they go? This may be changing as well. Take a recent 2014 Brooklyn performance of the Stanton Warriors, the pioneering U.K. duo that has consistently defined their ultra-underground brand of “funky breakbeat” genre for over a decade. Their show did not disappoint. They delivered on their brand and delivered a massively satisfying sub-bass-infused breakbeat set to a sweating throng of Burning Man acolytes and local technorati. The very next night, Los Angeles phenom Goldroom played to a packed house at a weekendy Manhattan nightclub. The club was expecting his signature “tropical house” or “California dance” style of melodic 115-bpm chilled-out bliss… and instead got a generic soulless blast of commercial 128-bpm progressive house that could have been heard (done better) at nearby Pacha. People were walking out. “This isn’t a Goldroom set…”.