News / Arts & Entertainment

    Electronic Dance Music Bounds into Mainstream

    When the American Music Awards present their top honors November 18, there will be a new category: Electronic Dance Music (EDM). EDM is a fresh sound that is spilling out of night clubs and blasting into the mainstream. Anyone with a laptop and the right software can become a composer and overnight sensation.

    That's what helped DJ Deniz Koyu begin producing his own EDM tracks.

    "Technology changes music," notes Koyu.  "That's definitely the case and so you can say like the computer laptop is the new guitar."

    The electronic punch has packed clubs and blasted EDM from underground to mainstream sensation.  

    But night clubs aren't the only place to go to enjoy EDM. Massive festivals host tens of thousands, and concert venues are popping up all over the world.

    Echostage opened in September and is now one of the largest concert venues in Washington.

    "It's not a VIP night club, it's not a lounge like you get a table. It's pure EDM experience," explains Echostage owner Antonis Karagounis.

    Armin van Buuren was voted DJ Mag's Top DJ in the world on Monday. He attracted thousands at Echostage in Washington, DC. (Carla Babb/VOA)
    Armin van Buuren was voted DJ Mag's Top DJ in the world on Monday. He attracted thousands at Echostage in Washington, DC. (Carla Babb/VOA)


    That experience can come with a hefty price tag. Lots of new fans mean places like Echostage can charge $60 a head when major DJs come to town.

    Armin van Buuren has been named DJ Mag's top DJ worldwide multiple times.  Van Buuren has traveled to more than 100 countries to bring EDM to fans.

    "Being there on the dance floor, seeing the lights, the visuals, the show and you know, close your eyes and take off," says Van Buuren.

    Van Buuren's empire includes music videos, his Armada music label, and a radio show with millions of listeners around the world.

    Van Buuren says mainstream radio's belated embrace of EDM sparked its rise.  

    "It's generated a lot more interest in the style and the music, and uh, you know, I hate to say 'I told you so,'" Van Buuren adds.

    It has generated respect too.

    This year, DJ Skrillex won three Grammys. Van Buuren attributes that to what he calls the art form of DJing.

    "It's not just some guy pressing play," Van Buuren explains.  "I mean, the crowd is the center of everything I do. I'm not a painter just because I want to paint something in my gallery, but I'm painting for the crowd because I have my music palette and that's what I'm painting with."

    In the music industry, where artists can be in the spotlight one day and fade the next, the future of EDM is uncertain. But for now, it looks like it's here to stay… for a while.

    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

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