How Social Media Advancements are Altering the Business of Electronic Dance Music

Day 3 of the Electric Daisy Carnival at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo taken by Katherine Loh

“I remember back in the day, [promoters] would be like ‘keep driving and when you see this really big rock, make a right, and when you see this crooked tree, make a left’,” Sonabend said.

Struggling to read the vague driving directions on her pixelated flip-phone screen, Jessica Sonabend, host of Electronic Dance Music blog “The Ranting Raver”, is pinpointing a remote warehouse to listen to her favorite Electronic Dance Music deejays perform.  Since then, she has witnessed many technological transformations and its effects on this generation’s music phenomenon, better known as EDM.

Today’s most-dedicated music fans can show their appreciation for their favorite lyrical artists not through sold-out copies of their latest hit single, but through simple web and technological advances. The dollar is losing its value, but in a good way. The accumulation of “likes” on your Facebook fan page alone is worth more than any dollar amount to any beginning DJ in this generation’s music transition.

“I think social media is a popularity thing,” Sonabend said. “The better you are at networking, the more famous you are going to become.”

Two friends at the Bill Graham theatre in San Francisco to see DJ Kaskade. Photo taken by Katherine Loh

Sonabend has listened to electronic music and attended at least 300 raves since she was 16 years old. Her love for the music began before the existence of social media and Facebook updates. However, she says social media has ruined the underground dance scene for her because lesser-known DJs who have been around for years are consistently over-powered by mainstream one-hit-wonders like “Levels” by Swedish DJ, Avicii.

Contests, events and audio and visual posts have made their way to DJ’s Twitter and Facebook feeds. Although you are not consciously telling your friends about DJ Tiësto’s new mix, it’s spreading like wildfire through a simple re-Tweet or hashtag recognition.

While Facebook and Twitter are popular networks for manipulating and sharing musical content, an audio platform called SoundCloud has enabled individuals to put their creative minds to use while incorporating the marketing factor.

“I use SoundCloud because it is often linked to Stumbleupon,” said Craig Rainey, Junior at the UW and local Seattle deejay. “A lot of people from around the world run into your music and it tracks where people are listening to your music from.”

Like Rainey, Sami Yenigun is a Washington D.C.-based deejay as well as the arts desk producer for NPR. He said that SoundCloud itself is an effective social platform.

“You can reblog people’s music and follow individuals on it,” Yenigun said. “I think the dance music industry has geared itself towards a business model where live performance is really how a lot of these artists are making their money.”

Aside from writing about music and arts-related topics, Yenigun got into electronic dance music in a big way by applying his own experience as a local DJ. He was the creator of an underground warehouse party called “Wild North”. Aside from posting flyers at a coffee shop located on his campus at the George Washington University, Facebook became a popular platform for attendance analytics.

“We threw maybe about seven parties and the first party we threw, Facebook was a really good indicator as far as the people that said they were attending versus the number of people who actually attended,” said Yenigun.

Similarly, Sonabend used technology to find out about the locations of underground rave events that played EDM, but not in the way that you would imagine.

“When I first started going to raves it was word-of-mouth,” Sonabend said. “There would be like an info line where somebody would turn their phone off and change the voice message on their phone to the location of the rave.”

Social media and technological advances are not only affecting the way music lovers access their favorite artists’ music and live shows, but a great way for the DJs themselves to create everlasting partnerships with popular brand names. While Tupac Shakur may have dominated music stores with his 1995 hit single “California Love” during the hip-hop evolution, DJ Tiësto is making his mark through the power of Facebook “likes”.

DJ Tiesto's Facebook page with over 14 million "likes".  Photo screenshot by Katherine Loh

In Yenigun’s NPR article, “The Real Value Of 7 Million Facebook Fans”, Heineken covered a number of Tiësto’s concert costs including flights, hotels and tickets given the DJ’s diehard fans “like” their Heineken Facebook page.
The spread of this new era of music has taken a different approach by also focusing less on the traditional strategy of mass retail consumption.

“A lot of the traditional methods of selling albums and labels has been less important for some of the underground EDM artists,” said Yenigun.

Rainey agrees and says that EDM is typically available for free download nowadays.

“Usually once [DJs] get pretty big, there are websites you can buy their mixes off of for around $1.50 to $3,” said Rainey.

He also says that social networks like Facebook events are good ways to measure how much money one deejay can make for every music gig they are booked.

This idea has become a reality and while you may think your social networking interactions are only benefitting yourself, the Facebook “like” has taken on a whole new meaning for your favorite EDM DJ.

If you are interested in booking Rainey, or DJ Rain, you can contact him via his Facebook page.

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About Katherine Loh

Comments

  1. Hi Katherine, thanks for this great read! I go to a lot of raves and studying marketing in school but never truly realized the power of social media in the edm scene. I promote for a local New Orleans company and use facebook as our main tool, although handing out flyers and talking to students on campus is also effective. Social media has definitely changed the edm scene from the days when you would call a phone’s voicemail. Cool stuff.

    Avery
    Tulane University

  2. Thanks for the great post – I’m definitely going to agree that the name of the game has changed. The whole aspect of hitting the streets with flyers and really grinding to promote parties has totally changed. Unfortunately, the whole culture of dance music has been watered down, though there are still facets of the community that remain strong. There are also some great things though like the digital availability of music (i.e. Beatport) helping artists to publicize and sell their productions. Guess this is a win/lose situation, but we’re forced to embrace it nonetheless and push forward.

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