Dance Music and EDM: Big and Getting Bigger

If you’re a fan of dancing, you may want to know what the New York Times thinks about the various scenes. Basically, it’s back to the era of disco without all the hate.

Late last month, Forbes published its list of the world’s top-earning D.J.s. Calvin Harris, 31, who less than a decade ago was stocking groceries in a Scottish supermarket, came in first place, earning $66 million over a 12-month period beginning in June last year through club fees, endorsement deals and music royalties. That’s more than what Jay Z ($56 million) or Kim Kardashian ($52.5 million) grossed in the same period, and it’s one of many recent indications that EDM, or electronic dance music — once the commercially marginal soundtrack to underground parties — has reached an impressive new level of mainstream success.

Kevin Watson, an analyst in London for the International Music Summit (an electronic music industry trade event held yearly on the Spanish island of Ibiza) now estimates the global value of EDM to be $6.9 billion — about a 50 percent jump since 2013. “Here in the U.K., we’ve had peaks of interest before but we have seen nothing like the global cultural exposure and move into the mainstream as we have in the last two years,” he said. “It’s been absolutely phenomenal.”

Mr. Watson noted that as recently as 2010, EDM’s audience was so marginal that Nielsen didn’t even list it as a separate genre in its annual SoundScan report. But last year, Nielsen said that EDM was the fourth most popular streaming genre in the United States, ahead of country music. And electronic artists continue to rack up new hits. Last month, Spotify announced that a track by Mr. Harris (“How Deep Is Your Love”) was the summer’s most-streamed song in Britain, while another electronic artist, Major Lazer, had the service’s most-streamed track globally (“Lean On”).

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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