Now We Call It “EDM.” That’s Just the Latest Label Given to Un-Label-able Music

In order to make the complex comprehensible, humans are always looking to put things into nice, neat piles. Music, for example.  A recent project involved identifying all the micro-genres of popular music and came up with 1,264 piles. And one of the more difficult genres to deal with is electronic music.

The current favoured appellation, EDM–Electronic Dance Music–works okay, but it’s still not perfect. It’s just an umbrella term to cover all sorts of sounds and styles. In fact, it’s showing signs of confusing things even more, leading to the creation of an unwieldy bubble that might end up hurting everyone involved.

Joshua Glazer looks at the etymology of this sort of music at

So what does EDM mean, and where did it come from? And is the name itself in danger of becoming a liability to the very interests it purportedly represents? To best answer these questions, one should look at the history of genre names in dance music. Clear patterns emerge that might be able to save EDM from its name.

It began with disco, a word derived from the French word discothèque, meaning a place for discs. Those discs were vinyl records. In this particular case, music banned by the Nazis during their occupation of France. The places were underground venues where French youth would gather to dance to the forbidden sounds of jazz and swing. The word remained after the war, spreading through Europe to refer to any nightclub-type establishment where dancing took place. It traveled to America — likely in the mind of returning GIs — and began to take root in North America as well.

This is really good stuff. Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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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