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What is EDM (electronic dance music)?

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Electronic Dance Music

In 2019, it was listed as the world’s third most popular music genre and in 2022, it remains the most prominent genre played at the biggest electronic music festivals, such as Tomorrowland, Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, and Ultra Music Festival Miami, representing more than 20% of their lineups. The talk is about Electronic Dance Music (EDM). In this article, we’ll have a look at the characteristics of EDM, its historical development, and subgenres and we’ll show you how to distribute EDM and electronic music with iMusician.

Characteristics of electronic dance music

Electronic Dance Music can be defined as a compilation of a great variety of electronic music subgenres intended specifically for dancing crowds to boogie to the music all night long. It encompasses styles such as house music, disco music, synthpop, techno, trance music, drum and bass, dubstep, trap, and much more.

There are several distinctive features that are characteristic of EDM. While there are, traditionally, rarely any vocals in the EDM music pieces, what’s typical for the style is the deliberately inorganic sounds and timbres, rhythmic pulse, and high and steady tempo of, usually, 129-150 beats per minute (BPM). However, there are some EDM subgenres with the tempo going up to and even exceeding 180 BPM. Another key feature of the style is the very apparent distinction between various layers of a song adding to the loud and highly rhythmic nature of its sound.

A further defining feature is the type of music equipment used for the composition, creation, and production of individual music pieces. While other styles, such as rock, pop, jazz, and others, tend to utilize traditional music instruments, in EDM, those are replaced by diverse electronic gear, including sampler-sequencer, bass line generator, and drum machine. In the past, DJs would frequently use rather cheap early-1980s equipment - such as the 303 bass synthesizer and the 808 drum machine, produced by a Japanese electronics company Roland. Additionally, the EDM tracks would very often be composed and built from samples of previously made recordings. Nowadays, there is a vast array of technology available for DJs to create their music including a wide variety of computer software, programs for synthesizers, or digital audio workstations (DAWs) consisting of features such as beat matching, crossfading or automatic beat, and tempo adjustment.

A brief history of EDM

1970s: The rise of disco

The origin of electronic dance music traces back to New York, the USA, in the early 1970s when disco music started gaining immense popularity among people from different social classes and communities. Particular disco producers, such as Giorgio Moroder, or synth-pop and ‘Krautrock’ artists, like the German band, Kraftwerk, played a significant role in the development of EDM as a whole. Some popular disco tracks that contributed to the creation of the EDM scene included the synthesized disco song ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer, written by Pete Bellotte and the aforementioned Moroder in 1977; or the 1974 hit ‘Rock Your Baby’ by George McCrae. The latter track was characterized by the use of a drum machine and an early rhythm machine made by the Roland firm. Although disco was the first genre to initiate the idea of going to clubs and dancing, the general society lost its interest in the genre towards the end of the 1970s. Yet, many EDM subgenres later arose using disco as their foundation.

1980s: House, techno, acid house, and establishment of other subgenres

One of them was house music born in the early 1980s in Warehouse, an African American gay nightclub in Chicago, under the guidance of a resident DJ, Frankie Knuckles. Knuckles, alongside other Chicago-based DJs, such as Ron Hardy, Steve Hurley, and Farley Funk, would make his own edits, on reel-to-reel tape, of the cult disco songs he played, adding drum machines to his sets.

At the same time, techno music was being created in Detroit with many early pioneers forming the genre, including Juan Atkins, Rick Davis, Kevin Saunderson, and Derrick May. The genre became officially formalized as a style in 1988 when the song ‘Techno Music’ was released by Atkins. Both house and techno music became widely popular after being introduced to the UK music scene in the mid-1980s. Soon after, they became the most prominent form of club music throughout Europe, with another subgenre, acid house, developing as a trending style in the UK and, also, Germany.

In the late 1980s, EDM earned a reputation as ‘drug music’. In the summer of 1987, several British DJs visited the popular Spanish island of Ibiza and spent a whole week there partying and enjoying the heavy Chicago house and Detroit techno music. It was at an outdoor venue, Amnesia, when visitors discovered the great power of MDMA (a mood-enhancing drug known as Ecstasy) to make the music seem zanier and more revelatory. By the end of that year, one of the DJs, Danny Rampling, started organizing a weekly party, called Shoom, in a London fitness center, showcasing mostly acid house tracks. Within a year since Shoom became a thing, acid house had become England’s biggest youth-culture musical phenomenon since punk. Soon, many parties moved to underground places, fields, and warehouses, often taking place illegally.

1990s: The resonance of the fall of Berlin Wall and the debut of trance music

Germany, particularly the city of Berlin, played a crucial role in the development of the electronic dance music scene - especially in the wake of the Berlin Wall’s demolition in 1989. The already mentioned synth-pop quartet, Kraftwerk, was among the most relevant acts of that time. The newly reunified city quickly became an important locale for raves and renegade parties previously popular across England. During that time, a legendary techno club ‘Tresor’ was established, situated underground in the vaults of the former department store. By the early 2000s, the metropole became the heart of techno music, attracting DJs, techno producers, and fans from all over the world.

Germany, especially Frankfurt, was also the place of origin of trance music in the late 1980s/early 1990s, characterized by repeating melodic phrases and gradually built tension often culminating in 1 to 2 ‘peaks’ or ‘drops’. It’s usually a mid-song peak that’s then followed by a gentle melody breakdown, leaving out the percussion and the beats entirely, before it deliberately builds up again.

Throughout the 1990s, the ‘rave’ scene grew into what it is today, with many nightclubs showcasing both popular and underground EDM music. Gradually, the formation and inclusion of the new sub-genres helped EDM to progress, becoming a part of the mainstream music industry like never before. Particularly the UK was the home of many notable exponents throughout the years, including The Prodigy (big beat, electropunk), Depeche Mode (synth-pop and dance rock), The Chemical Brothers (techno, big beat), Goldie (jungle, drum and bass), Fatboy Slim (acid house), and many others.

Early 2000s: EDM becoming mainstream

Electronic dance music in the early 2000s, just like the overall musical landscape of that time, was strongly shaped by technological advances. While before the 21st century, most music was stored on vinyl records and club and rave DJing was done mainly with turntables, the new millennium has brought many technological innovations, including the birth and rise of CDs and DVDs. Additionally, 2001 saw the genesis of Ableton Live, a digital audio workstation developed by a Berlin-based company Ableton. As opposed to other computer software, Ableton Live has been designed to operate both as an instrument for live shows and performances, and as a tool for composing, recording, arranging, mixing, and mastering a record. The software has been considered one of the first music applications to automatically beat match a song and it’s been awarded two DJ awards for its technological development and contribution to the music industry.

During the second half of the 2000s, EDM finally grew in popularity in the place of its origin, as well, the USA. This was mostly thanks to the growth of the internet; international DJs and producers drawing attention to the genre as well as the release of Madonna’s techno-pop album, ‘Ray of Light’, in 1998. From there, the international music scene was able to witness the rise of producers and artists, including Tiësto, Daft Punk, and David Guetta, who are still, as of today, internationally acclaimed EDM musicians.

Specifically Daft Punk have strongly influenced the global perception of electronic dance music with their 2006-07 worldwide tour launched at the Coachella Festival, introducing the genre to other music audiences and communities. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, DJs were regularly performing at the biggest stadiums in Los Angeles, which by then had become the greatest electronic dance scene in the US. Additionally, in the early 2000s, dubstep, another EDM sub-genre, was introduced to the American music spotlight, most significantly driven by the grammy-winning EDM artist, Skrillex.

The 2010s and EDM today

Nowadays, EDM is frequently characterized by original sound mixes as well as remixes, produced by globally renowned DJs like Steve Aoki, Zedd, The Chainsmokers, Martin Garrix, and others. Moreover, the elements of EDM have become widely popular with today’s biggest pop and mainstream musicians, such as Ellie Goulding, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Katy Perry, and others.

The 2000s and 2010s have also brought the rise and development of some new or previously formed subgenres, including progressive house (Swedish House Mafia), electro house (Steve Aoki, Benny Benassi), and dutch house (Afrojack, DJ Chuckle). As of today, therefore, electro dance music can be considered an umbrella term for over 300 various subgenres.

Discover more about EDM through listening to the tracks that shaped the history of electro dance music in our playlist.

How to distribute EDM and electronic music with iMusician

The great news is: with iMusician, you can distribute almost all kinds of genres, including EDM! All you have to do is to, first, create a free iMusician account. From then on, you can upload your tracks and select one genre that best represents your music (in our case, it’s dance / electronic). You can also choose one of 32 relevant subgenres, from ambient to disco, deep house, big room, techno, and much more.

Genre-Subgenre-iMusician

After uploading your track and selecting the respective genre and subgenre, you can choose the streaming and download platforms onto which you want to distribute your music. You can reach up to hundreds of digital stores, yet choose those that are actually relevant for the music you create, e. g. Beatport, Traxsource, or Juno.

Beatport

Beatport is the world’s leading electronic music store and the best place for DJs, producers, and EDM artists to release their electronic music digitally. Established in 2005 and launched in more than 60 countries, it has reportedly around 40 million monthly active users and 9 million tracks in its library. Although Beatport initially specialized in distributing only a select number of electronic music types, it has since expanded its catalog and now includes all electronic music genres, such as techno, house, and dubstep.

Distributing your music to Beatport is not difficult at all! However, one must be aware that to sell your music on the platform, you, normally, need to provide Beatport label managers with the following:

  • 6-month release schedule and accompanying promotion/marketing initiatives

  • Evidence of an established online presence (label website, Facebook, Soundcloud, mailing list, etc)

  • A repertoire of relevant artists/remixers

  • DJ testimonials for previous releases and promotions

This is where we come in to help you meet these distribution requirements! We can deal with Beatport directly to give you and your label credibility and support to ensure the smooth distribution of your music.

Beatport-homepage-iMusician

Homepage of Beatport

Traxsource

Another popular online electronic store is Traxsource, founded and operated by DJs, for DJs. Established in 2004, Traxsource is the go-to platform for DJs, fans, and listeners passionate about all kinds of electronic music and is known as the ‘real home of house music'.

Tip from us: Although Traxsource accepts many EDM subgenres, there are some restrictions. If you produce hard techno, trance, psytrance, and ambient music, it will most likely be rejected by the platform.

Traxsource-homepage-iMusician

Homepage of Traxsource

Juno

Juno is considered the world's biggest dance music and equipment store, located in London, the UK, and established in 1996. Since then, the store has built a reputation as the most comprehensive source for new and back catalog dance music, DJ, and studio equipment. Currently, Juno offers over 500 new releases every week and has more than 45,000 titles in stock.

Juno-iMusician

Home Page of Juno

After selecting the platform/store of your choice, and having your release ready, our Quality Assurance team will verify that your audio files, cover art, and metadata are compliant with the rules of the digital platforms and online stores.

Then, we just distribute your release! With iMusician, you only pay once to keep your music in stores forever. There are no annual fees or takedown fees. Your first payment is your only payment and you keep 100% of your royalties!

There are plenty of amazing EDM artists that distribute their music with iMusician, including Charly Madea, Diskret or Robert Owens. You can listen to some of the greatest EDM and electronic music tracks distributed with iMusician in our ‘I’M ELECTRONIC’ Playlist.

Conclusion

Electronic dance music is a powerful, widely popular, and rich music genre covering, as an umbrella term, more than 300 subgenres. In this article we had a look at the genre’s historical development, defining characteristics, and the significant artists influencing its evolution, as well as the digital platforms and stores relevant for current and upcoming EDM musicians.

Whether it’s techno, acid house, dubstep, drum and bass, or any other EDM sub-genre that you compose, with iMusician, you can just select the store of your choice and we will easily distribute your tracks there.

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