Earlier this year, the New York Times named electronic dance music “the concert industry’s new favorite genre“. Ben Sisario, the author of the respecting article, had a striking argument to do so: profit. He describes DJ-fees of up to one million USD for a single festival appearance, festivals with more than 150.000 spectators and ticket-prices easily exceeding $100.
Tiësto’s »Sensation White« show, a remarkable example of hilarious stadium rave pathos
Dubstep is of course no exception. With the rise of “23-year-old dubstep wunderkind” Skrillex, even commercial Dubstep-hotshots from a few months ago and their 5 million youtube-views have quickly become a pubertal side-note. The genre has undergone a fundamental shift in terms of reference points, from DMZ to Tiësto, from Croydon to Las Vegas and from Black Market to iTunes.
Martin Clark aka Blackdown, blogger, radio-host and label-owner, has been following London’s music scene for many years. In a pessimistic article entitled “End of the road: the rise of road rap and the uncertain future of the hardcore continuum“, Clark laments the declining relevance of Pirate Radio and the rise of YouTube-culture. Ironically, his station Rinse FM has finally been granted a community radio licence in 2010, after more than 16 years on air.
In one or another way, the club-culture scenes are increasingly loosing their institutions: record shops, radios and – clubs. Whereas in the past city councils were usually the greatest threats to venues, the situation is changing. Governments have started to recognise club-culture as economic factor, and so do investors.
In the 90s, Vienna’s club-culture used to be strongly interweaved with the punk-movement and the local squatting scene. In 2012, however, the two most renowned techno-venues involve a billionaire in one case, and the family of a property shark with strong ties to the far-right Freedom Party in the other. Some of the clubs realise their often impressive lineups by offering significantly higher fees to the agencies of their desired main artists. Obviously the strategy seems to pay, not least as smaller clubs and festivals find it increasingly hard to compete on the market of constantly raising artist-fees.
For the mayority of small players – artists, promoters, venues and label alike – the situation has become rather difficult. Some clubs have started to sell their warm-up slots to DJs who are willing to pay in order to play. And despite festival ticket prices of between €89 (Urban Artforms, Graz), £145 (Outlook, Pula) and around £200 (Glastonbury), many of the less-famous acts will play for little or even no money at all.
Thus, it’s no surprise, that profit margins in electronic dance music have started to attract the finance business. Some managers are already speaking of a “gold rush atmosphere”, comparing the situation with the “dot-com era”.