Electronic Music and The Mainstream

You may, or may not, remember way back when this blog first started, I mentioned that perhaps from time to time I would have guest articles from other people. Well, today is the first of those. This piece was written by my good friend Weeks – he’s a connoisseur of electronic music, and a rabid Aphex Twin fan, but don’t hate him for that, give the article a read…

Electronic Music and The Mainstream – by Weeks.

I’m not so much referring to electronic music that appears in the mainstream, because as far as I’m concerned there isn’t any proper electronic music in the mainstream. Nor am I referring to dance music, as that is concerned with, well, dancing, more than the electronic medium with which it’s created.

So, I’m referring to the likes of; Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Orbital, Autechre, DJ Shadow, Luke Vibert, DJ Food, etc and why these bands and artists are never in the mainstream. I started thinking about this when reading a post in FIZIKZ’s last.fm group about how electronic music is, on the whole, conspicuously missing from rateyourmusic.com‘s top 1000.

Obviously, being a huge electronica fan, I am a little biased. But I cannot for the life of me work out how anyone couldn’t appreciate works such as In Sides by Orbital or Endtroducting by DJ Shadow. I’m thankfully aware I’m not a complete freak; I’ve met countless people, on the internet and the “other place”, who also appreciate the same artists as I do. But in no way do these people make up the mainstream. They need to be sought out. They are the sort of people who are normally found plugged into their portable music players with a dreamy and content look on their faces, and sometimes they come together in various drum’n’bass or turntabalism nights that appear about once a month in local nightclubs (sometimes less if you live in the arse-end of nowhere, which I do).

A while back, I read a 2006 predictions article on kuro5hin which predicted electronic music will “come back to fill the void.” That statement asks two questions: Firstly, was it ever here? We had Depeche Mode, but that seems a world away from the complex electronic arrangements of the aforementioned artists. Secondly, will it ever reach a mainstream audience? BBC News once had an article pertaining how a large proportion of the population have difficulty following complex pieces of music – something I experienced when I started to listen to classical music, which ceased after prolonged exposure. If that is true, it begs the question will the populous as a whole ever give electronic music enough of a chance? Will it remain a niche market, along side classical music and jazz, or will it, as the kuro5hin article states, break on through to the other side? Thoughts?

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Interesting thoughts there from Señor Weeks. I personally think there are many factors as to why we never see much electronic music in the mainstream. Firstly there are strict rules on releasing a single in the charts, like; the track cannot be any longer than about 3m20s. Don’t find many BOC, Aphex Twin, or Orbital tracks that are bang on that length, it’s either far shorter or much, much, longer. But mainly, the charts are all about making money and making it quickly. The big-wigs have found tried and tested methods to maximise profits – get a catchy beat/bassline (usually ripped off from a classic song), then get a good looking person to sing some catchy lyrics over the top and have them dance half naked in the video. After that, they just have to make sure it gets played on the tv and radio at least 30 times a day, and hey presto! There’s never much in the charts with artistic integrity. Just my thoughts anyway.

In other news, Tru Thoughts have tickled my fancy. Apparently they have some new releases; The Broken Keys – Gravity, Quantic – An Announcement To Answer, and Alice Russell – Under The Munka Moon II. The Broken Keys is the name for the collaborative project between Nostalgia 77 and Natural Self, this promises to be hella jazzy and is out now. The new LP from Quantic took over 18 months to make and was recorded mostly via a laptop at various locations around the globe, this is meant to demonstrate the next step in the Quantic sound, deeper, and mature like a fine wine. Lastly, Alice Russell is back with Under The Munka Moon II – this is 13 tracks worth of wicked covers, collaborations, and remixes with artists such as; DJ Vadim, Bonobo, Nostalgia 77, Natural Self, and TM Juke. I believe this one is due out shortly. Cant wait to get my grubby little hands on all three. Anyway, I’ll leave you with a track…

Boards of Canada – Happy Cycling
>> download <<
This download is a sample of the music only and must be deleted from your computer within 24 hours of downloading. This download link will expire on 29th July.

Don’t forget to leave some comments with regards to Weeks’ article, I know he’ll be very interested to hear other peoples’ views on the topic. If ever you have something you’d like to share, or you’ve recently been to a festival and fancy doing a write-up, give me a shout as I would like to put that sort of stuff up on the blog. Bye for now!

Useful links:

  • http://www.last.fm/user/turnado Tom

    Nice one Weeks, this is a topic which comes up in my mind almost everyday, being a somewhat larry amungst my friends whom only a handfull will give Electronica a chance.
    To be honest. I like it the way it is. I don’t care if I get stick from people who keep the Artic Monkeys on repeat all day because thats what everyone else is doing, its about the feeling you get when you play a track which you havn’t heard in weeks and it just causes instant happiness, something you don’t get if you’re music sounds the same as every other band there is and is played all day on the radio.

    A good example of something special going mainstream is Lily Allen. I was listening to her before any of my friends knew who she was. Her single comes out and everyone is singing it and claiming to be her biggest fan. I know this was always going to happen, but the fact that everyone listens to it somehow takes away from the pleasure of listening to it, and when you hear it everyday, it gets boring.

    I’m glad I don’t hear the class of Aphex Twin every single day, its far better to keep it as a treat, the wait makes it even better.

    Anyway I’ll stop ranting, havn’t slept properly for a few days so probably makes no sense either but in short, nice article on an interesting topic, and nice summary Jeej :-)

  • http://www.last.fm/user/turnado Tom

    Nice one Weeks, this is a topic which comes up in my mind almost everyday, being a somewhat larry amungst my friends whom only a handfull will give Electronica a chance.
    To be honest. I like it the way it is. I don’t care if I get stick from people who keep the Artic Monkeys on repeat all day because thats what everyone else is doing, its about the feeling you get when you play a track which you havn’t heard in weeks and it just causes instant happiness, something you don’t get if you’re music sounds the same as every other band there is and is played all day on the radio.

    A good example of something special going mainstream is Lily Allen. I was listening to her before any of my friends knew who she was. Her single comes out and everyone is singing it and claiming to be her biggest fan. I know this was always going to happen, but the fact that everyone listens to it somehow takes away from the pleasure of listening to it, and when you hear it everyday, it gets boring.

    I’m glad I don’t hear the class of Aphex Twin every single day, its far better to keep it as a treat, the wait makes it even better.

    Anyway I’ll stop ranting, havn’t slept properly for a few days so probably makes no sense either but in short, nice article on an interesting topic, and nice summary Jeej :-)

  • http://monthly.wordpress.com/ monthly

    I’m starting to actually find that mainstream and what we’d associate with the “underground” are actually starting to bridge in to each other, well, in one direction certainly. I’ve known a fair bit of house music for a while, and on compilations you start to stop seeing less DJ IbizaInYourFace and more artists like Nightmares On Wax, Felix Da Housecat for example. Ok, they’re not particularly House-y, but people are becoming open arms to something different.
    Yesterday, I saw a GIRL on a TRAIN, wearing PINK, and she was listening to Cut Chemist! I almost enjoyed hearing the tinny treble coming out of very loud earphones.
    I’ve almost forgotten where I was going with this, I guess: Heads up guys, you might just find a girlfriend who’s found music even YOU don’t know about. (Not sexist)

  • http://monthly.wordpress.com/ monthly

    I’m starting to actually find that mainstream and what we’d associate with the “underground” are actually starting to bridge in to each other, well, in one direction certainly. I’ve known a fair bit of house music for a while, and on compilations you start to stop seeing less DJ IbizaInYourFace and more artists like Nightmares On Wax, Felix Da Housecat for example. Ok, they’re not particularly House-y, but people are becoming open arms to something different.
    Yesterday, I saw a GIRL on a TRAIN, wearing PINK, and she was listening to Cut Chemist! I almost enjoyed hearing the tinny treble coming out of very loud earphones.
    I’ve almost forgotten where I was going with this, I guess: Heads up guys, you might just find a girlfriend who’s found music even YOU don’t know about. (Not sexist)

  • http://jeej.wordpress.com/ jeej

    I love the disclaimer in brackets!

    I know recently there’s been that software in the news that labels are using to determine whether their songs will do well in the charts, people like James Blunt and Moby use it, apparently. It basically calculates whether a listener will enjoy it as much as previous hits – scans for the same structure etc…

    I think it’s down to how much exposure someone has had of a certain sound and how open minded they are. I have a friend that wont even listen to music unless she’s heard it on the radio half a dozen times first. I leant her the Damien Rice album as a substitute for James Blunt, and even an Eels album and Kings of Leon. She didn’t bloody touch them. In fact, she’d only listen to Red Morning Light off the first KOL album cos she knew it!!! She even turned her nose up at the Gnarls Barkley album until it got played and played on the radio over and over. Drives me insane.

    What I’m saying is; the mainstream don’t go looking for new or different music. They wait for it to come to them – happy in the knowledge that they’ll be happy with whatever is presented to them on the radio or tv. My sister cant even explain why she likes the music she listens too, it’s like she’s been possessed by Shakira’s hips or something.

  • http://jeej.wordpress.com/ jeej

    I love the disclaimer in brackets!

    I know recently there’s been that software in the news that labels are using to determine whether their songs will do well in the charts, people like James Blunt and Moby use it, apparently. It basically calculates whether a listener will enjoy it as much as previous hits – scans for the same structure etc…

    I think it’s down to how much exposure someone has had of a certain sound and how open minded they are. I have a friend that wont even listen to music unless she’s heard it on the radio half a dozen times first. I leant her the Damien Rice album as a substitute for James Blunt, and even an Eels album and Kings of Leon. She didn’t bloody touch them. In fact, she’d only listen to Red Morning Light off the first KOL album cos she knew it!!! She even turned her nose up at the Gnarls Barkley album until it got played and played on the radio over and over. Drives me insane.

    What I’m saying is; the mainstream don’t go looking for new or different music. They wait for it to come to them – happy in the knowledge that they’ll be happy with whatever is presented to them on the radio or tv. My sister cant even explain why she likes the music she listens too, it’s like she’s been possessed by Shakira’s hips or something.

  • http://monthly.wordpress.com/ monthly

    haha I know the types. And to be fair, it’s mainly girls. Absolutely petrified of looking different/weird.

  • http://monthly.wordpress.com/ monthly

    haha I know the types. And to be fair, it’s mainly girls. Absolutely petrified of looking different/weird.

  • Aaron

    I understood singles couldn’t have more than three tracks, shutting out dance singles completely as one of their selling points used to be good value for money and many remixes, but I didn’t realise tracks cannot be longer than around 3m20. It almost seems an artist’s work must be butchered before it can even enter the charts.

    A part of me is glad my preferred musical genre is hidden away, it makes it special somehow, almost like a secret. As long as I can seek out new artists, something the internet is invaluable for, and they keep getting paid enough, something I assume happens, I suppose it doesn’t really matter if every idiot listens to my preferred genre or not.

    It would be nice to have a mainstream which opens up opportunities not just to music executives who are manufactoring bands and marketing them to people who seem to have heard nothing but the spice girls from birth, but to people who a real love for music and create music in their space time. To that end, myspace seems to be spurting out a lot of unknown artists. I even saw a music festival with a ‘myspace tent’ advertised.

    It would be nice to open up the mainstream, perhaps even educate people in the many genres of music.

    Oh and girls with a good music taste, I met a girl like that once. Ah good times, good times. If you both choose to fill your heads with the same kind of music, it often seems destined you’ll get along.

  • Aaron

    I understood singles couldn’t have more than three tracks, shutting out dance singles completely as one of their selling points used to be good value for money and many remixes, but I didn’t realise tracks cannot be longer than around 3m20. It almost seems an artist’s work must be butchered before it can even enter the charts.

    A part of me is glad my preferred musical genre is hidden away, it makes it special somehow, almost like a secret. As long as I can seek out new artists, something the internet is invaluable for, and they keep getting paid enough, something I assume happens, I suppose it doesn’t really matter if every idiot listens to my preferred genre or not.

    It would be nice to have a mainstream which opens up opportunities not just to music executives who are manufactoring bands and marketing them to people who seem to have heard nothing but the spice girls from birth, but to people who a real love for music and create music in their space time. To that end, myspace seems to be spurting out a lot of unknown artists. I even saw a music festival with a ‘myspace tent’ advertised.

    It would be nice to open up the mainstream, perhaps even educate people in the many genres of music.

    Oh and girls with a good music taste, I met a girl like that once. Ah good times, good times. If you both choose to fill your heads with the same kind of music, it often seems destined you’ll get along.

  • http://jeej.wordpress.com/ jeej

    Artists work often does have to be butchered before it’s released for the charts. I think Jamie T had to get rid of about 2 verses in his track ‘Sheila’ before it got its chart release.

  • http://jeej.wordpress.com/ jeej

    Artists work often does have to be butchered before it’s released for the charts. I think Jamie T had to get rid of about 2 verses in his track ‘Sheila’ before it got its chart release.

  • e1

    Found this whilst browsing around. Excellent article, I’d like to agree with those above who said they prefered the genre be niche and secret. It’s like we steal away into the night to steamy backhouse nightclubs and enjoy our fine wine, so to speak. People who listen to the mainstream listen to music for different reasons. They `hear` the music, but they don’t `listen` to it. People who are really into their electronic music are people who are passionate about music. Fact.

  • e1

    Found this whilst browsing around. Excellent article, I’d like to agree with those above who said they prefered the genre be niche and secret. It’s like we steal away into the night to steamy backhouse nightclubs and enjoy our fine wine, so to speak. People who listen to the mainstream listen to music for different reasons. They `hear` the music, but they don’t `listen` to it. People who are really into their electronic music are people who are passionate about music. Fact.

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