Today, we bring you news from the future… as prophesized by an all-star panel of music experts we plucked from every corner of the dance music game. Maybe you've already heard the rumbles of the rising DIY underground, felt the collective swivel away from four-on-the-floor untz, or glimpsed the arrival of #dustpunk looming larger in the horizon.
Regardless, our team of writers, DJs, producers, label founders, event masterminds and all-around trendsetters—sure, call them The Avengers of EDM—are here to explain what the biggest stories of 2014 will be, and more importantly, why those stories will matter. So here's what you'll be doing, hearing, seeing, and dancing to in 2014. Are you ready for this, nah nah nah…
BREAKS ARE BACK
Definitely starting to hear more folks straying from straight-up four-on-the-floor untz. From all the young 'uns' Bmore/Philly/Jersey Club-inspired cuts to Burial, Four Tet and Erol Alkan mining vintage rave vibes (how dope is "Check Out Your Mind"?), classic drums are very much back. More please!
THE RETURN OF "PARTY MUSIC" AND OPEN FORMAT DJING
It seemed like DJs of all stripes dove deeper and deeper into their own buttholes this year. Main stage festival music alternated between The Songs With The Game Of Thrones Beat and The Songs With The Woodpecker Noise. (Better or worse than the underground alternative of One Very Long Deep House Song?) Even once-reliable mainstream club dudes who used to cut up pop from all eras seem to exclusively drop interchangeable bottle service laser beam electro and trap tunes.
I miss the vibe from when I first got into DJing, the anything goes, for-the-people feel of Hollertronix, DJ AM, and Mark Ronson mixes. It's a style that still informs what I do today—I still throw a lot of "old" tracks and recognizable joints in my sets.
Some of my favorite tunes to play out this year were Kennedy Jones' flip of the iconic merengue "Suavemente," TWRK's "BaDINGA" (essentially a super chopped-up edit of K7 "Come Baby Come"), and DJ Wonder's gleefully stoopid remix of Britney's "Baby One More Time." They are all balanced club and festival-ready sonics with sing-along worthy, well-known, slightly goofy vocals and riffs. I hope that more producers put their spin on feel-good throwbacks like this, keeping a needed sense of fun and humor alive.
FESTIVAL ELECTRO GETS CLEVER?
Not a real supergroup, but the Parisian House Mafia of DJ Snake, Mercer and Tchami were responsible for some of my favorite "EDM" tunes of the past year, managing to be creative and in-your-face at the same time. (Engineering goes a long way, kids!) Big room tunes and festival music can often be interchangeable and faceless—a bunch of guys remaking the same PEW PEW PEW PEW laser song—but it's awesome when that power can be used to make something I actually like on a musical level.
These guys are leading the charge along with the likes of Nom De Strip, Clockwork and Sleepy Tom in North America. All the recent Owsla records have had a track or two I've dug as well. It's nice to see heavy stuff moving away from dubstep comedy noises across the board.
FUCCBOI SEASON IS OVER
Hypebeast, swaghag, fuccboi… call him/her what you want, but it's officially quiet for paying $300 for a fake jersey that says COOL AF on the back (or the crotch of your shorts). With an increasing number of platforms like to.be where you can create full-on sublimation prints using your own inside jokes, you can stop thirstily needing to be in on everyone else's. I'm really looking forward to seeing this democratize the streetwear landscape, which it will. Resistance is futile.
BUT REVERSE APOPHENIA IS JUST BEGINNING
Informational infrastructure is now as sprawling as the walls that hold its servers, and the adaptive mind has reconditioned itself as a reflexive data sieve that instinctively favors either the most popular, or most recent, source of information; frequently, neither of which is the purest or most reliable. 2014 is less about charting existing patterns; it's time to reclaim one's status as a definitive node around which patterns originate, architecting infinite circumstance from more manageable finite outcomes. If you're going to chase a tail you'll never catch for more than a rare, blissful moment, it might as well be your own.
THE ARRIVAL OF #GOATSEA + #DUSTPUNK
SELLING MUSIC IS THE NEW GIVING MUSIC AWAY
A sneaky byproduct of the whole Beyonce secret album thing was that you had to buy it—even music journalists did!—to have any clue of what it was about. Without any critical voices to lessen your resolve, or singles/Soundcloud leaks to help shape your opinion, your only choice was to shell out $16… not the 99-cents price tag Gaga put on Born This Way, which proved absolutely nothing.
This was Daft Punk's idea of bringing back the joy of experiencing a record for the first time, the old "ripping off the shrink-wrap" moment—only more deftly executed because Daft Punk isn't Bey and needed the pre-release marketing push. The public in 2014 will feel good about buying music again. Call it "eventizing" music sales.
THE BRANDS ARE COMING!
EDM will soon rival country and pop as the most sponsored music genre ever. 2014 will see the first major brand sponsorships of dance music festivals, and even TV commercials featuring DJs. This outpouring of money will help extend EDM's life while also buoying the underground as the desire for a less commoditized alternative grows.
SKRILLEX WILL BE BACK TO SAVE DUBSTEP
Sonny Moore took a year off from being Skrillex to go in the Dog Blood direction and act as a gracious benefactor to other artists. He'll be back in 2014, with new music (this is a guess) and a tour (this is a know). One of the only artists capable of "moving the needle," his presence in the market could shift things and bring back "dubstep," which has been waning as an individual genre.
THE STREAMING WARS HAVE BEGUN
Spotify gets criticized for ripping off artists, yet they are posting significant loses. Techcrunch calculates that Spotify would have to reduce royalties from 70% of revenue to 55% to turn a negligible profit, but the backlash from artists would be enormous. Or, they could try charging more, and risk losing users. From Napster to YouTube and Soundcloud, the real issue, which Spotify is compounding, is the strategy of gobbling up users by destroying the value of music. It's a race to the bottom, which only a few providers can survive. So why is Beats getting in the game? Because they think they can win.
ALL HAIL THE 70s DISCO ETHIC
Hip-hop and EDM will grow closer, and not just through trap, but also future beats, bass, UK garage, moombahton, Jersey club, and even nu-disco and deep house. Disclosure even named Dilla and Primo as some of their biggest influences. All this makes sense, since dance music and hip-hop share similar 70s remix roots. 2014 will see each genre make the other more culturally sensitive and diverse, bringing back the inclusive 70s disco ethic. Or I'm wrong, and it'll be one big fist pumping bro down.
THE LACK OF AN EDM LIFESTYLE MIGHT POP THE EDM BUBBLE
Sure, there are lifestyle elements associated with EDM, but in a genre largely devoid of lyrics, it needs to be better articulated (or invented) for the brands to jump on board in a bigger way. Somehow, Avicii posing in Ralph Lauren ads doesn't resonate like rappers rocking Tommy Hill and ice. I think the lack of actual words in EDM telling us how to eat, vote, love, talk, act—and especially what to buy—is what fuels the talk of an EDM bubble and gives brands pause.
SOMEONE NEEDS TO SOLVE THE REMIX PROBLEM
Much of the most exiting music of 2014 will continue to come from indie producers releasing work with uncleared samples. Shazam and Spotify don't service bootlegs and mashups, and Youtube and Soundcloud aren't supposed to. A solution to the sample clearance problem could breath new life into the music biz.
At Legitmix, we're working on a technological solution, while lots of experts are clamoring for statutory licenses similar to those used for cover songs. Remixers and the artists they sample will likely continue to squabble and see their work devalued, while consumers get more used to not paying for music. But there have never been more intelligent people from different milieus thinking about this issue.
OBAMA-INSPIRED "YES WE CAN" CAMPAIGNS FOR ALBUMS
Leveraging your existing audience to gain a high-ranking hashtag is the new PR campaign—see Beyonce's Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr explosion as a prime example. As all artists dive further into the corporate money chasing game, the line between mainstream and underground will appear to dissolve even further. The real difference between the two will continue to be that corporate-backed artists will innovate ways to sell music, while underground artists will innovate music.
THE AFRO-HOUSE TAKEOVER
Who knows what newly-invented micro-genre will be exploited amongst the Soundcloud EDM hordes next. I gave up when commercial rap became EDM trap. But house music produced by Africans has been consistently developing over the past several years, with more and more producers joining the ranks of their American and European peers. With the UK turning back to four-on-the floor dance tunes in 2013 (and as the UK goes, the US follows), house music will be the surest way for an African artist to really make a solid impact across the globe. Here's hoping this happens in 2014.
THE RISE OF THE DIY
With attention spans at an all time low, multi-stimulus DIY parties are just more appealing than the Big Name DJ nights at heavily-regulated nightclubs.
Good DIY parties are like blank canvases. People can create one-night only environments that will never happen again. While a club has intelligent lighting and maybe a hoola-hooping girl, I've been to (and helped create) parties with humans in life-size fishtanks watching TV or licking each other for six hours, and entire rooms made out of bubble wrap where people can get busy, take a nap, or whack themselves against the walls.
A really great party isn't a planetarium where people just stare at the stage. It's all about getting them to interact with each other. I think the doors are opening for real creatives to take nightlife back from the suits and the social-media celebrity laptop DJs they've spent too much money on.
GENRE-SPECIFIC PARTIES ARE GOING THE WAY OF THE DINOSAUR
In New York, Q-Tip's night at Output, Jacques Greene's Vase parties, Night People, and Tiki Disco are all playing dance music spanning many decades and genres. In the UK, the Numbers party is taking some of the most cutting-edge new music and combining it with classics.
I've always liked the idea of packaging underground music for ordinary people. People who don't know specific songs or producers tend to get looser when things they know are sprinkled in. I have nothing against one-genre parties, I just think they appeal more to people who are educated in that genre more then the passerby. The best parties of 2014 will have a mix of every kind of person—the people who just got off work and just want to dance and blow off steam, as well as the true music heads.
The popularity of artists like George Fitzgerald, MK, Dusky, Huxley, and Chris Malinchak this year suggests that dance fans are losing their desire to obliterate themselves in techno rooms filled with unforgiving beats. In 2014, fans will have lots of #feelings again and delight in 'soulful' sounds as vocal reworks become more prevalent.
SAD GOTH SOUNDSCAPES
Malaise from years of appearing joyful on the dance floor has created a growing group of the socially-removed, monochromatically dressed, minimally dancing heads who are craving nightlife but really don't want to have to do much about it. Soundscape artists like Onehotrix Point Never, Burial, and Forest Swords are perfect fodder for discussion between everyone from the 40-something industry nerds to the 20-something college enthusiast.
We'll see more cryogenics, more lasers, more inflatables, and more installations as artists try not to get bored with constant festival shows and club plays. In the mainstream world, Production Club's sensational work for Skrillex and Zedd, Amon Tobin ISAM Live 2.0, and subFocus' The Tunnel are all noteworthy, while the seriously immersive environments of CityFox, Robot Heart, Ben Klock and the legendary Plastikman are leading the way in the underground.