Masked idiot pretends to DJ and we all die a little inside. Again.

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By now you’ve probably heard about it. A particular masked “DJ” recently made the dance music world a little worse. Also, someone dressed as Colonel Sanders got on stage at Ultra Music Festival and ushered in the undeniable beginning of the end of the EDM bubble.

But really folks, is it all that surprising? Other than it took until now for something like this to happen, that is. Let’s break it down to the core, shall we? Someone paid money to get up on stage in a lighted mask and play formulaic music while bobbing around a bit to garner awareness for a brand image. We’ve really never seen this before? This is a pearl-clutching level event? Reality check, this has been happening for a long time. The only difference was that it was done overtly and for a brand image that isn’t directly related to dance music.

Selling the brand image

Let’s have a moment of honesty, shall we? The Colonel’s caricature was spot on of the actual caricature of what the big room/festival/EDM/main stage has become. The helmet (whether it be a rodent, dessert, robot, or master of chicken) represents a brand image that is pushed forward for recognition and sales. Something that has become more prevalent in a world where the music is so saturated and homogeneous that visual branding has become a primary vehicle for these kinds of artists to set themselves apart. Because, god forbid, it be musically (and yes, I am aware that your favorite helmet wearing artist actually has talent and blah blah blah, shhh… I’m talking about the other helmet wearing artists). Even the talented likes of Daft Punk still have a brand to push, one that involves helmets, that helped set them apart (especially since they were the first in the dance music arena to do so, and also you know, did make music that not everyone else was making at the time).

And the music, was it really any different from what gets played up there normally? If we took out any chicken references and played it in the middle of some else’s main stage set would anyone notice? Hell, leave the chicken references in there and it probably would have been labeled genius coming from anyone not dressed as Mr. Sanders.

Those advertising dollars

DJ Sanders isn’t the first one on stage as a result of lining someone’s pockets, directly or indirectly. Do you really think it is chance or the pure will of the people that some of these DJs musicians people wannabes with questionable talent, a dream, and a sizable label, agency, and or manager invested in them end up on the stage or in the charts? Money buys ghost writers, studio time, advertising, exposure, and yes, stage time. Music doesn’t need to be the best to make it to the top, it just needs to be marketable. We’ll dive deeper into that in future posts, for now let’s continue on about how the King of Chicken is the natural result of our follies.

Corporate sponsorship for events and artists is not new, but this is about as far as you can take the advertising during a show. Short of the DJs playing an ad during their sets. New white label? Nah, just a new ad for Alka-Seltzer, plop plop fizz fizz untza untza. What I want to know is how many people were in that long line of a decision-making process that green-lighted this thing. Not one person of authority said “probably not a good idea”? On KFC’s side I get it, a great new opportunity to get in front of a ton of Millennials (the current target demographic for most brands). But Ultra, come on, what were you thinking. How much was the check that bought whatever last bit of integrity you had? Did they have you under duress? Your puppy at gunpoint? Is there some fried chicken mafia I’ve never heard of? Was it drugs? Is weed legal in Miami yet? It was drugs, wasn’t it? You were high, eating chicken and went, “You know what would be funny….”

This:

 

The indignant

One last thing I’d like to address: the shock and indignation that has been expressed by some about this, as if this was some unjust act thrown upon the dance scene. This didn’t just happen overnight, this is the result of what we’ve allowed and supported for years. This is what happens when you let business dictate the music instead of the music dictating the business. And no, this five-minute mistake wouldn’t have changed anything were it given to some “worthy up and comer”. It didn’t mar the industry, that was done long ago to allow something like this to happen. I just hope this forces people to face what the industry has become. Maybe it is time to wake up, support local events, local artists. Remember what the underground was about. In part, freedom from B.S. like this.

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Where Avicii went wrong

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Avicii recently came under fire after premiering some new music from his upcoming album during his set at Ultra Music Festival (UMF). Many complained it was an awkward and confusing session of country rock. Ultimately, it was by large not received well and it prompted him to respond to the criticism via his Facebook page. Defending himself, he claimed that people didn’t understand and that his upcoming album is not ‘country’ but rather “something fun and different” and that it is about “experimentation and about showing the endless possibilities of house and electronic music.” Did he make a career-killing move as many suggest, or is he right and people just aren’t getting it? Let’s examine.

Avicii went wrong overall thinking he could go experimental after entering the industry via the Pop market. He speaks of staying true to his sound, which if was the case, he shouldn’t have tried to experiment. The Top-40 of any genre isn’t generally known for it’s uniqueness, but rather for the tried and tested mainstream sounds. Experimental sounds are just that, they brave new waters, push something forward that hasn’t had mainstream exposure. UMF is a Top-40 dance music event, not exactly the best venue for something that isn’t mainstream. He would have been better off taking any experimentation to the Winter Music Conference pool parties, which historically are a good source to discover new sounds, ideas, and talent.

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Avicii made the mistake that many people make these days, thinking that if it is dance music it automatically falls to the underground. Long gone are those days. Dance music, for better or worse, has entered the mainstream. There is still plenty of underground music within the culture, but nothing that I have heard Avicii make would fall into the category. He entered the dance music industry consciousness through the mainstream, and he will need to stay there if he expects to keep the number of fans he has become accustomed to.

People, by large, are resistant to change. Expecting them to be open-minded and capable of adapting to something they didn’t expect is an oft-made mistake. Avicii went wrong in thinking that people who spent a ton of money to see a Top-40 show would be open to something they didn’t expect. Had he previously spent some time in his career demonstrating an experimental side, or even producing a variety of styles, his attempts might have been better received. Instead, he built his name upon a single sound/style and that is what people now expect from him.

Ultimately I applaud him for thinking outside the box, I hope he continues to embrace the experimental, we could definitely use more of it to prevent the inevitable failure of the scene we are currently facing. But seriously, Avicii, you have built your fans from the mainstream, kiss them good-bye if you step out.

P.S. – Another common mistake that Avicii made, which is a bit of a pet peeve, just because your music is 4/4, don’t automatically call it House. Avicii, more power to you, but your music is not House.

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