Millennials driving electronic dance music to prominence in grungy NW

May 11, 2012

The Millennial generation is changing the music scene in Seattle – much like the music tastes of a prior generation lifted grunge music – by driving "electronic dance music" or EDM into the mainstream and overwhelming music venues in the region.

While it's origins date back to the early 1980s (at least), the growth of EDM from a sub-cultural trend to a dominant pop-culture genre can be seen in the simple fact that WaMu Theater, one of Seattle’s largest venues has scheduled four of its next seven shows in this genre.

As much community as music

EDM goes beyond the music focusing on the community and innovative performance of shows.

Lead by USC Events, electronic dance music has transitioned from the nightclub scene to full-sensory experience by fusing EDM artists with over-the-top stage production, amusement park rides, extreme sports demonstrations, cutting edge light and video effects and circus performers creating an event much more than just a concert.

"It's certainly an exciting time for the electronic dance music industry," says Doug McIntyre, Director of Marketing and Ticketing for USC Events. "With support for this style of music at an all-time high, we strive to provide these passionate fans with the perfect setting to experience these sounds."

USC Events has ridden the EDM boom to became a concert and events leader in the Northwest.

“Cycles change, you know? And this is the next thing. So we wanted to make sure we were taking it seriously and that we were there when it hit, “ says Chad Anderson of USC Events to The Stranger.

Among USC Events most popular shows is FreakNight, their annual Halloween party in Seattle. Last year's 'FreakNight' was the company's largest festival to date with over 15,000 attendees.

Another big EDM event in Seattle, one of the four scheduled at WaMu Theater between May 12 and Sept. 25, that combines the music with other arts and events is the critically acclaimed Dayglow tour.  

Dayglow is advertised as the “world’s largest paint party.” It features aerial acts, fire and light shows, dancers, paint cannons, in addition to big sound. The international tour comes to Seattle on May 19, headlined by Italian DJ Benny Banassi.

Effect of a big generation

The demographic of EDM enthusiasts are mostly Millennials — those born between 1982 and 2002. With a population reported between 72 and 81 million, this generation is as big as the Baby Boomer generation and possibly larger.

And they are a little different.

According to 60 Minutes, Millennials are “the most diverse generation ever: 35 percent are non-white, and the most tolerant, believing everyone should be part of the community.”

The generational belief that "everyone belongs" is a strong theme throughout the EDM culture.

P.L.U.R. or Peace, Love, Unity and Respect is the motto that structures the community of those attending EDM concerts. Concert goers repeat this motto and pass "kandi" (plastic bead bracelets) to one another as a sign of mutual admiration.

“I love EDM events because of the music, the positive atmosphere and that people are able to be themselves without being judged,” says enthusiast Dianna Beaulaurier. “I feel like I’m part of a community and it makes me want to go even more.”

Different types of electronic dance music           

Dubstep: The sound can generally be described as “tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns and occasional vocals,” according to allmusic.com. This style of electronic dance music almost always ranges from 138-142 beats per minute. Skrillex the most popular name in dubstep is one of the leaders to mainstream this genre with a Grammy award for his song ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.’

House: This uptempo genre generally ranges from 118-135 beats per minute. Evolving from the post-disco club culture in the early ‘80s house music continues to progress lead by French duo Daft Punk. Solely responsible for creating Disney’s TRON: Legacy soundtrack, Daft Punk has made great strides in mainstreaming this genre.

Techno: One of today’s most widespread genres in electronic dance music is rooted in funk, house and jazz mixed with futuristic themes. In general this genre is structured around repetitive instrumental sounds marked with bass drums, backbeats and hi-hats varying between 120-150 beats per minute. British musician Aphex Twin is regarded as “the most inventive and influential figure in contemporary electronic music,” according to The Guardian.