Alright, we need to come to grips with something before we begin; bass music has become part of popular culture and as such, we are going to have to except certain truths that come along with that fact. I know being underground is cool, and I am sure that if you look hard enough you can still find some solid underground (aka sketchy, dangerous and totally awesome) events. But in the last few years’ bass music has taken off and with that has ushered in some exploitation of EDM in popular culture. Companies have already begun to use our music to sling their products and a small number of producers are doing production work for lazy auto-tune addicted pop stars. But, the rise in popularity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It cuts both ways. On one hand, we have to put up with: incessant jokes about dubstep, idiots like Madonna making generalizations about the EDM community and a new wave of generic sounding bass music. But on the other hand we have more access than ever to the type of music we love so much! It is apparent that there is a lot more positivity in its rise in popularity than negativity.
An interesting dichotomy exists between the former underground sound of electronic music and popular culture. The use of samples from popular culture has been going on for as long as I can remember. Even if we look at the fundamental sounds of drum and bass it came from an instrumental version of a song from an Oscar winning movie. Maybe the mainstreaming of bass culture is just payback for decades of sampling [sic]. In recent years the balance has shifted. The media feedback loop (credit: Douglas Rushkoff – Media Virus) has turned its eyes on the EDM community.
The transition from being underground to mainstream has taken a long time (much longer if you just look at North America). For instance, the scene in the UK has been a prevalent part of their popular culture for over a decade. Drum and bass exploded the same way in the UK that dubstep has exploded in North America; though the UK has also experienced a similarly huge dubstep explosion. It is very apparent in British television and movies that drum and bass and more recently dubstep has been ingrained into the broadcasted identity of their youth. They have shows like The Ali-G show, Skins, Misfits, Top Gear all of them with bass heavy sound tracks. Here in North America the use of bass music has begun as well. The Glitch Mob on America’s Got Talent, Kraddy in the Thor trailer, and the strangely misplaced use of dubstep in the trailer for Red Tails.
Video games have been a great medium for the proliferation of electronic music. Considering the 8bit origins of game soundtracks and its similarity to early versions of techno, it is only natural that the relationship would continue to grow together. As graphics got better, so did the soundtracks associated with the games. I remember how surprised I was playing GTA III and tuned in to MSX FM and was greeted by my favorite bass line.
I would be remised if I didn’t mention Skrillex’s Grammy win. Even though his brand of dubstep isn’t usually to my personal taste, it is undeniable that it gave a form of mainstream credibility that bass music hadn’t experienced in the past. With the mainstreaming of electronic music it has opened up the gates of a broader critical look at the genre as a whole. When the dust finally clears, the landscape of bass music will have expanded out through all forms of music. We are already seeing it now, and over the next few years the hybrid genres that have come into existence will create an unstoppable momentum for bass music as a whole.
With bass culture’s newfound fame, it has brought new blood in to the EDM community. For years, it felt as though our community was beginning to wane but then came this influx of new faces – excited to be part of such a fantastic and vibrant subculture. I remember what it is was like when I heard drum and bass for the first time – It was thrilling! I see that same reaction when I talk to new people at their first dubstep show.
So, what does this mean for our community? The TV, music and movie industries have taken notice. We have not seen the crest in the popularity and even though someday interest will begin to wane again; we still have a lot more time in the limelight. Maybe I should get started on my pitch for a Three’s Company type TV show – but instead of Jack, Krissy and Janet it would be Bassnectar, Kraddy and Nu-Mark. Just the thought of the cross-promotion is enough to get some Hollywood suit’s heart rate up.
And now for your consideration – the future of advertising.