Headliners vs. Music vs. Experience

By Ravi in DJ News, DJ's, EDM, EDM News
Tuesday, August 20, 2013, 6:35pm. (Updated: 8/20/13 at 7:21pm) Add comments

Trends in popular music are as old as Elvis.
Here we examine what exactly people are coming to EDM events for…
Words by Josh van Dyk and Ravi Bayanker
contributions by Mebaa Braha, LJ MTX, Pauly Nguyen

fake edm festival poster

We’ve seen dance music move from a music/experience-driven underground to a headliner/name-driven machine. So what is it, we ask, that makes an event worth going to? Is it the name behind the decks? The music pumping through the speakers? The venue? The production? The people?

Of course the artist and the type of music he/she spins is important, but is basing your entire experience on a name really the way to go? If music is good then it’s good, if it’s bad then it’s bad. If an amazing headliner with amazing music draws a douchey crowd, will you still have a good time?

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Does headlining multiple continents mean an artist should be held to a different standard? For better or worse… Loving something because it’s the popular thing is a slippery slope.

Some people are drawn in by a trend and start to dig deeper. They become long-term consumers. Others jump from trend to trend. Dance music is experiencing an incredible growth phase economically. But how can agents, promoters, artists and their management capitalize on that without getting away from what made it so good to begin with? Without whoring it out and leaving fans with a watered down product?

No. There is not a picture of a DJ here.
The concept of something being ‘watered down’ is an opinion.


Events are more than just a DJ set. The lights, venue, crowd, music and dancing all come together to create a fun show. Sometimes local artists can anchor an experience just as well as international headliners. It all boils down to how the fans process it. It’s possible that right now it’s being processed in a less than desirable manner. Then again, nothing beats hearing an artist that produced an amazing track playing said track. Would you rather hear Above & Beyond or Roberto Gonzalez close with satellite? Both acts are phenomenal, we’re just being realistic.

Does the fact that something is popular make it good?
It really depends on why it’s popular.
Michael Jackson was the king of pop for a reason.

sunday school zoo

Electric Zoo has it all in a very hands-on, approachable manner. Made Event’s never-ending desire to expose fans to a unique experience anchored by dope techno is unparalleled.

EDM festivals are popping up like dandelions across America. Some are just multi-stage headliner events. Some, like Electric Zoo, EDC and Life in Color bring more than just DJs. They feature craft vendors, local food trucks, reckless paint explosions, aerialists, custom stage productions, carnival rides, promoted themes, and a myriad of other, non-music related attractions. They also have the opportunity to present unique, label-focused stages and mix things up to expose fans to new artists.

Electric Zoo happens on NYC’s Randall’s Island on Labor Day Weekend.
Life in Color’s biggest event ever happens 9/21 at the RFK Stadium Grounds in Washington, DC!

Electric Daisy Carnival founder Pasquale Rotella has been adamant about bringing EDM back to its roots. He’s gone as far as creating the Insomniac Discovery Project. It grants unknown DJs coveted time slots on EDC stages based on demos. It’s a step in the right direction giving hard working producers and DJs the respect and recognition they deserve… But are they hard working? Do they deserve it? There are a ton of great DJs out there. There are a ton of great producers out there. What makes one better than the other? What ever happened to the concept of blood, sweat and tears? Is it as easy as emailing a SoundCloud link? Is it about more than just music? To be a touring headliner, sure. It’s about timing, the right look, good industry relationships and umm… good music… and a unique sound that compliments the times.

Can EDM continue to grow if the focus moves
from big-named headliners to just good music and a fun time?

Should it be about supporting the DJs who are kind and generous? Maybe. But we live in a ‘what have you done for me lately’ society. Sometimes hard work simply isn’t enough. It should be about supporting and helping your friends. It should be about giving the little guy a chance. But the little guy should also be working his ass off.

“Our strategy moving forward is we don’t want to book the [big] guys… I don’t want to be a promoter. My passion is not selling tickets and making money. I want to create an experience. You don’t need to book the big acts who sell out arenas.”

– Pasquale Rotella

In that sense Pasquale is right.

glow land club glow in the dark party

Click on the photo to experience GLOW LAND… Washington, DC’s true Glow in the Dark fantasy wonderland.

Glow was started when no one in America really knew who Armin van Buuren or Tiesto were. Maybe in NY, LA, Miami and Chicago, but that’s about it, really. It was about the sound of dance music, glow sticks and a good time. But you can clearly see that more people are coming out to see Above & Beyond at Echostage than Henrik B at Ultrabar. There are several reasons, but at the end of the day, building and exposing new talent to the market is incredibly important for music. Whether it’s a rising international star or a really solid local, it should be about the experience.

In light of that, we’ll be bringing you GLOW LAND on Saturday October 4th. Yes the headliners are Thomas Gold and Deniz Koyu, but the bigger picture is the experience we plan to create. A journey back to our roots. On that night, the doors at Echostage will act as a portal to another dimension (ok… they kind of do already, but this time it will be even more!). And that’s what dance music should be about – forgetting reality for a few hours in the name of fun… and PLUR if that’s your thing.

According to Josh van Dyk – “One of the best times I’ve personally had at a show, it wasn’t sold out and there wasn’t anyone flying in. It was all locals who knew each other and played whatever kind of music they wanted to. After the DJs finished spinning they came down and danced with the rest of us. It was about the entire experience and not just the name on a flyer.”

Opener or headliner, a DJ is still a DJ.

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