From our scheduled meetings, to chance encounters in smoking areas and airport lounges, there were three messages collectively shared by industry big-wigs and producers alike…
1. There is a systematic move away from ‘Tech House’ as we currently know it.
2. ‘Genres’ are historic.
3. Brands have taken over the club scene.
Let’s start with the first point, and oh is it a bold one. The love-it-or-hate-it genre for the past however long. Without naming any names (as these were very much off-the-record statements), many felt Tech House had become a bit of an ‘exclusive members club’, with many tracks sounding identical and the only way to differentiate being the name in front of the title.
Bass Loop + Filter + Rolling Snares = Success?
We advocate Tech House here and feel that the volume of noise in the industry should not be a deterrent to upcoming Tech House producers. Quite the opposite in fact. It should act as inspiration to find that bit of magic that makes you stand out.
The issue is getting the music heard by the right people, it is very much a ‘who you know’ genre. A few select DJs seem to have a monopolistic effect on the industry, and if they do not play your music then the rest of the world doesn’t care. Hot Creations crew we are looking at you.
Of course this is no criticism aimed at a fantastic label, and of course every genre has a degree of this. The issue is with the listeners. There are a few extremely influential shepherds, a mass of willing sheep, and not enough wolves shaking things up. The wolves aren’t even nearby, they are off in a completely different field, making music that isn’t defined by one genre (more on that later). The worrying truth is that we have seen this all before with EDM. It had some glory days, then a few big names became too powerful and they dictated the entire genre, leaving the listeners with very little variety, and worst of all everyone seemed happy with that.
Now we are not tarnishing Tech House with the same brush completely, but it is worrying that we have seen these signs before and if left we could see the end for Tech House as the current big party sound.
On to a more positive note…
The second recurring message at ADE was the excitement shared by just about everyone toward the producers currently making music without the limitations of ‘genres’. The likes of UK talents Denis Sulta, Theo Kottis and Elliot Adamson, immediately spring to mind, and that is only thinking within the UK. Producers who are pushing the boundaries of what gets played across the club scene. Listen to any set from the above artists and you will witness seamless jumps from Techno to Garage, House to Trance, the Classics to the Experimental. Or, listen to any recent set from Tech House royalty Patrick Topping, a master of playing what people want, with each set vastly different from the last. Rather than holding strong with his Tech House routes, he is adapting like any leading artist should if they wish to stay at the top.
In the past this style was seen as exciting, but categorically messy. The frequent changes of tempo leaving the crowds rhythm disjointed. Now however, the experimental combination of mixes keep the crowd in a constant sense of anticipation for what is coming next, rather than the standard up-down-up-down repetition of build-ups then drops (*cough* EDM *cough*).
There will always be a time and place for genres of course, the industry would collapse without any kind of guidelines, but these lines are certainly becoming more blurred as people move to define their music under the broadness of just ‘House Music’, or even simply ‘Music’, rather than its many sub-genres.
The final point is how ravers mentalities have changed globally. Just like we treat our material goods, apps and services, we are becoming less focused on products (or DJs in this instance) and more bothered about ‘brands’.
Is the line-up even important if the event is hosted by Elrow or Drumcode? Before looking at who is playing people already know what they are going to get. We live in a world where people put their trust in brands, which has both exciting and worrying consequences for the music industry.
The excitement is what these party brands can now achieve by having their cult-like followings. They can focus less on promoting their line-up and more on their venue ‘experience’. The worrying consequence is for the upcoming producers who run the risk of being left on the sidelines if they can’t get into favour with one of the big brands. With so much power over the audience, these brands need to take some responsibility in introducing crowds to new sounds and talents. Less important are the Beatport charts becoming, and more so where and who you have played for in the past.
Collectively, these three messages show the signs of a huge change in the industry. The power and influence of brands and the big names are in control, we as listeners like to think we have our own unique taste that is personal to us, but realistically the majority of us are being herded around by a select few. That is not to say these few are the House Music Illuminati, but they must recognise the power they have and use it responsibly. History shows that any mistreatment of a loyal audience, or temptations to cash in on their unknowing vulnerability will not end well.
You cannot milk a dead cow, no matter how fat it is.