‘Music should always be more important than marketing’
When discussing the current state of dance music, many are quick to argue that the quality of electronic music is often compromised for the likes of fame and fortune. As of late, the vicious cycle of copying other artists and repeating the same sounds over and over again has been targeted as the reason for the genre’s decline.
But Gareth Emery proposes a new idea. In addition to the lack of originality, he points fingers at “the way we’ve squeezed down set lengths from the 3+ hours that used to be standard five years ago, to the 1 hour or at the most 90 minutes you tend to get today.” With shorter sets, Emery argues, artists “don’t get the chance to play non-obvious music… and most acts revert to smashing out the hits.”
He goes on to further explain his reasoning: “The fact is when you’re doing a 90 minute peak time set in a club, and the opener ends with a mashup of Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix and Knife Party, that ain’t a good time to build up slow and start your set with Eric Prydz or Hot Since 82. Trust me, I’ve tried. So you end up starting hard and never going back, then looking woefully at your playlist at the end of the night at all the amazing lesser known music you wanted to play but didn’t.”
In an ideal world, Gareth would choose longer sets over shorter ones so as to set the tone, “build up a room,” and lead his crowd depending on factors such as mood, venue, or occasion. However, artists run into conflict when promoters discourage longer sets, due to the all-too-common belief North American fans “‘aren’t ready’ or ‘aren’t interest’ in hearing artists play longer.”
As the UK producer gears up for his Electric For Life tour beginning in November, Emery will have complete control over his performances, which will of course be composed of more thorough sets. In paving the path for a change in the way DJs put on live shows, he is hopeful that others will soon follow suit – and in the process, help improve the quality of dance music. Read his full Facebook post below.
So today I was thinking one of the key reasons lots of dance music these days is, well, a bit shit, is not because of cakes or mashups or any of the usual stuff we’ve come to blame, but because of the way we’ve squeezed down set lengths from the 3+ hours that used to be standard five years ago, to the 1 hour or at the most 90 minutes you tend to get today. You don’t get the chance to play non-obvious music in sets that length and most acts (including me from time to time) revert to smashing out the hits.
This is how bad it’s got. A few years back, at a European festival, I was sitting in my trailer 15 minutes before my set time when the promoter ran in freaking out and wanting me to start early because the act before me (currently one of the biggest acts in the world) had walked off stage saying “we don’t have any more music”. They were scheduled for 75 minutes, but thought they were only playing an hour, so at dead on 60 minutes, they pressed stop, and fucked off leaving 10,000 fans with silence.
OK, so that’s an extreme example, but the fact is when you’re doing a 90 minute peak time set in a club, and the opener ends with a mashup of Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix and Knife Party, that ain’t a good time to build up slow and start your set with Eric Prydz or Hot Since 82. Trust me, I’ve tried. So you end up starting hard and never going back, then looking woefully at your playlist at the end of the night at all the amazing lesser known music you wanted to play but didn’t.
Anyway, I love doing long sets, being able to open for myself, build up a room, doing those few hours of the nights where every track doesn’t need to be a crowd-pleasing slammer, instead choosing delicious, bubbling groove based music that sets the mood for people entering the venue and slowly but surely gets them onto the dancefloor. After all every main course needs an appetizer (unless you’re at McDonalds).
So this year, I’ve been trying to play a little longer when I can, doing all night at the Hollywood Palladium last year, and at for Miami Music Week this year, and both were amazing. I got to do my own warm up, playing music that I’d never usually get to play (but you hear in Electric For Life each week), then my own peak time set, then my own closing set, where I got to bang out the trance including lots of my own classics.
Problem is, a lot of promoters are not really into the idea of longer sets, because they think that fans, particularly in North America, ‘aren’t ready’ or ‘aren’t interested’ in hearing artists play longer.
I disagree. I heard the same shit before I released Drive: “Why are you doing an album man? The album is dead… all people want to hear now is singles: release some singles on Spinnin’ and fuck the album” and I think going with my instincts and making sure Drive got released against the advice of many around me was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Music should always be more important than marketing.
Anyway this is coming across as a bit negative, which it’s not. One thing I have always tried to do is to lead by example, and be the change you want to see, rather than just complain about it on social media, and to have written all this without offering an alternative would have felt somewhat hollow.