Remember a few years ago when everyone was saying dubstep was dead?
Skrillex, who brought the genre from obscurity to the mainstage, started exploring break-acid-tech-noise with Dog Blood, and Skream, the original don, had already moved on to house years before. Bass stage lineups that were once dubstep front-to-back were now replaced by trap and the ever-growing future bass.
From the outside it sure seemed dead.
Except it wasn’t.
Fast forward time two years and Excision is throwing Lost Lands, a festival dedicated to dubstep. And beyond that, Lost Lands is being lauded as a triumph. The fact that tickets for 2018 sold out in an hour says enough.
So yeah, to say that dubstep was dead is clearly naive. The fact of the matter is that there will always be a core fanbase behind any genre who will never let it die; people who fell in love with the genre and continue to pursue it out of pure admiration.
In truth, there are even people more who will run and hide when it leaves the underground, and that’s where tech house is right now. Except instead of people saying “tech house is dead,” they’re saying “tech house is the new EDM”.
What’s important to remember though, is that when people say that they aren’t simply referring to the quality of music. They’re also referring to the overall popularity of the genre. Just as “EDM” doest refer only to “electronic dance music.” It refers to a DJ spinning a pre-recorded set in front of 100,000 people.
It’s no secret that the idea of unpopularity is associated with quality music. No one is proud to discover an artist after they’ve blown up, and the ability to find rare records is celebrated around the world. It’s an unwritten law among DJs to not reveal the tracks they play in their sets. To have a track that does wonders on the dance floor all to yourself is a dream come true for DJs.
The thing is though, when in regard to the music itself, popularity doesn’t actually have much effect on the quality.
Once a genre becomes number one on Beatport, there will undoubtedly be the people who try to take advantage of that. But if that’s their only motivation, there’s no way they will actually make good tech house.
Music is a business. That means there will always be people trying to exploit trends for profit.
But that also means there will always be people who are doing it out of love. Just like dubstep.
A real tech house fan would see this surge of popularity as a positive. When the public is interested in a genre it allows for more creative expression. Yes, there will be plenty of imitators, but that will push the originators to stand out. Labels will have more demos landing in their inboxes than ever before, giving them more chances to find new, innovative talent.
The only way popularity will truly make a genre of music worse is if originators abandon it out of fear.
One of the catalysts of the “tech house is new EDM” news cycle was an announcement made by Coyu.
In his address Coyu used words like “disgusted” and “degenerated” to describe the state of tech house. He goes on to to detail the scene as nothing more than a money machine, and as a “nonconformist” he simply can’t be a part of it any more.
“After many years in the game, I’ve realized that the only thing that is worthwhile is doing what fulfills you.” That’s another thing he said.
Coyu has always produced multiple styles of music besides tech house. Will those stop fulfilling him when they become popular? What is Coyu going to do when techno hits the spotlight? Is he going to run back to tech house? Is he going to start making big room house?
“The newer generation of DJs seemingly don’t have so much compunction to stay loyal to a sound. They will move around as much as possible until they get to a point where they’re earning a load of money and doing high profile commercial gigs, and that’s the problem.”
Isn’t what Coyu’s doing with tech house sound oddly similar? He clearly doesn’t have any loyalty to tech house. Except instead of moving around until he’s making money on commercial gigs, he’s moving around until he feels like he’s outside of the mainstream.
A better way to demonstrate that tech house is still strong is to stand firm in the face of commercialism.
Now social media feeds are filled with people following Coyu’s lead, perpetuating the idea that tech house is just a cash cow. They see Jamie Jones with a residency in Vegas or Diplo playing Movement as the worst thing that could happen.
What those people are actually upset about is losing their sanctuary.
They’re dreading the idea of their favorite warehouse party being invaded by the people they associate with Diplo sets and Vegas residencies. They’re worried they’ll lose all their dance floor space, and they’ll have a harder time getting to the bathroom.
Trashing a genre because people deemed undesirable are now enjoying is the antithesis of the values on which dance music culture was founded. What happened to welcoming people with open arms and being respectful no matter what?
There will always be enough people who crave something intimate and underground to the point there will always be intimate, underground parties.
Besides, many of the people at the forefront of this inquisition entered the scene less than a decade ago. Club culture is almost half a century old. The people who were there from the start have already seen all these trends come and go. The reason they’re still around is because they came in for the right reasons. They love the music. They love the community. And no amount of popularity can change that.
The most valid concern is that with more people coming to tech house sets, it will be harder to connect with individuals who share your passion for the scene. This is unavoidable, but you know the old saying “your vibe attracts your tribe.”
You could put out vibes of elitism, even though a few years ago you were the newbie latching on to a trend. Or you could put out vibes of positivity regardless of trends at the current moment.
You could like what you like. Or you could let what’s unpopular determine your taste.
Either the way, the scene will accommodate you like it always does.
It’s your choice.