warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Has EDC Become Too Mainstream?

Tanaya Ghosh |
August 6, 2013 | 7:23 a.m. PDT

Music Writer

Hardwell's headlining set on Day 3 of EDC 2013 (Tanaya Ghosh)
Hardwell's headlining set on Day 3 of EDC 2013 (Tanaya Ghosh)
Each year, the Electric Daisy Carnival grows larger and larger, drawing bigger crowds, more massive stages, and increasingly mindblowing theatrical productions.

Just a few years ago, the average Joe might not have even known what EDC is. This year, he went all-out, partying three nights straight in the desert with an armful of kandi, sunglasses and a neon tank top.

He has likely learned his shuffling moves from YouTube and has corralled his "bros" to trek out to Vegas with him to experience what all the hype is about.

Now that "raving" is the trendy thing to do, is it possible that dance music will fall victim to mainstream problems, akin to the fates of other popularized genres of music? Will the music become more manufactured and lose its authenticity? Once the masses start to like it, could it lose its soul?

These are concerns held by many longtime dance music fans who have lived the culture long before it took off in mainstream culture. However, there are many others who are happy that electronic music has grown in awareness, and that it has gained the recognition and respect it deserves.

Martin Solveig, Laidback Luke, and others I've interviewed in the past have expressed similar positive feelings associated with the spread of EDM culture here in the US.

This past EDC was held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in June, for the third consecutive year before migrating from Los Angeles. All 345,000 tickets were sold out, with an overwhelming demand for more.

Pasquale Rotella, founder and CEO of Insomniac Events, droppped a cool $35 million on the massive electronic carnival that is well-known worldwide. This resulted in 7 stages, including a novel Discovery Stage for an eclectic assortment of up-and-coming DJs, and over 200 total musical artists. All of this created one epic three-night production.

Fireworks, art installations, intricately costumed performers, and a unique auditory and visual show called the Night Owl Experience, all contributed to the immersive feel of this ultimate grown-up carnival wonderland.

More people than ever before expressed not only awareness about the event, but an interest in actually checking it out. During my first EDC, not many people I spoke with knew what EDC was, even though they might have heard of it. Even if they did, it didn't seem like a culture they could really relate to, nor wanted to get to know.

Now, people's main concerns about attending their first EDC seem to be their budget, the apprehension of what to expect, and whether they can keep partying hard for three nights straight.

If anything will open your mind up and make you believe in youth culture these days, it's EDC. If anything will keep you going for three nights of dancing from sunset to sunrise in crazy, liberating and imaginative costumes you could never wear in your everyday life (at least for most people), it's Insomniac.

The mindblowing EDC Main Stage (Tanaya Ghosh)
The mindblowing EDC Main Stage (Tanaya Ghosh)

"That's one of the biggest spectacles of the entire event; 115,000 like-minded people all dressed up and having a good time," said Simon Rust Lamb, Insomniac chief operating officer and general counsel. "We want to create moments and memories that are full of joy and that help people create and connect with the people around them."

This year, the consensus among many longtime attendees seemed to be that many more people pushed through the crowds, disrupting the vibe on the first night. Newbies were less respectful of others' space than past events, probably because there were so many more of them this time around. However, the following nights got progressively better, and my theory is that these people learned.

Thus, only downside to the "mainstream" aspect of EDC is that people-- mostly bros-- kept pushing through crowds in caravans with populations the size of various small countries. If that was you, just don't do it.

I speak for many others when I request that you please don't kill my vibe, and just enjoy the music from wherever you are. The EDC experience is designed to be enjoyed from wherever you may be... and often, wherever you end up in the crowd, the people are awesome. By the end, most noobs learned what it's all about, whether they came to learn or not.

Sure, noobs may initially dress up just to look "hot," and be prepared to plow through others with their group to get to the front row in a crowd of tens of thousands. That's probably because that's the only kind of partying they know from prior large-scale events they've experienced.

But it's not about being as close as possible to your favorite DJ, or about hearing them play "that one song" that you know them for. It's about getting lost in the music with thousands of like-minded people, as one, and truly experiencing the sound and the oneness.

Being immersed in a positive environment such as EDC has an effect on people, and just as negativity is contagious, so is positivity and respect. Most people aren't used to strangers being nice to them, respecting them as they would a friend. Yet once they realize what that feels like, they are likely to do the same for others. Because it just feels so nice, and you wish the entire world worked this way, outside the confines of a rave in the desert.

By the end of your first EDC, or another EDM event perhaps, you learn that it's all about freeing yourself and loving others. It's a space where you aren't judged you for what you wear, how you dance, or what you look like, so it's best to leave your insecurities at the security checkpoint and just have the time of your life. If anything, you'll be surprised at how many compliments you get instead.

It's about getting to know new people, and about loving and respecting one another. P.L.U.R. stands for just that-- Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. It may sound too hippie for those who haven't experienced it yet, but once you're there and you embrace it, you just know. You are part of the culture, part of the rave family. And you'll never be the same, I'll tell you for sure.

Art installations and rides at EDC (Tanaya Ghosh)
Art installations and rides at EDC (Tanaya Ghosh)
EDC is an experience of unity and non-judgment. A place where people are open to meeting and talking and enjoying each other's company, without egos and motives... although increasingly, there are more bros who do interfere with this theory.

Still, it's a place to enjoy life, in the now. An escape from reality, from the worries and complications of the world. And if you go once, it will more than likely change you, and your view of people as you see how beautiful connecting with others can be.

And every time you hear that music in your daily life, you will remember the lessons you learned, and feel the beauty that you experienced out in that desert, for that one night (or three) at EDC.

Tips on attending your first EDC include having a very specific group meeting spot (ie. not the giant daisy near the main stage; everyone and their grandmas want to meet there and you won't find anyone). Getting there early to enjoy the daytime carnival feel is a good idea, and it makes you truly appreciate the darkness and the lights even more as the sun sets.

Also, be sure to get your pictures in early on while the lighting is good, and before you get distracted by all the awesomeness around you. There are tons of other tips similar to those of attending other large music festivals like Coachella, right here just for you.

The attendees truly are the headliners, as EDC calls them. Without an amicable crowd, these events would not be enjoyable no matter how great the talent or production is.

The festival staff even made things brighter, from the moment you turned into the parking lot, to those refilling unlimited free water into your bottle. The logistics and planning for this massive undertaking were executed so well that the staff could focus on just enjoying their job in their surroundings. Even Vegas cops traded kandi with ravers. Only at EDC, folks.

As for the music itself, electro and progressive house tended to dominate most stages this year. In a festival like EDC, when there are so many stages to choose from, it says something when people choose to be at your stage, as a DJ. It says they want to listen to you and appreciate your signature style; not tracks that are "safe," or equate to the least common denominator of music for the masses.

Sometimes, if you closed your eyes, it was hard to tell who was really up there playing, until they dropped one of their own tracks and the crowd went nuts and sang along. Not to say that rave anthems shouldn't be played, because they do bring a sense of oneness to the event, and they re-energize the collective vibe.

However, the same anthems over and over during different sets, when there are so many good tracks to choose from, can become a bit repetitive. This is the extent to which I would say there has been a more mainstream vibe to the event as of late.

But the bottom line is that although many more "mainstream" folks came out to experience EDC 2013, everyone was happy to be there with everyone else. Thankfully, the noobs learned fast that this is not the place to bring negative energy.

And so instead of the mainstream affecting the EDC experience, EDC converted more people yet again to see the beautiful side of life. The following grows greater each year, but next year is still a mystery... for now.

*Stay tuned for a series of exclusive artist interviews, including Adrian Lux, Cazzette, Julian Jordan and Hardwell in the coming days.*

Reach Tanaya Ghosh here or follow her on Twitter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.