Over the past several weeks, we’ve looked back at how electronic dance music evolved out its 1970s disco beginnings into the EDM juggernaut it is today. Along the way we’ve shined a light on important figures, key events, and classic tunes.
The style of EDM that conquered the world in the 2010s is unabashedly a mainstream music genre, but it is the exception; considered as a whole, electronic dance music and clubbing culture have long been underground scenes. As a result, media coverage and source documents are few and far between, and the outlets that do cover this subculture specifically are not widely known.
This article is an overview of some of the most popular sites related to electronic dance music.
2. Mixmag: “The World’s Biggest Dance Music and Clubbing Destination”
Mixmag is a subculture magazine that was launched in London in 1983. It began as a 16-page black and white newsletter published by Disco Mix Club,a remix label that catered to professional DJs. As house music arrived the U.K. in the mid-to-late 80s and a local scene started to develop, editor Dave Seaman (*1) gave the newsletter a facelift and turned it into a magazine covering the dance music scene and clubbing culture in general. As we covered in MUSIC & PARTIES #031, the magazine played a crucial role in the development and spread of the progressive house genre.
*1 Dave Seaman (1968- ) is an English DJ and record producer.
Compared to its main rival DJ Mag, Mixmag is more geared for clubbers and consumers and publishes content on gossip, fashion, and drug culture. In the 2000s it partnered with an organization called Global Drug Survey (*2) to assess the usage of drugs and alcohol in the U.K. nightlife scene. Starting in 2010 the survey expanded its coverage worldwide. Since 2019, it appears the organization has partnered with DJ Mag instead.
*2 Global Drug Survey: https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/
Mixmag also has a weekly streaming show called The Lab (*3) where a DJ goes into one of the Mixmag offices to broadcast an hourlong live set. (With the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the recent sets have been broadcast from DJ’s homes.)
Mixmag was also known for its covermount CDs that featured a mix by big name and in vogue DJs. With the decline in the CD market, the mixes are now exclusively posted online on streaming services like Soundcloud (*4) and YouTube. It’s unfortunate that the sound quality is far inferior to CD, but getting easy access to a great selection of mixes from a range of DJs is always a plus. Here are a few of their old classics:
*4 Soundcloud is an online audio distribution platform and music sharing website based in Berlin.
Mixmag also publishes versions in French, German, Portuguese, Korean, Croatian, Russian, and Chinese. In 2017, it launched an online Japanese version that includes translated articles as well as original reporting. An accompanying free magazine was published quarterly for several years, but has apparently been on hiatus since June 2019.
こういった背景から、Mixmagはクラブ・カルチャーを大きく取り扱っており、よりコンシューマー向けの内容となっています。クラブ業界関連のゴシップ、ファッション、ドラッグ・カルチャーを積極的に取り扱っている記事で知られます。2000年代ごろからは「Global Drug Survey」(※2)という団体と共同で英国のナイトライフ・シーンにおける薬物の使用と飲酒についての調査を実施し、2010年に入ってからはその調査規模も全世界に拡大されました。2019年以降は、パートナーは「DJ Mag」に変わっているようです。
*2 Global Drug Survey: https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/
DJ Mag, in contrast, is more DJ and DJ culture-oriented. It features industry news and reviews of equipment, and generally publishes content that is geared for people in the industry. The magazine was founded in the late 80s as Disc Jockey Magazine, and became DJ Mag after a revamp in 1991. It offers an important chronicle of the history of electronic dance music, putting Underworld on the cover in 1994, increasing its coverage of Ibiza after 1995, and featuring Fatboy Slim (*5) after he’d just put on one of his legendary free beach raves in Brighton in 2002.
*5 Fatboy Slim (1963- ) is an English DJ, musician, and record producer.
DJ Mag is best known for its annual “Top 100 DJs” “Top 100 Clubs” and “Top 100 Festivals” rankings. The Top 100 DJs list is considered an authority in the industry—insofar as it has a significant effect on bookings and how much a certain DJ is paid for a gig. The list has many detractors, who question the usefulness of what is essentially a popularity contest when a DJ is ostensibly not the star of a dance party. Since the 2000s the list has heavily skewed toward EDM (specifically white male DJs) and most of the figures considered the scene’s legends are nowhere to be found. The top 10 has been monopolized by a select group of mainstream DJs who have Las Vegas residencies. In response to such criticism, DJ Mag has started publishing an alternate list of top 100 DJs determined by sales on the online music store Beatport. Carl Cox (*6) has topped the list for the past two years.
*6 Carl Cox (1962- ) is an English DJ and record producer.
Like Mixmag, DJ Mag has also long been popular for its covermount CDs (some readers subscribed to the magazine just to get a hold of the mixes). The mixes are now uploaded to Soundcloud. Here are a few of the magazine’s classic mixes:
In Spring 2016, DJ Mag launched an online Japanese version in order to “elevate the Japanese dance music scene out of its domestic insularity.” The site aims to bring overseas clubbing culture to Japan and help the scene rise to its vision of a global standard.
DJ Mag Japan includes translations of the Top 100 DJs and Top 100 Clubs lists, and also publishes its own “DJ Mag Japan Top 10 DJs Ranking U-29” and “Best of Japan - Clubs Ranking” lists, which are determined by user voting done through the texting app Line. It has also organized the DJ Mag Japan Creators Salon in 2018—a workshop meant to help young Japanese DJs/producers hone their music and get it heard around the world.
DJ Mag: https://djmag.com/
DJ Mag Top 100 DJs: https://djmag.com/top100djs
DJ Mag Top 100 Clubs: https://djmag.com/top100clubs
DJ Mag の恒例企画である「Top 100 DJs」「Top 100 Clubs」の和訳はもちろんのこと、日本の若手 DJ/プロデューサーからNo.1を決める『DJ MAG JAPAN TOP 10 DJs Ranking U-29』や、日本のトップ10のナイトクラブを決める『Best of Japan – CLUBS Ranking』の投票をLINEを通して行なっています。また、「日本にいる才能ある若手プロデューサーや DJ を世界に発信していくプロジェクト」として 『DJ MAG JAPAN Creators Salon』というワークショップも2018年に開催するなど、積極的に日本のダンス・ミュージック・シーンを盛り上げようとしています。
DJ Mag: https://djmag.com/
DJ Mag Top 100 DJs: https://djmag.com/top100djs
DJ Mag Top 100 Clubs: https://djmag.com/top100clubs
DJ Mag 日本版: https://djmag.jp/
4. Resident Advisor: Covering the Underground Dance Music Scene
Whereas Mixmag and DJ Mag have a more mainstream bent, Resident Advisor (or RA for short) is focused on covering the underground dance music. Launched in 2001 to cover the Australian clubbing scene, it expanded its scope worldwide in 2002, and now publishes articles and opinion pieces on a range of topics, as well as reviews of singles and albums.
RA is perhaps best known for its extensive listings of the world’s nightclubs, parties, and music festivals. It also sells tickets for a some of those events. In response to events around the world being canceled in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the site started a section called “Streamland” in April, where it maintains a list of upcoming streaming events.
The site also publishes a variety of video content. “Real Scenes” is a series of 15-20 minute videos documenting the clubbing culture of some of the industry’s most important cities, such as London, Berlin, New York, and Tokyo. “RA Sessions” is a series of live DJ mixes by some of the most intriguing DJs on the scene.
RA has also operated a Japanese version of the site since 2011, which publishes both translated articles as well as a listing of Japanese nightclubs and club nights. It’s been an invaluable resource for dance music fans visiting Tokyo.
5. Red Bull Music Academy: Workshops and Lectures for Aspiring Musicians
The Red Bull Music Academy is a series of music workshops and festivals put on by Red Bull, the company behind the energy drink that “gives you wings”. The five-week event is held in a different city each year, and is comprised of events for industry people—workshops and collaboration sessions—and a program for the public—concerts, art installations, club nights, and lectures by some of the most important figures in music. The events were held in Tokyo in 2014. While the earlier editions focused mostly on DJ culture, it now encompasses a wide range of music genres.
An invaluable selection of the event’s lectures and interviews can be found on the Red Bull Music Academy’s website, including dance music luminaries like Frankie Knuckles (*7), Kevin Sanderson (*8), and Jeff Mills (*9), as well as names like Giorgio Moroder (*10), Brian Eno (*11), Isao Tomita (*12), D’Angelo (*13) and Jam & Lewis (*14). The 1-hour-plus talks have something to offer not just for those looking to get into the industry but those interested in learning about music history. An English language transcript is also provided for each video.
Red Bull Music Academy: https://www.redbullmusicacademy.com/lectures
*7 Frankie Knuckles (1955-2014) was an American DJ and record producer known as one of the Godfathers of house music.
*8 Kevin Saunderson (1964- ) is a DJ and record producer known as one of the originators of Detroit techno.
*9 Jeff Mills (1963- ) is an American DJ and record producer, and an important figure in the second generation of Detroit techno DJs.
*10 Giorgio Moroder (1940- ) is an Italian composer and record producer known for pioneering euro disco.
*11 Brian Eno (1948- ) is an English musician, record producer, and artist.
*12 Isao Tomita (1932-2016) is a Japanese composer, arranger, and synthesizer artist.
6. iFLYER and Clubberia: Covering the Japanese Club Scene
Clubberia has been called “the Japanese Resident Advisor” for its coverage of dance music related news and listings of nightclubs and events. And just like RA, it releases a DJ mix every week on the Clubberia Podcast.
iFlyer is another popular Japanese portal offering information and tickets for music events across the country. While Clubberia has a dance music focus, the events featured on iFlyer also include indie rock and pop idol concerts. With COVID-19 keeping clubs and live music venues closed and everybody indoors, it also publishes a listing of online streaming events. The site technically has an English version, but the (automatic) translation is very poor.
iFlyer and Clubberia partnered in 2018 to offer a more robust service to its users, but people looking for information on Japanese club nights should check both iFlyer, Clubberia, and Resident Advisor, as some events are listed only on certain sites and not others.
7. Beatport: The World’s Largest Electronic Music Store
Beatport is an online music store offering an expansive selection of electronic dance music tracks for DJs.From house and techno to hip hop and R&B, the majority of the music available on the site is offered in the form of DJ-friendly extended mixes (*15). Users can choose between MP3 (320kbps), or lossless WAV (*16) or AIFF (*17). Beatport also frequently holds sales—the perfect time for DJs to buy all the music they’ll need for upcoming gigs.
*15 DJ-friendly extended mixes are 6-10 minute versions of songs that have intros and outros that are longer than usual to allow the DJ to mix them into other songs. Conversely, a radio edit is a song that has been shortened to 3 or 4 minutes to allow for easy radio play.
*16 About sound quality. 128kbps and 360kbps are MP3 quality. CD quality is 16 bit/44.1 kHz. High-resolution is 24 bit/96 kHz and above.
*17 WAV files are a Windows format, while AIFF is a Mac format. While Mac audio players can usually playback WAV files, most Windows players do not playback AIFF files. Also, AIFF files allow you to include data about the track and artwork as metadata.
As the store is geared for DJs, most of the music on the site is in the form of singles (many of which include remixes). Many mix albums are also available as a package that includes a so-called continuous mix as well as all of the individual tracks included in the mix.
For those interested in learning how a DJ thinks or chooses tracks, check out the many DJ Charts—where popular DJs put together a playlist of the tracks they are currently listening to or spinning in their sets. Beatport also offers a range of stems (where a track is provided in a format that allows the user to separate the different instruments from one another) and loops (music samples that serve as building blocks for making tracks).
8. Juno Download: A U.K.-leaning Selection of Music From an Eclectic Range of Genres
Juno Download is another popular online music store specializing in electronic dance music. While Beatport is based in America and is thus more focused on EDM and other big room-type dance tracks, Juno Download is based in the U.K. and accordingly carries music from a more eclectic range of genres—including funk, jazz, reggae, and even 60s rock ’n’roll. The only downside to the website is the cluttered user interface.
Juno also operates a sister site called Juno Records, which sells vinyl records as well as DJ and studio equipment. You can find reissues and rare finds and even some Japanese city pop records.
Traxsource is an online music store that specializes in quality house music. It brands itself as "a music store with the attitude of an indie record label”. In its “Spotlights” feature, it shines a light on some of the best labels out there producing house, including a selection of recommended tracks, as well as video interviews and DJ sets. All files are available as MP3 (320kbps), WAV, or AIFF files (both 16 bit/44.1kHz).
What’s more, Traxsource also presents a weekly DJ mix show called “Traxsource LIVE!”, which is broadcast from over 80 radio stations worldwide and boasts 10 million listeners a month—a great way to get acquainted with the underground house sound.
10. Bandcamp: The Artist-Friendly Online Record Store
Bandcamp is an online platform for independent musicians and labels worldwide to promote and sell their music. While platforms like Beatport are said to take around a 50% cut of artists’ sales, with the remaining 50% split among an artist and their label, Bandcamp allows artists to set their own prices for digital downloads and purchases of physical CD or records and other merchandise. The service itself takes 15% + payment processing fees for digital downloads (10% in the case of merchandise), and when an artist’s sales exceed 5,000 dollars for the last 12 months, that percentage is lowered to 10%.
Bandcamp allows artists to offer digital downloads as MP3s (320kbps), WAV or AIFF (16 bit/44.1kHz), and also offer package deals for CDs and records. While many online music stores allow users to only listen to a certain section of each track, users can listen to full tracks on Bandcamp. Artists can also allow their fans to name their own price. These options and more have made the store an invaluable platform not just for electronic dance music artists but indie musicians in general.
Bandcampが取り扱っている音源はMP3 (320kbps)、WAVとAIFF(共に16 bit/44.1kHz)などのフォーマットで入手することができ、合わせてアーティストが希望すればCDやレコードとのパッケージ販売も可能となっています。トラックの一部しか再生できない多くの配信サーヴィスに対して、Bandcampではウェブサイト上で曲の全体を試聴できるのも嬉しい点です。また、アーティストは“name your price”という価格設定にすれば、ユーザーが1ドル(あるいは0ドル)から好きなだけ払える仕組みも評判が高いです。こういったことから、Bandcampはエレクトロニック・ダンス・ミュージックに限らず、様々なインディーズのアーティストにとって人気の宣伝プラットフォームとなっています。
There’s a range of publications and websites that cover electronic dance music from every angle; from mainstream to the underground, from commercial to independent. In this article I’ve listed just a few. And while producing and performing music in a professional capacity has traditionally been for those with undeniable talent, access to a studio, instruments, and staff, or a mountain of records, today the line between DJ and producer has become blurred. Never in the history of music has it been so easy to get your hands on professional-grade audio tools and loops to make music on your laptop from the comfort of your bedroom. It’s no wonder the EDM craze has coincided with the rise of young, sometimes teenage producers who have never even been to a club.
Dance music was long an underground scene providing safe places for “worship” to outsiders: gays, Blacks, Latinos, and other minorities. The DJ was someone who kept the grooves going from the shadows, and was not the focus of the party. But the commercial success of EDM and the development of digital tools to produce and distribute music has led to the emergence of large electronic music festivals and world-renowned DJ superstars. What’s more, those DJs are not longer allowed to be just “artists” dedicated to the pursuit of a sound—they must now become “creators” with the savvy to turn themselves into brands.
A crucial factor in accelerating that branding process has been the prevalence of DJ rankings and music charts. As I mentioned earlier, a DJ’s bookings and pay is greatly influenced by their position on one or more of those coveted lists from DJ Mag or Mixmag, or on the Beatport sales charts. With so many new tracks, remixes, and mixes being released every day it has become impossible to listen to them all; the result is that it becomes all about getting your tracks played by big-name DJs and getting that exposure—in any way that you can—on those platforms. Take one look at those DJ rankings and its clear how the top spots are all taken by the group of white, male, EDM-leaning DJs that have Las Vegas residencies. Not only does that not reflect dance music’s roots, it also does not reflect the current landscape of underground dance music, where many of the most respected DJs are female.
For many years, Resident Advisor published its own DJ rankings as a way to draw attention to the underground house and techno DJs that weren’t getting any love in the DJ Mag and Mixmag rankings. Over time, however, as that list became one of the most popular pieces of content on RA, it also became an inaccurate representation of the true landscape of the scene. Recognizing that its charts were having the opposite of their intended effect, RA stopped updating them in 2018. The industry today is defined by a struggle to find a balance and establish a mutually beneficial relationship between the mainstream and underground scenes.
Check out RA’s full statement on why they chose to stop their DJ polls here: