During the last decade, electronic music has basked in the mainstream limelight by crossing and redefining genres and setting trends that will come to define the core genre well beyond 2019. For starters, after five years of retirement, Swedish House Mafia re-emerged in March with an explosive full set at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival. Long-time fans have witnessed how this Scandinavian super group brought life to “the golden era of EDM” in 2010, becoming the faces of mainstream progressive house music throughout the world. The return of Swedish House Mafia could spark a massive return to the progressive sound that they made prolific from 2010 to 2013. The trio didn’t come back for nothing. They’re bound to release an album soon, and both fans and aspiring musicians are already taking their cue.
Another emerging trend is the increasing availability of both the hardware and software needed to create electronic music. This has made it easier for fans to take it upon themselves to secure the core genre’s future. While not all of the new underground electronic music created is worth anyone’s valuable listening time, the sheer saturation of the electronic music market has produced a number of new visionaries. Sunbleach promoted Hiro Tadomatsu, a genre-blender who works with vintage synthesizers and Japanese R&B vocals to achieve pure, retro-futuristic lo-fi that won’t sound alien at an EDM festival. The expanding network of electronic music artists is also giving little known musicians from across the world a chance to be heard, as is the case for Asian hip-hop and electronic beatmaker Similarobjects. Despite being a breakthrough pioneer in the local Manila electronic music scene, he still hasn’t blipped on the radars of most fans in the west.
Both of these musicians actually represent emerging trends in the core genre today. Hiro Tadomatsu’s lo-fi sensibilities are characteristic of the throwback vapourwave sound, while Similarobjects exemplifies just how deeply hip hop has taken root in electronic music and vice versa. And if this is the first time you’re hearing about these trend-bending, genre-setting artists, it’s all thanks to the increasingly saturated global electronic music market.
Don’t get us wrong – the tons of new music is obviously good for the scene. At the same time, this saturation will make it significantly harder to cherry pick visionary artists out from the electric underground scene, especially combined with the average listener’s behavior today. A post by Lottoland reports that 3,500 is the average number of songs that a person listens to every year. And more to the point, the site also notes that 90% of those songs are “old,” or songs that we’ve heard before – new songs account for only 10% of the average listening time. Consider your own repeated playlists and do the math. With every new year, there’s new stuff to sift through, making it much harder for new artists to get a foothold in the industry. In 2019 there will be even more upcoming artists to choose from.
Despite all that, the future of electronic music seems to be in more live performances. Dubstep pioneers Submotion Orchestra reacquainted electronic with its soul roots using its full band setup, achieving a sound that’s equally at home in both jazz and dubstep festivals. Experimental musician Holly Herndon incorporates hardware, software, live vocals, dancing, and digital imagery to protest the droning seamless nature of typical electronic music shows. As new and emerging artists struggle to somehow find their original sound, the answer could be in playing the music live, whether it’s with a sound pad, full turntable setup, or a full band. In any case, we can look forward to another wild year for electronic music.