Industry Op-Ed

Is the Term EDM Necessary?

Sep 22, 2021

3 min read

Detroit Techno City sign advertises Movement FestivalDetroit Techno City sign advertises Movement Festival

Jennifer Fall

While it’s unknown when the term EDM (electronic dance music) entered the lexicon, it’s confirmed that the abbreviation appeared as early as 1985. The acronym wasn’t developed by the ravers, clubbers, or DJs though. Popularized in boardrooms, it's a marketing term that reduces the numerous genres in dance music to one, and it barely scratches the surface of its incredible diversity.

Early Chicago Warehouse PartyEarly Chicago Warehouse Party

EDM is now synonymous with pop-dance music, also known as big room house, which developed post-2010. This genre, along with other commercialized dance music, has created an era that transformed the scene from intimate gatherings held in abandoned warehouses to stadium-packed events. Take Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), one of the most globally renowned music festivals, as an example: The event’s humble beginnings in 1997 only drew a crowd of a few thousand people. The main festival —based in Las Vegas—now attracts a global audience of 450,000 ravers (across the weekend). EDC is only one of many examples that show the breadth of commercialization in recent dance music history. 

Now, I’m not complaining about what the scene has become. I’ve attended EDC Las Vegas and handfuls of other renowned festivals and shows held in both small clubs and massive venues. However, the marketing ploy of the term takes away from the scene's original intent: a dynamic and diverse music subculture. Underground music pushes against pop culture, and the acronym EDM makes it part of the machine it rebelled against. 

EDC VegasEDC Vegas

Insomniac Productions

To call dance music EDM is to ignore the many unique genres that it encompasses. One wouldn’t cast pop and jazz under the same umbrella, nor would one say classical music and rap are the same. The differences in these styles are incredibly striking. The same is true for dance music. Techno isn’t drum’n’bass, house isn’t hardstyle, and trance is most certainly not dubstep. 

More importantly, there are distinct nuances within these styles. Bass music is a wide-ranging genre that includes melodic bass, riddim, dubstep, and more. You can hear everything from industrial techno to melodic techno, ambient techno, and Detroit techno in a warehouse. Trance can contain pounding beats and elated sounds heard across its various genres. Hardstyle is not the same as hardcore and rawstyle. 

House music is equally complicated, as it includes Chicago house, deep house, Afrohouse, tech house, bass house, acid house, progressive house, and electro house. Then there’s U.K. garage, jungle, disco, synth-pop, trap, grime, psytrance, brostep, speed garage, downtempo, moombahton, footwork, breakbeat, and so much more. We can go down the rabbit hole all day of genres and subgenres, as dance music is much more complex than it appears to be when someone hears the term EDM. 

Moreover, the term EDM takes away the soul of dance music. It presents an inaccurate picture to the mainstream and diminishes its diverse world of genres. Why not call the music by what it is? Insisting we do so doesn’t make one an elitist. Quite the contrary, it shows that one respects the scene. Dance music spans a large spectrum of sounds and should be treated as such.