Why dance music will boom, not bust

2012 saw dance music continue to march further into the mainstream, and its growing pains have spurred passionate debate. What’s the forecast for 2013? We asked one of the scene’s most articulate advocates, U.S. mainstage star Wolfgang Gartner, to weigh in with a special Guest Editorial for inthemix.

Dance music has always been and will always be my life, since I discovered it at 13 and it officially took over my existence. It was my life before I ever dreamed of making a living off of it, when I was sitting in my bedroom making house tracks after junior high every day, and learning how to DJ with tape players and belt-drive turntables and whatever else I could rig together. And it’s still my life today.

From the time I dropped out of school and started doing it full time for a living in 2004, it has brought me things I never thought I would have, and given me a life that I never fathomed I would be living. Producing music continues to be the only way I know how to spend my time alone. Sometimes it’s a challenge, sometimes it comes easy, but it’s the only thing I’ve ever known or wanted to do in my life. DJing has taken a whole new dimension as the crowds and venues get bigger, but the feeling is the same as when me and my friends would pull up to random house parties on a Saturday night in the ‘90s, load in our turntables and play until the cops came.

It’s still the same feeling watching people react to music and feel it the same way I feel it, in the same parts I feel it, and being able to move them with it through the art of DJing – and it is an art. Much has been said by individuals and publications to detract from the fact that DJing is an art form – a valid art-form that’s been around for decades. But the detractors aren’t talking about whatever I’m talking about. This is where I could go on my old-school house-head rant and explain the boundless talent of a bunch of DJs that I grew up listening to and studying from, but I’m gonna pass on that.

“As with any major movement that experiences a growth spurt, people come out of the woodwork to exploit it. But that is part of life.”

I love my experience of this industry and this music; the fulfilment it brings to my life on so many levels, and my journey through it over the years. But as with any genre of music it grows and evolves over the years and there are a lot of things that happen in that process – some growing pains, and some incredible steps forward.

As somebody deeply involved in this industry, of course I see the current growth in popularity as a good thing overall. I see my friends living out their dreams in just the way I am, a whole new generation getting turned onto dance music, and the prospect of being able to continue doing what I love for the rest of my life looking more and more real.

As with any major movement that experiences a growth spurt, people come out of the woodwork to exploit it for money, fame, or whatever else they want. But this is a part of life, of pop culture – of music and film and any industry really. There will be people who are there because they truly love it and people who are there because they saw an opportunity and jumped on it.

We can’t let it detract from the fact that there are a lot of talented people in this industry who are contributing to this turning point of dance music, as it becomes a household phenomenon and a form of popular music. There are a lot of things yet to be determined in this transition, though. As major labels sign more dance acts than ever before and turn them into pop stars, and festivals sell more tickets globally than any point in history, my main hope is that the people at the forefront of this movement maintain their integrity, rather than take the safe road; a watered-down version of this music, an easy sell to the masses.

Integrity. It’s a word that’s going to determine the course of this music over the next few years. We (the dance music industry) already have the spotlight on us. The world is watching. Their ears are open. As an artist involved in this movement, I see an opportunity to continue making music with the same principles I’ve been using – what I constantly refer to as making music for the future, or pushing the boundaries.

And now the world is listening and ready to hear it. The question is whether they’ll like it, whether they’ll be open-minded enough to process it, and whether or not they’ll allow it into their lives. I can only hope that my fellow artists use integrity when deciding which path to take – the safe road, or the not-so-safe road with uncertainties, but the one that could yield infinitely more powerful and exciting results if the stars align.

Wolfgang Gartner tour dates:

Friday 25 January – HQ, Adelaide

Saturday 26 January – Royal Melbourne Hotel, Melbourne

Saturday 26 January – Family, Brisbane

Sunday 27 January – Syrup Nightclub, Hobart

Friday 1 February – Villa, Perth

Saturday 2 February – Pacha, Sydney