Please, before criticizing this article, be sure to incorporate the fact that it’s my own reflection, not an absolute truth. I am not trying to create a conflict, but rather to maintain a dialogue. My personal thinking is no better than another.
One morning a few months ago, I received a commercial mail from one of the biggest online platforms of electronic music today: EDM.com. If I’m in their database, it’s because I contacted them a little more than three years ago to promote one of my compositions (it’s no longer available on their media to this day). And they did! I had a few uploads with them (dubstep & trap). In this case, my composition was quite unconventional, minimalist and “classical orchestra” oriented. There were more than 250 comments, which could have been separated into two Manichean camps: “it’s not dubstep” and “it is, it’s just that you know nothing about it.” At that time, it was still possible to hear varieties of dubstep on their various web pages. The “Dubstep” platform even regularly shared & reposted Keep Deep‘s uploads on their medias, a channel devoted to the deeper side of the culture. “Dubstep”, mainly posting “brostep”, and lately “riddim” oriented stuff (or a mainstream mix of both), now has 1M subscribers, while Keep Deep is close to 27k subscribers.
Nevertheless, to bring a nuance, NAZA, the leading head of Keep Deep, promoted not that good pieces of music repeatedly at that time, which brought a wrong image to the subgenre. That may be why today EDM.com and Keep Deep seem no more related (at least there is no apparent affiliation). The poor pieces promoted by Keep Deep favored a simplistic view of the scene for the industrial listener, who perceives the commercial sounds of dubstep as the real artistic outcome, thus creating a negative image of deep dubstep for people who don’t evolve directly into the subculture, which is then enclosed in an almost strictly experimental image. The subgenre is left to those looking to improve their technique before being able to shine in the middle of the spotlight by producing brostep. This process often masks quality dubstep artists, who are perceived as “not serious” or not enough talented. Not to mention that it’s difficult to appreciate the subgenre at fair value without a proper sound equipment, as its main focus is on the lower side of the spectrum, which can make it all too minimalist, and probably too fledgeling, for the ears of an average listener.
In short, today it appears that pushing the variety of dubstep culture is no longer in the interest of EDM.com, and this for several reasons. The violent aspect is over-represented in the music industry, if not the only one actually promoted (TRUTH could be one of the exceptions tho.) In a vulgar way, it’s often like hearing sick rejects of Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites for eternity. It seems that the people who produce this have an imagination diminished by an economic goal, leading to a personality that can only exist by copying what works with the general public, basically what we call “commercial art”. In other words, consumer products. It’s like hearing the same piece, over and over again. Except that this piece is impoverished qualitatively at each new attempt.
Yes, the “dubstep robot” sells well. It’s “futuristic”, it’s the fantasy of a society that idolizes technique, praises modernity as a grand evolution of society. In fact, nothing changes. It’s on this industrial avatar of the European dubstep culture that resonate a multitude of young people in festivals and clubs from all over the world, mainly in the West. What’s better than a violent and screaming music to get rid of the daily alienating hard work? Behind a falsely subversive music is hidden economic stakes.
At the image of hip-hop culture values, which could be reduced to four simple words: Peace-Love-Sharing-Knowledge, totally annihilated by rap music promoted by major labels (Sex-Violence-Materialism-Money-Egocentrism) since mid-90’s, the dubstep culture dissolves inevitably in the music industry. Where is hidden the side of dubstep that promotes the values of underground cultures, distant from an economic logic and, more generally, the capitalist ideology? Where are the artists trying to spread social, altruistic and liberating art, struggling against a selfish, egocentric and inequalitarian world?
That must be the rule. Since the nineteenth century and the advent of capitalist bourgeois society, an artist must comply to “the game” if he wants to live from his art, that is to say, to be broadcast by the industry and reach “the masses”. I would not teach anyone anything here. And if I’m wrong and you are surprised to read something like this, go quickly open a book on the subject. The acknowledgment of the artist to a large public involves a compromise to the established order. From an elitist point of view, one must “degrade his art”, transform it into something accessible, “easy”, in order to make it fit the canons of taste, “fashion”.
Let’s go back to the email. Its purpose is to help me broadcast my music on a large scale in exchange of a financial participation, it’s not really for the artistic and philosophical processes behind my productions. Either way, no one cares about the artist’s interest, isn’t it? If you are able to pay for this medium to promote your music, you are probably born in a favored social environment and you have a substantial economic base, or you have the chance to live from your music and, in this case, you are probably already doing “commercial art”. Is it normal and ethically acceptable to propose a promotional model like this?
Just hang on Soundcloud quickly and briefly listen to the songs broadcast to see what I described a little higher … Everything looks the same, right? There is simply no diversity. They sell a unique vision, a bit like our contemporary society. For example, this piece of Figure and Bear Grillz. Please, persuade my ears that they don’t continually serve the same porridge, the same synthesizers recycled again and again, the same empty build-ups, the same snares, the same sounds. Not to mention a mastering of a meager quality related to the Loudness war. Tell me that it’s intelligent music, that promotes knowledge, sharing and love! Show me that it’s not a music stripped of all emotion … Show me that it’s not strictly a product. (no offense to Figure and Bear Grillz)
The worst part is that one of the European media (I won’t mention it here), facing what is generally called the “deep dubstep”, turned to the same economic approach. If you want to get a broadcast on it, you are forced to pay. No money, no diffusion. No broadcast, no visibility. Is it utopian to think of music as something that one shares altruistically? Is it supposed to necessarily go in a purely economic sense? The same goes for those individuals participating in circle resposts on Soundcloud. Are you trying to share the music you love, the songs that inspires you, or are you just restricted to the thought of “making it” in the industry by any means necessary? If I have only 900 followers on Soundcloud, am I not good enough to enter your secret society?
The problem with this reasoning is that, generally, qualitative is set aside. It’s a dangerous game which can sign the death sentence of an underground culture. It stunts and degrades it, and, at the same time, the vision that the listener has of it. It’s a vicious circle. I can’t believe that dubstep is limited to brutal, robotic and falsely futuristic music (you aren’t creating a “future” if you are perpetuating the system of the past). Dubstep exists under multiple avatars. I don’t denigrate, IN ANY WAY, the brutal facet of dubstep, and I do enjoy the experimental side of it, but I denounce the instrumentalisation of it by the music industry. I denounce the promotion of a unique vision of a diverse and open underground culture. Like hip-hop culture, dubstep culture has different aspects and a multitude of individuals shaping it every day. Let us not forget that. Let’s not let economic profit reduce our vision of unity to a simple trend that will soon be swept away by another. We’re all different. But we are all together. And we are one.