Thomas Cox argues that amateurism on multiple levels within the dance music industry traps us in a harmful cycle.

TR-808 2

Comments made by clowns like Sebastian Ingrosso don’t usually even enter my consciousness, but one thing the former Swedish House Mafia member said in a recent New York Times interview struck a chord with me:

“Underground dance music – in the nicest way possible – it’s amateur.”

Much handwringing ensued from self-proclaimed members of the underground attempting to defend themselves, but Ingrosso’s comment echoed a Facebook post by techno legend Claude Young that already had me thinking about this exact issue. Young claims that “techno part-timers are ruining the music”, and having been making a living from music full time for a few years now, I can see what he means. The problem with “part-timers”, or people who don’t really have a full investment in this world, isn’t unique to music, but it’s one that snakes its way through the entire underground dance music economy and has various negative effects, both in the short term and the long term.

Claude Young claims that techno part-timers are ruining the music

Many people form their perceptions of dance music through the media, whether that might mean big websites, smaller blogs, or other outlets. For better or worse, dance music is generally not considered serious by the majority of the more established music media, which means that most coverage exists within the confines of outlets aimed directly at dance music fans. This creates a kind of music journalism ‘ghetto’, where there are low standards of entry, as well as a lack of high paying jobs that could lead to a long-term career in the field. The result is an influx of less-than-ideal candidates, and when there’s high demand for content from these media outlets, more and more young, inexperienced and uninformed writers end up filling in that content. Even worse, low wages result in a high turnover of dance music writers, which leads to a repeating cycle of the slightly more experienced moving out of the field to make room for those with less experience.

So how does this relate to Ingrosso’s contentious claim about amateurism in underground dance? The problem is that this isn’t an isolated example; we’re all caught up in a cycle in which amateurism on a number of levels perpetuates certain behaviour, with detrimental results to the entire industry.

That lack of knowledge and demand for content leaves underground dance music media wide open for hijacking by PR firms. Inexperienced writers get their email inboxes filled with tantalisingly ‘professional’ write-ups about artists and labels. This isn’t necessarily a knock against PR firms – they exist in every industry – but in dance music, their influence is insanely disproportionate as a result of the low number of truly professional journalists. Anyone who can see how this direct relationship between PR and media coverage works immediately knows how to exploit it.

The influence of PR firms in dance music is insanely disproportionate as a result of the low number of truly professional journalists.

That exploitation typically comes from young, inexperienced and unknowledgeable DJs and producers – generally with some money to kick around – who think that it would be fun to play in the music business for a while. Why, you ask, have we heard the names of terrible ‘DJs’ who play the same Beatport Top 10 tracks with no mixing skills, and get booking off the back of one big ‘hit’ track? This is the answer to the question. Artists like these are also the ones using ready-made loops from sample packs to make identical-sounding tracks, or paying other established producers to ghost-write music for them. They typically aren’t worried about making money from selling music, which means they can do things like run record labels where each release is guaranteed to lose money by being pressed in limited quantities, as long as it helps generate hype for them.

Once this kind of artist has infiltrated the journalists and music charts by paying for it, they are now being taken seriously by some dance fans for almost no real reason outside of media hype. Promoters of dance nights are often also inexperienced, looking for ways to get into what seems like a cool, fun job by putting on some of the up-and-coming talent. So they look to the media to see who’s making waves, and they hire them, sight unseen.

Everything gets set back to zero again, typically as each hyped subgenre's tenure expires.

I’ve already talked about the problem with promoters booking DJs based on popularity rather than skills, but the problem of the amateur promoter is subtly different. Now we have an inexperienced promoter putting on a night by this DJ, neither of whom really has any idea of what they are doing. Most of the people who attend a night like this are also going to be kids who are new to the whole scene. This might work for them while they are young and full of energy (and drugs), but as they grow older and more responsible, the lack of quality surrounding some of the largest DJs and parties leads to the high turnover in dance music fans. Everything gets set back to zero again, typically as each hyped subgenre’s tenure expires. And the artists, journalists and promoters don’t have much to lose, so they just move on to something else once their moment is over. This lack of commitment is a huge problem, and it sets the industry as a whole back every time there’s a downturn.

Where does this leave the true professionals? Where does it leave the skilled DJs, young and old, who are committed to dance music for the long haul? They have to fight for table scraps from the much smaller number of promoters who know what’s up and fight for support from the committed fans. As the economy of music has evolved to the point where most artists make the majority of their income from touring, you can probably imagine how badly this has affect those DJs and producers actually interested in making outstanding art. If there’s no money for people doing the good stuff, how are they going to make a career out of it and grow even further as artists? I see so many artists stuck in the loop of needing to constantly tour just to generate income, and the result is lower quality music output or lower volume of output – all the way down to zero.

Do you want to assist people trying to make a quick buck, or do you want to help committed artists pay their bills?

So what’s the solution to this cycle of mediocrity? It’s tough to pin total blame on any one step in this process, but it seems to me like so much rides on public perception of artists and their music, which is influenced heavily by a largely uncritical media. If more journalists were educated about the music, and had the financial incentive to stay in the field and be more honest about music – and more careful about what they co-sign – this would have a domino effect. It would take the power back from PR firms and their clients, which would result in fewer bookings for undeserving artists, which would lead to better overall nights out, which would lead to more people staying involved with dance music beyond the expiration of whatever subgenre it was that got them interested in it in the first place.

But there’s also a strong argument that we as listeners need to be more critical. That doesn’t mean a system of self-appointed gatekeepers – this isn’t about me deciding which artists or tracks deserve the hype; it’s about all of us being critical and making our own minds up about which producers and DJs deserve our support. Do you want to assist people trying to make a quick buck, or do you want to help committed artists pay their bills?

A more educated and more committed audience leads to a better economic situation for quality artists like Claude Young, but it might not help someone like Sebastian Ingrosso, who quite ironically seems not to understand that – in the nicest possible way – he’s part of the problem.


Thomas Cox has been causing trouble on teh interwebs since 1996 and representing Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since birth. You can find him on Twitter.

5th June, 2015


  • I don’t see the point, really.
    • Short-lived carrier are short-lived.
    • “Journalism ghetto” is one million times better than trend-oriented established media.

  • me neither. does not make sense to me. also, to what extend can something be “underground” (and by the way, what defines underground?!) when you are doing it full time and you are living it as a capitalistic way of live? So i would claim that this part-time buisness and the journalism ghetto are essential for what the idea of techno was in the beginning.

  • “I’ve already talked about the problem with producers booking DJs based on popularity rather than skills, but ”

    I think you mean “promoters booking DJs”

  • Rob, you’re right, of course. Fixed.

  • Probably one of the least palatable things a pro musician can do is complain about amateurism and how it affects their ability to make a living. That’s not really anyone else’s problem but yours, no?

    The fact that modern times have created an environment where music was able to be privatized and professionalized is a development every pro musician should drop to his knees and thank your lucky stars for daily. It’s a great privilege and should not be taken for granted. Nor should it be something that someone should get on a high horse about to complain about amateurs.

    Music is inherently about amateur enthusiasm which naturally leads to a drive and need to participate. Get over it.

  • Full-time wankers : are established producers ruining dance music ?

  • there is no way to generalize and cast such a large market segment while still convincing yourself this remains a logical argument/mentality. the pace and availability of information will eliminate the necessity in large part for “underground journalism” (which more often than not churns out *this*), where that money/energy can and is beginning to funnel directly into the cultivation of a new underground. if novice promotion is the source of amateur booking, the “underground journalism” (lol?) community’s responsibility is amplified – that is if anything is expected to be changed. exclusionary opinion is profitable

  • No pro’s without a firm base of amateurs…

  • “tpltwngs Wrote: Full-time wankers : are established producers ruining dance music ?”

    Exactly. I’ll take sketchy amateurs over circuit DJ sell outs any day of the week. I think a lot of people are confused over the term underground.

  • imagine if kraftwerk had campaigned against the amateurism emanating from the bronx and detroit

  • I totally understand your point, it is something I also hated about the music industry, and not just the dance genre, and not just recently, but I guess already from somewhere in the eighties or so….
    And of course music listeners need to be critical, but I think they already are, but most people are also ‘lazy’, or anyway not wanting to spend much time online to find that one uncovered musical gem noone had ever heard of (that is the ones the paid media hadn’t exposed already).
    I think the only ones uneducated here must be the musicians themselves, and that is in the art of playing the game and getting their music sold.
    Whether they do it themselves or they surround themselves with the right people, as long as the result counts.
    And actually….this goes for every ‘commercial’ discipline in the world where carreers exist.
    I’m working in an IT company making software products. Here as well it’s all in the effort you put in marketing and trying to sell your product what’s making the success. There exist far better products with lesser sales/marketing doing worse than us, barely known to the public, there are companies having worse products than us, but backed by millions to spend in marketing, and they are ‘big names’ in our industry/sector….
    There are hundreds of thousands companies/musicians trying to make a nice profit with what they’re doing, and simply the product isn’t sufficient anymore these days….. like it or not.

  • that this topic is being approached mostly from a pr/ music journalism standpoint is myopic as all hell. journalism is dead, and no one wants to hear you complain about how your pay stubs reflect just how dead the field is by griping about how amateur the rest of the people in the field are. what a shame you didn’t address the FAR more glaring instances of amateurism in electronic music–like the fact that an overwhelming majority of electronic artists today are:
    1. non-collaborative: solo artist who accepts no criticism for growth/ improvement = shit music.
    2. using prosumer tools, not professional ones. garbage in, garbage out. if you’re printing in ableton or reason and you literally cannot hear that the summing busses in both are horrible, you shouldn’t be the one making the prints.
    3. not working with engineers through the majority of the music-making process. if i have to hear, “they’ll fix it in mastering,” one more time, i’m gonna scream. hire a recording engineer. hire a producer. hire a mixing engineer. don’t record/produce/mix your own track, and then expect a mastering engineer to just magic away all the bad parts.
    4. don’t even know the BASICS of recording.

    oh and also, artists = musicians. djs are just djs. they aren’t the same thing. speaking of amateur . . .

  • not sure any of this holds true in larger European cities… maybe the US, but that’s more the fault of a largely ill-educated audience, no?

  • Sounds like my introduction to everything I do today!!! everyone’s entitled to a crack of the whip right?

  • The sense of entitlement these “professionals” have is beyond belief. Quit the bitching. It is not anyones birth-right to make money from your art.

    If the climate is such that people are not willing to pay money to take part in your artistic vision; well, though shit. Get a real job, then. If you claim that quality music cannot be made while working a regular job, that just goes to show how passionate you really are. Some of the most interesting art in modern times (especially in regards to music) have their origin in the working class.

  • “squirts Wrote:
    not sure any of this holds true in larger European cities… maybe the US, but that’s more the fault of a largely ill-educated audience, no?”

    Please stop. Maybe all the people in these larger European cities should “educate” themselves as to where the music they listen came from. Hint: not Europe. Contrary to the arrogant euro-centeric groupthink, we’re plenty educated over on this side of the pond. Dance music for the most part never went full on mega-festival commerical in the US like it did in Europe a long time ago…. and thank god for that. Amateur to me is continuing to act like you’re doing something original when it’s been play out for 20 years. Like the new “rave” thing. Did I just fall into a fucking hot tub time machine? Or calling shit “deep house” when it is not. I understand motherfuckers are like 20 years old and shit, but try using google. The whole premise of this article is straight up snobbery.

  • had a hearty laugh when Thomas Cox, of all people, says he doesn’t want “gatekeepers” or “deciding what does and doesn’t deserve hype” when literally every atom of his being is dedicated to gatekeeping and deeming the stuff he enjoys objectively and morally superior. most of the rest of the comments dragging this old-man-bitching-from-porch shit have covered the rest of my issues with this piece.

  • eh, leave it to an amateur writer to take gig in the very hype machine he derides. i genuinely don’t get the logic behind shitting where you eat, but this is next-level classy.

  • The point of the article is to look in the mirror when it comes to what you chose to support. There is a difference between being snobby and having discerning taste. Supporting in-it-for-a-minute fake art only encourages said behavior.

    If you care to even read this article you probably aren’t part of the problem, so disagreeing over taste is a moot point. If you are part of the problem, you won’t care in a few months anyways.

  • The existance of this article is enough reason to never visit this site again. If you honestly think professionalism is the answer to dance music’s woes, then you truly don’t get it.

  • What anawkward piece of writing. The headline mostly, really you should have edited some of this again and refocused your intro so as not to sound like such a snob. But what can I say, I’m a professional writer and you fucks are ruining my art form…

    Seriously though, welcome to entertainment. Welcome to art. Welcome to reality where blaming others in this way always comes off weak and sad.

  • Don’t really get this article?

    Are people not allowed to just like what we like?

    If people want to hear that 90s house sound, or that ‘deep house’ sound then that’s what the want. Whether they are experiencing it for the first time or the hundredth – it isn’t up to you to say they shouldn’t be enjoying it.

    Don’t turn your nose up at people pick and mixing from sample packs and making more popular tunes than you. Why do you even care? Because he’ll get booked and you won’t?

    Be better.

  • Is it OK is I said I don’t understand enough to make a call on this? The couple of names you mention have never filtered through to me as anyone special, so I’m adrift wondering who these cherished dance music ‘true professionals’ are.

    Its exciting in a way – like maybe there is a new species of super-producers unknown to me.

    “Take me to your leader! (and quick, before you go extinct apparently lol)”

  • I haven’t read all these responses but this article is a true sign of the times. Everything is throwaway!
    I live in Sheffield(UK) and the music scene is dire! Talented producers/DJs aren’t popular here because of their talent but more the case of what “underground Deep House” tracks they’ve put out!
    Churning out the same music but going on massive tours making loads of £££!
    It’s not ‘underground’ and I don’t know what that even really means! Just like these ‘deep house’ tracks that keep coming out, I don’t really know what deep house even means anymore!
    I decided to produce music and release with labels around Europe, because I know I can put my records out but playing in Sheffield doesn’t work, Because of all these amateur guys coming along and watering down everything and making it so throwaway!!

  • worst article ive seen on attack

  • This article is fantastic, and the author has successfully drilled down into an issue which has been plaguing dance music for a while now. There is a lack of scene-wide curation, because all of the real, critical, quality-minded tastemakers are busy making rent doing something which pays.

    This has left a giant hole in the scene’s ability to arbitrate quality, thus leaving many wide open to being duped. PR savvy artists who are long on image, self promotion and marketing but short on having anything to say hire firms to get them into publications. The publications have a staff who collectively have little notion of a barometer of quality, or musical “center” because they’re too new to the game, so they give these new jacks the PR they seek.

    Because they receive the PR, their names are ubiquitous, making them an attractive option for promoters to book. Promoters book them, people come and have an OK time, and the cycle of mediocrity is perpetuated.

  • Time is the master cleanse of all things underground. If you know what it feels like to keep the torch lit during a few dance music recessions then you feel me. Remember that gap in the early 2000’s when there was a post-rave version of the “disco sucks” mainstream backlash? No one gave a shit about quality dance music, it was all cast to the side as “raver music” and shunned by the masses. If you were still repping this shit during that era, and the previous downturns, you get it. No one was eating back then, it was only for the love. Now there’s money and everyone want’s to be part of this shit? Not buying it…

  • I like this kind of music because there’s a low barrier to entry so there are loads of people out there doing it out of passion for the music.

    I like it because it’s inclusive – all the big names started out in a bedroom trying to make something for the love of it.

    I don’t need to know an artist’s financial arrangements , I like what they do or I don’t…

  • “Comments made by clowns like Sebastian Ingrosso”

    What happened to PLUR and all that? Seriously, those must be the worst first words of a column that I’ve ever read.

  • What a horrible article this is, instead of moaning – do something, if you are serious enough people who are ammeteur should not concern you, with out non-proffessionals the underground scene would not exist. Think this article will put a lot of people off this website

  • As one of those nasty, fun-ruining, talent-less amateurs, I am somewhat amused by the amateur and churlish approach of this article.

    It can safely be said that the same applies to just about any genre of music and just about any other industry for that matter. Tomorrow’s professionals come from today’s amateurs.

    The author also contradicts himself several times, for example:

    “They typically aren’t worried about making money from selling music,”

    “Do you want to assist people trying to make a quick buck, or do you want to help committed artists pay their bills?”

    Seems like there is certainly a dose of cry baby ranting going on within the article. What would the author want, for no amateurs to be involved, only “professionals”?

    The author slams the use of sample loops and ghost producers, but we all know that the “professionals” use both of these heavily, and most probably more so than most amateurs.

    While the article may make some valid points, the message is lost when the author sounds like he’s whining about amateurs taking away from his glory and $$$. Find something constructive and positive to contribute next time.

    Peace & Love

  • Interesting article Tom. Maybe you can use this column to actually “educate” your readers on the music you cherish instead? Seems to me that it will be a proper venue to continue on the work you’ve done in the past as this debate is – at least to me – less important than getting the word spread on all the young and old super talented artists that deserve some exposure and unfortunately never get it. We can “complain” about the system all day long and how bad it is etc… Or we can positively create change by doing what isn’t done. This is too good of an opportunity to pass on in my humble opinion… My 2 cents. Thanks again. Jerome

  • Some of today’s most hyped labels have catalogs which people won’t give a millisecond of thought to 5 years from now. Can someone defend this?

    I love how Tom just HAS to be a jealous old man for pointing out just how shitty some of today’s most hyped music actually is, and that the emperor actually has no clothes.

    The most appropriate thing to say in response to those who are getting upset about this is “U MAD BRO?”

  • “hire a recording engineer. hire a producer. hire a mixing engineer. don’t record/produce/mix your own track” – worst advice ever.

  • @fellate yourself, care to name any of those labels? I imagine you’re talking about L.I.E.S and some of the other lo-fi labels that turn out a substantial volume of music. Those labels are exactly what is good about dance music at the moment. The ‘old guard’ might decry what they see as a drop in quality, but it’s actually a reduction in the bullshit that comes with dealing with ‘professional’ labels. Give me more people running labels out of their basement for the love of the music and more raw tunes that aren’t over-produced, plasticky rubbish. The punk approach in DIY music-making is good for local scenes, which encourage people to delve deeper into the history of the music anyway. This whole article just says to me that the author is afraid of change.

  • The whole point of the article should be that the whole music industry today is more about making money instead of just releasing/producing music which enjoys and amazes us!

  • Pretty funny to see this article on a site which has tons of Beatport ads and where every “rhythmic analysis” article is really just an explanation of the ready-made drum patterns available in the Liquid Rhythm plugin.

  • was sad when i read the article because attack has clearly dropped a few levels, I only prefer Professional journalism.

    But now that I see that most of the readers agree with my sentiments on the comments, I feel better. They must be professional commenters, thank god.

  • Article calls out obvious safe targets: EDM, art school producers, young unschooled journalists whose curation is simply passing on promos.

    Article draws clear lines as to where the author stands, without implying solutions. Article minces words about cause/effect of the problem, implicates other artists and fans.

    Author lauds himself for “calling em out” when commenters attack a poorly worded, poorly thought out article. Author “oh u mad”s. Yaaaaaaawn.

  • You’re absolutely right that the dance music media is almost uniformly uncritical. Their goal is to get as many free entries as possible through positive writeups and fluffy interviews. I would argue, however, that your writing isn’t the solution. You provide no concrete examples, no research, no quotes, none of the hallmarks of high-quality journalism you claim to represent. It might be because, as a music journalist, you’ve not had the benefit of working under a professional and high-quality editor who hands your print back to you three times with edits and questions until it is perfect. So this is what you give us: I quick rant you typed up in 45 minutes and put on the internet. I think that is where much of the criticism is coming from – your main point is buried and obfuscated under lines and lines of unrelated tangents, so readers aren’t sure what you’re trying to say!

  • The writer brings up some interesting points, but this is only an effect and not cause. It’s hard to put the blame on amateur artists.

    Perhaps we should look at other industries as a parallel. In industries such as tech, the smaller start-ups are giving the larger, more-established companies a “run for their money”. We see this in both application development and in more stream-lined processes. Even in industries that were very stable like the hotel & hospitality industry, companies like Air BnB are significant players in the game now.

    The real issue at-hand is the more available access to DAW’s and music producing software. As technology continues to advance, so does the complexity of production systems and the ability to produce from your bedroom. All artists are part of “musical capitalism”. Bands, DJ’s, producer’s alike, are part of a bigger system and just like the tide, music and the audience goes in and out PR firms and promoters follow the money, and right now it’s easier to make money working with amateurs.

  • This article has a bit of an elitist undertone which undermines the entire idea of art and culture. The lesson here is not to dictate who can contribute to a scene and who cant. Really we all just need to be a little more critical including those who chose to publish this article

  • 1. ignore ‘dance music journalism’
    2. ignore grumpy wankpieces like this
    3. make fucking techno

  • Report
  • for the love of the music, for the love of the sound

  • I think professionals are causing more harm as it’s their job so they’re dependent on it (and the reviewers and audiences), they have to compromise to make a career out of it and engage in ridiculous marketing horseshit, and last but not least they’re also more prone to burn out and may have fewer outside influences

    Regarding the PR firms, it’s the professionals who runs and hires them. And how is hype in the electronic music scene any different from that in the rest of the music industry? If anything, during the last decade as scene became more “professional” it’s been going down that path where image and marketing is everything. Every wannabe has a pompous biography full of namedropping (“shared stage with..”, “played by..”) with little to no info on their artist vision or individual sound — well, because most have none.. but perhaps a fucking costume or artificial aura of anonymity, true and tested hype generators.

  • well, english is not my mother language, but i get the point.

    People who are getting into the electronic music lately are not really committed to the music, they get into only for a time, usually these type of people are the ones that are the good ones with self promoting, have lots of money to spend and also know people inside the game and ave friends, while the music geeks, the djs that dig for music are focusing their time in music only and have no attention for the self promotion, networking, cause their head are mostly thinking on music., either making it or digging for it…

    This music industry is not based on quality, it is ALL about Quantity: Facebook Likes, YouTube viewers, soundcloud plays, beatport chart, which we all know can be bought….

    With so much marketing, Ads, PRs and bad journalism around, music has become a House of Cards..

    I have something in mind when booking a young DJ that had sent his material to me.

    First I listen to his set, than I check his facebook account, where I do a bit of a research, I usually check what he was doing two/three years ago, than I do a little mind exercise, thinking about what will he be doing in 5 years time, will him still be djing, digging for music? if i think yes, I`ll get him, if not, well,, try next year…

  • Less is more.

    Over exposure is the road to irrelevance.

    If you don’t get that then you’re obviously digesting culture in a vacuous way and are probably part of the problem itself. Cultural consumerism is what this article is about and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

    If you find yourself reaching for your morning coffee, reading Resident Advisor, Pitchfork, LN-CC, then you’re never going to get it. About as deep as eating a hotdog at Ikea and thinking you’re a culinary expert.


    Fuck you heros, famous when dead.

    Peace out.

  • I can’t tell exactly what you’re complaining about here, but It seems you’re mostly upset that PR influences dance music media, and that people who don’t commit their life to dance music are controlling a lot of people’s musical experiences.

    I don’t like those things either – but I don’t find them surprising, unjustified, or unfair, and I don’t think complaining about them has ever made a difference. I also cannot glean from this article what your ideal world looks like.

    “A more educated and more committed audience leads to a better economic situation for quality artists.”

    Doesn’t this apply to everything? When has there not been over-hyped shitty music, media, movies, art, journalism, anything?

    It would help if you named artists, labels, genres, clubs, cities. The markets that serve the vague term “underground dance music economy” vary wildly depending on if your’e talking about Disclosure or Lobster Theremin, Ingrosso or White Material, Daft Punk or Ben Klock, Minneapolis or New York, Mexico City or Berlin.

    I don’t think PR releases alone can make an artist popular? I think it’s fair to assume that even the worst Beatport clone tracks have something in them that appeal to people’s most base wants from music, even if it’s not original or interesting to you or me.

    How can you actually be upset that not all dance music fans take the music as seriously as you do?

    People who proclaim themselves to know objectively what is best about something subjective like musical taste have in my experience not only taken the fun out of everything – their taste is usually boring.

    In my mind, there will always be shitty shit, and the people who care about quality will always work to find it and produce it.

  • This.

    Keep believing your own hype.

    And don’t call on the ethics of DIY to save you.
    If that’s your knee jerk reaction, nothing can save ya.

  • Please stop writing about music

  • Fixed.

    “Please stop writing music”

  • _….._
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    f | Y
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  • is dilettantism ruining the music? this is the real question!

  • I think @TML has nailed it in the comments. Lots of valid points in the article (coming at it from a fan/occasional DJ perspective), but the whole egalitarianism-dilutes-quality debate has been going for ages. It does unfortunately come off as a bit of a whine.

  • We are all free to listen or in a lot of cases, not listen to whatever we want..

    I blame society, ableton and the internet..

  • as a new promoter who tried to go down the noble route of booking DJs for skills rather than how easy it was to promote them – ie known records – this just wasnt financially viable. We would get props ‘heads’ saying what a solid booking it was but the truth is these guys don’t bother gonig to nights and you haemorrhage cash to the point where it becomes imperative to pay higher fees for guys who are known to these ”young kids” – the people who actually go out and pay into nights.

  • i really don’t understand this article. i mean, the most exciting music is coming from underground-diy-scenes, who maybe become more professional with time. the best parties i attend weren’t the hyped ones. to me it’s the opposite: the more established and successful artists make the most boring music.
    i don’t give a shit, if someone makes a label part-time as long as the music is good. in my hometown there’s a great music-scene with so much high quality music (and so much weird stuff too) and so much labels, djs, musicians. it’s all rooted in an underground-diy-attitude and you can hear the development over the years.
    you’re right when it goes to boring deep-house-sample-pack-stuff. but for me this sound has nothing to do with “underground”?
    and swedish house mafia is utter shit.

  • As a semi-pro DJ coming from a musical background, I totally understand where this article is coming from. Recently I’ve been wondering why I usually gravitate towards the same artist/labels even though I listen to hundreds of tracks on a weekly basis.

    Looking at EDM’s rise to fame and reading about how even some ‘Deep House’ artist pay for plays on their Soundcloud so that they can have top spots on Beatport for their sometimes ghost-written tracks…should the writer be called out for emphasizing an already exposed problem?

    This piece is labeled as an argument and his argument sounds solid to me:

    Music quality WILL eventually be noticed by people and if not quality or progressive, people will move on towards a different genre that is.

    That is a truth that has been evident just about any music genre that has ever existed. This piece illuminates this problem as a much bigger issue within dance music since WE are the aggregators of this music and it’s culture.

    Instead of writing a book, I’ll just finish with this:

    I can tell this article was written out of a passion for dance music, rather than only from ‘being bitter’. Valid points for the cases in which these instances are true and I have seen evidence of these claims in my own time in the music industry. I hope things won’t be a repeat of history, even though it sadly probably will.

  • Music used to be a high-risk high-reward venture, now the opposite is true. This is a great thing. If they can figure some way of paying artists a bit, then I think the now of cheap equipment and self-publishing is infinitely preferable to owing a label thousands of dollars.

    I think it takes people time (myself DEFINITELY included) not to contribute more half-assed music of genre x to the Soundcloud Graveyard done on the toilet on iPad. To learn to self-edit and be self-critical and keep at it. There is a downside to being able to instantly upload your ideas. And I think the fragmentation of music to hundreds of micro genres with not a lot of money between them has perhaps forced tribalism and critiquing the external rather than doing the aforementioned. To me it’s a question of how you choose to see it, what you want out of it.

  • If you go review your stacks of 90s records, most of those producers are not making music anymore. Yet their contributions were huge. Underground dance has a huge number of 1-hit wonders, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Even the occasional art-school production or even first-year-release by a current EDM superstar can still be a moving track. Some of us used to think that drum and bass was ruining music, what an embarrassing idea that was!!

    Really, judge ever record on its own merit, judge every producer on her own merit, and know that its just fine to stop reading someone else’s post/article/reply when your bullsh-t meters go off.

  • The real problem with the dance music industry is a bunch of blowhards being pretenious dicks to anyone else trying something that doesn’t fit into what they define as “good”. I’ve seen techno guys say DnB is crap, jungle guys say dubstep suck, and any other combination you can imagine. I don’t know what it is about dance music that attracts a bunch of dicks that just put other people down. How about this for a title of the article “I am an aging music producer that is afraid of the way things are going”. By putting down people just starting off all you are doing is making yourself look like a jerk, and making a bunch of potentially great musicians shy away before they can develop themselves

  • I love amateur music , in fact I prefer that kind of music .

  • xx Wrote:
    1. ignore ‘dance music journalism’
    2. ignore grumpy wankpieces like this
    3. make fucking techno

    ^^^ this guy

  • This article is all over the shop, it’s quite hard to tell where or who it’s accusations are aimed at, or if it’s a response to those two quotes (which are unsubstantiated by any indication of their context) in one direction or the other ultimately.

    People with a “full investment” in dance music is a pretty problematic statement from the outset and the article falls arse over elbow there on in. So, people who invest in dance music financially arent “fully” invested due to inauthentic intent or whimsical commitment, yet those who are passionately involved but not financially rewarded by it are amateurs? Because they dont / cant do it full time?

    Im sure there’s a good point in here somewhere, and several important issues are highlight but I think confusion reigns. Define professionalism?

    Attack magazine’s product reviews that are soooooooo typically sycophantic, with only the faintest of critcal touches. So there is an overall hint of hypocrisy here.

    Anyway, discussion is good.

  • It’s the market bro, deal with it.

    Because the techno scene doesn’t produce enough wealth to mantain a lot of professional carrers people don’t commit enough, You can’t blame people for being cautious.

  • I think people should reject the “professionalisation” of Music. Dance Music and popular youth music has always been at it’s best when it came from the streets.

    No one gave Mr Superstar DJ the divine right to have a clear field

    Many talented musicians started off making amateur sounding music. Everyone has to start somewhere

  • anything but bland. emotions stirred. good post.

  • This isn’t about dance music. It’s a thing that’s been happening in every profession for a couple decades now. Overall, TV shows, movies, music of any genre, books, art, games, etc… are all more “amateur” and dumbed down than they ever were before. The world population has boomed, and that means a huge demand for entertainment content. Paired with high quality tools available at low prices, and a new publishing medium that connects anyone to everyone (the internet) and you get a recipe for some lowest common denominator art everywhere you look. When Twilight is a popular book series, the Black Eyed Peas win music awards, and Lost is considered engaging drama, we have really lost perspective on what “professional” used to mean. But on the up side, more people than ever are able to express themselves artistically, and we have finally broken the hold of a very small minority of people controlling what we are exposed to artistically, and both of those things are huge gains.

  • The cycle of mediocrity – I wonder how that is perpetuated ?

    Gear Lust, Ghost writing,, Tutorials, magazines, reviews and bullshitters.

    Who gives a fuck what Tomas cocks thinks. I’ve never heard of him or his music. I’ve heard the SHM stuff and its bloody terrible. It might make lots of money but I’m interested in underground music. Not pop-house.

  • Ugh man. What a tiring subject. Music is free and people are free. Make your music and if people like it they’ll follow. If listeners want to listen to amateur music why is it bad? People need to focus on their work and stop bitching about other people’s work. You’re the only responsible of your own success. Stop trying to find people responsible for you not being where you want to be.
    That’s the message I have to anyone bitching about other people standing between them and their goals.

  • So I’ve read this article a couple of times over the past week & decided to reflect on it rather than posting right away. You know what? Thomas Cox has a valid point.

    That said the the article’s title is wrong. Maybe a bit of private debate about the topic could have helped the article before publishing this. Using the word ‘amatuers’ in the title has clearly put a lot of readers on the defensive (there’s a few raw nerves above).

    Why I agree with him is because I’ve seen the things he’s discussing first hand- promoters making bad/irrational/human decisions & producers/DJs who get full of themselves. The people I’m thinking of ARE amatuers. They’d lost perspective on how small their scene is and how to be realistic. By being so in love with the idea of a scene they’d lost perspective on what it takes to put on a good show & treat their audience right. Can’t fault their passion though, I won’t lie it was infectious (one mob almost convinced me that ‘mnml’ isn’t lame- fine if you love that stuff but I don’t).

    Thomas was not having a go at all amatuer producers, DJs, journalists & music consumers. As long as we’re realistic about who we are and what our options are we ought to be OK. No harm in being ambitious or trying to make the music you love, just don’t be a dick about it. Easy. To repeat a few commentors’ points- we need to fine tune our collective bullshit detector.

  • Cox hints at the real problem, but then mislabels it as an issue of amateur vs. professional. Dance music is great when it celebrates the DIY spirit that’s driven (all) electronic music from the beginning. Cox recognizes this — “Artists like these are also the ones using ready-made loops from sample packs to make identical-sounding tracks” — but then mistakenly assumes that all such artists are amateurs (and all amateurs work this way), and that professionals would never do such a thing. Arguably, there’s more conformity among top name producers than among unknown bedroom producers.

    If you want to rail against something, rail against the ease of copying something that somebody else did — a drum loop, a bass preset — and ratchet up critical pressure on producers to get their hands dirty and tweak the hell out of the synths. Technical skill opens up innovations that are unavailable to the naive. Technical skill also reflects commitment, rather than the wish to cash in quickly on the scene (which Cox rightly lambasts).


  • this just in: old white dude feels threatened

  • All the true innovators were bedroom djs, putting tracks together using tape and razor blades with cobbled together equipment

    What’s ruining dance music is rich arseholes playing over produced expensive crap to rich arseholes with bottle service backed by even richer arseholes with zero interest whatsoever in music.

    Dance music could use more amateurism.

  • Thats it !!!! @ Steve

  • ^^^ James nailed it. We need MORE amateurism… LESS attention. NO Corporations. It will never be right until it stops being “cool” in the mainstream. It won’t be too long, I’m sure there will be a new bandwagon for everyone to jump on soon and then we can start rebuilding our culture.

  • Amateur vs Pro?
    To become a pro you have to be an amateur first….to be an amateur who become a pro you shall release “amateur” music before someone can decide you to pay so that you become pro…

    Let’s put like this, in my view what ruins this is the industry itself.
    As soon as money are in, greed is as well, so why on the hearth a record label would pay a reasonable wage to an established producer (who might not sell as expected) when they have tons of aspiring “amateur” that would do it for free?

    The arts’ world is though.

  • Hi everyone,

    I have some thoughts on what I’ve just read. I’m a fairly new member of the electronic music producers/DJ community so you might consider me as the ‘threat to trade’ as the article mentioned. But I’m not new to music – I’m an active bass player since 2004 and I think there are some essencial similarities in both these worlds.

    First of all I’m sure we all acknowledge that companies like Native Instruments or Akai (and a bunch of others) strive to make music production and DJing as simple as it may get. We all benefit from it as well but it’s natural that a lot of, lets call them newbies, get into it and publish their work. Some of it is really awesome, some of it is the reason this article happend.

    This leads us to the second issue. I find it quite alike as the rise of punk rock music which wanted to oppose traditional rock dinosaurs (or skilled and experienced musicians if you will). Please don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware that punk had a bit different context and created a wonderful universe of new music and is still inspiring new generations. But I guess at the time the fact that a bunch of kids grabbed guitars and started to play although they lacked skill and knowledge had to be really frustrating to the masters of the instrumental trade.

    To conclude amateurism in electronic music is a product of this amazing technological progress. But the fact that these amateurs are getting booked and credit is another thing. We need to realise that these are the market demands (lets call it this way) right now. The mainstream was never a place where ground breaking things happend – it was always dictated by masses and controled by the industry. But nevertheless underground music was always the place where more demanding people seeked interesting things. Of course they are a minority but just think how much valuable this individual is.
    So discussing about the erosion of electronic music due to a growing number of amateurs is like getting mad that some wanted form you a ride home when your a skilled and experienced racing driver. I think there’s nothing we can do about it but the true fan/interested individual will recognize the difference.


  • The way to support a more professional music scene is to actually pay a living wage for music. That means: Stop piracy, pay sustainable rates for music, be it via downloads, streaming, or physical media.

  • The thing that strikes me is that this article is almost exclusively about DJs, as if somehow they are the only anything when it comes to electronic dance music. Hello? How about the folks who are actually making the music to begin with? Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for a DJ with skills, but they have to have something to spin in the first place.
    Myself, I am most certainly an amateur, an amateur with a stack of drum machines, synthesizers, recording gear and a rather large variety of stuff. I am NOT a DJ, I do not sample other people’s work, I create everything, from scratch, on dedicated hardware gear. In the last year and a half, I’ve released over 178 tracks, all original work. I haven’t made much of a splash, but this doesn’t stop me from playing nightly, recording new tracks and trying to grow my base. For someone who made it, after being an amateur at one point, to declare from on High that amateurs are “ruining” the genre smacks of elitism and a sense of superiority that is often not deserved (seriously, some of you “pros” are complete shit).
    Way to forget where you and the entire genre came from your Lordships, kindly fuck off and shut up.

  • Troll journalism. Nothing more.

  • @a.k.a dere spot on bro.

  • After an entire paragraph putting down amateur journalists, we get this sentence:

    ‘The problem is that this isn’t an isolated example; we’re all caught up in a cycle in which amateurism on a number of perpetuates certain behaviour, with detrimental results to the entire industry.’

    No one ought to be too upset by an editing oversight here and there, but really, after distinguishing yourself from these amateurs you should at least try to make sure that the following paragraph is typo free . . .

  • Thomas Cox argues that amateurism on multiple levels within the dance music industry traps us in a harmful cycle.


    So who’s argument is this? Thomas or Claude?

    “Comments made by clowns like Sebastian Ingrosso”
    He’s a Clown now? Does he work with a troupe, circus or solo performer?

    “Underground dance music – in the nicest way possible – it’s amateur.”

    “…don’t usually even enter my consciousness, but one thing the former Swedish House Mafia member said in a recent New York Times interview struck a chord with me:”

    So, this statement from a clown struck such a chord/’wound you up enough’ to write an article that doesn’t matter as those who know underground dance music ‘know’ underground dance music.

  • The ‘amateurs’ he’s referring to are passionless, noncommittal kids who are just in it for the money/glory/ass.or are just about the rave scene.I mean,Their creative process consists of buying HQ, pro-sounding samples, slapping em into their pirated Ableton/FL, and sending it off to their buddy who actually knows what they’re doing to have it EQ’d /mastered.
    They blow up off one or two tracks on sites like beatport, do a few local shows, then lose interest (or realize they can only bullshit their way so far) and quit. Everyone else one else sees how easy it is, gets the same samples and packs, follows the same routine, and then the genre becomes saturated with passionless, samey garbage.

    The rave scene doesn’t help matters, either. Any time I tell someone I produce and mix electronic music, the general response usually includes something about molly and.or glowsticks. I know some of you feel my pain on this one. Like, “Yes, I produce/DJ so I can party with drugged-out 17-year olds”.

  • everyone is making the same shit

  • RA is The Borg
    Berghain is systemic death
    and everyone is making the same shit

  • How dare aspiring young artists get given a chance in an industry it’s author no longer recognises.

    In my 20’s I hung out every weekend in a field with a group of complete amateurs with a huge soundstage and a box of records. They were sneered at by ‘proper’ musicians with guitars, yet they endured and are now amongst the respected throngs of Beatport etc.

    The author of this piece seems to forget that it was enthusiastic amateurs that founded dance music. If there are easy in roads into the business than before, so be it. The underground will as always party hardest, and be the least familiar names.

  • Couldn’t agree more with you. How is it possible to go straight into a fully paid career as a DJ or music producer? People have to pay their bills while they are establishing themselves. This entire article is fucking bullshit.

  • i bet i hate whatever this guy likes

  • I really think this is about passion and intent. You don’t have to be fully committed to dance music exclusively for that to happen. You just have to be committed to what you set out to do, because you love it. This should be a gripe targeted at people with no passion, which affects all industries, but especially those that have experienced sharp rises in outside interest (the last decade of dance music being a perfect example), and misguided intent (becoming famous, getting likes and follows, etc).

  • just want to say this article fucking sucks dude


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