Editorial: Less is more: how overzealous party planners are squeezing the magic out of dance music
It has happened countless times: A show gets announced, tickets go on sale and sell out in record time, and then, suddenly, there’s another date added. This, and other variations on this (admittedly genius) strategy have become commonplace over the past few months with US events, and the trend has me worried — and it has understandably pissed off many fans.
Promoters and event organizers can certainly do whatever they want — and we all know that they do — but it’s getting to the point for most high profile events that a second show is almost a guarantee. It’s all becoming too predictable. Sure this is great for the artists and promoters (if demand stays high enough for the ‘added on’ shows), but these practices hurt the most important group of people in the equation: the fans — you know, the people that actually pay money for tickets.
Discussions of an ‘EDM bubble’ have been going on since the craze began, but I, like many others in the industry, believe that this music is finally here to stay. There’s simply too much invested in it, too many people working to make it stick, and too much influence that it has had on ‘pop music’ and our culture for it to disappear. The radio waves are congested with dance-inspired productions often produced by dance artists, our younger siblings longingly watch event aftermovies on YouTube, and our parents recognize Avicii as a household name. This isn’t going to subside in the short term. If anything, it’s only going to get more pronounced as the scene continues to get more concentrated and influenced by large corporations.
Ultra Music Festival announcing a second weekend for its 15th year continues this trend. Organizers technically announced the additional dates before tickets went on sale, but the mentality is still the same. My first reaction was a simple “wow,” but amid all the backlash from frustrated fans on social media and accounts from my own friends, I am starting to see that the anger is not completely unfounded. Ultra used to be the ultimate way to cap off Miami Music Week, but now going for three days isn’t even enough. Unlike another two-week festival like Coachella where you go first week or second week, the way Ultra sandwiches MMW forces fans to choose whether they want to start there or end there. It makes things harder to plan with friends, barely any other MMW events have been announced yet, and we were completely unprepared for it. I don’t think it’s bad that organizers want as many people to experience UMF as possible — it is an incredible festival and everyone should go at least once. But, I do think it makes the experience a lot less special.
We’re already seeing a shift in tastes from more of the forward-thinking members of the dance community. The rising popularity of underground events and the return of warehouse parties is an homage to yesteryear, where a large-scale event wasn’t just something you went to, but something you had to make an effort to attend. (Watch How Clubbing Changed The World for more details.) The advent of all-age or 16+ festivals has granted access to a whole new demographic of listeners (and ticket purchasers), but it has also begun to make these events less desirable to more seasoned attendees. Here’s the thing though: in a networked world with things like Twitter, Facebook, and, yes, music blogs, everything that’s ‘good’ is eventually going to ‘blow up.’ It happened with ‘house’ that has morphed into ‘EDM,’ and it will happen to the ‘underground’ stuff too.
From my standpoint, if anything will break the industry it will be overzealous promoters who get too aggressive, aim too high, and harm the other major stakeholders in the process. A number of high profile tours were undersold this summer, forcing performers to cancel dates and switch venues with regularity, and having negative side effects on their booking fees. Despite these shortcomings and the increased number of shows, ticket prices have only continued to rise. Maybe it’s because the majority of the shows do sell out that this is the case, but this isn’t going to last forever — and things need to start changing now if this music is to progress the way it should.
The saddest part of the current situation is that it is the fans who lose out the most. They are the ones forced to pay the asking price if they can buy tickets fast enough when they go on sale, and they are the ones who must overpay on StubHub or Craigslist when scalpers get there first. Some fans have even turned into scalpers themselves, buying extra tickets just to finance the costs of going to so many shows. If history teaches us anything, it’s that when the people get unhappy, they revolt — or they just find something else to do instead. I’m not suggesting that there will be one day when this all just falls apart, but slowly and surely, it will.
Last time I wrote an editorial like this, I asked DJs to leave us wanting more in their sets. This time around, I’m asking the promoters and event planners to do the same. You will still make money and you will still sell out shows, but we, the fans, won’t feel cheated or deceived. If you are planning multiple shows — tell us ahead of time, and stop playing these games with our heads and our wallets. The shows might not sell out as fast, but if there’s enough demand, they will eventually.
It’s an amazing time for dance music right now, and I know I want it to last as long as possible. If practices like this continue, however, it might have a shorter lifespan than we think.