How Scholarly is Electronic Dance Music?

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A recent study indicates that electronic dance music is not as scholarly as one might think.


Since its beginnings in the 1970s, electronic dance music (EDM) has undergone a significant evolution. Today, EDM is a popular genre that encompasses a wide range of subgenres, including house, techno, trance, drum and bass, and dubstep. While some people may associate EDM with hedonistic activities such as clubbing and drug use, the genre is actually quite diverse and complex. In recent years, EDM has become increasingly popular in the mainstream music industry, with big-name artists such as Calvin Harris and Skrillex achieving commercial success.

EDM has also infiltrated the world of academia, with scholars conducting research on various aspects of the genre. This research covers topics such as the history of EDM, its evolution over time, its impact on popular culture, and its relationship to other genres of music. While some people may question the scholarly value of studying EDM, this research provides valuable insights into this complex and ever-changing genre.

What is Electronic Dance Music?

Electronic Dance Music, also known as EDM, is a broad range of percussive electronic music genres made largely for nightclubs, raves, and festivals. EDM is generally produced for playback by DJs who create seamless selections of tracks, called a mix, by segueing from one recording to another.


Electronic Dance Music, or EDM as it’s commonly called, has been around for decades but it has only recently entered the mainstream. The origins of EDM are hard to pin down because it is such a global and diverse phenomenon. However, many experts trace the roots of EDM back to the disco era of the 1970s.

The first electronic dance records were produced in the early 1980s by artists like Afrika Bambaataa and Kraftwerk. These artists pave the way for the development of other genres like house music and techno. In the 1990s, EDM experienced a resurgence thanks to rave culture and the popularity of trance music.

Today, EDM is one of the most popular genres in the world. It continues to evolve and branches off into new sub-genres every year. Some of the most popular EDM sub-genres include dubstep, trap, hardstyle, and Drum & Bass.


Electronic dance music is characterized by a strong rhythmic component, often with prominent sub-bass frequencies. It is produced for use in a range of contexts, including clubs, raves, and festivals. It frequently incorporates elements of other genres, such as hip hop, post-disco, rock, and house.

The popularity of EDM has grown rapidly in recent years. In the United States, electric dance music festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival have become some of the largest music festivals in the world.

Despite its growing popularity, electronic dance music has been largely ignored by the scholarly community. This is starting to change, however, as evidenced by the increasing number of journal articles, books, and conference panels devoted to the topic.

The Relationship Between Electronic Dance Music and Scholarship

There is a growing body of scholarship on electronic dance music (EDM) that explores the music’s history, cultural impact, and place within the music industry. However, much of this scholarship is still in its infancy, and there is debate within the EDM community about the scholarly value of the music. This article will explore the relationship between EDM and scholarship, and argue that EDM can be a valuable source of scholarship.

Academic interest

There has been a growing academic interest in electronic dance music (EDM) in recent years. This is reflected in the number of publications on EDM, the establishment of journals dedicated to the topic, and the growth of courses on EDM at universities around the world.

Despite this increasing interest, there is still a lack of agreement on what constitutes EDM and how it should be studied. This is partly due to the fact that EDM is a relatively new phenomenon, and partly because it is an umbrella term for a wide range of subgenres.

Some scholars have argued that EDM is best understood as a set of practices, rather than a genre of music. This includes everything from the production and consumption of EDM, to the way it is experienced at live events.

Others have argued that EDM should be studied in relation to other genres, such as techno, house, and trance. This approach emphasizes the interconnectedness of different genres within EDM, and highlights the importance of history and geography in understanding its development.

Finally, some scholars have argued that EDM should be studied as part of broader social and cultural phenomena, such as globalization, youth culture, and postmodernism. This approach emphasizes the ways in which EDM reflects and shapes wider social trends.


Much of the success of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is due to its commercialization. By commercialization, we mean the way in which EDM is produced and marketed to the masses. In many ways, EDM is a product like any other, and it is subject to the same rules of supply and demand. The difference, however, is that EDM is not simply consumed; it is also created by its fans. This duality makes EDM unique among musical genres and explains why it has become so popular in recent years.

EDM’s popularity can be traced back to the early 1990s, when DJs began playing dance music at clubs and raves. This new form of music was unlike anything that had come before, and it quickly gained a following among young people who were looking for something new and exciting. As EDM became more popular, record labels took notice and began to sign DJs and producers to exclusive contracts. This helped to fuel the growth of EDM as a commercial genre, and it led to the development of subgenres like trance, drum & bass, and dubstep.

Today, EDM is one of the most popular genres in the world, thanks in large part to its commercial appeal. But what exactly makes EDM so commercial? There are four key factors:

1) The music itself is designed to be accessible and easy to listen to;
2) The production values are high, which gives the music a polished sound;
3) The marketing of EDM caters to a wide range of demographics;
4) And finally, EDM concerts and festivals are some of the most lucrative events in the music industry.

All four of these factors contribute to EDM’s commercial success, but they also create a challenge for scholars who study the genre. On one hand, there is a temptation to focus solely on the music’s mass appeal and ignore its artistic merits. On the other hand, if scholars take too academic an approach, they run the risk of alienating potential listeners. It is a delicate balancing act, but one that must be navigated if we want to understand Electronic Dance Music as both an art form and a commercial product.


In conclusion, it is evident that electronic dance music has come a long way since its beginnings in the underground club scene. Although the music is still often associated with drug use and hedonistic behavior, it has also become increasingly accepted by the mainstream. In recent years, electronic dance music has even been nominated for Grammy Awards and featured at prestigious music festivals such as Coachella.

Despite this growing mainstream acceptance, there is still a lack of scholarly research on the topic. This is likely due to the relatively young age of the genre and its associated subcultures. As electronic dance music continues to evolve and grow in popularity, it is likely that more scholars will begin to take an interest in investigating this fascinating phenomenon.

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