From the Outside: Entrepreneurial Dance Music
My last few posts have covered interesting news stories and current events in the electronic music world. With the wide-reaching popularity of the industry there’s no shortage of new things to talk about. The excitement of checking out new-to-me artists and local DJs in person can’t be denied, but I’ve found that it can also be fun to research the industry and think about the ways it changes the world. This week, a story about a successful young entrepreneur caught my eye. It got me thinking about how EDM is, in many ways, just as entrepreneurial as the renowned tech industry.
Brian Lim is only a year older than I am, but his company, which makes gloves with LED lights in them (the kind that makes for an awesome light show at raves if they’re in the right hands) is one of the fastest-growing private companies in the country right now. He’s got 43 employees working under him, which doesn’t sound like many, but let’s not forget that it didn’t take a lot of people to make companies like Facebook or Instagram huge either. Lim’s company, EmazingLights, is already making millions in sales and looking to add millions more to that in the next few years. And how did he get started? With $100 and a prototype. That’s entrepreneurialism at its finest.
The electronic music industry has opened many doors for entrepreneurs, in every aspect from accessories to music production. Although many music genres have their share of DIY aesthetic on some level, electronic music stands out as a place where it really is possible to make a name—and a brand—without a lot of money, resources, or connections to start with. My theory? It’s because the started-from-the-bottom, do-it-yourself ideal is ingrained in the industry due to how electronic music is made. Although the equipment isn’t necessarily cheap, you don’t need a lot of space and you certainly don’t need much in the way of instruments in order to make electronic music. If you have a computer, you can get started. If you have an Internet connection, you can share what you’ve made. And because it’s such a popular and growing industry, people are always looking in unexpected places for the next big thing. Think of your favorite electronic artists—many of them may have been self-taught and gained fame through the Internet or playing live shows, rather than through industry connections and huge record deals (although those things usually come at some point for successful artists).
This trend extends to all aspects of the industry, including writing about the genre—and as freelance writers or aspiring full-time journalists, many writers are entrepreneurs in a way too. Music writers like myself (although I’m not strictly a music journalist—I write about all kinds of things) may find success in writing about electronic music, while writing about other genres is hard to know where to start. Again, this is partly because of the popularity of the genre—EDM is everywhere and people never seem to get tired of reading about it. There are countless new songs, artists, albums, and shows to cover at any given time. Much like the EDM scene, I’ve also found the other writers who cover this music to be an exceptionally welcoming and supportive group. At the publications I’ve written for we have adopted the same organic collaboration methods that many musical entrepreneurs in the EDM industry use to create new music; people read, respond to, and share each others’ work. Genuine praise and helpful criticism is ubiquitous, and we help each other out with story ideas and opportunities. I have online friends who I’ve never met in person, but who I consider friends nonetheless, thanks to writing for these publications.
Many industries are very corporate on some level, and electronic music is no exception. But underneath the big, expensive veneer of massive festivals, artists, and companies there are those who start with next to nothing and make a name for themselves whether as a musician, a journalist, or a producer of LED gloves. Some of them end up among the biggest names in the industry. It’s important to celebrate and recognize the entrepreneurs and self-starters of EDM because they keep the industry genuine and innovative. So, know someone who’s putting together an album or a show for the first time? Stumble across a tiny EDM-themed clothing company you’ve never heard of? Show some support and let them know you like what they’re doing. And if that self-starter is you? Awesome. I may not know you, but I think you’re cool.