When I first dove into the world of electronic dance music, I wasn’t exactly sure what it entailed. In the early stages of its more mainstream development, major genres included the dubstep and techno remixes of Eurotrash songs people only associated with Dutch hostels. The more and more I explore the world of EDM and its influence in the music industry, however, the more I see how visionary the labels are — especially the ones that experiment not only with artists, but also with demographics.
One fascinating aspect of this industry and its pertinence to electronic dance music is the self-produced artists who have spearheaded most of the now-world famous labels. For example, everyone who listens to the radio has, at one point or another, heard trap star Diplo’s work. Diplo’s own success is due in part to his overall musical genius. With radio hits like “Lean On” as his Major Lazer collective and his own personal solo success as a DJ, he has gained world recognition as an innovative force in the music industry.
Besides being part of various DJ collectives such as Major Lazer and Jack Ü, Diplo also spearheaded the influential label Mad Decent. Unless you are an EDM enthusiast like myself, you probably don’t know anything about Mad Decent except for the fact that they throw huge festival-style block parties in various cities around the U.S. The label, however, has provided one of the largest and most extensive outlets for new and emerging artists in the EDM world to reach one of the most influential demographics: college students.
Started in 2005, the Philadelphia and Los Angeles-based label has a mission to promote emerging dance artists, bringing them out from the underground and onto the block. The label hit gold when dance favorite “Harlem Shake” put Mad Decent artist Baauer on the electronic music map. Not only did the video go viral, but it also launched the previously unknown artist on to the top music charts.
In 2008, Mad Decent began its Block Party tour, starting on a meager street in Philadelphia with just a few tents and stages. Now, however, this phenomenon has blown up to include cities all over the country and showcases both smaller artists and headlining radio stars.
Artists unknown to even deeply invested electronic fans have been discovered at various Block Party events. This year, Mad Decent will be welcoming some amazing artists to Los Angeles on Sept. 19 and 20 at L.A. Center Studios. Diplo himself will be performing both as his music group Major Lazer and as himself.
One of the highlights of this year’s L.A. Block Party will be Grandtheft’s DJ set. A newcomer from Canada, Grandtheft is easily one of the most diverse and interesting new artists. Not only will his performances at Mad Decent events in the coming weeks be a highlight for his personal career, but they will also serve as an example of how powerful labels can be within the music industry.
Though these Block Parties pave the way to popularity, they also represent an intimacy within the music industry between listeners and labels. Mad Decent is only one example of how self-interested artists have begun the process of removing the hierarchy of the recording industry by producing and managing themselves and representing other artists who are searching for their break into the industry.
Innovation is the key to any industry. Music, though having been around in various forms since the beginning of time, is one of the most frequently evolving industries. Its sensitivity to the social and cultural trends — especially today, in an era of technology — has given rise to electronic music, which is constantly changing due to the innovators within the industry. Mad Decent is one of those labels with major influence, challenging a familiar concept and turning it into a whole new platform for electronic artists to rise to fame.
The Mad Decent label is merely an extension of an ever-changing music frontier. Among the block parties, the rising artists and the sonic sound revolution, Mad Decent is leading the way to a bright future in the electronic dance music industry.
Madison Cisiewski is a sophomore majoring in music industry. Her column, “Electric Industry,” runs every other Monday.