Electronic dance music has infiltrated the mainstream market. Commonly referred to as the music choice for millennials, electronic music is reportedly a $4 billion industry that has led to the popularization of music festivals and rave culture. But what once started out as a movement for freedom of expression, “good vibes” and P.L.U.R. (peace, love, unity, respect) has transformed into a culture where critics find reason to discredit dance music. Music festivals are often accompanied by negative headlines in nationwide publications following the last day of a festival. Naysayers are quick to pick up on drug-related tragedies and turn a blind eye to the positive aspects of a festival, paying little attention to the good that accompanies this music culture.
Summer is right around the corner. Major music festivals are preparing for the thousands of fans ready to empty their pockets and storm the festival grounds to catch a glimpse of their favorite artists. For many, festivals are a way to express who they are freely without judgment. There’s a feeling of belonging and community that comes from meeting like-minded individuals who are simply there to enjoy the experience. Fans exchange hand made beaded bracelets called “kandi”. Occasionally you’ll run into a group of people on the ground giving each other light shows with white gloves. Some festival goers even describe electronic dance music as a form of therapy and how they feel socially comfortable in the dance music environment. This is a culture built on spreading positive energy and creating a larger sense of community for those who crave a place to belong. That’s how this vibrant culture was born and the drugs that accompany it have become somewhat inevitable. .
That’s not to suggest that drugs and questionable behavior are ingrained in electronic music culture. But this is what the mass media chooses to focus on and the startling numbers of deaths that follow dance music events only support the misunderstanding that this type of music is a destructive lifestyle. Raves and festivals are quickly becoming synonymous with drugs and bad behavior. The deaths from Electric Daisy Carnival or Ultra Music Festival attributed to drug overdose call into question how safe dance music really is. You’ll see self-proclaimed bros wearing tanks asking “Have you seen Molly?”, a reference to the popular dance music drug that is derived from ecstasy. Far too often you’ll encounter someone in a crowd asking if you’ve seen dance music’s favorite drug of choice. .
But contrary to the media, drugs don’t define electronic music and its festival culture. Dance music is the music of the millennials and, with the Internet, communities and collaborations amongst millennials have been growing faster than ever. Popular artists use their fame and presence to promote respect amongst each other. Martin Garrix recently spoke up against bullying; Skrillex spoke to the crowds at Solaris about maintaining positivity and spreading love. Despite the negativity surrounding dance music in the press, there is a movement working to strengthen dance music’s positive impact. Millennials, when working together, can perform amazing deeds. Millennials online can encourage other members of this growing community to look after one another, both in festival settings and in everyday life. We can use social media to highlight positive encounters fans have with each other and show support to members of our community who chose to follow a sober or more conservative lifestyle. The Internet is a powerful forum where members of the music community can show their respect for everyone involved in this international community and encourage others to do the same. Electronic dance music and festival culture are here to stay, and the “good vibes” are only going to get stronger.