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Electronic dance music is electronic music that is produced primarily for the purposes of use within a nightclub setting, or in an environment that is centered upon dance-based entertainment. The music is largely created for use by disc jockeys and is produced with the intention of it being heard in the context of a continuous DJ set ; wherein the DJ progresses from one record to the next via a synchronized segue or 'mix'.

Electronic dance music is a broad set of percussive music genres that largely inherit from 1970s disco music and, to some extent, the experimental pop music of Kraftwerk. Such music was originally born of and popularized via regional nightclub scenes in the 1980s. By the early 1990s, the presence of electronic dance music in contemporary culture was noted widely and its role in society began to be explored in published historical, cultural and social science academic studies. It is constructed by means of electronic instruments such as synthesizers, drum machines and sequencer, and generally emphasizes the unique sounds of those instruments, even when mimicking traditional acoustic instrumentation. It sometimes encompasses music not primarily meant for dancing, but derived from the dance-oriented styles.


Since around the mid-1980s, electronic dance music has enjoyed popularity in many nightclubs, and is the predominant type of music played in discothèques as well as the rave scene. As such, the related term club music, while broadly referring to whichever music genres are currently in vogue and associated with nightclubs, has become synonymous with all electronic dance music, or just those genres — or some subset thereof — that are typically played at mainstream discothèques. It is sometimes used more broadly to encompass non-electronic music played at such venues, or electronic music that is not normally played at clubs but that shares attributes with music that is. What is widely considered to be club music changes over time, includes different genres depending on the region and who's making the reference, and may not always encompass electronic dance music. For example hip hop music, being widely played in clubs, is one form of "club music" to many , but a smaller percentage would describe it as being a form of electronic dance music. Similarly, electronic dance music sometimes means different things to different people. Both terms vaguely encompass multiple genres, and sometimes are used as if they were genres themselves. The distinction is that club music is ultimately based on what's popular, whereas electronic dance music is based on attributes of the music itself.


Electronic dance music is categorized by music journalists and fans alike as an ever-evolving plethora of named genres, styles and sub-styles. With many types of dance music, the number of beats per minute (BPM) helps define a separation between genres. The presence of vocals, live instrumentation vs synthetic instrumentation, and pattern of drum beats also help differentiate genres of electronic dance music. Some genres, such as techno, house, trance, electro, breakbeat, drum and bass are primarily intended to promote dancing. Others, such as IDM, glitch and trip hop, are more experimental and tend to be associated more with listening than dancing.

Production technology

In the 1980s many genres of popular electronic music exploited the use of MIDI protocol; a technological development that expanded interactivity and synchronized functionality across a range of music related technologies. In the 1990s, following the growth of personal computing EDM creation began migrating to computer based production systems.

Notable artists and DJs

With the explosive growth of computers music technology and consequent reduction in the cost of equipment in the late 1990s, the number of artists and DJs working within electronic music is overwhelming. With the advent of hard disk recording systems, it is possible for any home computer user to become a musician, and hence the rise in the number of "bedroom bands", often consisting of a single person. Nevertheless notable artists can still be identified. Influential musicians in industrial, synth pop and later electronic dance styles include the Silver Apples, A-ha, Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, New Order, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, The Human League and Kraftwerk.In Hardcore, Happy Hardcore, Trance, and Gabber there are Angerfist, Neophyte, Endymion, Scott Brown, DJs Brisk and Ham, DJ Hixxy, Darren Styles, Mark Breeze, and Ferry Corsten.In hardstyle, Headhunterz, The Prophet, Zany, Blutonium Boy, Dark Oscillators, Showtek, Deepack.In house, techno and drum and bass pioneers such as Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Goldie, A Guy Called Gerald, LTJ Bukem and Frankie Bones are still active as of 2008. The only electronic music album to reach number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart is The Prodigy's The Fat Of The Land.

Commercially successful artists working under the "electronica" rubric such as Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers, Groove Armada, Basement Jaxx, Daft Punk, The Crystal Method, Massive Attack, Madonna, The Prodigy, Orbital, Propellerheads, Underworld and Moby continue to release albums and perform regularly (sometimes in stadium-sized arenas, such has the popularity of electronic dance music grown). Some DJs such as Paul Oakenfold, ATB, John Digweed, Sasha, Paul van Dyk, David Guetta, Armin van Buuren, Sandra Collins and Tijs Verwest (aka Tiësto) have reached true superstar status and can command five-figure salaries for a single performance. They perform for hours on end. Some DJs have world wide radio, and internet broadcasted shows that air weekly, such as A State of Trance, a show mixed by Armin van Buuren.

In the late 1990s and 2000s artists considered Indie Electronic grew in popularity, often blending synth-pop, krautrock, and electronica genres with others. Radiohead, Air, Stereolab, Simian Mobile Disco, Komeda, Broadcast, Röyksopp, Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, Caribou, Digitalism, Nite Club and Junior Boys are a few notable groups.

Notable record labels

Until the 1980s, there were virtually no record labels that exclusively promoted electronic dance music. This changed when Larry Sherman set up house label Trax Records, techno pioneer Juan Atkins started Metroplex Records, and Richie Hawtin started his influential Plus 8 imprint. In the United Kingdommarker, Warp Records emerged in the 1990s as one of the notable sources of home-listening and experimental music. Later arrivals include Astralwerks, Ninja Tune and Paul Oakenfold's Perfecto record label.

Seel also


  1. Butler, M.J., Unlocking the Groove: Rhythm, Meter, and Musical Design in Electronic Dance Music, Indiana University Press, 2006, (pp.12-13, p.94).
  2. MTO 7.6: Butler, Turning the Beat Around
  3. McLeod, Kembrew. 2001. "Genres, Subgenres, Sub-Subgenres and more: Musical and Social Difference Within Electronic Dance Music Communities." Journal of Popular Music Studies 13, 59-75.

Further reading

  • Hewitt, Michael. Music Theory for Computer Musicians. 1st Ed. USA. Cengage Learning, 2008. ISBN 13-978-1-59863-503-4]

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