A History of EDM & Raves in the US

Electronic Dance Music

Electronic dance music (EDM) is not a new genre; it has been around since the 1970’s as an underground genre mostly referred to as “techno”. Over the last decade, EDM has gone from underground to mainstream in the US, especially in the last two to three years. EDM is now on the radio, TV, in movies, magazines, and in every other media medium. Forbes describes it as a shift in the “tectonic plates of mainstream music taste.”1 Kaskade, the eighth highest paid DJ in the world, says it even better, “I think mainly people were just ready to hear something new. My parents listened to rock and roll; that’s their music. And then hip-hop came along. This is the next generation of music.”

As this “new” genre becomes more popular, so does the culture around it. EDM doesn’t just refer to music anymore. There is a lifestyle that has been growing with EDM, just like there is a lifestyle that grew with hip-hop in the 1990’s and 2000’s. There is now a massive market of young Millennials that are willing to pay big bucks in order to live the EDM lifestyle. This market is growing at an alarming rate and doesn’t seem to just be a fad. “Dance music is pretty close to where rock was 50 years ago,” says Afrojack, the ninth highest paid DJ in the world. “And rock has never died. So I’m sure the same [goes for] dance music.”

The EDM industry is now worth an estimated $4 billion, according to the Huffington Post2. This new market craves music first of all, but also everything else that comes with music: news, coverage, concerts, festivals, clothing, products, merchandise, etc. There is now an explosion of entrepreneurial start-ups that have been created to service this new market worldwide and especially in the US.

The Music Festival Industry

The UK and Europe have lead the way with hundreds of yearly music festivals for decades, but it’s just recently we have seen a similar trend beginning in the US. According to The Guardian, the live music business (mostly fueled by large-scale music festivals) has grown to roughly $2.2 billion in the UK, with over 670 different festivals in 2010 that contributed over $700 million to the economy in ticket sales, travel, accommodations, and food3. Although the UK and some other European music festival markets are now considered to be “oversaturated,” according Charles Attal, co-founder of event production company C3 Presents, the US market remains “underserved” with only about 500 festivals taking place last summer4. If the UK market has just beginning to become oversaturated with 670 music festivals per year, just by comparing UK and US populations, the US will not become oversaturated until it has at least 3,300 music festivals per year.

The festival scene in the US is thriving and new festivals are being offered at a high pace to meet demand. Total live ticket sales more than tripled from $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion between 1999 and 20095. Festivals now sell out before the line-up is even announced, which was unheard of a few years ago.

EDM Only Music Festival Industry

In addition to EDM artists now headlining mainstream music festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Bonnaroo, there has also been a huge explosion in attendance at EDM-only festivals, also known as “raves”. Raves have long been associated with underground techno music and semi-legal warehouse gatherings that take place in the middle of the night. Not the case anymore. Raves are now the equivalent of large-scale rock music festivals, but even bigger and more profitable. The Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas drew more than 300,000 fans over three days in the summer of 2012, making it the largest EDM music festival in North America. Ultra Music Festival in Miami drew 150,000 fans over three days while other raves like Electric Zoo in New York, Beyond Wonderland in LA, Movement in Detroit, Electric Forest in Michigan, Spring Awakening in Chicago, and dozens more attracted thousands of “ravers” last year.

Almost all of these EDM events sell out, proving that the market is there and willing to pay money to be a part of this new culture. Festival attendance at the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) increased by 39.1%, or 90,000 attendees from 2011 to 2012. The average ticket for EDC cost over $200 and the event contributed $207 million to the Clark County economy in 2012. This festival took place at a 1,000-acre complex featuring a half dozen custom built stages, enormous interactive art installations, and hundreds of EDM artists. Insomniac, one of the largest EDM event promoters in the US, spent $22.6 million on the festival6.

These events are only going to grow in number and scale as big players in the music industry such as Live Nation and AEG Live begin to buy up smaller EDM promoter companies at an alarming rate. Billionaire entertainment mogul Robert Sillerman plans on spending $1 billion acquiring EDM promoter companies this year alone7. European promoters are also seeing the opportunities to expand across the Atlantic by partnering up and bringing even more EDM festivals stateside, such as the brand new Sensation and TomorrowWorld events.


1Greenburg, Z. O. (2012, August 2). The World's Highest-Paid DJs. Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/zackomalleygreenburg/2012/08/02/the-worlds-highest-paid-djs/ 
2Feinstein, D., & Ramsay, C (2012, November 8). Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dannyHfeinstein/electronicHdanceHmusic_b_2094797.html?utm_hp_ref=edm
3Warman, J. (2010, August 27). How Music Festivals Are Singing The Changes. The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/aug/27/music-festivals-record-industry
4Newman, M. (2012, August 23). Upstart Music Fests Feed Market Demand. Variety: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118057987?refCatId=16 
5CBS. (2012, August 21). Cash-Strapped Music Industry Pins Hope On Festivals. CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57497067/cash-strapped-music-industry-pins-hope- on-festivals/ 
6Beacon Economics. (2012). Electric Daisy Carnvial Las Vegas 2012 Economic Impact Report. Las Vegas: Beacon Economics. 



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