One step, two step, regress to the mean — dancing with data
Dance music. We all know what that is, right? It’s the music with the rhythm that moves your feet — or your booty — and gets you out on the dance floor. It’s the song that everybody knows and loves. You know, the Charleston.
Or not. Maybe you like to dance to something a little more modern, or a little more energetic, like hardstyle, or maybe something more traditional. It doesn’t matter, really. Dance music is whatever gets you dancing — except when we’re talking about the music charts. There, dance music has a very different implication. According to Billboard, the dance music charts refer to the music played by DJs in the clubs, as determined by self-reported usage statistics.
Now this opens up a couple of interesting questions — one, is it even fair to consider dance music a genre? As we discussed in our previous article about pop, it’s probably better to consider categories like this market segments, not genres. The second question is that if the charts (and through that, what is seen to be popular) are determined by reports about club play from a limited sample, how accurate are they? After all, there’s a little bit of chicken-and-egging happening here — if the charts say something is popular, it gets more play elsewhere. Does the popularity make the chart, or vice-versa.
But let’s look at the genre issue first.
O tempora!, O choris!
From the speakeasies of the 20s to the dance clubs of today, dancing is constant, dances (and the music they require) are not. This shouldn’t be surprising — dancing is as ephemeral as music taste — and it’s reflected in the dance music charts. From its beginning in 1976 with the Bee Gees appropriately named You Should Be Dancing to today’s more electronic hits, the nature of dance music has changed considerably.
However, the market segment it represents continues to go strong, driving new music, remixes, and the modern perception of DJ-as-artist. While this is very exciting for consumers around the world, it opens an interesting discussion. If the DJ is the artist making the people dance, who’s getting paid? At what point in a set does the DJ stop being the person playing the music, and start becoming the person making the music? It’s an interesting question, and one that leads us to our second point.
Put the needle on the record
Dance music — especially electronic dance music — is big money, valued at 7.3bn USD in 2018. This was slightly down from the previous year, but interestingly DJ earnings were up. This begs the question, “Who’s really driving dance music?”
Of course, DJs aren’t just playing records, they are creating tracks using their own skills and the work of others. This is amazing for the crowds on the dancefloor, nightmarish for the lawyers, PROs and rights holders who need to deal with the implications of original music almost entirely composed of other pieces of original music.Even the point at which a DJ’s work stops being a set and becomes a piece of original music is difficult to determine, but in many ways it isn’t important. What is important is that at all levels of the modern dance music industry, the stakeholders are relying on imperfect, self-reported and poorly defined data.
This mightn’t be such a big deal when discussing the charts — after all, that’s by the industry, for the industry — but it has an enormous impact in the field of rights. Being paid for being played is only fair, and would benefit everyone in the industry, but it isn’t the case. Incomplete data means that artists don’t get paid enough, or at all. This isn’t the fault of the DJs, the clubs, or anyone else in the value chain — they’re just trying to do the best job they can while in a 21st century world with 19th century data gathering techniques.
It’s high time for a refresh to bring the state of the industry up to the state of the art. Music rights management now must deal with techniques, technologies, and artforms that weren’t even imagined when the precedent was laid down. We will always dance to the music of time, and we can’t stop the flow of progress, but at least we can get up to speed with a deftly executed quickstep.
Changing the beat
That’s where Utopia Genesis comes in. We’re working with the cutting edge of blockchain technology to bring transparency into the music industry and give musicians a chance to be paid fairly. Through advanced monitoring algorithms thanks to Utopia Music’s data, direct payment rails, and comprehensive rights management databases we are aiming to ensure that one play truly does equal one pay, for everyone.
Curious to know more? Join our Discord and Telegram — Utopia Genesis.