This past weekend, the bloated electronic dance music industry gained another notch on the old belt loop of corporatized capitalism. When Ultra decided to use a five-minute time slot between mainstage set-up/teardown for a KFC advertising stunt, artists took to Twitter in outrage and disgust mostly. While others saw it as an opportunity to troll and light-heartedly poke fun.
The resounding critique shunned Ultra for the move, saying organizers should have used the time to promote rising artists in the scene, while others lamented that it was the dawn of a new era of “EDM” selling out to big box buyers. None of those critiques, however, were quite as resilient, succinct, and well spoken as Toronto-based DJ/producer Hunter Siegel.
Siegel’s remarks were objectively removed, informed, yet sobering, and really put things into perspective. “The scene is fully corporate at this point,” he said over Twitter, reminding everyone that the ad money probably helped pay for a massive portion of the festival and giving those smaller artists a continued platform. Siegel continued,
“The days of things like Ultra having a duty to showcase underground talent and ‘who’s next’ type of artists are LONG GONE for the most part, it’s about what makes financial sense. The whole industry is about the bottom line, ad spends, the bottom line, fiscal this and that. Don’t kid yourself that the industry is about the LOVE OF MUSIC anymore, the mainstream aspect of it is owned by massive corporations and the ‘artists’ are viewed as brands on a ledger and traded more like stocks.”
And Siegel’s criticisms, which he self-described as a “hot take” or “grumpy old man rant,” are spot on. Call it cynical, call it jaded, but it’s the hard-lined truth. It’s easier for creatives, who don’t understand the back-end dealings of advertising dollars and booking expenses, to issue willy-nilly, overly-idealistic critiques—because they’re choosing not to see the bigger picture.
When artists fully (self-)realize the Catch-22 of the music industry they’ve become wrapped into, the sooner their platforms will become more conscious. Conscious to the fact that this move is nothing new for latent capitalism, just our tiny genre sector of dance music. But to fully realize such requires dealing with the quandary of guilt that comes with powerlessness. To fully realize such means self-indicting our own actions and questioning our false platforms. And to fully realize such is a step towards self-actualization.
This is an industry, after all. This is the day and age of capitalism that we live in, and we’re all complicit with these kinds of actions because we choose to buy tickets to Ultra, just as we choose to accept contracts to play their stages.