Ultra Music Festival Miami 2013Electronic Dance Music has its own white paper. If you’re not familiar with the term, don’t worry—these documents are typically limited to government and the business world. Social Media Examiner’s CEO Michael Stelzner describes a white paper as “a persuasive document that usually describes problems and how to solve them,” while Investopedia explains that “the purpose of a white paper is to promote a certain product, service, technology, or methodology, and to influence current and prospective customers’ decisions.”

Robby Towns—founder of NestaMusic, a music industry consulting firm—has taken a slightly different approach in putting together something resembling an authoritative paper on dance music and culture. In a statement reported by Billboard, he explained, “I felt there was an opportunity to tell a past, present, and future account of EDM during a time when the music is at its global peak in history. It is my hope that this research will serve as a catalyst for dialogue on these areas in new and interesting ways.”

The paper, entitled “The EDM Guide: Technology, Culture, Curation” is an attempt to explain the current EDM phenomenon in a concise and glossy format, as well as “provide a resource for the music industry, DJ’s, producers and super fans that will offer insights on the evolution, depth and sustainability of EDM.”

In some ways it is a success.

The 41 page document is broken up into three primary sections: “Adoption of Technology,” “Strength of Culture,” and “Power of Curation,” with a brief preamble entitled “The Rise of EDM,” and a summary: “Bonus Track.”

The technology piece focuses on the relative strength of the EDM digital singles market, as well as its prominent positioning on the Billboard year-end charts. Towns includes a brief history of hardware/software used in music production—from the early Roland synthesizers to Ableton and Serato—and uses SoundCloud, Beatport, and Dubset Media Holdings to further illustrate the adaption of technology in dance music.
EDMTCC Digital vs Physical Album Sales Chart
“Strength of Culture” takes the reader on a strange detour to the Netherlands before attempting to tackle Rinse FM, Electric Daisy Carnival, social media, and that Eventbrite study that defined EDM fans as “hypersocial.”

“Power of Curation” addresses the unique challenges that DJs face in keeping a crowd engaged without necessarily having a library of their own music to play. White label records are discussed, as are a few websites that aggregate sounds and trends: Boomrat, UKF, and 22tracks. The power of metadata and tagging in catalogue organization is an important theme.

EDMTCC Real Life Video Game Snippet
Chock-full of graphics, this white paper is sexy and easy to read. The data is good, if a little cherry-picked, but it does have its flaws. Disco is barely name-checked and the influential 90s rave scene basically ignored. The poor stock performance of SFX is glossed over and its partnerships and acquisitions championed despite a lack of proven success. The paper seems to be written with the layperson in mind, yet terms like “acid house” are thrown around with little context and the descriptions of how software-hardware hybrids like Serato work are a little confusing. There are some glaring typos in the body as well as the graphics.

As an exhaustive resource the paper is lacking, but as a quick read for somebody trying to make sense of the mainstream electronic music scene it will work.

Not to mention it’s the only game in town.

Ultra Music Festival image by Jonathan Piccolo via flickr Creative Commons

All other images pulled from EDMTCC white paper.