If you were there for it, you certainly remember: the dancing, the fireworks, the emotions, the hordes of fans shuffling into clubs and festivals to hear music that on its surface looked like a party, but on a broader level represented nothing less than a musical revolution.
While dance music had long been popular among the masses in Europe — with European producers evolving the house and techno genres forged in Chicago, Detroit and New York in the late 70s and 80s — in the United States during the ’00s, dance music was still a subculture existing largely in hubs like New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
But by 2010, technological advancements had made it possible for anyone with a laptop to produce music, for anyone to share this music via the internet and for artists to create fanbases and digital communities that simply couldn’t have existed in earlier eras. Electronic dance music, or “EDM” as it would controversially come to be known, was a product of this technological quantum leap, with a new generation of young producers emerging out of the internet with music that expanded on the work of pioneers from previous generations, but which truly sounded nothing like nothing else that had come before.
Through the work of these artists and the millions of fans that amassed around them, the ten years that followed became, definitively, the EDM decade, with the music rising to unprecedented levels of popularity, becoming fantastically lucrative and bringing with it loads of moments both goofy, surreal and deeply meaningful for many of us who were there for them.
From Vegas to Miami to LA to Ibiza to Twitter and beyond, here Billboard Dance presents the 100 moments that defined the EDM Decade
100. Beavis & Butthead watch the “First of the Year” video (2011)
Just as they did to countless alt-rock buzz clips two decades earlier, Beavis & Butthead blessed Skrillex’s popular “First of the Year (Equinox)” clip with their cultural commentary, during a short-lived 2011 reboot of the classic ’90s MTV show. Their bug-eyed faces and stunned “Whoa!” responses to the song’s drop (and video’s action sequences) — representing the duo’s ultimate seal of approval — told you all you needed to know about the place Skrillex occupied in early ’10s youth culture. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
99. The Zedd-Matthew Koma beef (2019)
The trifles between these former friends and collaborators are as salacious as they are petty. The core of this dispute — which flared up between Zedd and Koma on Twitter this past June — is the matter of songwriting credit. What powered tracks by producers like Zedd to hitsville were songs by writers like Matthew Koma. Their Grammy-winning “Clarity” is proof of this symbiosis. But after Koma calling out Zedd for being “toxic” and “self-serving” via social media, we may never actually have clarity on what went down between the two. — ZEL MCCARTHY
98. DJ Pauly D drops “Beat Dat Beat (It’s Time To)” (2010)
For all of EDM’s artistic and cultural importance in the early decade, there was still a percentage of people who thought of it as the brainless club music that suburban meatheads lost their minds to on the weekend — particularly a certain group of eight that lived in a vacation home in Seaside Heights. One of those, the genial Paul DelVecchio, cut out the middle man with his own catchphrase-quoting banger “Beat Dat Beat (It’s Time To)” — which sounded like a 2011 version of Technotronic, and provided an obvious early low point in EDM’s otherwise largely unstoppable rise. — A.U.
97. Guy Gerber and Diddy make the world’s most random album (2014)
It’s common knowledge in the EDM industry that Diddy throws an annual house party at his Miami mansion at the end of Ultra weekend. (One year, he tossed a thousand white pillows on his lawn and had a horse dressed as a unicorn materialize at sunrise.) Debauchery aside, the hip-hop legend has a longer history with house music than one might realize, and when he met up with Isreali DJ and producer Guy Gerber — also known to spend long periods in Miami — the two decided to make a progressive house album together called 11:11. The next year, Diddy appeared at Ultra, taking the stage with Skrillex, Diplo and Justin Bieber and looking dazzled, if perhaps also a bit dazed, by the fireworks lit spectacle. — KAT BEIN
96. EDM goes K-pop (2017)
Although G-Dragon of Bigbang and CL of 2NE1 each worked with Diplo and Skrillex on multiple tracks amid much fanfare, the results were denied much commercial success. But when the 2017 BTS single “DNA” broke in the US, EDM had become global pop’s common language. A collaboration with Steve Aoki, “Mic Drop,” was a natural next step and the boy band returned the favor, appearing on Aoki’s “Waste It On Me” in 2018, enshrining K-pop/EDM DJ collabs as canon. — Z.M.
95. The Girls That Look Like Skrillex Tumblr
Would Skrillex have been as famous if he’d had Hardwell’s haircut? Thankfully, we’ll never need to know the answer to such an absurd hypothetical. Instead, thanks to his shoulder-length, half-shaved, side-parted, dark tresses, Sonny Moore’s very silhouette begat countless memes and other absurdist iconography, including a Tumblr devoted to his female look-alikes. This doesn’t even include Ellie Goulding, whose hair mysteriously took on a Skrillex-esque geometry and texture when the two were a couple in 2012. — Z.M.
94. Shaquille O’Neal goes viral as DJ Diesel
For the greater part of the 90s and 2000s, Shaquille O’Neil held MVP status for NBA teams like the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, all while starring in the occasional movie (a la Kazaam) or assuming a 16-bit form to fight zombies in his video game Shaq Fu. In 2018, Shaq traded in basketballs for bass drops and reemerged as DJ Diesel — a bone-crushing dubstep producer with friends in high places. He has since dropped tracks with NGHTMRE, performed b2b with Borgore at Electric Zoo and even went viral after a video of him riding the rail at Modestep’s 2019 Tomorrowland set was shared with enthusiasm around the globe. — MEGAN VENZIN
93. Skrillex scores the Spring Breakers soundtrack (2012)
Whomst amongst us can forget James Franco’s primal call of the mid-00s party wilderness? Harmony Korine’s 2012 crime flick was nothing if not the mainstream cultural ascension of the hard-partying neon zeitgeist spawned by EDM. From the film’s Skrillex-composed soundtrack, to its poolside hedonism, to its repetitive lines and editing, Korine gave us an unapologetic snapshot of the id of a generation waiting for the bass to drop. — ANDREA DOMANICK
92. Daft Punk collabs with The Weeknd (2016)
The Weeknd began the decade by shrouding himself in mystery. In the era that his iconic and influential 2011 mixtape trilogy — House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence — was being released, all that was known about Abel Tesfaye was that he hailed from Toronto, had collaborated with Drake on Take Care and had a taste for depravity. It’s not exactly ironic, but it’s certainly something that it was Daft Punk — a dance music duo known largely for their secrecy and reluctance to remove their masks — who helped cement The Weeknd’s superstar status. Their 2016 collaborative smashes “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming” further established The Weeknd as a world-conquering force and permitted Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo to indulge in making the sort of straightforward pop music they’d only previously hinted at. — ZACH SCHLEIN
91. Diplo becomes the first DJ to headline Stagecoach Music Festival (2019)
Some called bull upon seeing Diplo’s name high atop the country music festival flyer, but they didn’t yet know that if there’s one artist who can bridge the genre gap, it’s the artist born Wesley Pentz. In 2019, the fearless producer became the first electronic artist to headline California’s Stagecoach Festival — and he dressed the part, too. After taking the stage in the sartorial trappings of a modern rhinestone cowboy, Diplo turned a crowd of skeptics into believers with a little help from tracks by artists including AC/DC and Rednex, along with special guests like Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X, who brought the house down with their crossover phenomenon “Old Town Road.” The move demonstrated that increasingly, there are no pastures EDM can’t enter. — M.V.
90. The advent of on-site drug testing at Shambhala
In the idyllic Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia exists an electronic music festival that tests drugs for deleterious substances such as fentanyl. For over a decade, the alcohol-free festival has been offering low-tech pill tests by harm reduction organization ANKORS, but in 2018, upgraded to a $42,000 FTIR Spectrometer which allows for more accurate results. While the U.S. and Canada remain in the grips of an opioid crisis and deaths at raves make national headlines, Shambhala has pioneered festival harm reduction by offering state-of-art substance-testing technology so revelers can party knowing exactly what they are ingesting, should they choose to partake. — MORENA DUWE
89. Noisia breaks up after 20 years (2019)
Messianic drum ‘n’ bass trio Noisia broke fans’ hearts with the announcement of their split in September of 2019. Over their prodigious 20-year career, the Dutch legends produced official remixes for dance music heavy-hitters like The Prodigy, Skrillex, and deadmau5. However, it was their original LPs Split the Atom (2010), I Am Legion (2013) and Outer Edges (2016) that solidified their diehard fan base. Thanks for the ride Noisia — it’s been an unforgettable trip. — M.D.
88. Pete Tong relocates to Los Angeles (2013)
Trends come and go, but dance music’s stay in America was cemented when Pete Tong, the formerly U.K.-based tastemaker and BBC Radio 1 host, relocated to Los Angeles in 2013. While L.A. hadn’t historically been viewed as important as cities like New York or Chicago, at the crux of the EDM era, L.A. was the place to be for producers, managers, agents and anyone else looking to get a piece of the dance pie. (It helped that club mecca Las Vegas was only an hour flight away.) Year-round sunniness aside, Tong cited LA’s creative melting pot — not just for dance producers, but for writers and film composers — as a personal selling point. — KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ
87. Feed Me outs Marshmello on Instagram (2017)
It may sound like a Wunderground parody headline, but this actually happened when British producer Feed Me unintentionally outed Marshmello’s identity on his Instagram story back in 2017. In the foreground of the viral image a person is seen sporting Marshmello’s unmistakable helmet. However, look a little closer and in the reflection of the mirror behind him is another man snapping a photo — smiling and dressed in Marshmello’s signature head-to-toe white. The snap cemented theories that Christopher Comstock was in fact the man behind the Marshmello project… but come on, we already knew that, right? — M.V.
86. Paris Hilton debuts as a DJ (2012)
When Paris Hilton, the heiress once known for enjoying nightclubs as a patron, made her way to the DJ booth in 2012, she was criticized as an interloper and assumed to be a charlatan. Hilton proved to be neither, retaining instructional services of top industry pro Mike Henderson (a go-to DJ tech savant for the likes of Carl Cox and Dubfire), becoming a formidable presence on the decks while commanding booking fees that reportedly made Tiësto’s look modest. That’s hot. — Z.M.
85. Skrillex Goes b2b with Mija at Bonnaroo (2014)
At Bonnaroo in 2014, Skrillex spontaneously decided to jump on the decks for a surprise sunrise B2B with an unknown artist. They took turns playing house tunes to an elated crowd, and that was the last time anyone didn’t recognize Mija. Soon, she had moved to Los Angeles and become an OWSLA darling known as “Skrillex’s protegé” before coming into her own career as an eclectic DJ, vocalist, producer and most recently, even exploring creating as a designer and artist. — VALERIE LEE
84. The inaugural Dirtybird Campout establishes the cred of the Dirtybird brand (2015)
In 2015, a new kind of festival was born with Dirtybird Campout. While it possessed the typical transformational festival accoutrements of live music, yoga and outrageous bespoke fashion, Dirtybird was designed to more closely resemble a summer camp than a music festival. With competitive activities like tug-o-war and a talent show, Dirtybird found a way to stand out amid a saturated festival and rave scene. Additionally, the festival established Dirtybird Records’ brand of bass-y, hard-hitting house music with an underground sensibility as a driving force in the electronic music-sphere. — M.D.
83. Skrillex Gets a Phone Call From Marshmello During Katie Couric Interview (2015)
“Who is Marshmello?” was a question many asked after hearing the producer’s melodic trap tracks in 2015. During a taped interview with former Today Show co-host, Katie Couric, Skrillex “accidentally” dropped a hint about who was behind the glowing, white helmet. Skrillex answered a phone call from a collaborator named “Chris”, who afterward he only referred to as “Marshmello” — an Easter egg that made the internet explode and which led many to believe that the identity of Marshmello was actually Christopher Comstock, aka the producer previously known as Dotcom. — M.V.
82. The Prodigy’s firestarter Keith Flint dies (2019)
For many dance music converts, Keith Flint personified The Prodigy’s raucous, livewire spirit. Indelible in the videos for “Firestarter” and “Breathe,” Flint was also electric onstage alongside his sparring partner Maxim. The vocalist’s death at 49 shocked the music world and impelled the group to get behind mental health and suicide prevention campaigns. The Prodigy’s final album with Flint, No Tourists, is raw, propulsive and bristling with life – a fitting testament to a singular talent. — JACK TREGONING
81. Ultra’s KFC Debacle (2019)
Ultra Music Festival has long maintained its sterling reputation, thanks to a tried and true formula of success: a great venue, massive lineup and international community. But in 2019, when the City of Miami forced the festival to move out of their traditional downtown venue to the more isolated island of Virginia Key, cracks in the formula certainly showed: Limited transportation access to the new venue caused a serious backup in the provided shuttle services, leaving hundreds of attendees stranded with no choice but to walk over seven miles back to rideshare-accessible areas.
In addition, the festival made an embarrassing decision to promote one of its commercial partnerships by allowing KFC’s Colonel Sanders mascot to “DJ” on the main stage, where he screamed out cringe-worthy liners like “Are y’all hungry for some beats?” while the fast food chain’s slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” flashed across the screen behind. It was a new low in the corporatization of rave culture, and a big old yikes. — V.L.
80. Deadmau5 mixes “Animals” into “Old MacDonald” on the Ultra Main Stage (2014)
Progressive house bad boy deadmau5 has always been a fire starter. Whether poppin’ off on Twitter or wearing Skrillex’s number on a T-shirt on the Grammys red carpet, the producer has always had an evil sense of humor. The top troll of his career came on the Ultra Miami stage in 2014, when he built the crowd into a frenzy with lil Martin Garrix’ then-omnipresent breakout hit “Animals,” only to rock the drop with an edit of “Old McDonald.” “F–k, I love that track,” he quipped. Timely, genius, and oh so maddening. — K. Bein
79. Ten Walls implodes his career by being a total homophobe (2015)
Based on the seven million views on YouTube and over 42 million streams of “Walking With Elephants,” it’s likely that Lithuanian producer Ten Walls was on track to a very successful career alongside the movement of deep house artists that were gaining traction around 2014. Unfortunately, he cut his own career short after a wildly homophobic Facebook post he wrote made headlines. In his post, he compared gay people to pedophiles and described the LGBTQ+ community as a “different breed.”
Though he issued an apology and claimed that the statement didn’t reflect his “true opinion,” Creamfields, Sonar, Pitch Festival and HARD Summer all dropped him from their respective line-ups while DJ peers like Black Madonna, Fort Romeau and Midland voiced their disapproval of such hateful opinions in a scene traditionally welcoming and supported by the LGBTQ+ community. (And one, after all, that was largely founded in gay clubs.) The incident stunted all of the momentum he had gained from the popularity of “Walking With Elephants,” essentially halting Ten Walls’ career. — V.L.
78. Dancing Astronaut lifts off (2011)
Print was for your parents. The EDM generation demanded media as fast-paced as high-speed Internet. While established dance music outlets debated whether they would deign to acknowledge things like brostep and moombahton, DancingAstronaut.com (DA to the initiated) embedded its intrepid bloggers on DJ tour buses to cover the rave revolution. Often deferential to the point of obsequious, standards of journalistic objectivity were sometimes obscured, but for fandoms, there was no better space than the blog synonymous with EDM. — Z.M.
77. The DJ Snake and Dillon Francis prank-off (2015)
No amount of GB storage was enough to contain the onslaught of unsolicited texts that Dillon Francis received during Ultra Music Festival in 2015. His relationship with DJ Snake led him to “blow up” in more ways than one after the French producer displayed Francis’ phone number as his backdrop while performing ‘Get Low’ on the main stage. Dillon later got his revenge when he purchased DJSnake.com, which for an unreasonably long amount of time was home to a personal message from the moombahton-making jokester, as well as a very NSFW bounce track about derrières. — M.V.
76. Krewella dumps Rain Man (2014)
The story of dubstep collective Krewella would play out well as a Made-for-Netflix teen drama. The trio formed while attending high school together, and even got matching tattoos to commemorate the date they decided to pursue music together full-time — however, one former member has likely considered laser removal since. The Yousaf sisters announced in 2014 that Kris Trindl, aka Rain Man, was no longer part of the group, blaming his substance abuse issues and mismanaged work ethic as reasons for severing ties. Trindl kicked back with a $5 million lawsuit (which was later settled), stating he had been unfairly terminated. Many had hot takes on the feud, including Deadmau5 who blasted a tweet to remind “would be” artists not to “fire the guy who actually does s–t.” — M.V.
75. The end of Dim Mak Tuesdays in Los Angeles (2011)
Long before Steve Aoki was a cake-throwing electro superstar, he was head of a burgeoning label called Dim Mak. In the early 2000’s, he started a party series known as Dim Mak Tuesdays, which across a span of eight years became one of the most coveted and important party series on the West Coast. Aoki united fans, music industry folks, and artists for his one-of-a-kind weekly party, and flourished as a DJ at Dim Mak Tuesdays, which also hosted performances from established stars, as well as rising star talents who would later explode — Justice, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk, Diplo, The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, Kid Cudi and Lady Gaga were among the guests — until it shut its doors and ended a chapter of Los Angeles party history in 2011. — V.L.
74. David Guetta getting lost in space at Tomorrowland (2014)
David Guetta’s 2014 set at Tomorrowland will go down in history as one of his most memorable of all time — not for his song selection or any big debuts, but for his intense, slightly concerning and unquestionably amusing stare. As a Major Lazer song blares, Guetta is seen staring deeply into the abyss. The clip went viral, and dozens of speculative theories began to swirl. It wasn’t until several months later when he finally addressed the incident, claiming that he merely was “in his thoughts for a minute” and was “probably very tired, because [he] plays 150 shows a year.” Fair enough. — V.L.
73. Lisa Ling goes in-depth at Mysteryland (2015)
When dance music made headlines this decade, it was often when people died of suspected drug-related causes at a music festival. In 2015, journalist Lisa Ling trekked to the Mysteryland USA festival to explore the culture for her CNN television series, This is Life with Lisa Ling. Ling — who shared her own past as a ‘90s raver and ecstasy user — took a measured approach to the taboo topic in her discussion of drug awareness and education, displaying an earnest curiosity largely lacked amongst her peers. — K.R.
72. Philippe Zdar dies tragically (2019)
Those unfamiliar with the French electro duo Cassius have still likely heard the shimmery productions of celebrated artist Philippe Zdar, who died after accidentally falling through a window in Paris in June of 2019. Known for helping spearhead the “French Touch” electronic movement, Zdar also produced for high profile artists and bands like Kanye West, Hot Chip and Phoenix, and as a result a palpable shockwave was felt by many in the music industry following his tragic passing. — M.V.
71. The launch of Eric Prydz’s EPIC shows (2011)
Though his sound was primed for the EDM moment, Eric Prydz’s spirit was perhaps not. Beleaguered by some Miami drama and a reputation for not wanting to travel, the Swedish DJ just needed a house mafia that was his own. He found it in the form of EPIC — an acronym for Eric Prydz In Concert — the artist’s signature live show, first debuting in 2011, which was created and designed to emphasize the art of DJing, the glory of high-level, high-tech spectacle and the fact that Prydz didn’t just press play. –– Z.M.
70. Robert Sillerman wilds out (2014)
If you thought Robert Sillerman, the notoriously puckish billionaire CEO of EDM conglomerate SFX who passed away from throat cancer earlier this year, could have more easily said “how do you do, fellow kids,” you weren’t the target audience of his crotch grab and bird flip on a Miami tarmac in 2014. You see, Sillerman wasn’t like a regular CEO, he was a cool CEO, and he wanted the bankers, investors, and C-suite cheeses to know that he was going to run his company his way. His business declared bankruptcy two years later. — Z.M.
69. Steve Aoki stops caking (2015)
Future generations may have trouble explaining why this was news, but at the start of 2015, Steve Aoki announced that he would no longer throw sheetcakes at his audiences during festivals. Originally a distinguishing element of any Aoki performances, #cakeface would henceforth be a glory reserved only for his own shows. Beyond being considered #ravegoals for some, the sheer exuberance of wasting food symbolized the decadence and celebratory excess of EDM itself. But even the tastiest gimmicks have a shelf life. — Z.M
68. Walter White comes to EDC (2015)
It’s a long-running tradition for fans to “push the button” at Above & Beyond concerts when one lucky fan is invited on stage to pull up a cue point at a predetermined moment in the set. EDC Las Vegas, meanwhile, has become famous for surprise celebrity appearances, and one of its first was also one of its best when Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston joined the trance trio on stage at EDC 2015 to push the button as his wildly-popular, teacher-turned-meth-gangster character, Walter White. He is the one who pushes, indeed. — K. Bein
67. The Death of DJ Rashad? (2014)
DJ Rashad was the leading light of Chicago’s growing footwork scene in the first half of the ’10s, receiving a rare level of national recognition for his frenetic, innovative and impressively resonant bangers. His passing from a drug overdose at age 38 was a huge blow to the dance community and ’10s music overall — though his renown has only continued to grow since, with his 2013 masterpiece Double Cup appearing on decade-end lists from numerous major music publications. — A.U.
66. Skrillex fan inadvertently coins the question “Where’s the Drop?” (2011)
In 2011, Skrillex was not yet a crossover pop sensation, but he was regarded as the absolute king of American dubstep. Foam-mouthed fans clamored for anything and everything he did, so when he tweeted that “Flim” by Aphex Twin was his favorite song, people rushed to YouTube. The classic electronic tune is beautifully melodic, which confused Skrill’s megafans. Moments after his tweet, the top comment on the YouTube clip was “Where’s The Drop?” Thus, a new meme-worthy phrase was born. — K. Bein
65. Anna Lunoe performs while eight months pregnant (2017)
Known for her frenetic performances and indefatigable DJ sets, Australian-born, LA-based multi-hyphenate Anna Lunoe forever changed EDM history when she performed eight-months pregnant at HARD Summer 2017. Donning her signature knee pads and a bodycon dress, she rocked the stage with the energy of David Lee Roth, jumping on top of the DJ booth as she sang into the mic, her energy levels undeterred, or perhaps boosted, by her pregnancy. With the move, Lunoe demonstrated that motherhood and a successful DJ career are not mutually exclusive. — M.D.
64. Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me” becomes the first No. 1 with a dubstep drop (2011)
“Hold It Against Me” was the lead single from Britney’s 2011 album Femme Fatale, debuting atop the Hot 100 that January. Penned by the pop power triumvirate of Bonnie McKee, Max Martin and Dr. Luke, the dubstep-inspired bridge made it the first of many such crossover hits to dabble in such drops, and had some people asking if Britney was going clubbing. Maybe, but just for the night. — Z.M.
63. CRSSD Festival finds a middle ground between the mainstream and underground (2015)
A partnership between local promoters Fngrs Crssd and Goldenvoice (who also organizes Coachella), San Diego’s CRSSD Festival sold out its two-day debut in March 2015 with a lineup featuring house, techno and live acts such as Chromeo, Maceo Plex and Jamie Jones — many of whom would have normally been relegated to a smaller side-stage at bigger festivals. A 21+ event with 15,000-person capacity, CRSSD’s success proved that a market exists for smaller, boutique festivals catering to a post-EDM audience. — K.R.
62. The dance community responds to the Pulse Nightclub shooting (2016)
The horror of the 2016 shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, which killed 49 people and left 53 wounded, can’t be overstated. The massacre particularly hit home for the club and dance music community, a direct affront on a sacred space and the communities therein without which EDM as we know it would not exist. But it’s the dance community’s global response to the tragedy — through outspoken messages, benefit events, mixes and more — that endures most today, doubling down and uniting under its core ethos of love and acceptance that can never be diminished. — A.D.
61. Calvin Harris drops the live show to focus on producing (2012)
Before 2011, Calvin Harris was the lanky, scruffy Scotsman who sung on his own tunes like “I’m Not Alone” and “You Used to Hold Me.” Then came his epiphany: it was time to give up singing and fronting a live band. The decision to focus solely on DJing, while collaborating with more confident vocalists in the studio, led to the blockbuster reinvention of his 2012 album, 12 Months. Nearly a decade of mega-hits and lucrative DJ gigs later, you could say the gamble paid off. — J.T.
60. Space Ibiza closes after 27 years (2016)
Space Ibiza opened its doors at Playa d’en Bossa in 1989, riding the euphoria of the so-called Second Summer Of Love. Its remarkable run lasted 27 years, with acid house, techno and Balaeric as its core tenets. Space was best known as Carl Cox’s second home — the DJ held down a residency for 15 years. The final party at the close of the 2016 season was a blowout for the ages, with Cox delivering the marathon closing set. The venue has since been transformed into the megaclub Hï Ibiza. — J.T.
59. Diplo and Skrillex on Charlie Rose (2015)
Charlie Rose’s 2015 roundtable interview with Skrillex and Diplo, then promoting their work as Jack Ü, is an unlikely time capsule of EDM’s mainstream media dalliances. The sitdown was meant to confer intellectual legitimacy on the artists, then riding high on their Bieber collab, prior to Rose’s expulsion from television after numerous sexual misconduct accusations in 2017. In hindsight, this was an attempt to transfer coolness from two DJs to a depreciating old media relic. Where are ü now, indeed. –– Z.M.
58. The rise of The Black Madonna and activist DJs
Dance music’s 2010s ascension wasn’t all about million-dollar spectacle and fist-pumping bro-downs. Beyond the commercial EDM bubble were turntablist luminaries like The Black Madonna holding down dance music’s origins in marginalized communities. As her organic, electric grooves gained international traction, the artist born Marea Stamper capitalized on her growing profile as an advocacy platform instead of a paycheck. Through initiatives like the women-and-non-binary-focused Daphne festival, radio and club residencies, and her delightfully outspoken (and recently dismantled) Twitter feed, Stamper — alongside a growing chorus of feminist DJ crews, queer artists and others — has helped recast the genre as a space for inclusivity, change and progress. –– A.D.
57. Daft Punk and Gesaffelstein collab with Kanye West on Yeezus (2013)
In the 2010s’ first half, getting tapped to collaborate with Kanye West was still one of music’s most valuable co-signs, undeniable proof of your status at the cultural vanguard. Daft Punk, dance music’s returned conquering heroes, were an obvious pick for Kanye’s growling electro-rap on his innovative 2013 set Yeezus, but the jagged synths of French producer Gesaffelstein was a more inspired pull. Together, the presence of such dance maestros on the new album by the era’s most acclaimed artist was further substantiation of the music’s cross-genre cachet. — A.U.
56. Kaskade accidentally causes a riot (2011)
Ahead of the 2011 premiere of the Electric Daisy Carnival documentary in Los Angeles, Kaskade decided to play a short pop-up set for local fans before heading into the viewing. He tweeted that he was heading to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in the heart of Hollywood, where he’d be playing what was intended to be a short 30-minute block party-style set. He seemed to have vastly underestimated his popularity, and the situation quickly started to get out of hand. Thousands of people showed up, blocking the streets and even running into oncoming traffic trying to get a glimpse of his set. Thankfully, no one got hurt and the police were able to shut down the riot. Later, Kaskade tweeted his “disappointment” about how it had all gone down, stating that “what was supposed to be a celebration of music into a regrettable event. This is not what EDM is about.” But given the pandemonium surrounding the genre in this era, it kind of was. — V.L
55. Rise of the L.A. Beat Scene
While festival stages were shooting fire and confetti in time with bass drops, over in a grimey dive bar in east Los Angeles, a relatively unknown group of producers were pushing electronic music to its furthest, weirdest and most experimental variations through the weekly party Low End Theory. The scene and artists that developed around this party came to be known as the L.A. Beat Scene, with producers including Flying Lotus, The Gaslamp Killer, Tokimonsta, Nobody and Daedelus emerging as the scene’s biggest stars, and a rotating cast of guest DJs including Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu ensuring that lines to get in always extended down the block. — KATIE BAIN
54. The Chainsmokers become America’s band
Initially known as remixers, The Chainsmokers launched into mainstream stardom with a simple proposition: “First, let me take a selfie.” The duo’s 2014 single “#Selfie” turned them almost instantly into Top 40 radio mainstays, and later hits like “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Closer” transformed pop with their slower, future bass-influenced sound. These days, The Chainsmokers are bonafide pop stars who sell out arenas and work with major artists like Coldplay, Ty Dolla $ign, Kygo and Blink-182 — proving that at the close of the EDM decade, pop and dance music are in some cases synonymous. — K.R.
53. Madonna joins Avicii at Ultra and asks if anyone has seen Molly (2012)
We all know Madonna was a club rat. She helped make dance-pop cool for the MTV generation, and owes a lot to the house DJs that remixed her earliest classics. There was truth in her voice when she told Ultra 2012, “I can honestly say that a DJ saved my life” when she came on stage to introduce headliner Avicii — but she also decided to plug her collab with Cedric Gervais. It just so happened that this plug was a double-entendre for drugs when the pop icon asked, “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?” Ultra pulled the quote from all official videos, but the history can’t, and shouldn’t, be erased. — K. Bein
52. Al Walser sneaks his way into a Grammy nomination (2013)
2013 was a peak year for EDM, easily proven by most of the list of All-Star nominees — Avicii, Calvin Harris, Skrillex and Swedish House Mafia — in the Grammys’ best dance recording category. Joining them was one much less familiar one: Al Walser. The relatively unknown Los Angeles artist had been networking through a social networking website for voting members, sending over 7,000 emails. Though his campaigning did secure him a nomination (which was ultimately awarded to Skrillex for “Bangarang”), his most important legacy was that he instigated the Academy to take a look at their system, and adjust rules to prevent a similar incident from happening again. –– V.L.
51. Kraftwerk re-emerge as a live force (2012)
In 2012, German pioneers Kraftwerk surprised fans with an eight-night run of 3D shows at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. (Scheduled, somewhat strangely, soon after a set at Ultra Music Festival in Miami.) The MoMA dates sold out instantly, igniting a worldwide 3D tour that reaffirmed Kraftwerk’s place as electronic royalty. The years-long victory lap was immortalized in 2017 with the live album, 3-D The Catalogue. — J.T.
50. Griz comes out in heartfelt letter on the Huffington Post (2017)
“I’m a DJ, producer, saxophonist, song writer, performer, yoga lover, weed smoker, clothing designer, record label owner, 90s music lover, a horrible, horrible singer…and I am gay.” The line was scribed by a cool and confident Grant Kwiecinski who saw 2017’s National Pride month as the right time to come out as gay via a touching letter to the Huffington Post, in which he divulged personal details about his high school insecurities and his journey of learning to love himself. With the letter, the producer known as Griz became one of the few openly gay artists in the mainstream dance scene and established himself as one of the dance scene’s most visible LGBTQ advocates. — M.V.
49. The great TomorrowWorld disaster (2015)
TomorrowWorld, the short-lived American venture of Belgian mega-festival Tomorrowland, hammered the final nail in its coffin in 2015. Hosted in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, the festival experienced its own Fyre Festival-level catastrophe when rain transformed the 8,000-acre farmland turned into a mud pit. Organizers then turned a chaotic situation into total havoc by limiting transportation services in an already-remote area, leaving attendees stranded and forced to either pay hundreds of dollars for ride-shares and even sleep on the side of the road on cardboard boxes. It was a messy, ugly party that was over before it started. — V.L.
48. Porter Robinson re-brands… twice
By the middle of the decade, stories of “prodigy” producers were a dime a dozen, but when then 16-year-old Porter Robinson dropped “Say My Name” in 2010, he was an anomaly that buzzed to the top of the scene, alongside fellow teenagers Zedd and Madeon. He was known for making bass-heavy “complextro,” and as the newly-forged genre EDM exploded, his popularity grew. But given that Robinson is a man of distinguished tastes, by 2014, he was interrupting his own DJ sets to yell at the crowd, bitter to a pop-formula that became a cage. (“Last year, I literally had like four or five full-blown anxiety attacks onstage,” he told The Fader in 2014. “When I was in Australia, that’s when it was at its worst. I was yelling at fans, ‘Dance music is terrible!’ I fully f–king freaked out.”)
He then quit DJing and made his debut album Worlds, a proto-futurebass creation that inspired a generation of producers to make pretty, emotional dance music and try their hand at “live performance.” After having his Worlds style bit by a generation, he evolved a second time into his hardcore-rave alter-ego Virtual Self. That project earned him a Grammy nomination, and helped bring rowdy high-tempo tunes back in style. — K. Bein
47. Calvin Harris moonlights as an underwear model (2015)
Calvin Harris officially shrugged off his dorky past, along with most of his clothes, when he became the face of a 2015 Emporio Armani ad campaign, appearing in various stages of undress and following in the high-fashion poster-boy footsteps of major stars like Justin Bieber (Calvin Klein) and Avicii (Ralph Lauren). Aside from some photoshop speculation, the choice to use a producer/DJ as the main face of the prominent campaign signified that the world was ready to welcome electronic music into pop culture…so long as it came with six pack abs. — V.L.
46. Tiësto and Martin Garrix crash their boat into David Guetta’s dock (2015)
Was it performance art? A statement on the socio-economic relationship between The Netherlands and France? A pricey music video shoot? A metaphor we have yet to decipher? Nope! It’s just that when you have EDM DJ money like Tiësto and Martin Garrix it’s not a big deal to recreationally crash your yacht into the dock of your also-rich friend David Guetta in South Beach during Miami Music Week in 2015. But hey… they were just doing it for the ‘gram. — Z.M.
45. David Guetta and Deadmau5 appear with Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Foo Fighters at the Grammys (2012)
The early-decade EDM boom made its Grammys debut in 2012, when dance superstars David Guetta and Deadmau5 took part in a genre-spanning medley performance. Guetta manned the decks and waved some glowsticks for a performance of “I Can Only Imagine” alongside star collaborators Chris Brown and Lil Wayne, before Deadmau5 joined Foo Fighters on a separate stage for a quick dip into his remix of their rock hit “Rope,” before dropping his own “Raise Your Weapon.” The performance was a national coming out moment of sorts for the DJs and the scene in general — though the overstuffed mishmash didn’t exactly feel like the greatest showcase of anyone’s talent. — A.U.
44. The rise of Burning Man as a place to see big-name DJs
Once just a paradisiacal counterculture party happening in the middle of nowhere in northern Nevada’s Black Rock desert, in the mid-2010s, Burning Man became a must-play date for a long list of DJs — including Bassnectar, Carl Cox, Paul Oakenfold, Skrillex, Diplo and countless others. Foregoing DJ fees and arranging their own way to the desert, these stars did what they had to do in order to take party in this once-in-a-lifetime event. In the last few years, Burning Man has even forged its own genre known as “playa tech,” the ultra-minimal sound heard at many parties across the dusty playa. — K.B.
43. Ultra Music Festival absurdity
While it existed for a long time before the term “EDM” entered the lexicon, Ultra Music Festival became inextricably tied to the genre at the start of the 2010s. And for good reason: Year in and year out, thousands of ravers clad in day-glo descend upon Miami to toss themselves into bass drops and internet-ready shenanigans. With that many beat-hungry people in as idyllic a location as Miami, it’s only natural that iconic silliness is going to ensue. From Madonna asking attendees to connect her with a molly plug, to Avicii and his team taking over a hotel, to the girl who groped and had a lovers’ quarrel with a tree, Ultra offered no shortage of unforgettable moments, for better or for worse. — Z.S.
42. Kaskade draws record crowds at the Coachella Main Stage (2015)
In 2015, Kaskade was the only DJ tapped to play the Coachella main stage across two weekends. Stepping up ahead of Florence + the Machine and Drake, he pulled record-setting crowds – captured by the festival in eye-popping drone footage. Arguably at the peak of his main-stage powers, Kaskade rolled out his biggest anthems and remixes, setting the high-sheen tone for his next album, Automatic. The DJ honors his deeper roots at Redux shows, but this was house with the widest possible reach. — J.T.
41. Calvin Harris becomes the first DJ to close the Coachella Main Stage (2016)
After the enormous turnout for Kaskade in 2015, Coachella booked his big-tent peer Calvin Harris to close the main stage the following year. The Sunday night headline set ticked off all the producer’s anthems, with the added bonus of Rihanna singing ‘We Found Love’ IRL from a second stage. The first DJ ever booked to close the festival, this was Calvin’s apex as an EDM hitmaker, before his swerve in a new direction on 2017’s Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1. — J.T.
40. Diplo’s “Express Yourself” twerk madness (2012)
Before the cowboy hats and Bieber collabs, Diplo found his first viral moment with “Express Yourself.” The title track off his 2012 EP was an explosive example of New Orleans bounce (featuring late rapper Nicky Da B) and an irresistibly hyphy earworm that had no issue getting people to move on a dance floor. The magic of “Express Yourself” was its ability to inspire people to not only dance, but aggressively twerk, helped it spread like wildfire. It also led to an era during which Diplo where he was surrounded by twerking: on stages at festivals and nightclubs, in music videos, and across his social media, where he enthusiastically re-retweeted thousands of the photos that (largely female) fans posted of themselves locked and loaded in the twerk position, with the #twerkfordiplo hashtag. — V.L.
39. The closing of Fabric London (2016)
London’s iconic club Fabric unexpectedly shut its doors in 2016 following a controversial license renewal which was instigated by the deaths of two 18-year-old men at the club within the span of nine weeks. The institutional nightlife venue has hosted the best across underground music, with regular names like Jamie Jones, The Martinez Brothers and Eats Everything, and moved the city (and the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan) to fight passionately for its reopening. Finally, after a worldwide campaign to re-open the space, Fabric was granted permission to reopen to a full-capacity crowd at the top of 2017. — V.L.
38. Dance music revives Justin Bieber’s career (2015)
Following the release of Justin Bieber’s 2012 album Believe, the Canadian heartthrob’s reputation faltered, with reports of public urination and the abandonment of his pet monkey, and multiple arrests. But in February 2015, the skies brightened for The Bieb via his unexpected collaboration with Jack Ü, “Where Are Ü Now,” which exploded on the radio and later appeared on both the duo’s album and Bieber’s 2015 LP Purpose. Dance-friendly follow-ups “What Do You Mean?” and the Skrillex-produced “Sorry”, also both from Purpose, and Bieber’s 2016 Major Lazer collab “Cold Water,” served as a rock fuel for his comeback, hitting a peak the following year with his world-conquering “Despacito” remix. — K.R.
37. Frankie Knuckles’ death (2014)
Frankie Knuckles was sonically and culturally as far away from EDM as one could be — yet his unexpected death at age 59 in March 2014 sent the whole scene reeling. Known as the Godfather of House Music, the Chicago icon was one of the true progenitors of dance and DJ culture. Though he was not the first dance pioneer to pass on, Knuckles was the first major loss during dance music’s popular resurgence. Sadly, he was not the last during this decade. — K.R.
36. The rise of Berghain
Black tees, bondage harnesses, no photos policies and wrought-iron techno — when EDM’s popularity began to wane, infamous club Berghain offered an alternative kind of excess. The Berlin institution known for its hours-long lines and days-long parties emerged from Germany’s 30-year history of reunification raving, but the rising enthusiasm for DJs like Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock (and an increasingly nonchalant attitude towards dark rooms) tracks directly back to the techno tourists — even Claire Danes raved about the place on The Ellen DeGeneres Show — who made it past the notoriously difficult door. — JOSHUA GLAZER
35. Kygo reaches a billion Spotify streams in record time (2015)
Most of the conventional industry stats wouldn’t have tabbed Kygo as a superstar in the mid-’10s; his hot 100 presence was minimal, and he’d yet to even release an album. But one metric in which the Norwegian tropical house DJ’s growing popularity was properly reflected was in streams, as Spotify announced that in late 2015 that he’d become the fastest artist in the service’s history to reach one billion plays, doing so in just 12 months — demonstrating the rate at which dance’s biggest names were then accelerating. — A.U.
34. Calvin Harris named top-paid DJ for six consecutive years
From 2013 until 2018, Calvin Harris sat at the summit of Forbes’ Highest-Paid DJs list. During his tenure at No. 1, the Scottish star produced a bevy of charting hits with the industry’s most in-demand songstresses, among them “We Found Love,” “I Need Your Love,” “Sweet Nothing” and ‘”Feels.” The Chainsmokers ultimately beat him out for top paid in 2019, with Harris currently holding the number three spot, beneath the aforementioned duo and Marshmello. — M.V.
33. Diplo and Skrillex change the face of pop (2015)
One was the biggest star of American dubstep, the other was a journalist turned DJ/producer who gave international sounds a platform on his Mad Decent label. Together, they created a wonky but refreshing new Top 40 template with their 2015 album, Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü, which echoed in Diplo group Major Lazer’s “Lean On.” Rather than make dance tracks that found a home on the radio, they were implanted firmly within the pop arena, becoming go-to producers for the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé, Rick Ross and Ty Dolla $ign. — K.R.
32. We Are Your Friends bombs at the box office (2015)
Dance music has its share of cult classics, with All Gone Pete Tong, 24 Hour Party People and Human Traffic among them. And Max Joseph’s 2015 flick We Are Your Friends, EDM’s first major film portrayal had promise on paper, with studio backing from Warner Bros., Zac Efron starring, and a stacked soundtrack that included the iconic Justice/Simian Mobile Disco collab for which it’s named. But it bombed at the box office, with critics noting its failure to fully capture the culture’s bombastic nature on-screen. — K.R.
31. SPIN’s “The New Rave Generation” Issue, Starring Skrillex (2011)
“Almost 15 years after SPIN prematurely declared an American ‘electronica revolution,’ it’s happening,” proclaimed the mag’s 2011 cover story on the “New Rave Generation.” The piece provided early scene validation as one of the first major stories to acknowledge the growing magnitude of the EDM explosion — though writer Philip Sherburne never actually uses that three-letter acronym — and helped cement cover star Skrillex, with his thick-framed glasses, candy-painted fingernails and half-shaven haircut, as a genre icon. –– A.U.
30. “Lean On” becomes Spotify’s most-streamed song of all time
Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s 2015 dancehall collaboration with MØ wouldn’t be the first EDM banger to break a streaming record — that honor goes to Avicii and Aloe Blacc’s “Wake Me Up” in 2013. But the numbers posted by “Lean On,” with a whopping 526 million plays worldwide at the time, cemented its place as the most streamed Spotify song ever — and EDM as a global cultural force. The tune still holds fast as the tenth-most-streamed song on Spotify today, with over 1.3 billion worldwide spins. — A.D.
29. Alison Wonderland and Anna Lunoe become the first solo women to play the EDC main stage (2016)
Baffling as it may be, it took until 2016 for a solo female performer to take the main stage at Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. Thankfully, when it finally happened, the honor was given to two deserving Australian names: Alison Wonderland and Anna Lunoe, who dropped beats and made history in front of tens of thousands of fans. — V.L.
Alison Wonderland performs during the 20th annual Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on June 19, 2016 in Las Vegas. Steven Lawton/Getty Images
28. The rise of the “Underground” sound
To be clear, EDM fatigue had set in for some long before the drop ever dropped. But in 2015, Ultra Music Festival advertised its techno-focused Resistance stage as championing an “underground” sound. Given that the stage featured artists as established and globally famous as Carl Cox, it was clear that “underground” was a relative concept if not a meaningless marketing term. “Underground” has since come to refer to a non-EDM house- and techno-oriented aesthetic, even when it’s still unabashedly mainstream music. — Z.M.
27. Martin Garrix becomes the scene’s youngest superstar producer with “Animals” (2013)
Kids these days, eh? When we were 17, we thought sneaking home past curfew was an accomplishment, but by the time Dutch upstart Martin Garrix was 17, he had already topped the Beatport chart, scored a No. 1 in the U.K., crossed over to No. 21 on the Hot 100, and become the youngest person to headline Ultra Music Festival — among other achievements. But Garrix’s early success wasn’t just the sign of a prodigious talent: Alongside other young guns like Madeon and Porter Robinson, Garrix represented a genre sea change in the face of new technology and accessibility of creating and sharing music — opening up an unprecedented playing field in the dance music world and beyond. — A.D.
26. Seth Troxler talks mad s–t about EDM (2015)
Resident dance s–t-talker Seth Troxler gave Dutch producer Dyro a piece of his mind back in 2015 when he tweeted this: “@Dyro, let’s face the facts EDM is bad music. And it’s doubtful you would have job if your record company hadn’t paid for you to be on radio.” He added a cat emoji for good measure, and let the trolls take it from there. Oliver Heldens and festival photographer Rukes were first to throw jabs in support of Dyro, before thousands of Techno and EDM purists came in swinging in a virtual tete-a-tete on behalf of their favorite genres. Altogether, the spat demonstrated the wide, and often contentious, divide between mainstream EDM and the dance world underground. — M.V.
25. LCD Soundsystem says farewell… but not really (2011)
Has any band’s self-imposed retirement and subsequent comeback inspired as much hoopla or as many hot takes as LCD Soundsystem’s? The era-defining band’s 2011 farewell concert at Madison Square Garden spawned a three-hour-plus live record, an accompanying documentary, an effective subgenre of music journalism sorting out “what it all meant,” and a generation of kids who lamented missing out on the unremembered 2000s. Fortunately for music writers and said kids, James Murphy decided to reunite the band, returning with the not-so surprise 2015 one-off “Christmas Will Break Your Heart.” A half-decade, countless better-than-ever live shows, and several great records later, the ambivalence that accompanied the group’s return has all but dissipated; it’s just a better world with LCD Soundsystem in it. — Z.S.
LCD Soundsystem performs at Madison Square Garden on April 2, 2011 in New York City. Theo Wargo/WireImage For NY Post
24. Rave death hysteria
Some ravers might accept drug-related fatalities as an inevitability of festival attendance, even as the medical science about how to minimize or eliminate the risks of narcotics is unambiguous. Still, nobody in the U.S. — from promoters to elected officials — has committed to a harm reduction response. Hysteria has been the preferred reaction to the recurrence of rave deaths, with multiple fatalities at Electric Zoo, Electric Daisy Carnival, HARD Summer and Coachella spawning media scrutiny and political grandstanding, but alas not a scientifically supported solution. — Z.M.
23. DJs making bank
Reductively, DJs just push buttons to play other people’s music — but in the EDM decade festivals, Vegas nightclubs, liquor brands and oil oligarchs threw loads and loads of money at these button-pushers. In 2012, Forbes began an annual tally of the highest-paid DJs to account for the high six-figure paychecks many artists were pulling for single sets. Calvin Harris topped the ranking’s most lucrative year in 2015, with a reported $66 million in income. Most artists, however, were never ranked at all, and no female DJs have ever made the list. Apparently, the pay gap is even wider than BPM gaps. — Z.M.
22. The generation gap
As EDM heated up, there were millions of kids thrilled to be thrashing around to dubstep in whatever field or parking lot the festival happened to be in that weekend. But there was also another group that wasn’t so stoked on the trend — many of the people who had founded the scene. Seeing dance music culture go from a bespoke, underground phenomenon for marginalized communities to a corporate-owned monolith of an industry dominated by white men and millions of suburban kids in tutus and day-glo rubbed a lot of scene veterans the wrong way, creating a sort of divide between the old guard and the EDM generation. Efforts to bridge this gap included Richie Hawtin’s 2015 CNTRL tour, for which the techno legend toured college campuses to give lectures on the history of dance music by day, and blow heads with live sets by night. — K. Bain
21. Daft Punk embark on a multimedia blitz to promote Random Access Memories (2013)
If you want to understand just how much of a grip EDM had on popular culture in the mid-’10s, look no further than the craze stoked by the enigmatic rollout campaign for Random Access Memories, Daft Punk’s long-awaited return to the studio album. The debut of the third album trailer on the first night of Coachella 2013 sparked an actual stampede to the main stage, ingeniously capitalizing on hopes that the group was at last returning to play the fest. That, of course, wouldn’t happen, but the campaign — which included a video series, enigmatic billboards and slow-trickle multimedia reveals of everything from tracklists to album art — would change the game for how albums are marketed, giving new meaning to the value of content in the streaming era. — A.D.
20. The gender gap
It was a simple question with complicated answers: Where are all the female DJs? As dance music heated up in the States, it became increasingly apparent that women were largely left off of festival lineups, club sets and the major paydays many dudes were experiencing. Those in the scene delivered a variety of explanations — “There just aren’t as many women DJs,” “Women don’t engage with the tech necessary to make the music as much,” etc. — with arguably the most awkward answer coming at IMS Engage in Los Angeles in 2013, when author Jaron Lanier observed that men needed the creative outlet of music “because when you’re a guy growing up, it’s just so difficult to deal with women. You guys are so tough on us.” So too did this issue illuminate EDM’s other deep diversity issues, namely those related to race and sexual orientation.
As pressure around the female artists question continued mounting, promoters made some attempts to book the many female artists existing in the scene, with then-rising stars like Alison Wonderland, Tokimonsta, Anna Lunoe, Rezz and others demonstrating that women obviously had just as much prowess as the men, even as they were ostracized by the industry’s boys club and continually relegated to answering questions about “what it’s like being a female DJ” in the press. While some women in the scene attest that the situation is getting better, in 2019 there are still vastly fewer women showing up to play festivals and clubs, and that’s still a problem. — K. Bain
19. The mental health conversation (2018)
Spending inordinate amounts of time in dark rooms with loud music where people consume mind-altering substances is not, as it happens, always great for one’s emotional well-being. What had been a rampant but largely unspoken topic came to the fore when artists including Erick Morillo, Louisahhh, and Carl Cox shared their mental health struggles, fostering new discussion. Avicii had been candid about his struggles with depression and addiction too, and his passing in 2018 only underscored the importance of candidly addressing these issues. — Z.M.
18. Skrillex wins three Grammys (2012)
Historically peripheral within the Recording Academy, dance music has only two Grammys: best dance recording and best dance/electronic album. In its quest for industry legitimacy, the genre has fought apathy and risked credibility, and it made major strides in 2012 when Skrillex won both dance trophies, as well as the prize for best remixed recording. An EP of nine-tracks including three remixes, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites isn’t a traditional album, but Skrillex’s award-worthiness was so undebated, he swept the same three categories in 2013 too. –– Z.M.
17. Coachella adds the Yuma Tent (2013)
Dance music has always had a strong presence at Coachella since the Southern California festival’s debut 20 years ago, with EDM eventually becoming synonymous with the event’s massive Sahara stage. In 2013, organizers introduced the Yuma tent, which offered an enclosed (and air-conditioned!) space exclusively for underground house and techno fans — including a shark-shaped disco ball and bookings such as Richie Hawtin, Maya Jane Coles and Four Tet — forecasting the dance scene’s shift towards a more authentic, club-friendly sound and environment. — K.R.
16. Deadmau5 vs. Everybody
The fact that deadmau5 got away with his mau5-head mask for at least six years before Disney sued him is honestly shocking, but in 2015 the case settled and the DJ got to keep his signature look. That wasn’t his only publicized battle, though. He once got into it on Twitter with Kanye (who asked if he’d DJ his daughter’s birthday party while wearing a Minnie mask), called Diplo and Zedd his “favorite pop stars” and asked them to stop fighting, came for Jack Ü until Skrillex called him a bully and said his “leadership skills are atrocious,” accused Krewella of firing the one producer who actually made any beats, accused Avicii of not knowing how to produce, and much, much more. The Canadian producer has since ceded control of his Twitter account. –– K. Bein
15. Avicii quits touring (2016)
In 2016, Avicii was one of the world’s most famous artists, so when the 26-year-old announced his retirement from live performance, it was a shock, but not wholly surprising given that the Swedish DJ had briefly paused touring in previous years due to health issues. “I just feel happy. I feel free at this point,” he told Billboard of the decision. “I can’t say I’m never going to have a show again. I just don’t think I’m going to go back to the touring life.” Avicii’s string of 2016 shows ended up being his last before his tragic death in 2018. — K.R.
14. “When Will the Bass Drop?” satirizes EDM culture (2014)
For a humorous take on current events and popular culture, look no further than late-night sketch comedy television. In 2014, Saturday Night Live spoofed EDM excess and DJ culture with the Digital Short “When Will the Bass Drop?” The clip starred Andy Samberg as Davvincii, a DJ and suspected composite caricature of David Guetta and Avicii, who’s building up to the storied Drop during his set. Fans throw him their cash and credit cards as he plays Jenga, cooks an egg and does literally anything else besides his job of DJing. When the drop finally comes, it’s explosive, to say the least. — K.R.
13. Daft Punk perform at the Grammys (2014)
“When will Daft Punk tour?” hysteria was at an all-time high in 2014, with the duo coming off the critical and commercial highs of Random Access Memories. We didn’t get a tour, but the robots did agree to a performance at the Grammys, where they won album of the year. The moment is even more incredible in retrospect — Daft freakin’ Punk in a vintage recording booth, jamming with Pharrell, Nile Rodgers and Stevie Wonder — given the ensuing Daft Punk drought that followed it. — J.T.
12. Electric Daisy Carnival moves to Las Vegas (2011)
Make no mistake, the west is still wild in Las Vegas. Following the death of a 15 year old girl at Electric Daisy Carnival at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2010, and the indictment of founder/promoter Pasquale Rotella on felony charges in connection to the venue, EDC — which had historically happened at locations throughout Los Angeles — needed to find a new home where the law wouldn’t get in the way of a good time. Sin City rolled out the neon carpet, and with the move the festival positioned itself as the country’s biggest juggernaut dance music festival and America’s new dance music hub. Eight years later, the EDM festival is synonymous with Las Vegas, even as it expands to countries worldwide. — Z.M.
11. The rise of the Sahara Stage at Coachella
Over the past decade, the hangar-like dance tent’s stratospheric growth could double as a visual representation of the EDM generation’s ascent from rave culture into the pop mainstream. While fans of rock and hip-hop lingered at the main stage, you could find a crowd just as large crammed into, and spilling out of, the Sahara, with sweaty bodies writhing to the likes of future main stagers Zedd, Calvin Harris, Porter Robinson and Madeon. But it’s not just about who played the Sahara — it’s how. The increasingly colossal stage would become synonymous with spectacle, throwing a gauntlet for live event production, with new feats of LED and light technology that have now become the festival standard. — A.D.
10. SFX declares bankruptcy (2016)
Not even the greatest of parties last forever. The same can be said of Robert Sillerman’s SFX: The conglomerate that brought DJs to Wall Street at the peak hour of EDM with its 2013 IPO, couldn’t fight the drop two years later. Facing a series of cashflow crises and the inevitable decline of a trend, SFX’s eventual chapter 11 filing in 2016 was the unceremonious turning on of the lights every raver knows all too well. — Z.M.
9. The Las Vegas residency wars
Before Britney Spears and Lady Gaga made Las Vegas residencies cool again, an international stable of top international DJ-producers put Sin City back on the map for a new generation — and changed the financial game for EDM as a whole in the process. That value wasn’t lost on casino owners, who, beginning around 2010, poured hundreds of millions into building a slate of decadent, spectacle-loaded new nightclubs (Marquee, Hakkasan, XS, Light… the list goes on.)
The ultimate draw, of course, would be the talent. Enter an unprecedented bidding war to lock down the likes of Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, Afrojack and many more, to the reported tune of eight figures per contract (and between six and seven figure per night), even compelling top acts like Tiësto to ditch their Ibiza residencies completely in pursuit of that sweet, sweet Vegas dollar. — A.D.
8. Live Nation buys Cream Holdings, Insomniac Events and HARD Events (2012)
This power play by the live event giant would mark a sea change for the EDM and concert industry, crystallizing not only dance music’s mainstream popularity but the transformation of a subculture into a lucrative business model. The move would usher in Live Nation’s market takeover, spiking competition, skyrocketing DJ fees and changing the scope and experience of festivals as a whole. — A.D.
7. “Harlem Shake” goes viral (2013)
In February 2013, nearly a year after Baauer released “Harlem Shake” on Mad Decent imprint Jeffree’s, the song took on a life of its own. A YouTube user, DizastaMuzik (a.k.a. comedian Filthy Frank, real name George Miller, now known as the recording artist Joji), uploaded a video of himself and some friends dancing outlandishly to the song’s drop. By mid-month, more than 40,000 spin-off videos, each more wacky than the last, were created — including those by firefighters, NBA players and late-night TV personalities — putting “Harlem Shake,” its creator and experimental electronic music on the map. — K.R.
6. Deadmau5’s ‘We All Hit Play’ post (2012)
Deadmau5 lifted the veil from DJ culture with an infamous tumblr post, in which he broke down just how easy it was for DJs to perform live shows, even if they wanted to pretend otherwise. “I think given about 1 hour of instruction, anyone with minimal knowledge of Ableton and music tech in general could DO what I’m doing at a deadmau5 concert,” the artist born Joel Zimmerman write, going on to say that “beatmatching isn’t ever a f–king skill.” The post caused loads of discussion, and suspicion, in the scene about who was actually playing live and who was just hitting play. The post has since been deleted. — K. Bain
Guy Lawrence and Howard Lawrence of Disclosure perform at Zenith de Paris on Feb. 19, 2016 in Paris, France. David Wolff – Patrick/Redferns
5. The emergence of Disclosure’s “Latch”
Where were you when you first heard “Latch”? Maybe it was during Disclosure’s 2014 Coachella debut, when a still largely unknown Sam Smith popped out for a surprise feature. Maybe it was on the radio, after the song stormed the Hot 100 chart. You’ve probably heard it at the grocery store. The point is, somewhere between its 2012 release and 2014 sleeper hit success in the U.S., “Latch” became ubiquitous, a symbol of both EDM’s firm arrival in the U.S., and the genre’s crossover into mainstream pop consciousness as a whole. — A.D.
4. Skrillex launches American dubstep
Dubstep was created in South London in the early 2000s and popularized by producers such as Skream, Benga, Coki and Mala. But for Americans new to the EDM craze, dubstep was synonymous with a Los Angeles-based producer named Skrillex, who skyrocketed to fame in late 2010 with his My Name is Skrillex EP. His early catalog is on almost every YouTube compilation of sickest/filthiest/best dubstep drops, and his chaotic, head-thrashing take on the genre, often labeled “brostep,” yielded a generation of copycats — and for Skrillex, six Grammy awards. — K.R.
Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia perform one of their final shows at Los Angeles Historical Park on March 8, 2013 in Los Angeles. Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
3. Swedish House Mafia’s One Last Tour (2012-2013)
In 2012, arguably no dance music group was bigger or more bombastic than the mighy Nordic trio Swedish House Mafia. Together, Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello had helped define the maximalist ethos of EDM through their explosive and massively popular live shows and their litany of hits including “One,” “Miami 2 Ibiza,” “Greyhound” and “Don’t You Worry Child.” In 2011, they sold out Madison Square Garden in under ten minutes. In 2012, they made history by becoming of the first EDM acts to ever play the Coachella mainstage.
Then, two months later and at the height of their popularity, they broke up. In a savvy marketing move orchestrated by the group’s manager Amy Thomson, this news came with the announcement of their massive One Last Tour, 53 gigs that would allow them to say goodbye to their millions of fans around the globe, while making millions of dollars in the process. The shows were hugely successful and highly emotional, spawNing the 2014 documentary Leave The World Behind.
Rumors went that the guys simply weren’t getting along, and neither Angello or the duo of Axwell and Ingrosso were able to replicate their success in the wake of their breakup. A 2018 reunion show at Ultra Music Festival came with news of their reunion, but neither a tour, nor any new music have yet to materialize. — K. Bain
2. “EDM” becomes dance music shorthand, and not without controversy
In the mid-2000s, electronic music producers Justice, Boys Noize, MSTRKRFT and others blended punk energy, metal riffs and hip-hop rhythms into high-energy songs that fit more with the indie dance set than traditional mix-in house and techno. It sparked a revolution that influenced Steve Aoki, Skrillex, Porter Robinson and countless others. In 2009, you saw the Americanization of dubstep, the rise of Deadmau5, the launch of Major Lazer. Pop stars Lady Gaga, Kesha and Katy Perry brought electronic vibes to their hits.
By 2010, electronic music began to crossover to mainstream ears, and by 2011, record industry executives found a way to distill this trend into a quick-and-easy three-letter acronym. What once was just an energy without a name became “Electronic Dance Music” or “EDM.” While the acronym’s exact moment of origin is unclear, by the end of 2011 it had become the blanket term for all things with a heavy electronic sound and steady beat. Nu disco, dubstep, Dutch house, trance – it was all EDM now, which made it easy to identify with and flock to for a new, wide-eyed generation.
But many raised their eyebrows at the catch-all term, wary of how it collapsed such a rich and disparate genre into an easy — and easy to commercialize — term. Indeed, with the unifying descriptor came both cultural identity and commercial opportunity for the corporate entities arriving to the scene along with all the kids. From liquor companies, to car companies, to cigarette companies, many saw money in “EDM.” Clothing companies popped up to sell festival-going men and women “EDM” appropriate neon tanks and daisy bras. Live Nation founder Robert Sillerman infamously declared he’d invest $1 billion into the “EDM” event marketplace, acquiring large stakes in Life in Color, Tomorrowland, Electric Zoo and Beatport. Las Vegas’ put star “EDM” DJs on nightlife pedestals, and by 2016, everyone was talking about the “EDM bubble” and when it might burst. For many, the term was thus anathema, representing what some considered an oversimplified paint by numbers sound heard on festival mainstages and the suits who had arrived to get a financial piece of a formerly underground scene.
Today, Latin music and hip-hop outshine the genre, and while “EDM” in many ways has been absorbed into pop, the acronym itself remains a definitive 2010s dance scene creation and defining characteristic. — K. Bein
Avicii performs at the MLB Fan Cave on Oct. 1, 2013 in New York City. Mike Pont/WireImage
1. The rise and fall of Avicii
Avicii represented the heights of the scene, with his massive hits, massive paydays, high-flying lifestyle and global fanbase, which altogether created the template for EDM superstardom. Critics may have called his music cheesy — “They were the one percent,” said Avicii’s one-time manager Ash Pournouri. “I’d tell Tim that we were making music for the 99 percent, for the people who really loved and appreciated it.” But the millions of fans streaming Avicii tracks like “Levels” and “Fade Into Darkness” knew that the Swedish producer born Tim Bergling was making the defining anthems of the EDM youth movement. The songs were huge, joyous, melodic and unabashedly pop-oriented, ushering in the EDM era on a wave of glowsticks and serotonin spikes.
But Bergling, just 21 years old at the time he blew up also showed us the dark side of the dance world. His relentless touring reflected the grind artists were forced into to achieve and maintain fame, while his ongoing health issues — he famously canceled his set at Ultra 2014 in order to have gall bladder surgery — showed us the physical depletion that occurs when the party never really ends. Meanwhile, his mental health issues — exacerbated to the extreme by his lifetyle — illuminated a problem experienced by many in the scene who experience the thrill of the stage followed by the quiet of a lonely hotel room. Despite quitting touring to focus on music in 2016 and, by accounts from his closest friends, rebounding into a place of excellent physical and mental health, Bergling couldn’t escape his demons, dying by suicide on April 20, 2018 at a resort in Oman.
The news sent shockwaves around the world, with four million tweets mentioning “Avicii” lighting up Twitter on the day of his passing. (“If in some miracle you can see this,” Skrillex wrote, “I hope you know that as long as human beings are alive on this planet, you will forever remain an inspiration.”) Meanwhile, bars in his native Stockholm settled into shocked silence when the news hit town.
While critics had long debated when the EDM bubble would burst, arguably nothing represented the wane of the EDM era more than Bergling’s death. By 2018, tastes were shifting away from maximalist EDM and more “underground” towards house and techno, while DJ paydays were falling and hip-hop and Latin were rising to become the prevailing genres.
But the success of Avicii’s 2019 posthumous album Tim demonstrates that the Avicii legacy and the decade he defined does indeed endure, with thousands of hands still rising into the air whenever one of his tracks drops at a festival. That Avicii’s music, and the sound he helped forge, will live forever is little consolation, but it remains undeniable nonetheless. — K. Bain