“Excuse me,” said the teenage girl approaching the circulation desk at the public library. “Do you have any dubstep? Like Skrillex?”
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Normally that would have been my cue to go to the catalog and show her how to look it up herself, but as an occasional music writer, I happened to know the answer off the top of my head.
“We don’t have Skrillex. He doesn’t have any physical albums out yet.”
“Okay, how about Dead Mouse?”
There I did have to check the catalog; we had had some Deadmau5 albums in, but they were all checked out. “I can put them on hold for you if you’d like.”
“No, that’s OK.” As she left the library with her friend, who had been stifling laughter while she spoke to me, she shrugged. “I guess I’ll just torrent it.”
That was almost two years ago. As anyone who follows pop music knows, those two years have seen Skrillex, Deadmau5, and peers like Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, and more rise to celebrity status on a tidal wave of brutally physical, subtlety-free dance music that’s come to be called EDM (electronic dance music) by the press and fans alike. The industrial-siren, incessantly pounding sounds of EDM have also been popularized on Top 40 radio by superstar producers like David Guetta, RedOne, Dr. Luke, and Calvin Harris, but the music’s real home, according to its youthful fanbase, is in warehouse raves, DJ sets at not-particularly-upscale clubs, and increasingly at live festivals, where both attendance and excitement has been upending the previous two decades’ conventional wisdom about the preference of American youth for rock, hip-hop, or country.