To say that the music industry is a fickle, ever-changing world would be an understatement. Genres, trends, and artists can rise and fall at the drop of a hat, with some experiencing the dizzying heights of fame and the devastating lows of obscurity all within an alarming space of time. Of course, this is not always the case.
According to a report by the industry boffins at Music Machinery, the average length of an active music career for a ‘successful’ (see: top 1000 in the charts) artist is a whopping 17 years. However, such a lengthy career is rarely guaranteed to artists of highly specific genres. A relevant case study that we all remember is the strange and mysterious death of Dubstep.
This was a genre that rapidly emerged at the turn of the 2010s to become a pinnacle of mainstream electronic music, with its most vaunted artists headlining the world’s largest festivals, from Coachella to Glastonbury. Then, sometime around 2014, the bubble popped.
Tastes changed and electronic music took on a darker, more serious edge. Almost overnight, the demand for and the cultural cachet of Dubstep evaporated, leaving a trail of artists in its wake. So, what happened to Dubstep’s leading luminaries? Let’s dive in and find out.
When you think of Dubstep, you probably think of Skrillex. The long-haired, moody figure behind such monster tracks as Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites and Weekends once even topped the prestigious BBC Sounds of the Year Ranking, where he was listed as one of the world’s most influential artists. Following a mammoth world tour at the apex of the Dubstep craze, Skrillex promptly dropped off the face of the Earth, producing virtually no music between the years of 2012 and now. However, this may be set to change. In a recent interview with EDM Magazine, Skrillex re-emerged to announce that he was working on a new, full-length studio album, one that will mark a “new chapter” for the artist.
To describe Deadmau5 as a Dubstep artist in the first place is controversial in itself, given that the artist was famously reported in Rolling Stone as having described himself as a “sell-out” for deciding to branch into the Dubstep genre. The masked DJ behind manic dancefloor bangers such as FML and Ghosts N’ Stuff also went silent not long after the Dubstep bubble burst. Today, he is most active in the world of gaming. He appears as a playable character in console titles such as Activision’s DJ Hero, as well as in Goat Simulator and even the online vehicular soccer game Rocket League. Fans of his music can also enjoy his legacy in the world of online casino gaming. In his only branded collaboration of this type, the artist released an official Deadmau5 slot game with Betway online casino, where players can spin the reels to some of his hottest tracks. Who would have thought online slots and Dubstep were such an obvious tie-in?
Swedish House Mafia
The Swedish EDM supergroup Swedish House Mafia had the world in its grip at the turn of the last decade, thanks to infectious tracks such as Save the World and Don’t You Worry Child. After announcing their break-up at the very height of their career (arguably a shrewd move that predated the fall of Dubstep by just a few months), they went on to play a farewell tour that sold out in seconds. After this, the group largely went their separate ways, reuniting occasionally to play the UK festival circuit. Since then, the group has reunited and broken up several times, only this summer announcing that they were back together “permanently” with a not-so-subtle billboard in New York’s Times Square. The group has just begun to tease tracks for their upcoming album Paradise Again, which marks a significant departure from their previous work. In keeping with changing times, Swedish House Mafia has opted for the 80s dance-pop sound that is now ubiquitous in the charts. Let’s hope it pays off.
Although the leading lights of substep are not what they once were, their legacy has not been forgotten. Regardless of your opinions of the genre, it’s difficult to deny that these music pioneers did a lot to bring electronic music into the mainstream.