As a musician and a marketing professional, I’m always looking for patterns in the music industry. The current shifts in the music people listen to along with how and where they listen fascinates me. One style that has been continually growing in popularity is electronic instrumental, especially EDM (electronic dance music) like Dubstep and Trance. These styles utilize heavy synths sounds combined with big, consistent, almost tribal beats and are very popular in live settings like clubs and festivals. People will congregate together dressed in bright fluorescent colors and dance to these beats. It’s nothing new, people have been doing this for many years, disco in the 70’s, pop synth in the 80’s, trip hop in the 90’s and so on. However, I’ve also discovered that there is a less aggressive style of electronica that is also just as popular, but it tends to fill a different roll.
On the opposite end of the spectrum of electronica, opposite of the aggressive EDM there are much slower, calmer and more relaxing styles that people listen to while trying to be productive. Naturally people like to provide names to the types of music they listen to, so they come up with the likes of Chill Dubstep and Downtempo EDM, even though this type of music isn’t something you would normally dance to. On Spotify there are playlists like “Brain Food”, “Mellow Beats”, and “Beats to think to” to help describe the music within. Ten to twenty years ago we called it moods music (aka New Age) because there was a commercial back then that promoted a collection of songs on CDs called “Pure Moods,” back when that was a thing. However, I noticed that similar styles created today have an almost video game type quality to it. More repetitiveness in both the melodies and beats. So, what makes this style so popular?
Not too long ago I discovered a connection to those who listen to this newer style of electronica and their professions. I asked a colleague of mine, since she is of the millennial generation, if she listened to EDM. Surprisingly she said no, but her boyfriend does. Her boyfriend is a software tester and analyzer who also does programming to help fix software used in the medical industry. I said “perfect, would you mind asking him about what he listens to since I’m interested?” She came back to me a bit confused since the playlists he sent her was that of video game soundtracks. We thought it would be the more aggressive Dubstep or Trance style, but it was more like the Mellow Beats. She explained to me that he listens to this while he’s working, it helps keep him focused. I knew from previous discussions that they were both avid gamers and the connection made perfect sense to me. Newer games especially those on consoles and PCs have evolved from the lower bit rated bloops and bleeps of earlier video games due to the advances in the technology. They now had scores that rivaled TV and cinema. Gamers would invest hours of game play listening to these soundtracks while concentrating on the games. So why wouldn’t they use this type of music to help focus on their tasks? Especially when they’re fixated on line after line of software code.
I did some quick research on the interweb to find out how many people might also listen to this type of electronica. There is no direct answer, but you can get an idea by researching similar topics. For example, I found out that about 150 million people in the U.S. alone play video games. The average age is 34 with about 72% of gamers 18 or older and most are male, no big surprises. There are roughly 3.6 million software developers in the U.S. and I strongly believe there is a correlation between these developers and playing video games. I think they find it stimulating to sit for long periods of time in front of a computer to work towards a task. This is the same type of activity as playing a video game. Now I’m not saying all developers are gamers, but I’m sure there is good chance that majority participate in some type of gaming activity. That’s just software developers, there are many other white-collar professions where a person might also listen to electronica while working such as mechanical engineers, accounting, or even graphic design.
Being a marketing guy, this is interesting to me but also as a musician, I see this as an opportunity. I’ve always been attracted to creating and playing original music, but I usually gravitated towards styles that utilized live playing, rock, blues, jazz, country. You must go out and play it live to get heard. It’s built around live venues. I saw a Ted Talk recently with David Byrnes explaining how the venue where your listeners are going to experience your music will dictate the music you’ll produce. Unfortunately, I’m too old and lazy to travel and drag my equipment around. It’s just not feasible or logical for me to play live as regularly as it would take to promote originals. However, with electronica, you can create songs for a different venue. The listener’s headphones or home stereo.
So, I’m proposing to myself to complete a project that would target white collar professionals looking for tracks to help them stay in the zone as they work. I’m going to put constraints on myself to force creativity and develop a streamlined approach. This includes pretending to create a twelve-song album in which each song is in a different key. Each song will not only be written in one key but will also incorporate its relative minor. Like a standard pop song there will be three parts; verse, chorus, and bridge. These parts will be structured in an interesting way by using EDM style breaks and builds to move the song along and keep it stimulating to the listener while minimize distractions. Each part should compliment the next and the overall song should evoke a series of emotions, it should tell a story without words or limited words. I’ll combine old analog sounds like that of the 80’s with newer sounds and use textured beats to tie everything together. Since I’m using twelve songs in the twelve major keys as a goal, I’m going to focus on each one as a representation of a zodiac sign. I’ll try to incorporate the positive and negative personality traits of each sign. The textured grooves and melodies should provide a video game feel since most games use a lot of melodic instrumental phrases, especially in sci-fi and adventure gaming.
My short-term goal is to upload my music to YouTube first and then to services like Spotify to try and get on some of their public playlists. I will need people who are interested in this style to help me fine tune the songs by providing some needed feedback. My long-term goal is to be an active electronica artist and possibly get into video game music production and then who knows, TV and cinema?
Brian Lundgren is a marketing professional, musician, and family man living in the Southeast region of Massachusetts.