Over the past ten years or so, electronic dance music, or EDM for short, has captured the lives of millions of people across the entire world. From teenagers in junior high school to college graduates, millions of people are taking part of this phenomenon where they spend countless hours, and a lot of money, partying, drinking, dancing, and living life to the fullest just like another other young person would want to do. However, what many people look at as a craze is actually starting to become a crisis. It seems that whenever the topic of EDM is brought up, the topic of drugs is always being mentioned. There are numerous people that feel as though drugs plays only a minor role in the electronic dance music culture, and should only be looked at with a grain of salt, trying to disassociate drugs from EDM as much as possible. Others, sometimes even fans of EDM themselves, get fed up when people associate drugs with EDM. However, actions speak louder than words. Countless studies, including interviews and even my own personal observations have shown that drugs not only play a dominant role in this well-known music culture, but also plays a negative role in society. The growth of EDM as a subculture turned mainstream, as well as drugs, including alcohol, that have followed it’s path, not only has a negative result on society, has resulted in numerous social problems as well.
“E.D.M. will be the death of our culture, if molly doesn't kill us all first.” That is the opening statement of Rich Juzwiak’s “The 10 Most Depressing Parts of The New Yorker's E.D.M. Article Ranked” article. A powerful statement, yet it has some truth to it. The article is based off of The New Yorker’s Night Club Royale article published on September 30, 2013. The basis of the article is to show a typical night in the EDM culture, using XS in Las Vegas as an example. The article mainly focuses on Afrojack, a famous EDM d.j., and how he has worked for Jesse Waits, the managing partner of XS in Las Vegas. While the article talks about Afrojack, his music, and the business behind the Vegas nightclubs, there were two particular things that were very revealing as to EDM and the relationship it has with drugs and alcohol.
First, the article talks about a particular night Afrojack was performing at XS, and afterwards, he went to Cedric Gervais’ suite because there was an after-party. Cedric Gervais was a
French D.J., as well as a friend of Afrojack. Afrojack stayed until 5:30 that morning, however, what was shocking was the availability of drugs. As Josh Eels wrote, “A few members of the Denver Broncos were there, and a young cosmetology student in black short shorts went around offering small white tablets of MDMA, or Molly, the drug of choice for many clubgoers.” Afrojack then went on to say “I don’t do drugs. I don’t do anything!” What’s appalling is how easy the access were to these drugs. It wasn’t like someone came to a party after already taking drugs, or if someone was selling drugs discretely; the fact that a young lady in short shorts, who was a cosmetology student, walked around offering, not selling, MDMA shows how much of a dominant role drugs has on the EDM culture.
Second, what was shocking about this article was that it shows how important alcohol is to the EDM scene as well. While alcohol is a drug, many usually picture marijuana, cocaine, or MDMA as typical drugs when talking about EDM, and usually look at alcohol as something separate. According to will.i.am, the leader of the Black Eyed Peas, “What makes a hit in pop music is how many times a song gets played on the radio. A hit in d.j.-land is how much alcohol is bought.” Alcohol plays a bigger role than most would ever imagine. According to Eels,
“XS earned more than eighty per cent of its revenue from alcohol sales. A bottle of Grey Goose that wholesales for forty-five dollars costs more than six hundred in the club—a markup of more than a thousand per cent. The biggest customers often spend half a million dollars on drinks in a night.”
Not only does the club make most of its money from alcohol, people are breaking their pockets for drinks they don’t even need. For example, one night when Afrojack was performing his very popular song, “Take Over Control”, a customer had purchased a thirty-liter bottle of Armand de Brignac champagne for a hundred thousand dollars. A column of waitresses carried it to him. This just emphasizes how much alcohol plays a role in this subculture gone mainstream. Someone just spent the same amount of money that takes others years to make in a matter of seconds.
Authors Tammy L. Anderson, Philip R. Kavanaugh, Ronet Bachman, and Lana D. Harrison provide an excellent piece of work, titled Exploring the Drugs-Crime Connection within the Electronic Dance Music and Hip-Hop Nightclub Scenes, which focuses on the connection between alcohol, drugs, crime, and even victimization when it comes to the EDM culture and the
people that participate in it. According to their research, alcohol and marijuana were the most commonly abused drugs among EDM fans. Not only was alcohol consumption considered something normal, binge drinking was also common among people who went to
EDM clubs. What’s even more shocking is that excessive alcohol use was even encouraged by the club venues that were hosting the event. One of the ways that the club venues encouraged excessive alcohol use was by its bartenders drinking with people. This over consumption of alcohol has a negative effect on the people drinking it, as well as their surroundings. A man named Santiago was interviewed about the effect’s he has when drinking, and he said:
“I’m more likely to do something dumb, you know what I mean. Like I said, I’m aggressive so I’m not going to - whereas right now, you know what I mean, I will diffuse a situation, but if I have liquored up in the club, I’m probably going to be more aggressive, you know what I mean.”
This over consumption has a negative effect on women as well. A 21 year old female named Bogota claimed that some women don’t want to get too trashed at a club if they’re alone because of safety issues. Also, many women admitted to being more promiscuous after drinking so much.
Binge drinking at these EDM clubs also affects the behavioral patterns of the individual drinking. For example, usually when guys at a nightclub participate in heavy drinking, they can become aggressive, as Santiago pointed out about
himself, or they might become more flirtatious with women, as Bogota feared. While that may be the case, alcohol has also resulted in some odd behaviors from the people drinking. For example, there was one particular nightclub where the guys that drank heavily decided to break
bottles, not only inside, but also outside the nightclub. Dublin, a 27 year old man that’s a regular when it comes to EDM nightlife, stated “People break bottles for no reason. I have seen people throw bottles. I got hit by a bottle.” The result was the club now serving alcohol in plastic cups. Another result of this heavy drinking was vandalism, but one that sometimes did not involve theft. For example, a 21 year old female named Glasgow reported “I had my window smashed last year in my neighborhood in Virginia. I had a whole bunch of shit on a back seat, but they didn’t take anything, they just smashed the window!” This shows the connection between excessive alcohol consumption and aggressive behavior, as well as vandalism.
The connection between excessive alcohol consumption and aggressive behavior/vandalism also results in more violence. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there are four major EDM club scenes, them being Old City, Riverfront, Northern Liberties and Rittenhouse Square. When it came to the aggregated assault
rates of these four areas, all four clubbing areas’ reported rates for aggregated assault exceeded the city’s average. Riverfront’s rates were almost five times the city average, and Old City’s rates were about twice the city average. The same way people consuming excessive amounts of alcohol became violent with throwing bottles is the same way they became violent with throwing their fists. For example, Santiago, the same man who claimed he’s aggressive when he consumes alcohol told the authors a story of when he had gotten into a fight after a night of drinking. He went on to say:
“Like recently, I got in a fucking fight, you know what I mean, and it wasn’t my fault. I was leaving the bar and somebody I had a previous problem with decided to start talking. And I said
I don’t have time for this. And I was dead drunk, music is blaring, college kids all over the place, I just want to go home. He came out and I ended up punching him in the mouth. I mean if you’re dead drunk, you’re going to end up on the floor, there is no balance. You know what I mean, you have just got to be good on the floor, which I, rolling around on the ground, I can do some work, some damage.”
This continuing pattern of excessive drinking by EDM clubgoers also results in sexual assault and harassment. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), 1.6 of every 1,000 females experienced a rape or sexual assault in 2004. Research from this data showed that there were numerous factors that contributed to sexual harassment and assault, two of which were drugs and alcohol. Most of the time, this sexual harassment came in the form of a guy calling a female “bitch” or “whore”, however, there have been cases where drunk men have been extremely aggressive with women. For example, a 21 year old woman named Providence explained how she was at an EDM club when a random guy came and threw her up against the wall and started to dance on her. She tried to fight him off but he pushed her against the wall anyway, refusing to accept her refusal. She claims he was about to fight her when another guy she danced with earlier came up and just stood by them until the aggressive man walked away.
Race also played a part in this sexual assault/harassment as well. A 28 year old man named Pittsburgh explained an incident regarding race:
“I guess the other guy tried to come onto my friend’s girlfriend and so like they were mouthing off. And then I did that little rhyme or whatever, and the dude that had the beef with my friends, he’s like “just a nigger, always rapping.”
Many people argue that drugs aren’t the main focus of EDM and EDM clubs, including Paris Hilton who now D.J.’s around the world. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, when asked about if it’s fair to associate drugs with the EDM scene, Hilton said “with music, it is a drug in itself, so I think the people can go without that and have a great time as well” However, it seems to be the main focus when you experience it for yourself. I’ve taken the time myself to go to three EDM clubs in New York City, Pacha, Lavo, and Webster Hall, and what went on over there is definitely drug based. I have no doubt that the clubgoers genuinely love the music being played, however, it seemed as if they needed that drug, whether it be marijuana, molly, or alcohol, to give them that extra rush.
For example, it was Halloween night and me and a group of friends decided to go to Pacha. Once I walked in, I felt the vibe like almost everyone was on something. Although I didn’t see any drug deals going on, I could tell a lot of people were high. You could see it in their face, in their eyes, and the way they looked at you, like they weren’t in their right frame of mine. There was one guy that came up to me and my friends. He told us he was French and proceeded to grab my friend’s hand and use it to rub his face. He laughed extremely loud for about 20 seconds, then whispered “molly”. Me and my friends just gave each other the look like we already knew what was going on.
Another example was at Lavo. Me and my friend were dancing, drinking, and having a good time when a female named Rebecca approached me and told me that she loved my face. I said thank you and she wanted to take a picture with me. She asked me how many times I took molly Soriano 8
and I told her none. She told me she does it multiple times a week because it makes her feel good and happy.
I’ve conducted two interviews with two friends that I know enjoy EDM and wanted to get their take on the drug culture surrounding EDM. Julie and Monica, both from New York, participated in the interview. When asked about why they think EDM is frowned upon, Julie claimed “EDM has come to be associated with drug use. But if you really love it, you don’t need drugs to have fun.” However, when asked if she took drugs at any EDM club or festival, she admitted to doing so, and Monica refused to answer the question, leaving the possibilities open.
Part of the reason drugs are constantly being connected to EDM is because of it’s easy availability. According to the Anderson article, “Many respondents have purchased drugs like ecstasy, GHB, crystal methamphetamine, and marijuana at club events - especially EDM events.” It was also found that
prescription narcotics, and LSD were also used, and the majority of these drugs were reported among people in the EDM scene. When it came to marijuana, use of it was common and some clubs even allowed it, some even providing hookahs for you to smoke out of. Cocaine was another drug of choice by many EDM clubgoers. According to Bogota, “It’s funny cause like I brought like some coke there once and the guy was like yeah be careful the bouncer’s right there and ten minutes later I see the bouncer coming down the steps and there is this guy sitting there with me and he takes out a bag of coke and the bouncer does some.”
It seems like the only good thing out of the EDM experience is that the people seem to really enjoy the music. When asked if listening to EDM makes them feel free, both Julie and Monica answered yes, and what Monica said was very interesting. She responded by saying,
“Yes and yes. Listening to EDM makes you feel like you’re not in this world anymore. It opens up your heart and it can give you a spiritual experience like it does for me. It definitely gives me a way to express myself, especially things I can’t put into words myself.”
Graham St. John, author of Electronic Dance Music Culture And Religion: An Overview explains how the electronic dance music culture is a kind of religion for it’s followers and how this culture is a new “spirituality of life”. It’s interesting how he would say that and Monica said listening to EDM gives you a spiritual experience. Graham also states how the EDM experience is the “jouissance of amnesia, where nobody is but everybody belongs.” This also agrees with Monica’s statement that EDM is “a place to be yourself and to get away from the stresses of the world” when asked what she thought EDM got out of the community.
In conclusion, EDM went from being a subculture to this massive phenomenon that has a huge following across the world. People have spent time and money going to clubs, festivals, drinking, and living life to the fullest. However, we have seen how this fun “craze” is really a crisis. Although there are many people that feel drugs play a small role in the EDM culture, it actually plays a major role. As we have seen, not only does it play a dominant role in the EDM culture, it also plays a negative role in society. The growth of EDM has resulted in a number of social problems, such as vandalism, acts of physical assault, sexual assault, and harassment. This culture where one can feel free doesn’t seem as innocent as it sounds.
Anderson, Tammy, Philip Kavanaugh, Ronet Bachman, and Lana Harrison. Exploring the Drugs-Crime Connection within the Electronic Dance Music and Hip-Hop Nightclub Scenes. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2007. Print. St John, Graham. Electronic Dance Music Culture And Religion: An Overview. Rep. 1st ed. Vol. 7. N.p.: Taylor and Francis, 2006. Print. Juzwiak, Rich. "The 10 Most Depressing Parts of The New Yorker's E.D.M. Article Ranked." Gawker. N.p., 24 Sept. 2013. Web. Eels, Josh. "Night Club Royale." The New Yorker (2013): n. pag. Web. "Paris Hilton on Her Global Tour and Drug Use in the EDM Scene." YouTube. YouTube, 18 Oct. 2013. Web.