The History of EDM & Raves in the US

EDM – Starting in the United States

It’s surprisingly rare that a genre of music can reach success to the point that it spans the globe and brings about festivals and industry internationally. Electronic dance music, referred to in short as EDM, is one such genre. Classified as electronic music with the primary goal of being played in a night club or dance focused environment EDM has exploded across the world and has seen its fan base expand rapidly in recent years. 

EDM is traditionally played with DJs using full set pieces and mixing tables and is renowned for its rhythmic and soulful sound. EDM music is widely played in the form of a mix – whereas some sets will contain single songs a DJ playing electronic dance music will seamlessly blend their songs between each other to create a non-stop dance experience that can last hours.

Music Festival


You might be aware in the modern music scene of the staggering numbers of other music genres available. Alternative music styles crop up on a seemingly daily basis, and EDM is no stranger to this.

Containing some music genres that have their dedicated communities has contributed to the widespread success of EDM as a whole – many different people can find under one umbrella various types of music to suit them. These are often shared among the same communities, making mixing and mingling smooth and seamless.

As the genres became more defined, the sounds took on more character. The house scene took disco in the direction of smooth beats that worked in continuous melodies and deeper themes. Conversely, the techno and rave scenes worked towards pounding, rhythmic beats that shook through the bodies of the thousands of people within the communities.


The very origin of the EDM scene can be traced back to the 1950s. An arguable starting point for the term “rave” came from when Buddy Holly put out the single “Rave on”. This soulful hit single referred to the passion and abandon those going to such dance festivals and meets felt. This term easily caught on and was eventually picked up by the mod scene in the 60s. Soon those going to such parties and dancing to such music were called ravers, and the seeds were put in place for a music explosion.The popularity of EDM-influenced disco began to arise around the 1970s. As traditional disco began to move away from acoustic themes and involve more electronic elements, its popularity continued to rise.

Music throughout the 80s was an eclectic period where there were electronic themes in almost every type of music simply due to its novelty and originality. It was mainly the disco scene however that truly embraced the new sound and made it its defining feature instead of just an addition. The 1980s saw the EDM scene continue to expand worldwide and take more popularity in the United States in particular. The 80s were a particular heyday for EDM as its reach began to push further into mainstream nightclubs as well as informal raves. From the trendy spot down the road in the hottest towns and cities of America to the underground warehouse raves, EDM continued to push deeper into popular culture. As cultures increase in size and spread, they tend to move beyond just music. As EDM became more varied and took up roots within the culture of the United States so too did the life surrounding the music.

Listeners of EDM

Current Popularity

In the present day, you’ll see EDM music all across the mainstream radio stations and TV channels. Festivals catering to EDM music have established themselves fully thanks to the certainty that they will have record breaking numbers attending to dance the night away. With the current market for EDM reckoned at around four billion dollars per year it’s no surprise that the mainstream media has embraced this type of music and continued to flood channels with it. The trend of festivals in the US has just begun to rise. It’s no secret that EDM was picked up and matured mainly within Europe in its beginning years before it spread worldwide. As a result, it’s easy to see how the festival numbers have only just started to even out.

The big festivals are big business. The sheer number of fans and big artist names can draw staggering funds to organizers and have in part contributed to the mainstream nature of EDM in recent years. The underground still thrives, of course. There are some within any music scene that resent widespread appeal of their genre and religiously stick to small venues and the newest, freshest bands and artists. With the EDM and rave scene coming straight out of the warehouses there’s no risk of this sometimes illegal community going anywhere soon. It was particularly around the late 1990s that the scene began to feel the squeeze when it came to underground raves. Particularly within the UK and Europe the communities preferring to organize spontaneous or illegal meets within forests or country clubs for nights or entire weekends faced increasing penalization and crackdowns by local police and government. This has and continues to be a defining part of EDM and rave culture which identifies itself in part as a counter-culture and anti-government movement. This ties in with the apparent trend of heavy drug use in the form of uppers and hallucinogenics used at such events.

The Future

EDM has established itself. It’s shown that it has a universal appeal and can reach into a variety of different music genres while still retaining its core characteristics. As the rave and EDM scene, together with its subsets and sub-genres, continues to grow criticism is sure to be leveled at it as has been the case in the past. This can be both from the outside who speak against parts of the culture such as drug use or even from within from those who feel the culture has lost its roots since the heyday of the underground.

The fact is that EDM is here to stay both in the US and worldwide. A bright future is out there for the spreading and mingling of cultures and individuals from all backgrounds united under the love of music and dance.

EDM Fesival


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