Robbie Murch is a DJ, online community expert and founder of cultural agency Bump. Following the release of his agency’s inaugural On the Record report, Murch is exploring the brand’s opportunities in dance music.
Economically, the dance music industry is still finding its feet. Before Covid-19, dance music fans in the UK supported a nighttime cultural economy contributing £36billion to GDP. Culturally, dance music continues to permeate pop culture and society. Drake’s Honestly, Nevermind and Beyonce’s Renaissance tapped into dance music sensibilities this summer, while among the top 500 UK festivals in 2021 the dominant sound was electronic music.
Dance music has long been a movement for progression and positive societal change, but there is still much to be done. The Jaguar Foundation recently discovered that just 1% of dance music played on UK radio in the past two years was exclusively by a female or non-binary artist. Kudos to UK festivals for increasing representation from 14% to 28% (a 100% increase) over the past four years.
The results follow “On the Record,” my agency Bump’s new annual news release. The report surveyed 1,807 music fans, featured 16 interviews with leading industry professionals, and asked 92 questions to understand Gen Z’s behavior towards music and brands in 2023 and beyond. The report reveals five key themes.
1. Progressive Idealists
45% of the dance music community strongly agree that they use brands that promote equality and are inclusive compared to 34% of mainstream music consumers. Jaguar (BBC Radio 1) says: “The dance music community is special. There’s plenty of room to be political and opinionated because of where dance music comes from: the underground, the gay scene, people of color, and rebellion against norms. »
2.5 times as many dance music fans have boycotted a brand in the past year compared to mainstream music consumers. Dance music fans are looking for who they invest in. If you say anything, you must live and die – otherwise, you’re out.
2. Fans, not consumers
Passionate dance music fans are 13 times more likely to use Bandcamp. They are 2 times more likely to be active explorers than passive consumers of music. Fans don’t just rely on social media feeds and algorithms, but instead use recommendations from the online community.
They put their money where their mouth is: 88% of dance music fans prefer an event over dining out, underscoring the sacredness of the dance music experience for this group.
3. Core Supporters
The dance music community cares about local initiatives. They feel alienated by high profile influencers being paid to read scripted recommendations. 66% agreed that recommendations from real customers and community members are more important than those from high profile influencers.
They want the spotlight to be on new emerging talent, not those who are already enjoying commercial success. Neel, a 23-year-old London-based DJ and party organizer, said: “I love seeing someone grow from being relatively small to playing more, getting their music heard more. It’s nice to see that kind of growth.
4. Knowledge Seekers
Part of the power of online community lies in the ability to share and co-educate one another. Dance fans are 2x more likely to share daily news, music or events and 30% more likely to listen to educational podcasts. 48% would like to attend more interviews, conferences or masterclasses if the opportunity arose (compared to 26% of the general public).
Driven by a thirst for learning, dance fans crave educational content. Electronic DJ Plastician says, “It’s like a telepathic understanding that we’re all here to learn something, and we’d like to learn it from people who know more than we do.”
5. Brand criticism
Dance Music Fans Are Going Green in Their Buying Decisions; targeted marketing and investment are most likely to get results. 66% of dance fans (vs. 14% of mainstream fans) say, “I buy from brands that clearly demonstrate what they’re doing for the environment.”
80% of dance music fans agree that brands can help address broader music industry issues such as diversity and inclusion, mental health, and substance abuse. Kirsty Harper, DJ and social media editor at the Cannes Lions, says: “Clubs and brands sell alcohol and make money by getting people intoxicated, right? So they have some responsibility. As an industry built on good times and synonymous with substance use, the community believes that brands benefiting from its involvement must do their part.
In a time of declining ticket sales and Web3, one of the best things brands can do is give capital to artists and people rooted in the culture, instead of trying to capitalize on it. Too often we see lazy attempts to commodify culture, rather than contribute to it. Brands should be allies, not just sponsors.
“On The Record” is a new series of analysis reports from Bump. On the Record Vol 1 illustrates the rise of community, the rejection of mass influence and what this means for brands – through the lens of music fans versus mass consumers. For full access to the report, register here.