This blog update is pretty regional so to all my fans who live outside of my immediate area this probably wont make much sense to you unless you lived here at one time or have a similar issue locally with EDM. So you can skip this one if you like or read on if you're bored!
I was in high school in the (ahem) early 90s and that's around the time I discovered dance music. You couldn't turn on the radio without hearing something inspired by the eurodance movement overseas. Although I had heard lots of dance songs from the 80s nothing sounded quite like Black Box, 2 Unlimited, Culture Beat or La Bouche. This inspired a huge movement here in the states and you couldn't go out on a Friday or Saturday night in Hampton Roads without hearing some amazing dance music on the radio for 4-6 hours a night. Both of our major radio stations (103 Jamz and Z104) had specific radio shows dedicated to bringing us the best charting dance music from here in the states and around the world. One of my good friends and a local DJ legend Ross Wilson took part in the 103 Jamz house music show which aired into the late nights and early mornings (for us club-goers who didnt leave until the sun came up) it made a huge impact on the local dance scene. Unfortunately for us as the radio stopped supporting dance music about 10 years ago and switched over to a more hip-hop format we lost a lot of those casual radio listeners who were being educated to new and different dance music.
Now of course with the introduction of internet radio, demand music services and satellite radio the market is pretty fierce and allows for the consumers to select based on their personal tastes. There is an upside and a downside to this, for the casual music listener this hurts for bringing new music to their library where as the more die hard music fan will know exactly what they want and go right for it. Without FREE local radio pushing the newer dance music in a block format you break up the listeners attention and what could be a concise and direct presentation of dance music becomes a confusing blend of what today's pop music is and what EDM is. I realize that on a local level there is a big upswing in dance music thanks to artists like Rihanna, Katy Perry, Britney Spears & Flo-Rida pairing up with the more unknown (to Hampton Roads) artists that produce the major EDM that spans a much larger audience around the world. The only problem with this is the delivery of the music, you see as I stated earlier when these radio stations had a block of dance music in a mixed format this allowed for the introduction of music that was non-charting in the pop world and exposed the listener to great artists within the same genre but NOT traditional pop music. You could also get a lot of great remixes of pop radio music which sparked a huge increase in remix services like Promo Only & X-Mix. With these formats being abandoned you leave the listener with a very limited scope of what today's EDM has to offer and make it very hard for a metro area to live up to the night life you see in other major cities.
Now to define what existed here in terms of nightlife from the 90s until now is a massive undertaking, just like many other metro areas nightlife comes and goes... except here.. it just.. goes. We had a huge variety of options from the massive nightclub The Abyss to the afterhours club The Late Show, neither of them are around anymore. At one point I could name over 10 DANCE clubs, not just bars but dance clubs that offered medium to large dance floors and catered to the dance music fans. Obviously the local economy as well as other factors play into the demise of a nightclub but since I am still working in the field today I know what I hear from club-goers about all the local nightlife and most of the time the issue is with the format or lack of dance time/dance space. Since the radio seems to only want to promote so much hip-hop it makes it hard to build a core dance music audience, that in combination of the lack of nightlife and options makes Hampton Roads a not so desirable location to a single adult or adults who love to go out on the town and enjoy the bigger city atmosphere (which I believe Hampton Roads has the ability to offer).
I have the extreme pleasure of working at one of the longest running dance music clubs in the area, The Rainbow Cactus. I have held residencies at several of the gay nightclubs in the area as well as working at many local nightclubs in my career. Having a broad spectrum of views to the community as well as working so consistently in the dance world I have watched the change in the world of dance music locally and change of the type of client that comes to the nightclubs locally. Here is where things change, I also work gigs outside of the Hampton Roads area so I get the chance to leave and work with crowds in different metro areas such as Atlanta, Raleigh, Richmond, Wash DC etc. There is a HUGE difference in the crowds and their expectations to what they want from a night out and what kind of music they want to hear. When I go out of town the audience is more receptive to new music they don't hear on the radio, they are more receptive to staying away from that radio edit sound, stuff that you can listen to in your car 20 times a day. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with loving pop music, but if you are going out to a major nightclub you should want to hear stuff that has a great beat, sounds new & different and doesn't get played over 100 times a week anytime you turn on your radio. Speaking of the radio, here is where I get back to one of my earlier points. In the major metro areas the stations have more variety and they offer channels or block formats of music that allow the listener to hear a more diverse form of dance music opposed to locally where that option has vanished from the FM stations. Nightly dance radio shows are very common in metro areas because those areas seem to understand their customer and want to offer a variety of music. I think our local stations miss the mark by a landslide when it comes to current dance music. So its a big cycle, dance music has gone under the radar here because the customers aren't getting a variety and the DJs who try to offer a new sound are bombarded with patrons who have no real understanding or desire for a real NIGHT OUT to a dance club. Now before you jump down my throat and say "But I go out here locally and I love dance music!" Yes I know lots of guys who come out and enjoy the more current dance music there is one problem, where are the rest of them? I remember when I used to go out the club would be FULL of men who loved to come out and dance get sweaty and stay on the floor all night. Now its vanished in Hampton Roads, that supply of people who loved to do that has either gone into hiding, they don't know where to go to dance or just moved.
This dilemma is what got me motivated to start trying hard to bring dance music back to Hampton Roads. In combination with bridging all the local DJs together and trying to find a way to inspire the dance community to support local nightlife its been quite an effort. I feel like if there was ever a time to get that spark going again its NOW! I hear and see so many local guys driving to DC or NYC for the clubs and the music when we have that here. We have the talent here, we have the options here I'm still trying to put a solution together to try and figure out when and why that changed? If the music is here and the talent is here, why are all the local guys so determined to drive or go out of town to enjoy the nightlife? What is it about Hampton Roads that has left the nightlife so abysmal? When I figure it all out, I will let you know.