Electronic music has very quickly become a popular genre amongst the younger crowd over the last 10 years. Electronic music has started to largely move into mainstream media, with its widespread influence on other genres including top 40s pop and radio play; DJ’s are becoming known as worldwide celebrities. In 2015 the EDM powerhouse duo Skrillex & Diplo under the project named Jack Ü, headlined countless festivals including Ultra Music Festival in Miami, and even snagged two Grammy nominations. But at the same time, the electronic music fanbase is less pleased about the domination of the genre. Many fans of EDM are starting to claim that it’s all starting to sound the same and that it’s mainstream debut is inviting crowds of people who aren’t actually fans into events just for the party scene and not for the music. A record 380,000 people attended Ultra Music Festival 2015 and the number of people being attracted to this genre is expected to grow.
Although the success of electronic music is new and exciting, and it continues to evolve and morph into the ‘norm’ of what music is today. Many have admitted to the wrong-doings going on behind the scenes while the genre continues to blow up. In 2015, DJ Mag’s “Top 100 DJ’s” crowned the winner of the year to Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, which fans were absolutely furious about, mainly because anyone with knowledge about the genre would know that this was completely rigged. It was eventually exposed that DV & LM had paid hundreds of thousands to headline certain festivals and then made concert-goers do disguised surveys at their events (that they paid to play), which was actually them voting for the less popular DJ duo on DJ Mag.com. DJs with massive success in 2015 such as Martin Garrix, Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Oliver Heldens, Diplo, Zedd, Porter Robinson etc. followed up Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike when they didn’t even have a quarter of the fair success of their runner-ups. Aside from awarding, the issue of ghost writing/producing very much thrives in the electronic scene, which is where we finally get to discuss anonymity in EDM. Ghost producers really did make their debut in 2015; many of the year’s biggest electronic sounds were produced by someone who wasn’t the DJ that released it. There was a lot of controversy on whether or not electronic music had lost all it’s originality or if 10 ghost producers were just making songs for a bunch of different DJ’s to release, hence it all sounding the same. Many DJ’s were accused of using ghost producers, some of which were big names: Steve Aoki, Diplo, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, KSHMR, David Guetta, Hardwell, Tiesto, DVBBS and more. Many genres are prone to credit stealing and ghost writing but the electronic music scene is known for its expansion on creativity and originality.
Amidst the controversy, new frontiers of DJ’s were being born. A different type of anonymous DJ’s were rising to light underground and on alternative music streaming websites like Soundcloud. Soundcloud became the home for music that you haven’t heard yet, where unknown artists gathered fanbases and notoriety. Respectively, the famous DJ duo Daft Punk was arguably the first account of anonymous DJ’ing, but several artists with no face, name or personal information started to pop up and drop extremely respectable independent tracks. Each of these artists has a gimmick or trademark that they are identified with, but other than the character that they’ve created, these DJ’s stand completely anonymous. Many fans have speculated on who stands behind the masks and accounts, but I think many fail to see the point.
Yes, there are obviously some big name producers and DJ’s behind the masks, and some of these anonymous artists are just newcomers to the genre with raw talent, but there’s a reason why. Fans of the genre weren’t the only people upset and sick of the things going on in the electronic scene, the producers and DJ’s were as well. The whole idea of anonymously releasing music is to not judge the face of the artist, where they come from, who they know professionally, or where they’ve played. It’s to judge the music at it’s simplest and purest form. Judge the music, not the idea or the conceptions that come along with the genre. I completely support this idea, because it promotes the original concept of what electronic music was supposed to be, exciting, creative, and innovative.
I’ve done the task of collecting info and work of some of the best anonymous DJ’s that have made a huge stamp on the electronic genre over the past few years:
There is endless speculation on who ZHU actually is. Rumoured to be another Skrillex project, Diplo at one point in time, and most recently and confidently Steven Zhu, this artist is truly who began the era of iconic anonymous music. It all started when a remix of “Moves Like Ms Jackson” by Outkast was posted to Soundcloud under the name ZHU with the mysterious deep house sound and black and white aesthetic. The song blew up fast and ZHU kept posting music over the year, keeping fans and even critics anticipated for the next drop. ZHU was even nominated a Grammy, and dropped a collaborative album including artists like: Skrillex, AlunaGeorge, THEY, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, A-Trak and more. ZHU’s most successful stand-alone single ‘Faded’ continues to be his biggest song with over 27.5 million plays on Soundcloud.
This DJ was birthed less than a year ago, but the amount of success that has followed this DJ is insane. Marshmello was also rectified on Soundcloud, where he began to post remixes of popular Electronic songs at the time. Marshmello’s style is a branch of trap music that is upbeat, playful and higher in tempo and pitch. Marshmello’s identity was also rumoured to be Skrillex, but in an interview with Katie Couric, Sonny Moore (Skrillex) brought up the anonymous DJ and called him by the name Chris, which has resorted fans to assuming that Marshmello’s identity belongs to fellow trap-producer DOTCOM (Chris Comstock). After the interview, Marshmello posted a track to Soundcloud titled ‘Know Me’, with corresponding lyrics, “Everybody know me, everybody know Marshmello.” To kick, the song’s album cover featured a picture of Katie Couric branding the Marshmello logo. Marshmello has made his preferable platform Soundcloud, where he has posted over 20 successful tracks, one of which being his remix of the hit song, ‘Where Are Ü Now’ by Jack Ü featuring Justin Bieber, which became the official remix of the song with over 6.59 million plays on Soundcloud.
UZ is another pioneer of anonymity on Soundcloud, with absolutely no lead to who could possibly be behind the gold mask. This trap artist was running the trap scene around on a leash for years. UZ’s style is a hard experimental and progressive trap. Starting in 2012, UZ posted “Trap Shit V1”, which continued on to be a series of tracks that go all the way up to, “Trap Shit V25”. UZ has worked with and produced with many trap heavyweights and DJ’s like: 12th Planet, Stranger, Rick Remedy, Mayhem & Antiserum, Dirtyphonics, Aazar, Djemba Djemba, and many more. UZ stated that he was done making “Trap Shit V_’s” when he posted the last installment (Trap Shit V25) last year and then posted an EP called Frontier. He has been on producing hiatus for six months as far as his fans are concerned, but he has been touring from then until currently.
Shadient / Tsonars / Veschell
These three artists are three variations of the same style of music which is referred to as “Glitch Hop or Glitch Step.” Shadient being the most dark, violent and aggressive sounding, Tsonars being a more abstract and symphonized style, and Veschell being a light, calmer and more upbeat style. The most interesting part about these artists is that they’re admittedly all the same producer. The three Soundcloud accounts are very much linked and promote eachother, run by someone under the faceless Morgan Hicks. Fans would possibly describe Morgan to be bipolar with his music, as he’s deleted the Shadient account (the most popular) twice now and reposted it later. Tsonars has gained a decent amount of attention itself. His remix of Porter Robinson’s “Natural Light” made it onto Porter’s “Worlds Remixed” album. Veschell is the most low key of the three aliases, with no massive exposure or support from bigger artists.
Now you can see how some of the most creative electronic music can come from a hypothetical no one. All of these artists use the idea of anonymity to boost the music and not the image. Whether or not you like these artists and what they have to offer, you must agree that good music doesn’t have to be cheated, commercialized or forced upon. Do you think that anonymous music is more powerful than commercialized music?
Full-time student at Humber College interested in music, art and bagels