Rave Culture and Culture Industry

By: Scott Anecito

If you were to start a discussion with an average American or British citizen about raves, there stands a good chance they either being adult, would have heard and/or participated in the phenomenon in the late 80s and early 90s, or as teenager they may have heard it or listen to music they consider in the same vein, like dance and club music.  In fact, the topic seems to be well known enough for one of our classmates to have brought up the music genre for possible discussion in the last two weeks while eliciting a few chuckles from his fellow classmates. One can even hear mention of someone going to attend a rave while sitting at PSU’s Victor’s or while using the elevator in Ondine. The point being, that in most cases, if you were to ask one of the PSU students about if they thought the rave scene was ‘dead’, they would say no, because in fact they’ve gone to one or two downtown or had a friend who does. Therein lies the illusion that Adorno and Horkheimer would argue has been generated by the culture industry, creating an false impression to the mass public that rave music is still alive, well, and popular as a means to generate large amounts of profit.

It’s important to realize that while this illusion exists, that in fact the rave scene has been dying since its sudden abrupt change in identity through the 90s. Pre-90s, raves had several defining traits. Rave attendees usually consisted of teenagers and other young people and there was a mysterious element to raves. Rather than straight out list the location and time, one started off at one location through word of mouth and was directed to several other locations before reaching the final destination where music was to be played, usually some obscure and large place to hold large amounts of people while still evading law enforcement. In this sense, rave was originally a very much grassroots based music experience.

These traits were taken advantage however by the industry through the years and lead to raves decline. By the mid 90s clubs had realized there was money to be made. When they began partnering with rave promoters, and trying to draw in DJs, and audience into their doors, the rave scene had been successfully tamed and commercialized. While this was happening, America was becoming corporatized, and as a result, there was a social shift towards things becoming more organized. Over this period of time the youth that attended these events were joining the corporate work force and being introduced to these corporate ideals. As a result, resistance from the transition from a disorganized scene to a more organized one was lessened. However, this movement to clubs also cut off the flow of new comers due to 18+ and 21+ age restrictions to attend the events. In order for groups to pass on their traditions and culture from one to another, there needs to be some source of new comers. By cutting off the flow of new comers, this allowed for the culture industry to inject their ideals like DJ branding over the old ones upon people new to the scene.

It is by these two main factors and a multitude of smaller subtle ones that allowed the culture industry to take control of a grassroots music movement, and convert it into it’s own product by which to be mass distributed and sold at many of clubs and venues around the world. However, as of late Britain has begun to see a revival in real grassroots raves, partly due to economic factors of the poor economy and partly because of the social unrest about the youth against the political and social system. Given this it is possible the rave scene may rise again to it’s roots, even if it takes a lifetime to supersede the culture industry.

Picture of the Electric Daisy Carnival, one of the largest 'raves' in the world, and a prime example of the culture industry's grip on rave culture.

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This entry was posted in Section 2, Student Posts, Winter 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Rave Culture and Culture Industry

  1. Pingback: Model Blog Entries (Winter 2011) | Popular Culture

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