Simon Cowell launches his quest for the ‘Ultimate DJ’

Simon Cowell’s latest entrance into popular culture has been confirmed after his new talent show for DJs has been given the go-ahead, ending two years of speculation over whether the project would happen.

Initially planned under a partnership with Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment, the deal has now gone ahead with SFX Entertainment which owns various major EDM promoters and festivals like Electric Zoo, Stereosonic and Tomorrowland. Described as a hybrid digital-TV competition series, the show will contain an internet element – much like previous Cowell shows – with the preliminary voting stage being on social media with digitally submitted entries. Although It’s unclear what channels and platforms have declared interest in broadcasting the show.

Cowell’s decision to go ahead with a project whose time I’d thought had come and gone indicates an optimistic assessment of EDM’s lifespan. Whilst dance culture remained a popular lifestyle choice throughout the 90s and 00s, it’s in the past four or five years that it’s creeped into nearly every corner of the most mainstream pop. Calvin Harris was 2013’s best paid DJ, earning more money than Jay Z or Katy Perry last year with $46 million dollars. Harris alone has worked with Kylie Minogue, Kelis, Ne-Yo, Rihanna, Dizzee Rascal and Ellie Goulding and all in the past few years. If you’ve high music ambitions in 2014 accessorizing your style with a DJ here and there seems like no risky bet.

It’ll come as no surprise to most people that for EDM fans a Cowell endorsement is no healthy sign. The culture’s genesis in the wild debauchery of MDMA-fuelled illegal gatherings may make it all the more surprising for some. But like Punk and every other ‘outsider’ cultural force there’s always a tidy profit in someone’s revolution, and men like Cowell can’t help but grab a slice. By now most of it’s more unsavory elements have already died out: it’s links to drugs are all but diluted, nobody ever ODs listening to Skrillex and most ‘raves’ have long been held in legal, licensed premises. All he’ll have to do is shake off the last crumbs of indignity and by doing so take a culture out of the nightclubs and beam it straight into living rooms.

EDM has already been comparatively sterile for years. Nobody gets banned from the radio anymore and your 13 year old niece has probably already picked out the subwoofers for her first car. Baby boomers and the old might gripe at the ‘noise’ made by chart toppers like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj these days, but in some form or another most of us are already accustomed to the ‘beeps’ ‘bops’ and ‘wubs’ that apparently make up so much of our modern music.

However, Cowell’s idea to publicize his plunge into DJing might not be such a bad idea after all. The new popularity of “electronic dance music” that has swept the globe is in part driven by the relative ease at which the music can be made. Making a beat, a melody or even a riff requires less classical training than ever before, and software (largely free and pirated) enables Average Joe to suddenly play maestro with a mind boggling spectrum of sounds. For producers and whizzes that hunger for the stage, dance culture offers you a chance to be the star. A tempting offer to a class of people already playing a large role in some of the most lucrative music today.

Perhaps most important of all, EDM seems at home with the internet at a time when no other genre fully does. When it comes to free content most DJ’s are more generous than even the most radical of “free music” crusaders, choosing instead to use their music as a poster for their next appearance in a club or a venue near you. Tiësto played over 140 shows last year, David Guetta played 120. At this point in time the DJ lifestyle fits well with the harsh reality of a business where music-for-nothing has forced musicians and artists out on the road.

Whether it’s spinning records or some sort of spontaneous electronic composition; the format is bound to make fans of anything from Drum and Bass to Trip Hop squirm in anger. The sight of a twisted copy of their culture being sold primetime to millions, all whilst lining the pockets of Music-Satan himself, should be enough to ensure many passively avoid whoever wins the competition and condemn them to a The Voice-style anonymity. But who knows, weirder things have happened.

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