Impact of European Artists on global Trance Music

With regards to a presentation, which I gave last Friday on the Subcultures conference in London, and to a section in my PhD thesis, I have investigated the impact of European artists on global Trance music.

It is a quite long article. It is divided into two sections, which is (1) some music genres history facts, and (2) the benchmarking of European artists in Trance and electronic music.

Some facts about history of music genres and the impact of countries to the music…

A lot of global music trends have their origin in the USA, which also supplies the most successful global artists. But in the last decades, music from the USA has lost its impact on global music cultures. Especially, European countries have developed a stronger cultural identity which led to more successful national artists in European countries. Particularly Germany was strongly influenced by US culture in the post-war era. The UK was the first European country to develop a strong musical identity after the Second World War with the worldwide success of The Beatles as starting point. A comparable musical and cultural self-confidence was caused by the impact of Kraftwerk on the German music culture.

Kraftwerk has not only influenced German music culture regarding the self-conception, but also the application of electronic music instruments in music as mentioned above. Kraftwerk was one of the first artists who used electronic instruments in their productions and switched soon to production based only on electronic sounds, and were very successful with this new approach to music. In the way how they used electronic music instruments, they’ve become pioneers and influencers for following electronic music production. Therefore, they had a large impact on electronic music of the 1980s and 1990s.

In the 1980s, House music evolved in Chicago in the Warehouse Club. In the beginning, House music was remixes of Disco songs with more drumming, with a more clubby feeling. Detroit had a similar club scene, but they didn’t want to use the term House because they wanted to differentiate from the Chicago scene: they called the music Techno. However, both the Detroit and Chicago scene didn’t grow much wider than being in those cities, until it was exported to the clubs in Ibiza and brought to the UK by DJs like Paul Oakenfold. The Brits were delighted by the atmosphere in Ibiza and tried to re-experience their trips to Ibiza with these parties. The consumption of the same drugs like in Ibiza intensified the experience. The UK club scene evolved around Acid House.

At the same time, reunited Germany developed a club scene around electronic music as well, in Berlin due to the new freedom in Berlin, the “Liberation Dance” of the East Germans, and the capacities of locations in the centre of Berlin. And in Frankfurt, where Electronic Body Music evolved in the mid 1980s.

In the beginning of the 1990s, Trance evolved in Germany, the UK, and later as well in the Netherlands and Belgium. It also was a counter-movement to Hardcore music, slower, more melodies, long epic breaks, etc. In general the 1990s was the time of the Dance music boom, which affected Trance music as well. To name a few big names of Trance music in the early era: Sven Väth and Paul van Dyk from Germany, Paul Oakenfold from the UK, and some years later, the Dutch artists Ferry Corsten and Tiesto were also pushing Trance music to more popularity.

History has showed that most influencers in Trance music are from Europe, and also electronic music in general, even when House and Techno originated in Chicago and Detroit. Audience, artists, labels, and event promoter were attracted by electronic music in European cities like London, Manchester, Berlin, and Frankfurt, which caused the development of a huge scene and further mainstream success in the 1990s.

Benchmarking the recent Trance music scene…

DJ Mag Voting

The annual DJ Mag voting is, as far as I know, the largest popularity fan-voting in the world for electronic music. The magazine is UK-based but has a worldwide recognition. Many event promoters orientate their bookings according to this voting.

It shows the dominance of European artists, especially Dutch, British, Swedish and German artists. One artist from the USA is listed in the Top20 of 2010: Markus Schulz. Actually, he is half American, half German. 2009 and 2008 didn’t show significant changes in the European leadership of these charts.
Someone could argue that this is a European voting, and not representative. Let’s take a look on other rankings.

International Dance Music Awards

Again annually, the Winter Music Conference takes place in Miami in the USA, including the International Dance Music Awards. I’ve picked the winners of the latest awards.

Apart from the Canadian Deadmau5, we have again European artists only, with Swedish leadership due to the big breakthrough artists Avicii and Swedish House Mafia.

Some more non-artist award categories which prove the impact of European players in the Trance music scene. I have selected to include the best US label in this overview, because Ultra Records is focussing on the exploitation of European artists and are or were responsible for artists like Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, Above & Beyond, Paul van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, Paul Oakenfold, Benny Benassi, Chicane, Fedde le Grand, etc.

Electric Daisy Carnival Festival

I also took a view on the latest Electric Daisy Carnival Festival, which is the largest festival for electronic music worldwide. For the explanation, rave parades like the Loveparade with more than 1 Mio attendees or Street Parade with 600.000 attendees are not festivals in this definition because at rave parades you don’t have to pay for the entrance. Well, at the Electric Daisy Carnival festival in Las Vegas, the headliners of the two largest stages were as listed here. It counts 15 European artists of 18 all together, with again UK, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden as main countries.


Last FM Trance Tag

Apart from those “official” popularity benchmarks like DJ Mag voting, the Awards or the line up, I have researched another benchmark. The large international music community Last FM gathers listeners’ data and the users tag artists and songs. I have checked the most popular artists with the Trance tag to compare them with the results from my previous benchmarks, and to analyse again the impact of European artists.

The results show the dominance of the European artists. The Top20 include 2 US-artists, and 17 European artists with Germany, UK and Netherlands being the strongest countries.


To summarise the findings of my research on the impact of European artists on Trance music, the results in the different data show the Netherlands, UK and Germany as leading countries for global Trance music. Historically, I would like to point out the “Kraftwerk-Effect” which gave self-confidence to German and European artists and inspiration for artists in electronic music in general; and successful development of electronic music, first in Ibiza, then Germany and UK, and later in the Netherlands.

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