US Welcomes the European (Dance) Invasion

Today more than ever, electronic dance music has gone mainstream in America. Electronic productions by Stargate in Lady Gaga and Rihanna songs, and dubstep elements in Britney Spears’ hits are just a few examples of the popularity of electronic genres. Today, the likes of David Guetta, Tiesto, and Afrojack are  well known in the US. They are all from continental Europe. Indeed, if dance music continues to do well,  Europe could become a recruitment destination for American executives looking to break new acts.

The Marketing of Dance Music

The most important business aspect of dance music is its marketable character. In the digital age, the value of music is based not just on record and ticket sales, but on the exploitation of new non-traditional markets.

For instance, recording artists are making income from ringtones for cell phones. According to RIAA, 1.5M ringtones were sold from Pink’s last album ‘Funkhouse’. Physical sales of the album were around 1.5M units too, so the number of ringtone sales is impressive. However, the market for ringtones seems to be open only for certain genres that sound good enough on cell phones to make people buy them. Electronic dance music meets this requirement more than any other genre. Most dance anthems’ themes are no longer than two bars and have an easily reproduced synthesizer sound that makes them practical for use as ringtones. Moreover, dance music fans have their own likes, which include sleek phones, modern urban clothing, and ringtones with their favorite club themes. Marketers recognize this trend, and direct their efforts at these people. They realize that a ‘Stairway to Heaven’ ringtone is not cool anymore.

Music’s decline in status as a physical product has led it to become a marketing platform for other products. Electronic dance music is the best example of such a model in the music industry. Money from sponsorships, appearances in marketing campaigns, and special editions of albums signed by clothing companies are becoming more and more common ways for artists and their management teams to compensate low profits from unsatisfying record sales.

In fact, marketers from the American clothing industry see significant potential in European electronic music artists. In 2008, the Italian brand Armani Exchange launched first in the US and signed a contract with one of the most famous European trance DJs, Tiesto. The artist played a few concerts under the Armani Exchange brand, and soon afterwards the company released a special edition Tiesto album, which was distributed via their chain of stores.

Another example of the commercial use of European dance songs can be heard at Abercrombie & Fitch stores. The number of songs that are played at store locations that had been hits in Europe two or three years before is surprising. Although most of them were remixed, these productions still grossed substantial royalties for original artists.  This is further proof of their commercial value.

In summary: Armani Exchange and Aberbrombie & Fitch know that their young and dynamic customers like European dance music and nurture that interest.

US Hits And The Value of Remixes

Another significant source of revenue for dance music artists and their publishers are remixes. A successful dance song can be like a classic pop hit. Everybody covers it.  With dance music, every DJ makes his own remix of a hit song. As a matter of fact, the remix model is even more profitable for artists and publishers than covers. Unlike covers, remixes are treated as compulsory licenses, which opens the door for dance music producers to get higher royalties for licensing their songs. Moreover, popular dance tunes are often remixed by established DJs, who can not only sell a substantial amount of their music, but also constantly promote and refresh a remixed tune. Such an extension of a song’s life can prove quite profitable.

The American music industry plays a role in European dance artists’ development. You do not need to be a careful observer of the market to observe that many A&R managers in major labels have significantly shifted their focus towards European club sounds. Even major artists such as Rihanna and Lady Gaga hire European dance music producers and keep their songs at 125 to 130 BPM club tempos. Such tunes as “Give Me Everything Tonight” by Pittbul, Ne-Yo, Nayer, and  Dutch producer Afrojack, or David Guetta’s remix of  Snoop Dog’s song “Sweat” have already become mainstream hits that every American teenager is familiar with. There are many more songs made by European producers that hit top positions on the Billboard charts. Producers that have had hits include Tiesto, Nelly Furtado, Chris Brown, Benny Benassi, Afrojack and  Eva Simons, Swedish House Mafia Pharrell, and  Busta Rhymes.


Dance music is suiting American musical tastes better each year. The cross-pollination between Europe and America is at an all time high for the genre, and commercial success has followed. Branding opportunities have opened up and record company producers are taking notice.

“Miami 2 Ibiza”, by the Swedish House Mafia, was a number one hit on dance floors around the world and in this country. The way things are going, the apt title should have been “Ibiza 2 Miami”.


By Bartosz Mrugacz



4 Replies to “US Welcomes the European (Dance) Invasion”

  1. Great Article! This is very true. Artist’s like Skrillex and Porter Robinson are proof that, just from putting one album on Beatport, sales can jump and you can begin touring with a huge fan base.

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