Catering to the demand of an increasingly popular genre of music, this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival lineup features more electronic artists than ever before. Since 2009, ACL has included a few electronic dance music artists each year, but no past lineup can compare to the amount of DJs that will set up at Zilker Park for the next two weekends.
The festival, known for sticking true to its usual host of rock, pop, folk and jazz artists, has made a surprising change by featuring a once-limited genre. This year certainly boasts the most diverse lineup thus far, with electronic artists like Skrillex, Calvin Harris and Zedd headlining alongside Eminem and Pearl Jam. Tyler Pratt, an on-air producer and host for KUTX, said he thinks the 2014 lineup is proof that ACL is trying to pull in more top-40 artists.
“Electronic music is huge right now,” Pratt said. “ACL has to compete to stay in the big four music festivals — the other three being Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza. Most people can only go to one. Because of competition, they have to include EDM.”
EDM is a term that has only become popular in the past five years. While this terminology might be new, electronic music is not. After becoming popular during the ’80s in the European underground dance scene, the genre first appeared in America in the late ’90s. Although it wasn’t well known, music festivals dedicated solely to EDM started emerging across the country.
Electric Daisy Carnival in California and Ultra Music Festival in Florida were among the first events that drew relatively small crowds of dedicated EDM fans.
Flash-forward to 2006, when Daft Punk’s appearance at Coachella music festival drew a large amount of attention to the genre. The show was a spectacle with an elaborate setup, which featured a pyramid-shaped stage and light show. In 2009, EDM made it onto mainstream radio with the help of several top-40 artists such as David Guetta, The Black Eyed Peas and Cascada. From there, electronic music exploded. Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra began drawing their biggest crowds yet, and the number of festivals that showcased only EDM artists multiplied. Other music festivals, including Lollapalooza and Coachella, started incorporating EDM into their lineups to keep up with the trend and draw bigger audiences.
Despite this growing trend, ACL remained hesitant to include electronic music in its lineup. That is, until now. For years, ACL has built up a reputation for showcasing authentic live music across varying genres. Since EDM features a primarily computerized setup and a DJ, some longtime ACL-goers see the infusion of the genre as a sign of the festival going against its traditional festival roots.
“Music is constantly changing [with] what’s trending,” said Courtney Brown, Austin native and nine-time ACL attendee. “It’s no surprise that music festivals evolve as well. I understand that ACL is changing, but it’s going in a different direction.”
Pratt, meanwhile, said that he thinks ACL’s inclusion of more EDM was inevitable.
“The problem is that ACL is part of a big corporation,” Pratt said. “They want to make a lot of money and bring in a lot of people. They’re obviously looking at the trends to see what’s popular.”
Though this year’s ACL lineup may be adhering to a growing trend, the festival hasn’t lost sight of its roots. If anything, highlighting a new genre diversifies the lineup, and hopefully, welcomes more festival-goers eager to embrace the ACL tradition.