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Electronica is both a broad group of electronic-based music styles intended for listening rather than strictly for dancing[2][1] and a music scene that came to prominence in the early 1990s in the United Kingdom.[1] In the United States, the term is mostly used to refer to electronic music generally.[3]


Early 1990s: origins and UK scene[edit]

The original widespread use of the term "electronica" derives from the influential English experimental techno label New Electronica, which was one of the leading forces of the early 1990s introducing and supporting dance-based electronic music oriented towards home listening rather than dance-floor play,[1] although the word "electronica" had already begun to be associated with synthesizer generated music as early as 1983, when a "UK Electronica Festival" was first held.[4][5][6] At that time electronica became known as "electronic listening music", also becoming more or less synonymous to ambient techno and intelligent techno, and was considered distinct from other emerging genres such as jungle and trip hop.[1]

Electronica artists that would later become commercially successful began to record in the late 1980s, before the term had come into common usage, including for example the Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk, the Chemical Brothers, the Crystal Method, Moby, Underworld and Faithless.[7]

Mid-1990s: effect on mainstream popular music[edit]

Around the mid-1990s, with the success of the big beat-sound exemplified by the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy in the UK, and spurred by the attention from mainstream artists, including Madonna in her collaboration with William Orbit on her album Ray of Light[8] and Australian singer Dannii Minogue with her 1997 album Girl,[9] music of this period began to be produced with a higher budget, increased technical quality, and with more layers than most other forms of dance music, since it was backed by major record labels and MTV as the "next big thing".[10]

According to a 1997 Billboard article, "the union of the club community and independent labels" provided the experimental and trend-setting environment in which electronica acts developed and eventually reached the mainstream. It cites American labels such as Astralwerks (the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, the Future Sound of London, Fluke), Moonshine (DJ Keoki), Sims, and City of Angels (the Crystal Method) for playing a significant role in discovering and marketing artists who became popularized in the electronica scene.[11]

Madonna and Björk are said[by whom?] to be responsible for electronica's thrust into mainstream culture, with their albums Ray of Light (Madonna),[8] Post and Homogenic (Björk).

Late 1990s: American inclusion[edit]

In 1997, the North American mainstream music industry adopted and to some extent manufactured electronica as an umbrella term encompassing styles such as techno, big beat, drum and bass, trip hop, downtempo, and ambient, regardless of whether it was curated by indie labels catering to the "underground" nightclub and rave scenes,[11][12] or licensed by major labels and marketed to mainstream audiences as a commercially viable alternative to alternative rock music.[13]

New York City became one center of experimentation and growth for the electronica sound, with DJs and music producers from areas as diverse as Southeast Asia and Brazil bringing their creative work to the nightclubs of that city.[14][15]

Characteristics and definition[edit]

Electronica benefited from advancements in music technology, especially electronic musical instruments, synthesizers, music sequencers, drum machines, and digital audio workstations. As the technology developed, it became possible for individuals or smaller groups to produce electronic songs and recordings in smaller studios, even in project studios. At the same time, computers facilitated the use of music "samples" and "loops" as construction kits for sonic compositions.[16] This led to a period of creative experimentation and the development of new forms, some of which became known as electronica.[17][18] Wide ranges of influences, both sonic and compositional, are combined in electronica recordings.[19]

Electronica includes a wide variety of musical acts and styles, linked by a penchant for overtly electronic production;[20] a range which includes more popular acts such as Björk, Madonna, Goldfrapp and IDM artists such as Autechre, and Aphex Twin.

Regional differences[edit]

The North American mainstream music industry uses the term as an umbrella category to refer any dance-based electronic music styles with a potential for pop appeal.[1] However, United States-based AllMusic still categorizes electronica as a top-level genre, stating that it includes danceable grooves, as well as music for headphones and chillout areas.[21]

In other parts of the world, especially in the UK, electronica is also a broad term, but is associated with non-dance-oriented music, including relatively experimental styles of listening electronic music. It partly overlaps what is known chiefly outside the UK as intelligent dance music (IDM).[1]

Included in contemporary media[edit]

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, electronica was increasingly used as background scores for television advertisements, initially for automobiles. It was also used for various video games, including the Wipeout series, for which the soundtrack was composed of many popular electronica tracks that helped create more interest in this type of music[22]—and later for other technological and business products such as computers and financial services.[citation needed] Then in 2011, Hyundai Veloster, in association with the Grammys, produced a project that became known as Re:Generation.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Vladimir Bogdanov; Jason Ankeny (2001). All music guide to electronica: the definitive guide to electronic music (4th ed.). Backbeat Books. p. 634. ISBN 0-87930-628-9.
  2. ^ Verderosa, Tony (2002). The Techno Primer: The Essential Reference for Loop-Based Music Styles. Hal Leonard Music/Songbooks. p. 28. ISBN 0-634-01788-8. Electronica is a broad term used to describe the emergence of electronic music that is geared for listening instead of strictly for dancing.
  3. ^ Campbell, Michael (2012). "Electronica and Rap". Popular Music in America: The Beat Goes On (4th ed.). Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-0840029768.
  4. ^ Levermore, Gary (March 2000). "Attrition reminiscence". Attrition. Archived from the original on 8 October 2006. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  5. ^ Gregory, Andy (2002). The International Who's Who in Popular Music 2002. Taylor & Francis Group. p. 466. ISBN 9781857431612.
  6. ^ International Who's who in Music Popular music. Vol. two. Melrose Press. 2000. p. 429. ISBN 0948875070.
  7. ^ "Crystal Method...grew from an obscure club-culture due to one of the most recognizable acts in electronica, ...", page 90, Wired: Musicians' Home Studios : Tools & Techniques of the Musical Mavericks, Megan Perry, Backbeat Books Music/Songbooks 2004, ISBN 0-87930-794-3
  8. ^ a b "Billboard: Madonna Hung Out on the Radio". Billboard. VNU Media. July 2006.
  9. ^ Girl (Dannii Minogue album)
  10. ^ "Electronica reached new heights within the culture of rave and techno music in the 1990s." Page 185, Music and Technoculture, Rene T. A. Lysloff, Tandem Library Books, 2003, ISBN 0-613-91250-0
  11. ^ a b Flick, Larry (May 24, 1997). "Dancing to the beat of an indie drum". Billboard. Vol. 109, no. 21. pp. 70–71. ISSN 0006-2510.
  12. ^ Kim Cascone (Winter 2002). "The Aesthetics of Failure: 'Post-Digital' Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music". Computer Music Journal. 24 (4). MIT Press. The glitch genre arrived on the back of the electronica movement, an umbrella term for alternative, largely dance-based electronic music (including house, techno, electro, drum'n'bass, ambient) that has come into vogue in the past five years. Most of the work in this area is released on labels peripherally associated with the dance music market, and is therefore removed from the contexts of academic consideration and acceptability that it might otherwise earn. Still, in spite of this odd pairing of fashion and art music, the composers of glitch often draw their inspiration from the masters of 20th-century music who they feel best describe its lineage.
  13. ^ Norris, Chris (April 21, 1997). "Recycling the Future". New York: 64–65. With record sales slumping and alternative rock presumed over, the music industry is famously desperate for a new movement to replace its languishing grunge product. And so its gaze has fixed on a vital and international scene of knob-twiddling musicians and colorfully garbed clubgoers—a scene that, when it began in Detroit discos ten years ago, was called techno. If all goes according to marketing plan, 1997 will be the year "electronica" replaces "grunge" as linguistic plague, MTV buzz, ad soundtrack, and runway garb. The music has been freshly installed in Microsoft commercials, in the soundtrack to Hollywood's recycled action-hero pic The Saint, and in MTV's newest, hourlong all-electronica program, Amp.
  14. ^ "In 2000, [Brazilian vocalist Bebel] Gilberto capitalized on New York's growing fixation with cocktail lounge ambient music, an offshoot of the dance club scene that focused on drum and bass remixes with Brazilian sources. ...Collaborating with club music maestros like Suba and Thievery Corporation, Gilberto thrust herself into the leading edge of the emerging Brazilian electronica movement. On her immensely popular Tanto Tempo (2000)..." Page 234, The Latin Beat: The Rhythms and Roots of Latin Music from Bossa Nova to Salsa and Beyond, Ed Morales, Da Capo Press, 2003, ISBN 0-306-81018-2
  15. ^ "founded in 1997,...under the slogan 'Musical Insurgency Across All Borders', for six years [Manhattan nightclub] Mutiny was an international hub of the south Asian electronica music scene. Bringing together artists from different parts of the south Asia diaspora, the club was host to a roster of British Asian musicians and DJs..." Page 165, Youth Media , Bill Osgerby, Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0-415-23807-2
  16. ^ "This loop slicing technique is common to the electronica genre and allows a live drum feel with added flexibility and variation." Page 380, DirectX Audio Exposed: Interactive Audio Development, Todd Fay, Wordware Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-55622-288-2
  17. ^ "Electronically produced music is part of the mainstream of popular culture. Musical concepts that were once considered radical - the use of environmental sounds, ambient music, turntable music, digital sampling, computer music, the electronic modification of acoustic sounds, and music made from fragments of speech-have now been subsumed by many kinds of popular music. Record store genres including new age, rap, hip-hop, electronica, techno, jazz, and popular song all rely heavily on production values and techniques that originated with classic electronic music." Page 1, Electronic and Experimental Music: Pioneers in Technology and Composition, Thomas B. Holmes, Routledge Music/Songbooks, 2002, ISBN 0-415-93643-8
  18. ^ "Electronica and punk have a definite similarity: They both totally prescribe to a DIY aesthetic. We both tried to work within the constructs of the traditional music business, but the system didn't get us - so we found a way to do it for ourselves, before it became affordable.", quote from artist BT, page 45, Wired: Musicians' Home Studios : Tools & Techniques of the Musical Mavericks, Megan Perry, Backbeat Books Music/Songbooks 2004, ISBN 0-87930-794-3
  19. ^ " For example, composers often render more than one version of their own compositions. This practice is not unique to the mod scene, of course, and occurs commonly in dance club music and related forms (such as ambient, jungle, etc.—all broadly designated 'electronica')." Page 48, Music and Technoculture, Rene T. A. Lysloff, Tandem Library Books, 2003, ISBN 0-613-91250-0
  20. ^ "Electronica lives and dies by its grooves, fat synthesizer patches, and fliter sweeps.". Page 376, DirectX Audio Exposed: Interactive Audio Development, Todd Fay, Wordware Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-55622-288-2
  21. ^ "'Reaching back to grab the grooves of '70s disco/funk and the gadgets of electronic composition, Electronica soon became a whole new entity in and of itself, spinning off new sounds and subgenres with no end in sight two decades down the pike. Its beginnings came in the post-disco environment of Chicago/New York and Detroit, the cities who spawned house and techno (respectively) during the 1980s. Later in that decade, club-goers in Britain latched onto the fusion of mechanical and sensual, and returned the favor to hungry Americans with new styles like jungle/drum'n'bass and trip hop. Though most all early electronica was danceable, by the beginning of the '90s, producers were also making music for the headphones and chill-out areas as well, resulting in dozens of stylistic fusions like ambient-house, experimental techno, tech-house, electro-techno, etc. Typical for the many styles gathered under the umbrella was a focus on danceable grooves, very loose song structure (if any), and, in many producers, a relentless desire to find a new sound no matter how tepid the results." Electronica Genre at AllMusic
  22. ^ The Changing Shape of the Culture Industry; or, How Did Electronica Music Get into Television Commercials?, Timothy D. Taylor, University of California, Los Angeles, Television & New Media, Vol. 8, No. 3, 235-258 (2007) Archived 2007-12-03 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Ed. The Grammys.Hyundai Veloster, The Recording Academy, GreenLight Media & Marketing, Art Takes Over (ATO), & RSA Films, n.d. Web. 24 May 2013. <http://regenerationmusicproject.com/>.


  • James Cummins. 2008. Ambrosia: About a Culture – An Investigation of Electronica Music and Party Culture. Toronto, ON: Clark-Nova Books. ISBN 978-0-9784892-1-2

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