Audio streaming platform Spotify identifies 1264 micro-genres in new age music, such as vegan straight edge, black sludge, catstep, aussietronica, ninja, deep filthstep, solipsynth and fidget house, each with their own dedicated fan base.
Investigative journalists, Luke Shorter and Amy Warren, provide you with an explorer’s guide to two popular contrasting sub genres, psytrance (Psychedelic trance) and Kpop (Korean Pop).
“The music doesn’t stop. That’s the craziest part… You gotta survive and you gotta party”. This is high-tech record producer, Daniel Baker, describing the psytrance festival lifestyle.
Psytrance music is characterized by hypnotic and synthetic beats and rhythms, which “Sounds like a computer malfunctioning” to megafan, Nicole Matolov. Currently the most popular artist is Astrix with 155,000 followers on Spotify. Click here for a sample of his music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIuEuJvKos4
There is a crowd of around 2500 diverse people that attend regular outdoor psytrance festivals. These fans range from children with their families, to drugged up hippies and even grandparents who all often dress up in flamboyant outfits.
“It’s like you’re a five year old when you dress up honestly, you have like a pink mohawk and a leopard print budgie smuggler with a fake dildo hanging out of it and stiletto boots mixed with like a fishing line in your hand”, says Matolov. “It is a nice kind of environment that obviously people just don’t give a hoot what they look like”.
These festivals usually take place in a secluded bush area with huge speakers blasting thunderous music next to the stage in front of a dirty area where the audience will dance and cover themselves in mud.
“There are speakers that are making your gut vibrate and your hair go up and goosebumps and stuff”, says Matolov. “You always see some crazy naked person, you know trying to hug the speakers, whereas if they stood next to it for five minutes longer they would go deaf but it’s just so standard”.
As psytrance becomes increasingly globalised, different forms of entertainment are provided at different events and locations. Baker recounts one of his favourite experiences at a European festival “At night time there was flamethrowers coming out of everywhere which would literally make the whole dancefloor light up and make it so hot and it was one of the craziest things I ever saw in my life.”
The psytrance community is also well known for its drug culture, with acid, mushrooms and ecstasy most commonly used.
“I’d say it’s more common that people use (drugs) than don’t”, says Matolov. “For a lot of people it’s the soundtrack to your trip”.
However, Baker explains that the community bonds through helping “People who are tripping out too much” and looking out for each other. “If people look like they’re gonna OD (Overdose) or they’re flailing, there’s no doubt everyone will help and take them to the medical tent”, says Baker. “There’s definitely this community vibe, that might be the reason people go rather than the actual music”.
UNSW Ethnomusicology Lecturer, Alister Spence, explains the theory behind how these tight groups bond and how crazy traditions are established through music sub genres. “Cultures are formed through a mutual appreciation for certain tastes which creates a strong sense of belonging amongst members”, says Spence. “Once this sense of belonging is established, group members tend to be more relaxed around each other which can lead to niche and obscure customs, values and tributes to the genre”.
This sense of community is also highly prominent within the Kpop genre through the level of time and money that fans put into their beloved idols. BTS and Blackpink are currently the two most popular Kpop bands with 6.3 million and 10.4 million followers on Spotify respectfully. Click here for a sample of Blackpink’s music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2S24-y0Ij3Y
UNSW Kpop Society Marketing Director, Jacqueline Kao, gives an insight into the extremity of Kpop fan loyalty, who states “Last year BTS went to an awards show and some group of their fans congregated waiting at 4am just to see a glimpse of them”.
This concert based community is predominantly made up of young Korean females who are stereotypically aggressive “A lot of the demographic of Kpop fans is like teenage girls and they’re very pushy, like they have no sh#t for you if you’re in the way”, says Kpop superfan, Jade Tran. “It’s a bit crazy like Kpop supporters are way more intense than Western”.
The Kpop fanbase spans a plethora of smaller communities divided by hobbies such as dance, travelling and collecting merchandise.
“Performance is a big part part of kpop, rather than just the music”, says UNSW Kpop Society Dance Director, Rain Chen. “In Kpop you have two very distinct groups, guys and girls. Girls will focus more on being cute and guys will focus on being cool”.
It is common for supporters to join or create a Kpop dance cover group and enter competitions through social media. “People send in their videos, online fans choose winners and the cover group gets huge amounts of money and exposure, it’s a big thing”, says Tran.
This business side of Kpop has become increasingly prominent “They’ll (Photographers) fly to Australia and bring these big ass cameras and smuggle them into the concert and just push you aside in the mosh pit, like they don’t care and then they put all these photos up and they make merchandise, slogans, blankets, pens, everything”, says Tran. “I’ve spent thousands of dollars on Kpop”.