The Changing BPM’s of Club & Dance Music

Tempo Shift Average BPM
It’s not your imagination, dance music is getting slower.

The one constant in the world of dance music? It has always been in a state of flux. From the heyday of Disco in the 70’s to the ubiquitous presence of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) today, music designed to get you out of your seat and onto the dance floor has gone through an enormous change in the last four decades. While some elements have remained throughout the years, instrumentation, lyrics, and especially tempos have moved into new, unprecedented directions.

Beat-matching, a technique invented in the late 60’s by Francis Grosso, allows a DJ to seamlessly blend different tracks together into a non-stop flow of music, capable of going unbroken for hours at a time. The success of this approach is heavily reliant on finding songs that have a similar tempo or BPM (beats per minute). Consequently, if an artist wants their latest dance track considered for rotation in any of the thousands of dance clubs around the world, the tempo of the song (to a certain extent) is predetermined.

But in the last decade dance music has undergone a dramatic downshift in tempo. Artists such as The Chainsmokers, Major Lazer, and Kygo have “hit the brakes” on EDM, creating slower grooves while still maintaining the expected energy and density of the genre. As EDM has permeated the Top 40 charts, listeners have overwhelmingly welcomed a less-frenetic, down-tempo sound that more closely aligns with their other musical preferences – namely Hip Hop. “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya is a perfect example of how the two worlds of EDM and Hip Hop have, in many ways, become instrumentally interchangeable.

In 2010 the average tempo of the top songs in the Club & Dance genre clocked in at 130 BPM. Today, just 7 years later, the average tempo stands at 108 BPM – a decrease of 18%. Moreover, as an indication of just how prevalent the slowdown has become, the average tempo of the top EDM songs just last year was 118 BPM. Which begs the question, to quote Chubby Checker, “How low can you go?”

Artboard 3-100

But here at PlayNetwork, where music supervisors curate branded playlists for the in-store experience, getting people to dance is not the main objective. Nor is there a need for a seamless, beat-matched stream of music. However, one request frequently heard from our clients (almost daily) is to keep the music “upbeat.” As retail environments are greatly impacted by the overhead music, the tempo, energy, and density of songs in the playlist are an important consideration. If a large segment of a brand’s playlist stems from the current Club & Dance genre, there may be a legitimate perception that the music is “slow” – presenting the challenge of maintaining an energetic and lively collection of music.

Nevertheless, as with all trends there is beginning and an end. In a few years, we may well return to the other end of the tempo spectrum. But then again, if the history of dance music has taught us anything, the future of EDM can go anywhere – moving into pioneering, unforeseen directions. All we hope, here in the world of retail music supervision, is that they keep it upbeat.

Want to check out the tempo downshift for yourself? Check out the tracks below:

Mark Campbell

About Mark Campbell

Hello, my name is Mark Campbell. I’m a musician, producer, and DJ with over 25 years in the music industry. I began my career as a music supervisor with PlayNetwork in 2009. A lifelong fan of music, my connection was established early on with childhood trumpet lessons and an upbringing in a very musically-influenced home.

As a music supervisor, I curate and program custom music playlists for national and international brands that align with their brand pillars and consumer demographics. I often tell people that my time spent DJing (at weddings, parties, nightclubs, etc.) was the best preparation for my current position. Over the years, I honed the craft of “reading the room” and playing the right song at the right time.

When I’m not curating playlists for brands, I spend time in my home studio creating my own music – utilizing my collection of vintage analog synthesizers (some of these compositions have been placed in film, television, and video games). You’ll also find me, each football season, at CenturyLink Field cheering on the Seahawks in their never-ending pursuit of another Lombardi Trophy.

Twitter: @DJMarkCampbell

- CLOSE / Blog Home - Tags: Share:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *