Anderson, T.L. 2009. Rave Culture: The Alteration and Decline of a Philadelphia Music Scene.

Anderson, Tammy L. 2009. Rave Culture: The Alteration and Decline of a Philadelphia Music Scene. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Ethnographies as a huge undertaking of time, support, cooperation from many different parties, not just the ethnographer.

First thing, aside from complaints of steep entry fees and color-coded age-indicating wristbands, that author notices is that there are mostly White or Asian youth participating. Feels out of place, with “dress code” consisting of oversized pants and shirts, sports shoes. Older participants are dressed a little more “adult”- with tighter clothing that does not conform to dress code. Some younger participants use Goth and punk elements to integrate into their wardrobe – mohawks, piercings, platform shoes. Black youth that she did see were hassled by security, or participating with other males by dancing to aggressive, fast-tempo’d music.

Discussion of corporatization were in effect in 2009, when published, as Pepsi began sponsoring studied rave events. Even then, as one interviewee remarks, this was occurring back in the late 1990s.

Historicizing the rave decline: conservative shift in politics and policies post-1960s and 1970s. Whereas freedom, equality, conflict, and debauchery where present in parents’ lives, many grew up in the 1980s with notions of materialism, alienation, War on Drugs, and justified inequality. Rave acted as a rebellion against these values and policies within 1980s England, Europe, and US. Fear and social panics guided by governments, churches, and “family” groups promoted crack-down on raves – sociohistorical context of government crackdown on subcultural participation and drug use (Cohen 1972) – treating raves as a problem, not a meaningful social expression or site of rebellion. Incorporation of dance music into mainstream venues – video games, workout classes, restaurants, etc. Raves still treated as a social problem – grants go to health and drug research in the field, but little done to attempt to understand culture.

Work on identity looks to address collective and individual identification, particularly in youth and music scenes. Uses “ideal types” to offer comparison of rave participants, historically and contemporarily.

Notes that personal involvement and consumption of EDM (remixes of female popular artists) freed mind from “what seemed like constant messages of materialism, machismo, and heterosexism in commercial radio” (7) — ^and yet, all it seems now is that EDM perpetuates these faults. Commericalized events seemed to evoke arenas of courtship, socialization, sexuality. Rick, white male DJ: “Like nowadays, people are more about going out and getting fucked up, and trying, you know, to meet guys or girls or whatever, you know, and it’s like the music is more of a background thing” (10).

DJs, even in the early 2000s, were mostly white males, which became key informants for the study. Advertising flyers, posters, were marked with language, symbols, color, images –“identity markers” – that communicated belonging or subcategorization within the “rave-club culture continuum”

Dual participation as member of EDM scene and research requires visibility throughout writing (L. Anderson 2006) – reflexivity on how I interacted with people, reflecting critically on the problems encountered — ^how does your “calling out” of misogyny and racism impact people’s participation and responses?

Federal Rave Act (Illegal Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003) ^Inquire. Local jurisdictions cracking down on rave parties due to drug and noise complaints. Pro-Rave groups EM:DEF (sponsored by Drug Policy Alliance- drug reform interest group), worked to lobby against local and federal crackdowns.

Music scenes as expressive, leisure-oriented, urbane, voluntary, pleasurable (Irwin 1977) – based around activity and space where activity happens, culture develops out of this arena. Straw (2004) – cultural scenes as oriented around social and cultural activity, acts as site of cultural production. Bennett (2000; 2001) and Bennett and Peterson (2004) argued that scenes are “geographical spaces where cultural (e.g., music production) and social activities (music consumption) center around a particular musical genre or set of interrelated genres. Thus, scenes have a discernible culture (e.g., rave culture). They also feature participants, collective or group identity, and distinctive cultural elements such as identity markers (rave fashion), ideology, ethos (e.g., PLUR), and behaviors (dancing and drug taking” (here 13). Evolve through fan practices, individualized efforts (Bennett 2006). May cross physical and virtual boundaries (through internet?) – Bennett and Peterson 2004; Straw 1991).

Uses term to discuss institutions, people, culture, cultural products, interactions, communication outlets, physical spaces.

Reasons for rave’s decline: “generational schism, or the aging out of Generation X ravers and failure to recruit younger, Generation Y participants; commercialization, or the appropriation of rave culture and EDM events into the music industry for economic reasons; cultural hedonism and self-destruction, that the rave lifestyle and culture were ultimately too deviant and hedonistic, leading to their demise; formal social control, or actions by federal, state, and local government agencies to quash the rave scene; and genre specialization and the development of subscenes” (15)

Authenticity and what “real” raves are marked by source, production, and distribution of cultural product, linking back to Frankfurt School work by Adorno and Horkheimer. Negus (1999) demonstrates two culture industry flows – where leisure companies will offer cultural goods that conform to capitalist and commercial interest – exploiting on-ground cultural products for top-down benefits. Those who abide by this technique stigmatized as “sellouts”. Cultural goods and signifiers become branded and commodified for wider distribution. // “Culture as industry,” however, examines how local level experiences provide collective and personal identities, promoting a sense of authenticity – bottom-up economics with DIY culture, etc. “When people discuss the commercialization of a music scene, they often refer to artist forfeiting creativity and autonomy (‘selling out’) or to how other stakeholders transform cultural traits and customs for music industry commodities. The commercialization debate is less often about what happens to a scene’s cultural elements, its collective identity, and its alternative lifestyle” (172).

Raves traditionally held in illegal locations; sometimes outside – moved inside, abiding by local liquor laws, zoning standards. Previously showcased multiple types of acts, but at time of publication, many events were being held as single-genre. Notes that this is beginning to change.

PLUR – solidarity, liberalism, freedom, expression, tolerance, unity. (Durkheim 1933 as difficulty to achieve in modern societies). Fashion just as important as ethos – demonstrating belonging, cultural capital, and community participation.

“A group’s identity is often understood via symbols, including such things as language, style, props, gestures or mannerisms, and even body shape and size. Virtually all music scenes over time have showcased their identities via such things” (26). Ex. Hippies with long hair and tie-dye to demonstrate anti-war identities (Miller 1999); hip hope materialism demonstrated through jewelry, cars, promoting ideology of rags-to-riches (Kitwana 2002). Rave style promoted rave props, such as lollipops, pacifiers, stuffed animals, childish jewelry – seemingly representing the childish innocence of utopian society?

Defining raving as a non-sexual event – though cuddles and intimate touch were byproducts, early raves were not about finding sexual partners, unsophisticated drug use, or socializing, but about dancing. Drug use in early raves were about aiding in the dance process.

Glaser and Strauss 1967 – longer times of observation at start, but saturation (“hearing and seeing many of the same things over and over again [31]) occurred, learned to economize time.

Music festivals as a variation of raves. Many different genres and music scenes host festivals, often during warmer months – bring in diverse and popular music talents, huge crowds, often held outdoors. People enjoy outdoor music festivals in spring, summer, fall, despite what talent is being shown – draws people who may not be as loyal to EDM scenes, comparing it to corporate raves. Diversity weakens solidarity of membership, damages “vibe” of scene. Annual events, but because groups are more diverse, less likely to have as strong of norms as weeklies or monthlies – treated as holiday, joyous anomie? Frequented by “summer tourists” (38). – see also Kavanaugh and Anderson 2008. Financial opportunity impacts how collective identity is constructed, how scene reacts to its expansion (Alexander 2004).

Subcategorization based on genre – aggressive and masculine, youth oriented drum and bass; house brings in older, more racially-diverse crowds.

“These partiers are lodged between ‘underground’ authenticity and the ‘commercial’ mainstream” (46).

Previous iterations of rave culture created a sense of solidarity; where collective identity and cultural markers were very strong and unified. Fragmentation based upon sub-genres and increased diversity promotes diffusion of these markers, solidarity. “Thus, the people involved in the scene today are more likely to have different motives and needs for participation and exude new, more outrageous, or more mainstream styles and behaviors” (51).

On typologizing participants: “It is important to remember that these types do not objectively exist but are formed by scene participants in efforts to note authenticity and to symbolically demarcate membership and belonging” (55).

Loyalists, stakeholders, and hustlers vs. clubbers, pretenders, and spillovers. Alienation, sexual or gender non-conformity (rejection of ‘club’ sexualization), and merging technology with art as primary drives toward EDM, by insiders. “Participant typologies emerge within many cultural collectives to establish scene authenticity or to facilitate understanding for participant involvement and scene change. Such classifications are common in everyday life and can be especially informative to topics in sociology” (171).

Men often portrayed as EDM insiders – with vested interests in production, distribution, or consumption of EDM.

Studies about music scenes, youth cultures, alternative and peripheral cultural identities teach about resistance, collective identity, social change, style, deviance, otherness — but don’t always look at the transformation of these cultures over time, preferring to focus on the emergence, existence, and substance of these cultures.

If EDM is about resisting materialism and alienation, those that age out of this subculture are often meeting these needs through work, families, relationships and other responsibilities. Aging out also occurs when activities’ time and effort are not met with appropriate awards – long hours, unclean conditions, physical and emotional energy, being bored by similarity, expenses had.

Professionalization of the DJ created mainstream cultural legitimacy, but, in ways, a small death in the scene, as many clubs and small raves could not afford to hire DJs for the events – whereas, previously, these were held by interest-based amateurs. Leads to rise in branded parties – expensive events that are sponsored by corporate and business entities to fund the upstart needed – seems to evoke club culture ethos – particularly when it comes to socialization, stratification, and sexualization – “the MTV chic”(94). Established DJs as pop stars, who would hold indoor, licensed events for solid pay.

Cultural otherness contributed to downfall, as difference from mainstream offered stigmatization. Recently, more “normal” clothes were branded and worn by DJs, and the promotion of alcohol was performed over club drugs. Flyers change from neon themed to darker, richer colors and offer sexually-charged language and images in their promotions. “Especially common, on even the most rave-like event flyers, was the Barbie doll-proportioned, scantily clad female- a dramatic departure from raves’ youthful ‘girl’ wearing baggy pants and holding a stuffed animal” (96).

“Cultural theorist Theodor Adorno (1991) claimed that ‘culture industries’ (i.e., businesses that produce and market cultural products like music and art) ensure continued obedience of people to market interests by homogenizing their cultural palates. In this way, the culture industry defines deviance or ‘otherness’ or creates intolerance for it by producing a preference or bias form sameness and conformity” (99).

Golberg (2003) – the larger something gets, it becomes more likely to fragment into more familiar sub-groups, due to difficulty in maintaining cultural cohesion and group solidarity. Objectives and collective identity become muddled as in-groups and boundaries are established.  Music scenes sometimes retains its culture; other times, culture is compromised, integrated, or exchanged for different manifestations. Likewise, when collectivity is small, cultural elements are cohesive and interconnected (Alexander 2004). Formation of subgenres and mini-cultures create specialization in reaction to genre expansion.

Asexuality of rave tarnished by demand for attendance and money-making – bringing strippers, getting famous acts in, sexualizing the rave.

“Adaptation work epitomizes the transformation of an underground music scene into a commercial enterprise, from a culture into a conventional industry (Negus 1999). It usually involves a marginal cultural entity transforming, in fundamental ways, to match, mimic, and embrace a more mainstream or commercial form. More original cultural components – ethos, organization, norms, behaviors, and symbols – are easily exchanged for mainstream variations” (127). Marks the sexualized, status-based transformation from the anti-mainstream, asexual, nonmaterialistic origins. This adaptation, Anderson remarks, is a part of gaining cultural legitimacy (in a time where rave was stigmatized), and increasing popularity (and lucrativeness) of dance music. Observation by Kavanaugh noted that the DJ would promote sexual contact, celebrate girl-on-girl dancing, pull girls up on stage, and that the club would use provocative bartending techniques to sell liquor.

Integration with hip hop culture abandoned rave fashions, with larger corporate clothiers marketing their goods to EDM tunes. Armani, Diesel, GAP, etc. and other luxury brands were traded, offering a growth of classed status markers to accompany club and dance scenes.

CCCS work noted that youth subcultures worked to relieve economic alienation experienced by working class groups – deviance and alternative lifestyles were a classed phenomenon. Tomlinson (1998) notes that working class youth participated in raves as symbolic resistance to mainstreaming, capitalism, and social status quo.

Reading list: Knutagard 1996; Melechi 1993; Redhead 1993, 1995; Reynolds 1999; Rietvald 1993; Thornton 1996; Malbon 1999; Muggleton 2002 – raves as sites of peer networks, social change, locality, emerging trends, style – pressing past studies of drug use and deviance.

Queering the rave – dance parties have been a staple in gay culture since early 20th century – where socialites would sponsor waltz and polka parties. Gay bars in urban areas promoted community-building and political activism, shared protest music. Disco of 1970s increased as Americans pursued more leisure activities, heightened liberalism – acted as a meeting site, opening up gay identity.

Mash-up culture incorporates rock, hip hop, and pop music into dance music culture; fashion and aesthetic of “hipsters” dressed in Urban Outfitters. Promotes musical diversity, innovation, and access to subculture without full-immersive consequence.


Wacquant (2003, 1466) defines ethnography as “social research based on the close-up, on-the-ground observation of people and institutions in real time and space, in which the investigator embeds herself near (or within) the phenomenon so as to detect how and why agents on the scene act, think, and feel the way they do” (here 181). Peopled ethnographies (Fine 2003) and authoethnography (Anderson 2006) used – Peopled ethnography “seeks a conceptual understanding of the phenomena in question and is theoretically purposed rather than simply offering detail on a particular phenomenon” (here 182 see also Snow et al 2003) – goes beyond description of scene, but works to connect literatures on culture, identity, deviance, etc.

Peopled ethnography goes to where studied individuals and groups are located, often collecting data in multiple research sites (Fine 2003), differing from classical ethnographies of one place or group. Relies on extensive field notes.

Autoethnography (personal vignettes) – “conducted by investigators who are both observers of and participants in the scene in questions” (here 183; see alson Merton 1988). Five main aspects of autoethnographies:

  • “has a known status as both a complete member and a researcher,
  • Demonstrates analytic reflexivity (i.e., how her dual role might have influenced her own findings),
  • Has a narrative visibility of herself in the text,
  • Has an ongoing dialogue with study participants beyond herself
  • And, has a commitment to theoretical analysis” (182-183, see Anderson 2006).

Wolfinger (2002) on coding – advancing ideas about reaching saturation – “at a certain point in data collection, when the researcher starts to hear a lot of the same things, he or she shifts to keeping track of new things mentioned in interviews or witnessed during observation instead of writing notes about everything learned” (here 190 Anderson).


*Adorno, Theodor. 1991. The Culture Industry. London: Routledge.

*Alexander, Jeffrey. 2004. “Cultural Pragmatics: Social Performance between Ritual and Strategy.” Sociological Theory 22(4):524-573.

***Anderson, Leon. 2006. “Analytic Auto-ethnography.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 35(4): 373-395.

Bennett, Andy. 2000. Popular Music and Youth Culture. New York: Palgrave.

Bennett, Andy. 2001. “Contemporary Dance Music and Club Cultures.” In Cultures of Popular Music, edited by Andy Bennett, 181-135. Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Bennett, Andy. 2006. “Punk’s Not Dead: The Continuing Significance of Punk Rock for an Older Generation of Fans.” Sociology 53: 451-466.

**Bennett, Andy and Richard A. Peterson. 2004. Music Scenes. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Cohen, Stanley. 1972. Folk Devils and Moral Panics. London: MacGibbon and Kee.

Durkheim, Emile. 1933. The Division of Labor in Society, trans. George Simpson. New York: Free Press.

**Fine, Gary A. 2003. “Toward a Peopled Ethnography: Developing a Theory from Group Life.” Ethnography 4(1): 41-60.

Glaser, Barney G. and Anselm L. Strauss. 1967. The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Chicago: Aldine.

Golberg, Chad Allen. 2003. “Haunted by the Specter of Communism: Collective Identity and the Resource Mobilization in the Demise of the Workers Alliance of America.” Theory and Society 32: 725-773.

Irwin, John. 1977. Scenes. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Kavanaugh, Philip and Tammy L. Anderson. 2008. “Drug Use and Solidarity in the Electronic Dance Music Scene.” Sociological Quarterly 49(1): 181-208.

Kitwana, Bakari. 2002. The Hip Hop Generation. New York: Basic Civitas Books.

Knutagard, Hans. 1996. “New Trends in European Youth and Drug Cultures.” Youth Studies Australia 15: 37-42.

Malbon, Ben. 1999. Clubbing: Dancing, Ecstasy, and Vitality. New York: Routledge.

Melechi, Antonio. 1993. “The Ecstasy of Disappearance.” In Rave Off: Politics and Deviance in Contemporary Youth Culture, edited by Steve Redhead, 29-40. Burlington, VT: Avebury.

Merton, R.K. 1988. “Some Thoughts on the Concept of Sociological Autobiography.” In Sociological Lives, edited by M.W. Rile, 78-99. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Miller, Timothy. 1999. The 60s Communes: Hippies and Beyond. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

Muggleton, David. 2002. Inside Subculture: The Postmodern Meaning of Style (Dress, Body, Culture). Oxford: Berg.

**Negus, Keith. 1999. “The Music Business and Rap: Between the Street and the Executive Suite.” Cultural Studies 13(3): 488-508.

Redhead, Steve, ed. 1993. Rave-Off: Politics and Deviance in Contemporary Youth Culture. Brookfield, VT: Avebury.

Redhead, Steve. 1995. The End-of-the-Century Party: Youth and Pop towards 2000. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

Reynolds, Simon. 1999. Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. New York: Routledge.

Rietvald, Hillegonda. 1993. “Living the Dream.” In Rave Off: Politics and Deviances in Contemporary Youth Culture. Edited by Steve Redhead, 41-78. Brookfield, VT: Avebury.

Snow, David A., Calvin Morrill, and Leon Anderson. 2003. “Elaborating Analytic Ethnography: Linking Fieldwork and Theory.” Ethnography 4(2): 181-200.

Straw, Will. 2004. “Cultural Scenes.” Society and Leisure 27(2): 411-422.

Straw, Will. 1991. “Systems of Articulation, Logics of Change: Communities and Scenes in Popular Music.” Cultural Studies 5: 368-388.

Thornton, Sarah. 1996 Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital. London: Wesleyan University Press.

Tomlinson, Lori. 1998. “This Ain’t No Disco… Or Is It? Youth Culture and the Rave Phenomenon.” In Youth Culture: Identity in a Postmodern World, edited by Jonathan S. Epstein. Pp. 195-211. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Wacquant, Loic. 2003. “Ethnografest: A Progress Report on the Promise and Practice of Ethnography.” Ethnography 4(1):5-14.

Wolfinger, Nicholas H. 2002. “On Writing Fieldnotes: Collection Strategies and Background Expectancies.” Qualitative Research 2:85-95.


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