Of all the artists performing at Electric Zoo this weekend — including legends like Above & Beyond, Kaskade, and Skrillex (as one half of Dog Blood), Matt Medved may have the most interesting perch from which to talk about the dance music world. Medved founded Billboard Dance before moving on to become the editor-in-chief of Spin magazine, meaning that he has the perspective of both the artist and the observer, the insider and the outsider.
We talked with Medved about that dichotomy, and more, ahead of this weekend’s festival.
Musically, what’s inspiring you right now?
I’ve been listening to a bunch of really cool Afrobeat and Afrowave music coming out of London. Sometimes when I play opening sets, I’ll play this Argentine electro cumbia that I really love. It’s super slow, like 90 to 100 BPM. So, it only really works for real slow opening [sets]. It’s very tribal. But it’s great for an opening vibe. And, you know, there aren’t that many artists championing that sound in the United States and there are a lot of artists in that scene that I’ve actually built relationships with, that I got to know when I went down to Argentina a few years ago.
Which profession is more vital to surfacing new music to audiences these days: journalism or DJ-ing?
I think they’re both vital. And I think their roles have changed. … There are people who will just double-click on the first song on a playlist and let it play through. And they’ll be doing work, or they’ll be running, or they’ll be doing whatever they’re doing, and then they’ll hear something that actually catches their ear, and then maybe they save it. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to buy a ticket to a show. We still need to have our imaginations entertained; we still need to learn stories. And that’s why content, journalism and storytelling are so important. They’re what helps convert a casual listener into a die-hard fan. And then, on the DJ side … I thought [of it] as another way to support artists that I believe in. It’s hard to make a case for Billboard coverage for an Argentine electro cumbia act that only has a handful, you know, a couple hundred followers. But if the music is great, and it fits like an opening vibe, what a great way to share it with an audience.
So, it’s like the DJ does the introduction and the journalist is the closer?
I always say a playlist placement is an open door. But it’s storytelling and a narrative and having something compelling about the artists and who they are, and identity that will get [listeners] in the room and get them to actually be a fan.
What role does New York play in dance music culture today?
I think that New York is a truly global city. And dance and electronic music is a truly global genre. … I think we’re in a really good space right now. I love seeing a lot of these great parties that are popping up in Brooklyn. I love venues like the Brooklyn Mirage; sometimes when I’m at the Brooklyn Mirage, I’ll just pinch myself and be like, “wait a minute, I’m in New York right now. This is an open-air venue going late with some of the biggest artists in the world.” And I have to remind myself, “this is New York City. It was not always like this.” And so, I feel really fortunate.
When performing at a festival, with all of those artists and publicists running around who would love to be in Spin, how many times do you get pitched?[Laughs] I always make it really clear, like a clear distinction between whether I’m attending as a member of the press or as an artist. So usually, when I’m attending as an artist, people, they usually respect that. … Look, you know, you might get a drunken pitch one or two times — I’m usually just like, “email me on Monday.”
If you go: Catch Matt Medved on Saturday at Electric Zoo | Festival runs Friday-Sunday at Randall’s Island Park | electriczoo.com